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Rain on Snow, Highwater Pilchuck

Pilchuck Creek
Class: IV      GMap
1 - Lake Cavanaugh Road to Pilchuck Creek Campsite (Upper)
Trip Date: 1/21/2012
Written on: 1/21/2012
Written by:

The first time I ran this creek it was about 4.5' on the stick, and I thought: "What a fun continuous run. Too bad I brought my Creekboat- with more water, and the Diablo, this run would be a blast!" It was already on the higher side, but maybe medium high. More of a class IVish kind of flow. Later I came back when it was running 4.85'. I brought the Diablo. It was still class IV with some IV+ moments. Eddies are scarce if one is out of shape, but this is a good challenge for stable IV boaters looking to challenge their water reading, reaction time, and endurance. Its very boat scoutable, but it'll keep you on your toes. Swimming would suck at this flow, or even at 4.5'. Stay in the boat or find an easier run. Driftwood discouraged. But damn, the Diablo can slice n dice some sporty lines out there at this flow. But today it was way higher. 2700cfs or 5.2' I think that at today's 5.2' flow, its full-on bigwater IV+ paddling in a class V environment. There's some crux spots where if you fuck up, shits gonna unravell into class V calamity real quick. You really got to be comfortable with the whole read n run freight train thing. That's a big part of keeping it contained within class IV parameters.Lots of scrambling from one side of the river to the other. No place to be a bobber n drifter. Gotta move your boat around. There was the spanning log that had to be portaged. It was sketchy getting in to the bank to stop one's momentum. Not too bad of a portage though on river right. Possible sneak line far left, but another strainer upstream blocks a left approach. Jed n I opted to portage "Pil Pusher", the distinct fat ledge up on the Upper with the hotel sized rock flanking it on R.Right. A stand out drop on the run that frequently comes up when boaters discuss this run. Pil Pusher. Eric Boomer probably would say it goes fine, but that's not the metric I use when evaluating whether to hoof it or not. Besides, the road grade was right there and the snow encouraged an easy drag. The drop looked too big, deep, and powerful looking for either of us to bother with. Always on guard, we worked our way down to the bridge fine. This is only my third run on Pilchuck, and it was just the two of us. Jed had never run it before, and I wanted to play it safe as far as the falls was concerned. We got out just a few hundered yards above the falls, wanting to better scout our approach. This was a pain in the ass, but it was safe. We crept right up to the eddy on R.Right. the thing is though, there were some very big whitewater features just above the corner. Just flipping in there could doom you to running the left side of the falls. I remembered more slack water approaching the falls. It wasn't bad, but Jed was getting pushed by eddy fences, hanging out on the divinding line between the left half of the crik that twisted and dropped to the left, and the flatter water that pooled up on R.Right. We got out where ya do on R.Right to scout the right half of the falls. It totally still goes, but we both ended up portaging. The day seemed to have enough action. I should've run it though, cuz the portage is jackass. Next time. I ran it the two previous times. Just wasn't lookin for extra adventure. We boogied on and on. Its all whitewater. Even the class II towards the end keeps on truckin. We played it safe in the narrows (a.k.a. "The Pil Box") toward the end. Watch for wood here chocked in the narrow bedrock canyon. It must've been deep under water. It was there on the other runs and I hear it still is. It was underwater, today, I think. There was some huge, squeezed boily shit in that canyon (The Pil Box). It still "went" in a straight forward, simple but pushy as hell class III way. But it was way too constricted to be called class III. I could barely track my boat straight a few times. That's saying a lot in the diablo. Whatever. Yall wanna sling them sandbags around, go for it. After that though, its just class II express to the bridge. The rock above the bridge was more or a "sunken pourover" like the day it was 4.85' only fatter. It had been a small crashing wave/hole earlier before we put on.

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