Sunday, January 28, 2007

Russell Fork

I'd been thinking about the Russell Fork for some time. It made me nervous, knowing of all the fatalities and near misses. But the river was fascninating just the same. The deepest gorge east of the Mississippi. So when Matt suggested heading south this weekend to escape the bitter cold of Western MD / Northern WV it didn't take much convincing. Plus who better to lead me down!
After a nice hike on the Lower Meadow on Friday we made it to Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The forecast showed 50 degree, sunny weather. Much of an improvement over the 5 degrees and blowing snow it had been in Western MD the prnight. Excellent. Saturday indeed turned out to be gorgeous.

No one else was interested in paddling but Steve Ruth kindly ran shuttle for us. Generally I preffer a larger group but I felt safe with Matt given his knowledge of the river. The flow was at a moderate level of about 500 cfs so not too scarry.

Since it was just the two of us Matt chose to run conservative lines. We ran the right line at Towers and creeked into the left eddy above the cave at Fist. Fist is truly a scarry rapid. It is really quite bizarre ultimately. The river goes over a few small drops and then hits a large rock. At this point it takes a sharp left turn and basically entirely funnels into a large hideously undercut rock with a huge cave. The main line did not look particularly hard (at this level anyway) at all but the consequence of a screwup is severe.

Main line at Towers

Fist - The flow is all going into the cave on the left

Looking into the cave

At this level the right side Fire Escape line is dry so we scraped down the rocks on the left above the cave. There is a big flat eddy right there and absolutely no issue getting into it. From here you have the option to either get out and walk around or do the hairy ferry above the cave. The move didn't look particularly hard but that gapeing cave was pretty intimidating. Plus you only have about 15 feet from where you start the ferry to where you would get sucked into the cave/undercut. I watched Matt do the ferry and chose to walk around it. He helped me lift my boat over a boulder and after that it was an easy walk.

Creeking into the eddy

Matt doing the fairy ferry in front of the cave at Fist.
You can see all the flow going into the gave where he starts from.

Fist, the flow goes into the cave on the left

At Triple Drop we ran the first drop and then got out to scout 2nd and 3rd drops. 2nd drop looks fairly straight forward but there is a sticky hole at the bottom and a large curler at the top that wants to spin you around sideways. Matt explained the line; lean into the curler and avoid getting turned. If you do get caught in the hole you can't work you way out upright. The only way is to get ropped out or else flip and it will let you go. Seemed simple enough. I watched him run it from the eddy above and headed down. Sure enough that curler was more powerful than i though and of course i got turned to the left and hit the hole sideways!! Great... immediately went into a side surf. But I remembered what Matt had said about not being able to surf your way out. I could see him sitting in the eddy on the left below me. I didn't want to waste any energy so I took a big breath and flipped. Sure enough it spit me out quick.

I rolled up and caught the eddy on the right. Of course now i was on the wrong side of the river. But the ferry over turned out to be quite easy (probably harder than the Fist ferry but still very easy). Third drop went just fine and was really fun.

Matt at Triple Drop

Looking up at third drop

At El Horendo we walked the plank. This move involved ferrying from a river left eddy between two holes. You can't fall off too early as the bottom hole is pretty big. Not a hard move though and really fun. After that you can catch an eddy on the right and set up for the launch pad off of the main drop. That hole looks enormous as you bounce over it! Even at 500 cfs, I can only imagine what it is like at higher flow! I got a good boof off the launch pad and really enjoyed the rapid. Afterwards we got out and walked up to look around. Truly an impressive looking rapid.

El Horendo

Matt at El Horendo

Top of El Horendo

The next day the temp had dropped a bit and we woke up to some light snow. It was overcast but still a nice day. Matt's friend Mark joined us and after another breakfast at the Rusty Fork we had another great run. This time I decided i was fine with doing the hairy ferry at Fist. It truly was an easy ferry, scarry knowing that cave was right behind you but not difficult at all. Talk about a must make move!!Class III with class VI consequences!

At Triple Drop I was determined to figure out second drop. So I asked what the trick was. He said I could hit the curler with a bit of right angle to keep from being turned left. But the problem with that was to be careful not to end up too far right after clearing the hole as third drop came up fast and unless you wanted to run the mystery move seam you wanted to stay left.

So I decided to give it a try, was not liking the idea of a ride in that hole again. So I headed down with right angle, hit the curler perfectly and bounced right over the hole. Excellent! But I think I was relishing the success for a few seconds too long cuz as I looked up and saw Matt in the eddy on the left, I realized I was way far right!! There was no way I had time to get back to the left and the water is very aerated there making it hard to paddle. So off I went into the seam! Big breath and I went deep. Not a big deal ultimately but I didn't roll up till the pool at the bottom (it all happend in the blink of any eye anyway!) It all happened in the blink of an eye! Mainly I was just annoyed that I didn't get to run the drop corretly since I'd liked it a good bit the day before. Next time I will figure it all out. :)

The Russell Fork is truly a beautiful river. Incredible rapids, and amazing scenery. The one thousand foot walls are completely incredible. Though there are several deceptively dangerous rapids overall the run is very fun. Lots of great slots and boofs and cool ferry moves.

I'm definitely looking forward to going back and and hopefully running it at a higher flow.

Make sure to check out my Russell Fork Gallery for lots more gorgeous views of the gorge.

After our run on Saturday we also did a short hike along Grassy Creek (a tributary to the RF). It wasn't running but the walk was nice just the same. Only Tao got to run anything here (and I must say he had a very nice line as he went down the slide!!) Check out photos here: Grassy Creek Gallery

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

hit counter code
low cost web hosting

Locations of visitors to this page