Trip Report: Upper Upper Cispus River
Trip Report: Upper Upper Cispus River
--When, Where, Conditions--
When: July 18, 2014
Location: Upper Upper Cispus River
Conditions: High side of medium with a dash of STOUTNESS! (800cfs)
Duration: Approximately 2.5 hours with an hour of that being pure carnage.
Difficulty: Technical Class V with wood and siphons scattered about the run.
Kid Friendly? If he/she is a stout boater.
Pet Friendly? If he/she likes swimming Class V (not recommended).
The Upper Upper Cispus is a legendary Class V run that usually only becomes runnable during the summer months when the water levels are low and become much friendlier for us mortals. Early Friday morning, after checking the online gauge and seeing that the Cispus was at a manageable flow, I called up some buddies to see if I could corral a crew into making the 2 hour drive from Portland. After being unsuccessful in finding the appropriate crew to head up to the Cispus, my paddling buddy Whitney Butler and I decided to settle for the much closer, much more familiar run, the Green Truss section of the White Salmon River just outside of Hood River, OR.
Having done the Truss many times, Whitney and I had a flawless run and were now relaxing at BIG MAN'S ROTISSERIE in White Salmon, WA (the best food ever). While chowing down on some delicious Chapatis, local professional kayakers Isaac Levinson, James Byrd, Max Blackburn, and Chris Morelli showed up randomly asking us if we wanted to join them as they were on their way up to run the Upper Upper Cispus. Needless to say, myself, Whitney, and our other buddy Andrew were quick to hop on the opportunity. After making the extra hour drive up through the back roads of Washington, we arrived at the infamous Cispus put-in! Personally, having done this run one time before in the previous year, I was aware of what awaited downstream. However, this would be Whitney's first time. Andrew had also done the run before but had to hike off because of a nasty swim he took causing him to lose his paddle. Anyways, the crew geared up and we started to make our way down the classic Cispus River.
Everyone was paddling great and we weren't even getting out to scout anything, we were just giving beta to each other and running stuff blind. About half way through the run, after passing the spot where Andrew had once previously swam, he decided to willingly hike off because of a weird feeling he had in the back of his mind. As a kayaker, it is always good to listen to those feelings and know when something just isn't right. After making sure Andrew was off safely, we continued downstream and I knew we were getting closer and closer to the crux of the run.
There is a rather technical gorge leading right into the lip of the biggest feature on the run known as "Behemoth". Behemoth is a sloping 25ft. waterfall with a rather large cave behind it and another very technical gorge right after. After everyone styled the gorge leading into the monster known as Behemoth, we now lied above the beast. One-by-one we launched off of Behemoth, I went just before Whitney and had a stellar line!
Awaiting in the pool below, I watched as Whitney made his way down the monster and landed just to the left of where you really want to be coming off of that drop. The bottom of the waterfall had caused him to flip upside down, and we watched as he slowly started to get pulled back behind the falls and into the cave! After about 15 seconds of scrambling to set up safety and throw some ropes behind the waterfall to try and pull him out, the beast known as Behemoth spat him out like a bat out of hell and he began to aggressively swim to shore. Getting him and all of his gear to shore safely was quite a challenge due to the heavy currents caused by the base of the waterfall. It took us about 10 minutes to drain his boat and get him back in and to a point where he was ready to continue the rest of the run.
After taking a quick breather, I explained to him the next challenge of the run which would be to ferry out of the pool and into a rather large hole directly after the falls. He nodded and we began to make our ferry; I blasted through the huge hole at the bottom of the pool and as I turned my head to see how Whitney was doing, I saw him upside down yet again as he proceeded to get pummeled by this massive ledge hole. Literally within 20 yards of his last swim, Whitney swam again. We all were scrambling for a second time to retrieve his gear and get him to shore safely before he got swept downstream into the last dangerous gorge. Amazingly, we were able to get him and all of his gear to shore for a second time.
Completely out of breath, and completely out of strength and confidence, Whitney tried to regain his composure to make it through the last challenging part of the run that was just downstream of us. He got back in his boat, and was once again ready to continue the rest of the run. We now were talking over the moves we had to make in this last rapid to avoid potential hazards. We were told to stay away from the right side of the rapid to avoid a rather large hole that contained some wood blocking the flow of the river which we call "strainers." If flushed into a strainer, it is very possible to become stuck against the obstructions (like wood for example), and have the entire weight of the river crashing down on you leaving you helpless and eventually causing you to drown. Now knowing where to go, and what was just down river of us, we began our descent of the last rapid.
About half way through, I saw Chris who was ahead of me look back up river and yell "OH SH*T!" I then turned around and saw that Whitney was yet again, upside down and moving towards the right side where the strainer was. We had no choice but to finish out the rapid ourselves and watch as Whitney was flushed into the strainer! It took us about 5 more seconds to finish the rapid and by the time I had made it through safely, I saw that Whitney had somehow made it through the wood and was miraculously still in his boat! We all took a big sigh of relief and I think we all were reminded of the dangers and hazards that come along with the sport.
We all got out of our boats and took a big break as we looked upstream at what we had just conquered. Whitney, to say the least, was most stoked to be finished with the run and since that day has not stopped bugging me about going up to do it again so he can claim redemption! Always push the limits of your NEXT ADVENTURE, but remember that sometimes the victory is knowing what your limits are.