Monday, August 14, 2006

Great Falls

After four years of starring at it I finally felt like I’d had enough experience and the guts to go run Great Falls. I honestly never thought i would do it. For a long time it was one of those things that was never going to happen.

Mark and I met up with Joe on Monday after work to run the MD lines. I have to say that I was pretty damn scarred that whole day. I could barely get anything done at work and the last couple of hours I gave up trying and just browsed through pictures of the falls.

I was nervous as hell and wondering if I should be doing this. But I really wanted to and overall was confident that I would be fine. We put in and paddled down, scrapped across the aqueduct dam and paddled toward Pummel. I was surprised how flat and easy the approach to the falls is. I knew there was nothing hard up there but was at least expecting some class III. At this low level at least (2.7) there was nothing but class II waves and lots of rocks.

We got out at Pummel and Joe pointed out the line. It was great standing there, such an amazing view. My day long anxiety was finally starting to melt away and when I ran the drop it felt great. I didn’t feel like my boof stroke was timed all that well but my landing was pretty good.

Next we got out and scouted Pencil Sharpener. I was really nervous about the idea of running z-turn and was glad that we weren’t doing it. Pencil Sharpener is such a fun rapid. Joe got out to set safety and take pictures and I went first. I really enjoyed it a lot and had a good clean run.

We once again got out to scout Horseshoe. I was pretty nervous about it beforehand but once Joe pointed out the line it seemed pretty straight forward. Mark went first while we watched and took video. He styled it beautifully. Great line. I went next. Lined up fine on the right but when I hit the hole above the drop it angled me to the left a little. I realized that now I was about two feet too far left and had not time to correct. I totally missed the launch pad on the right and went into the seam next to it. I may have gotten a bit of a stroke in. I went deep, disappeared for a second or two and popped right back up. At I higher level it would certainly have not been as forgiving. As I popped up I flipped but was well past the hole and rolled right up and continued on down to the eddy below.

Not perfect but a good first run overall and of course way fun. Rick had come out to take pictures from the observation deck.

The next day we headed out again, both anxious to improve on our lines. This time we met up with Ian and Scott. We put in above the dam as before but this time things didn’t go too well. At this level there is barely any water going over the dam and you basically scrape over the edge and have to push yourself off. The bottom is also very shallow. The best way to do it is to spin off of it and land sideways. With that little water it wasn’t an easy task. I tried my best to swing my boat around but to no avail. I fell forward and pitoned hard on the bottom putting a big dent in my bow. Fluid plastic is pretty soft and this had happened before. That time the dent had popped out by the end of the day so I wasn’t too worried. Unfortunately this time it was still there the next morning. We put it out on the deck in the sun and thankfully after a few hours it had popped back out. I’m pretty nervous about how well this boat will hold up though. I really do like the design a lot.

Anyhow our second run of the falls went great. Ian decided to go ahead and set safety at Pummel while the rest of us ran it. Pencil Sharpener was really fun once again. Ian set safety for everyone at Horseshoe and then Mark held the rope for his run. I got out and took another look at before running it and this time had a good line. Maintained right angle this time and went right over the launch pad. My boof stroke wasn’t timed too great though and I ended up taking it on the right. Oops! But it worked out fine and I still went off nice and straight. I’ll definitely want to get some practice in at low levels to get the timing down well.

After that the guys hiked up for another run while I sat above horseshoe to take pictures and set safety. I hope to get lots more runs in this summer and get really comfortable running the falls. It’s so great to have this incredible run right here and I’m so glad to finally get to be on it!!

Seems that lately I have a constant entourage of photographers following me around. First Hector and Marina photographing us at Ohiopyle (as well as the people), then Rick at Great Falls. For our second (and fourth) run my friend Pete came out and took even more great pictures. We're also currently working with a pro photographer who is putting together a book on Great Falls.

We've gotten so many wonderful pictures out of just our first couple runs. Way more than i can post on here. To see the rest check out my Snapfish albums (will require quick, easy, and free registration) here:

Great Falls run 1 by Rick McNamara
Great Falls run 2 by Pete Guion
Great Falls run 3 by Pete Guion
Great Falls run 4 by Pete Guion

Also check out some videos of us running Horseshoe:

Maggie at Horseshoe

Mark at Horseshoe

I'll be adding more as we get them.

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