Sunday, April 26, 2009

N. Chainsaw Weekend

Manitou River, North Shore

The weather was steller Friday and Saturday before turning to cold and rainy conditions on Sunday. The Split Rock, east fork of the Beaver, Manitou, and the Poplar all had healthy water levels. On Friday, groups hit the Split Rock and the East Fork Beaver with good weather conditions for North Shore paddling this time of year. Mid to upper 40's and partly cloudy. It rained briefly in the late afternoon.

The Split Rock was at a medium fun level on Friday. The group consisted of Justin Japs, Joel Decker, Nate Heydt, John Holtan, Chris Baer, Burgess Norrgard, and Joerg Steinbach. At this level the river is pure fun. Everyone paddled really well. After the Split Rock, this same group hit up the East Fork Beaver for some high water action. One member even fished his way down with an ice fishing spinning rod and a mepps spinner from the kayak. The water was a bit too high with limited eddy's to fish. Most of the group ran the big three and had sick lines.

Joel Decker, Joerg Steinbach, John Alt, John Holtan checking the water level of the Manitou River. 3.5 feet that day.
On Saturday, you couldn't have asked for a better day to paddle the North Shore this time of year. The sun was shinning bright, not a cloud in the sky, good water levels, and temps were in the mid 50's. Great temps for this time of year. The crew of Alt, Decker, Nate Dog, Joergy, Lucky Holtan, and Japs put on the Manitou river ready for the unexpected. Most of the crew had never been on this run and had no idea what to expect. John Alt was leading the way and knew this river well. That was all the crew needed to know. The water level was at 3.5 feet which correlates to a high water level. The first part of the run starts out with swift flat water winding through a high plateau on top of the "North Shore hill." It was quite scenic among the mature red pines and black spruce. From a far distance off, the crew could hear the thundering roar of a large rapid. Everyone eddied out on river right above the large horizon line and took a look at this rapid. Most paddlers glanced quickly and a couple looked at it hard to find a line. This first rapid had never been run before. Many paddlers have seen a line down it, but always passed on the opportunity to run it. A "line" refers to a route down a rapid.

Left to Right: Nate Heydt, Joel Decker, Justin Japs, Joerg Steinbach, John Alt

Joerg and Justin thoroughly looked at this large drop from top to bottom. At this water level it looked very runnable from their eyes. Nearly all the jagged rocks and ledges were covered by water and river right side of the river looked like to the place to run. There was plenty of water going over the falls to soften any hard landings. The lead in consisted of a hard left turn around an exposed rock on a four foot green water tongue. To stay left and straight on this tongue was the most critical aspect to have a successful descent. From the green tongue you drop 8 feet down to a ledge into a hole, immediately drop another 14 feet down off a second ledge, then drop onto a large ramp with a huge rooster tail spraying water vertically at the bottom. The water below rooster tail is highly aerated with many side currents flowing onto a large flat ledge. It would be described as intense chaos. The water channelizes and flows off the final ledge into a monster shallow hole at the bottom. Justin gave the thumbs up to the crew to set up safety and had a successful first descent of the "Imperializer."

1st D of the "Imperializer"-  Paddler Justin Japs 

Looking down stream after the Imperializer there was immediate class III/IV boogy water with many downed trees in the river. The crew knew they would have to watch out for trees in the river. In one instance, a member of the crew attempted to paddle over a tree, only to slide upstream and completely flip under the tree and re submerge down stream. This was a very scary moment for all. We were very happy there were no branches pointing down to the river bottom.

The crew came to their second horizon line with a tree across the top of the drop on river right side. John Alt quickly signaled the crew to run this 5 foot ledge on river left. Everyone had great lines and were greeted with a water smash to the face by the hole at the bottom. It put a smile on every ones face. The exciting Class III/IV boogy continued on for a while after and the river characteristics changed to winding small canyons. This was an indicator to take out on river right to portage Pinball rapid and a serious canyon deemed unrunable. Joerg and Justin missed the portage and eddied out just above Pinball on river river right. It was a good vantage point to see the rapid, but a terrible place to be downstream of the take out. They had to scale nearly vertical canyon walls in chest deep snow to get back on track. Joerg and Justin deemed the steep hole in Pinball at that water level, to be a 50/50 chance of punching through. And if a swim occurred at Pinball, it would most likely be the last. The real portage was quite extensive in two feet of snow with many downed trees in the woods from the recent ice storm. The crew put back on the river after the canyon and were greeted with more fun class IV boogy water.

John Alt and crew portaging on the Manitou River

They encountered one more horizon line which led to a fun left to right side curler move off a large boulder. They boogied down more small canyons in the bright sunshine until they arrived at "Rain Falling Up" falls which is a spectacular waterfall and one of the North Shore's hidden Jems. The crew made their last portage on river left and walked out to highway 61 feeling great after a exciting day on the river.

On Sunday the Upper Poplar was flowing high at 1000 cfs. The weather was soggy, windy, and mid 30's. The crew of Nate Heydt, Joel Decker, Andy Schidel, John Holtan, John Alt, and Joerg Steinbach all seal launched into the river off the walking bridge or from shore. The regular seal launch spot from the golf course wasn't doable due to high water levels under the bridge. The crew screamed down the class IV boogy water until they got to Beliek's Suprise rapid. They got out and scouted Beliek's and all fired down it with good lines. They could hear many boulders racing on the bottom of the river. They continued down through more class IV until they came to the canyon section. They all got out and scouted and half the crew ran it. It was described as extremely fast, many blind drops from big wave trains, and huge holes to punch through or go around.

Poplar River Crew - John Holtan, John Alt, Joerg Steibach, Joel Decker

Monday, April 20, 2009

High Splitty Weekend

 Justin Japs - Split Rock River - Under the Log rapid

The Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior rivers were cluttered full of paddlers this past weekend. Most rivers ran high throughout the weekend from the Split Rock south. A large contingent of Midwest paddlers and a few out of region paddlers of arrived to enjoy the spring run off. It was an interesting weekend to say the least from reports. There were many exciting new runs and waterfall drops for a some paddlers, however, there were numerous swims, injuries and broken boats as well. It almost seemed like the drastic change in weather brought a drastic change in luck.

On Friday, groups hit the Split Rock and wicked high levels, Lester at high flows, Amity at lower flows, and the French and Silver at high flows. It was beautiful and 70 degrees. There were many reports from the Silver and French that wood is present on many of the rapids. Some deemed not runnable.

The Friday Split Rock crew of Joel Decker, John McConville, Andy McMurray, John Kiffmeyer, Nate Heydt, and John Holton had lots of action. They recorded the highest water level descent in kayaks. The level was a few inches over the Mordor level gauge, which is painted on the walking bridge pylon. There were two swims resulting in two completely trashed kayaks. No one was seriously injured. Only a cut thumb needing some stitches. Midwest Mountaineering's Peter Noren shipped two new boats to those paddlers the next day. Way to go MM.

On Saturday, groups hit the Split Rock at high flows, the Lester at medium flows, and the French and Silver at medium flows. Weather was cloudy and mid 40's.

The Saturday Split Rock crew consisting of Ryan Zimny, John McConville, Chris Baer and Justin Japs had a successful decent with water levels a foot lower than Friday's insanity. It was still in the uber high category. One incident occurred resulting in a bruised shoulder from "Under the Log" rapid.

Justin  - Split Rock River - Winfrey's Rapid

By Sunday the weather turned for the nasty. By noon, snow was already accumulating around Beaver Bay northward with temps in the 30's. Groups put on the Knife at low flows, the Lester at low flows, and the east fork of the Beaver at high flows.

3rd drop on the East Beaver

Reports from the beaver were pretty epic. Chad Kehn, Melissa Grover, Justin, Joerg Steinbach, Nate Heydt, Burgess Norrgard, John McConville, Mike Manger, Mike Jorgenson, and Jeremiah Andresen all put on the east fork in a snow storm. Many first time runs for people. The water level was very high. The typical 1/2 mile class III boogy water was now pushy Class IV boogy water with many holes leading into the three perfect 12-20 foot waterfalls. The high flows gave a few paddlers a hard time. One paddler dislocated his shoulder. A few paddlers did the big three and had gigantic aired out boofs off the middle 20 foot drop. Was quite a sight to see.

Joerg - East Beaver - 1st drop

Reports from the Lester were really good. Even some first time runs down "Almost Always" for Burgess Norrgard and Chris Baer!

Justin  - 1st drop - East Beaver

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Photos from The Lester

Top Left: Mike Manger at the brink
Top Right: Jeremiah Andresen at the lip

Left: Melissa Grover with a perfect line
Right: Chad Kehn in a froth of whitewater

Left: Tina Andresen catching some air time
Right: Justin running Almost Always falls

Left: John Kiffmeyer setting up for the tuck... Almost Always
Right: Joerg Steinbach free falling... Almost Aways

Peter Noren setting up to hit the flume... Almost Always

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lester Creek

Saturday a group of 15+ friends came together to enjoy the sunshine and to paddle Lester Creek in Duluth, MN. The water level was low/medium. This was the first time that most of us paddled a real creek this year. We have been paddling big volume rivers like the Lower St. Louie for the past few weekends. The North Shore rivers are starting to run. Good times.