Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yule Creek

Ball Check

July 16th 2011, My birthday, I woke up a 33 year old child with one goal... to have way too much fun.

I've looked at Yule Creek a hand full of times over the last few years and have been skunked at every attempt to paddle it. Today was going to be different, I had good information that the level was high but acceptable, and I had two buddies, Casey Tango and Ben West who wanted to fire it up. We drove three hours over passes through Aspen and into one of the most beautiful valleys in Colorado.

Looking up at Crystal peak

The three of us piled out of the truck crossed a obviously private bridge and walked to the base of the last of four amazing drops. Looking up hundreds of feet I could see the terrifying doubled pitched slide of Oriental Massage, at it's base was a small recycling eddy with a strainer on the left side and an exit on the right directly into the finale drop called Happy Ending, a twenty plus foot water fall. I immediately started smiling, the water level was definitely high but it look O-so-good.

We started up the driveway and heard a UTV heading our direction. " O SHIT, it is the owner, RUN." We took off down the hill and tried to tuck into the bushes. The owner, familiar with his property, walked right up to where we hid. I emerged from my hiding spot and confronted him. Hostile at first, he explained his concern of us getting hurt. There was no way he wanted us on his property, and we knew we were off to plan B in order to access this amazing gorge.

We spent the next three hours hiking all over the place trying to find good access to the gorge. After expending all of our options I finally expressed my interest in simply repelling 200 feet into the canyon off the left rim. This would put me directly above the last four drops. The group hummed and hawed for a bit trying to figure out if 640 feet per mile worth of gradient was what they really were interested in getting into, the answer was no. I was the only one that still had motivation after three hours of driving and another three hours of hiking. Casey and Ben were both enthusiastic about me running the drops. They offered to help me into the gorge and shoot the video and stills while peering over the rim from hundreds of feet above.

Rappelling into the canyon

I put on my make shift harness, fashioned from a small piece of webbing and started into the gorge.Shaking with anticipation, fear, and pure excitement I lowered myself to the first major rapid. To my luck the first drop, Ball Check, is a 30 plus foot, barely off vertical waterfall, with a tree barricading the right line, (exactly where I wanted to go). After a quick scout I decided to try the harry fairy from left to right directly next to the log. It didn't work. I caught a flake at the top of the drop and took a huge bounce. I still can't believe I was able to barely control my descent, but I landed in the landing zone right side up and in mild control. I tried to turn my boat back forward for the next drop but the water had no plan on allowing me to do so. At the last second, looking a couple hundred feet to the bottom of Wall Check I committed to straightening out my boat.... back wards. The ride was nothing but intense, dealing with laterals, catching air, all while going 30 plus miles an hour back wards. I got rolled towards the bottom of the drop and snapped back upright quickly. I was.... ok, really scared, a little beat up, but I had just ran the biggest drop in Colorado back wards.

Starting down Wall Check switch

As I pulled over to scout Oriental Massage and Happy Ending, I was both terrified, and amazingly happy. I was receiving the most magical and intense birthday present ever.

I started over the lip into Oriental Massage with a gigantic smile. I creamed into a 20 foot curler and came out the back side of the enormous wave  at 40 miles an hour grinning from ear to ear. The hit at the bottom of the slide was intense and strong enough to knock my helmet camera forward. I cleared my eyes just in time to see the strainer before cascading off of Happy Ending. I took a couple back strokes, bumped off of one of the logs and swung to the right before paddling forward off of Happy Ending. I reached forward into the turbulent water and took a huge boof stroke mid flight I stomped the nose of my boat down into the pool at the base of way more than a hundred feet of fun. I couldn't control myself I felt like a kid giggling uncontrollably. Still worried about the private property I quickly paddled through it, and down to Casey and Ben. We celebrated with luke warm beer, and I had a birthday I will never forget.

Yule on my birth day from Chris Baer on Vimeo.
The best  birthday of my life, getting older and proving I have not grown up all at the same time. Screaming down 640 feet per mile of pure fun.

Chris Baer, a year older and still living like a kid.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pine Creek

Pine Creek

Pine Creek is truly my back yard run, I walk across the street put my boat at the top of a small embankment slide into the river and a minute latter I am flying through the S turn. This year Casey Tango and I managed to catch it at around 3600 CFS, high flows are so much fun. Check out the Video of us bombing through Pine Creek, Triple Drop and the big waves in Number Four.