Saturday, March 15, 2008
WooHoo! Paddling season has officially begun. Today Nora, Dennis, Graeme, Aaron, Caleb and myself made the first Verm descent of the year. There was still a big ice bridge above triple drop, so we technically couldn't run the whole thing, but anybody who knows the river knows there isn't really anything above there anyway. Plus, that ice bridge made an awesome put-in!
Nora and Dennis started off in the pool below railroad and paddled up, but Caleb, Graeme, Aaron and I hiked up to see if we could put in above the Triple Drop. As it turned out, there was a great route down the cliff that, though steep and zig-zagging, had good footing and led us right to the ice bridge. The bridge formed from the ice shelves on either side of the river and spanned right across. The ice was still a couple feet thick, so we decided to use the bridge as our put in. Because the top of the ice was about 4' above the water, and the water below was only a few inches deep, we had to push each other along the ice, then ski-jump off the edge so that we wouldn't just nosedive into the bottom. It worked great - possibly my favorite put-in yet on the Verm.
Triple was decently sized and really splashy, which gave everybody a wake-up as the ice water hit our faces. Because of the huge ice ledges that lined the river, there were no eddies and no route except down the center.
At the bottom, Railroad hole was rockin'. It was at just the right level - big and retentive enough to keep things interesting and allow some tricks, but not so huge that you couldn't get out. There was some spin-o-matic action on the River Left shoulder, a couple of ends thrown in the pile (mostly by Graeme, who showed no rustiness at all), and a variety of interesting exit moves.
The ice really narrowed the channel through S-bend and forced you to ride right over the rocky area, but nobody got hung up too bad and everyone avoided the overhangs. The wave at the bottom was silky smooth and even allowed a couple slow spins.
That was in perfect contrast to Donut, which was raging. Because of the restricted flow from the ice shelves and the lack of plant growth and algae this early in the season, the water speed at Donut was unreal. I don't think that I've ever surfed faster moving water. To make it better, the foam pile was almost shoulder high and punchy. It would toss you around and pop you up in between your spins. Speaking of spins, wow. If you got into the right groove, you could get motion sick you were spinning so fast. The water on the shoulder was going fast enough that it would grab you ends and twirl you like a top. It was really a riot. The problem was that the river right eddy was largely blocked by an ice bridge, so if you couldn't catch the left one you were in Fisherman's before you knew it.
After that it was more ice-shelve dodging down to the take out, where nature had mercifully collapsed the shelf at the take out. Thanks to that, we could climb out pretty easily. The best news, however, was that our stairs at the top of the hill held up perfectly over the winter, making and area that normally required ropes to climb an easy walk.
All in all, it was an amazing day. Warm temps, good water, and good friends. Tough to beat. Check out Graeme's new British flag helmet! I'll try to get some on-river pics tomorrow. Until then, I think Nora should have some posted on her blog, so check it out!