When Hawkeye exclaimed with a sparkling grin, full of the self satisfaction of discovering a new witticism - "It's Meefy Harris. The point between medium and beefy" - it was hard not to let him know I'd come up with it earlier in the day, perhaps even minutes before within earshot. So I didn't let him not know. "Yah Wayne, I said that already". He seemed unconvinced.
At the take out to the Mississauga river near Buckhorn , Wayne had just finished pointing out a couple land marks where the flow of the river met a snowmobile bridge at the parking lot (a large furnished lot with a solar powered rest room and plenty of parking). Rocks on river right just below surface, a tree stump 8 inches out of the water where it had been 5-6 the beefier weekend before. All signs pointing towards the water still in the system, still ready to go; meefy.
Before the weekend, I'd been cautiously ambitious to check out the Mississauga since some GKCrs had gotten on it and stated it as a must hit - purportedly in the apprehensive[+] range (see HRRBFS ratings) with a high excitement level; epic even. It fit well with what I felt comfortably[-] uncomfortable[+] with. Water in the region was the highest in recent memory and still holding. It seemed a perfect opportunity to get my feelings on.
The crew was large, almost 20 - GKC representing half of that with myself, Ben, Rob, Cortney, Ian, Matt Wayne, Leah (by proxy) and Taylor. A mix of KWP and locals were there and Dave who had paddled the Eel with us and enjoyed our company the night before . A big group and a longer section of river had some already talking about how to divide up so as to keep things moving smoothly.
With shuttle set, thankfully[++] having almost all vehicles at the bottom - the group slowly trickled on to the river.
The following is my personal account of the river. Diminished and still diminishing memory have me already second guessing order and details that undoubtedly will be pointed out to me later. And what a puss I am. But that is here nor there.
The Harris River Rating by Feelings System (HRRBFS)
Tired of endlessly debating river ratings, I have begun to form my own way of describing the difficulty of rapids - going by the one thing I am most attuned to.. my feelings.
Each grouping of feelings describes the difficulty I felt scouting and then running (or not) the feature and then further reflection and reverse visualization. Furthermore, the ratings are broken into a plus minus, plus, minus and plus plus bracket that indicates the feeling intensity. For the intensities: [++] indicates the strongest intensity, [+] being an above heightened awareness of this feeling, [+-] being a normal amount of feeling (with [-+] leaning slightly to the negative) and [-] would indicate a persistent but underwhelming sensation.
HRRBFS allows a person to attune to their own personal sensations of a specific feeling by empathizing with mine and projecting that over into to the description of the components of a rapid, the rapid as a whole and as an entire river to get an emotional topology of how difficult it would be for them.
Example: An anxious[+] pour over ledge with an optimistic[-] amount of recirc with a slightly uneasy [+] run out making for a rapid rating of Unsettling [+].
Important Note: The existence or non-existence of a feeling towards a rapid does not preclude one from walking or running it. Because people perceive emotions differently, especially based on varying degrees of experience and skill - it would not be beyond reasonable doubt that a terrifying [++] rapid to one person could be a relaxed [-] to another. The most crucial aspect of HRRBFS is being able to adequately gauge your emotions and their intensity and then rationally applying them to a river.
Mississauga - By The Rapids - As Felt by Harris (using HRRBFS standard v1)
(Note: I have decided to name each rapid for my the purposes of this TR, not out of disrespect for whoever might have named them for real)
Put in - Bridge Rapid to Bruisers Boof (Mellowed [+])
The put in (or put out for some) for the Mississauga is not too far from the take out. You run underneath a snowmobile bridge (fairly low clearance at the level we ran) and punch a hole to the right or left or middle (anywhere). The water was pushy enough under the bridge that it was some good warm up ferrying back and forth and messing around. Continuing down there was a smallish rapid with a river left line avoiding a hole on the right (?). After that are some small rapids with no hazards of note and then some flat water made tolerable by the higher flows, nice temperature and conversation.
Bruisers Boof (Optimistic[+])
The first feature of note, Bruiser's Boof separates itself into two distinct paths around a tree covered island, river center.
The left side of the rapid (which we ran first) channelized and condensed into a small train ending in a big fluffy wave followed immediately by a surprisingly[-] retentive little hole. It was solid enough to completely stop a creek boat going at a decent speed if you didn't prepare for it (but of no concern because of it's tiny size and lack of shoulders). I only mention it because of the priceless look on Ben's face when he rocketed over the wave in his new Recon and got stopped dead in an entirely whiplash filled moment.
Eddying out right and across to the far bank of the other channel we looked at a small 3-4 foot ledge. The water was going hard enough that 3/4 of the flow folded over to the right side into a shallow landing area (backed with some FU rocks just down stream on the right) and the rest fell straight down on the left pouring into an ugly little pocket. I was undetermined at this point if it was worth getting out for, until I saw Ed P. and another run it with some serious style. I now think it is a great place to practice your delayed boof stroke. At this level it seemed you either had to time it well or else hit the reactionary just so - as to keep your bow up and centered through the landing (so as to not ramrod into the shore on the right or pencil into the hole, being back endered and slapped like a dead salmon).
Here is a video of the right side boof at lower water (courtesy of McMaster Whitewater): http://www.youtube.c...h?v=UwaLzxcjv1k - you can see how the left could fill in to form the pour-over at higher water, creating a much more uniform hole cross the bottom of the ledge. The lower water run seems to be a bit more straight forward with the left to right auto-boof.
A few people found success (including Ed, Steve (?), Taylor, others) - while most found the timing a bit difficult, missing the boof but still landing it with grace if not style.
Besides learning that my boof stroke needs work, Cortney was able to solve one of those lingering 'what if??' questions. As in 'what if you missed your stroke completely and penciled it'. I was actually surprised[++] how quickly it took her stern, pulled the boat sideways and started getting to work on her. Before I was able to get an answer to my second 'what if' (and probably before Cortney knew truly what was going on) - a body went flying in, attached to Ian's throwbag - performing one of the most ruthlessly aggressive life bait rescues I've ever seen. Like a fat kid popping the lid off a can of pringles, Dave the Bruiser mandangled Cortney and her boat back to proper side up in under a second. Needless to say, the hole is sticky and shallow - not a very good place to be!
It wasn't until the take-out that Cortney showed the bruise on her arm from the rescue. Dave apparently has surprising grip strength for such a small guy. Unfortunately she couldn't come up with a good back story for the other thumb sized bruise still fresh on her left arm.
Scouted or easily walked on the left shore (note: portage signs indicate a good place to get out and have your look), Pitchfork starts as the river bends quickly left and splits into two channels (the left channel with 90% of the flow). The right channel probably is only in at higher water levels as it seemed to go out a ways in and amongst the trees and curve back to empty out near the bottom. The river chokes together at the start then and immediately widens out on the left into a nice sizable, creeky rapid.
The first thing I saw when I got out and started to scout was a massive log jam far river left at the very end of the rapid. It looked scary[+]. Apparently this wood has always been there and only comes into play during higher flows. The jam sticks out a good 15 feet, full of logs, timber with nails and other nasty treats. Water was going under, above and around it. I'm not going to lie: after walking some less serious rapids on Eels because of less serious strainers - I had no intentions of running it.
The main channel started with a fairly quick lead in to a ~5 foot tall river wide ledge that curved in and out downstream (highest, furthest point being right of center). At the cusp of the ledge, there is a large gnarled tree that separates the flow and act as a good land mark visual for coming into that first move. The river right side seemed messy and out of play at this level and the center - right of center rounded out portion of the ledge probably could go (with more water?). The ledge definitely had some character as rocks and shallows at the base at some portions made it less clean. Everyone was eying the river left side of the ledge close to shore, where there was a good 6-8 foot landing pad.
Downstream of the ledge, the water was boily - leading into some reactionaries, gathering gradient again and pushing quickly downstream. There was a large rock river center that had a good sized eddy behind it. Just downstream of the rock coming directly off the river left shore and back to the center was a hole. It didn't look too serious if not for it being just above where the strainer was sticking out. River right below the rock eddy were some waves and small holes it met up with the flow from where the far river right channel enters back in.
We had safety set at the ledge on river left, before and after the hole on the left and Ian was standing up and half way on to the log jam.
While a lot of people were still scouting / considering running the drop - Ed P. did his first lap and hit the ledge a little too far left. It caused him to be off his line and very close to the left shore coming down. He was able to get back to hit the right side of the hole and continue booking right, ferrying out in front of the strainer. He ran it again, this time hitting the ledge further right and was able to style the boof, make the eddy behind the rock and then ferry out river right - the strainer completely out of play. This seemed to be the best case scenario and what most people were considering to be the cleanest line at this level.
A couple more ran it with no issues. People who weren't running it or had run it already, waited quite some time and then we ended up abandoning safety to get moving. Wayne, Taylor and a few others apparently ran after this and did not have any major difficulties.
I believe the drop would be quite plausible[+] without the river left strainer in play - in fact it would be something good for multiple laps due to the ease of walking back up to the top. However, a bad line (or worse) a swim could easily find you into the log jam, even with safety in place.
Therapist Chute (Unsettling[+])
The next major rapid is not far downstream from Pitchfork where the whole flow of the river constricts mostly to a single channel (with a small amount of water going left around a rock island in the center and down into trees). A few of us were ahead and got out at the the river right portage signs. The vast majority of water pummels down a fairly narrow cut in the left side, while 3/4 of the rapid flows shallowly right up and over a large dome feature and off a 3-4ft ledge at the bottom.
At first glance the river left line appears to pound straight down the chute into a massive scary[+] looking hole. It is backed up on the left by the island and the hole formed by the ledge drop to the right. To me it looked like it would be punishing to go in there. On the other side.. the river right line would involve cutting up and over the reactionary at the entrance and coming down close to the shore bumping and grinding to launch off a fairly scrappy ledge to the pool below. This appeared to be what I would be doing.
Meanwhile, Brent from KWP (who I found out later had run it the weekend before and scouted with Wayne) blitzed down the left line, down into the maw of the hole and BAM. Went through without any problem at all. I was puzzled that I had been so off the mark on my scouting! I would never have thought it would have gone that easily. Talk about a mind raping - this thing was in my head and having its way with me.
Dave went for the far right line, which he scraped down and judging by the thud - hit something there before getting over the lip. I ended up watching another 6-7 people run that same main left line without issues and worked to mentally get my head around it. I went over the entry with some people on shore and then decided that the left looked considerably more intimidating than it was, but had to be by far the cleanest.
My line was to start left of center, moving right and then line up along the reactionary and then enter the chute just left of a large rooster tail marker. Allegedly there was a steep tongue in there (that is not very visible from the river right shore). Jittered into my boat, peeled out and ended up having a decent line. Once you are in the main flow and halfway down you can spot the diagonally left to right tongue, line up and pop through it. I don't think I really believed it went until I was on the other side. Sorta like the first time you run lovers on the Pet.
Two things I would mention: one is to scout off river left on the island if you are unsure! Second is not getting too far right on your way down, as just on the other side of the rooster tail there are shallow, bumpy steps - and the actual ledge hole if you flopped into it is probably not as forgiving as punching the meat of the main line. Err on the intimidating side and keep your boat lined up.
Whiteout Canyon (Cautiously Reserved[+-]) Around the bend (as she goes) from Therapist was the rapid that ended up being the highlight of the day for me. The river narrows up, adds some gradient and throws it down a nice 100-150m high walled canyon. I had heard and read about this rapid, so I got my boat on shore river left and literally ran (in the out of shape way I am able to) up the steep embankment, so I could see Wayne and a few boaters (who had run it before) fly through down to the bottom. The speed seemed intense, even from shore. Just a blur of a boat going past and a cheer at the bottom. I was told by Wayne to start center and after the first two waves start driving hard right (passing a hole on the right as a marker)to avoid getting pushed left into a rock guarding the last part of the rapid.
I didn't spend too much time scouting (as I was nervously excited [-]) but what I saw was the massive, fast moving green water start to compress in about 1/4 of the way down, causing it to stack up. There are a couple large reactionary V's coming off the walls as you continue down, followed by a ledge far river right pouring into a oblong hole. After that it became steeper with some big waves. The canyon itself doesn't have any major bends or twists until right at the end, where it curves slightly and pillows into the big boulder jutting out on the left. At this level it looked like there actually was a boily room just upstream of the rock that would be the main hazard to avoid on my run.
Video at lower water: http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Tj27_1ERo5s
I scrambled to my boat, peeled out to the center and started flying down. I passed the first reactionary at high speed while starting to make my way right. In the small amount of time I had, I tried to figure out if it was too early to get allll the way right. Too late. I hit the next reactionary, got ricocheted hard to the left and then hit a couple big somethings that blew my eyelids all the way back. Complete white out! All I could really do at that point was hold on for the ride and hope I had started right high enough so I didn't get samsquamched into the boulder on the left. Luckily I was OK, and rode it down into the wave hole at the bottom and out with a big poop eating grin on my face.
I sat at the bottom and watch people coming down. Almost everyone was getting bounced hard left by the same reactionary that got me. However, Matt was the only one that really had a ride as he got launched into the room behind the boulder. There were a few tense moments when he disappeared (canyon very tall at that stage and no one in place for any sort of rope safety), but in typical Matt style he worked through it, bounding out of it with a look of mild confusion.
This is a great rapid with tons of fun factor. My advice is to know ahead of time that the last reactionary is kicking hard left. Other than the eddy line off the hole (1/2 down on right) that could trip you, there isn't much hazard to being further right than you think. So starting at the top left might give you better momentum to cross the reactionaries at the bottom with the right angle and speed.
Truth or Dare (Nervous[+]) The next sizable rapid on the river is Truth or Dare. The river is a single channel at this point and flows down a long shallow slide into a river wide hole.
At the top of the rapid the current starts to split, with the majority of flow cresting over the peak of the entrance, breaking off and sliding down and left. Far left on the drop the river ground out into shallow flakes, kicking back lots of water. From left to right of center the main current plowed into a steep, shallow hole with a massive pile that looked suitably unappealing [++]. Looking back at the top, some of the current sloughed off to the right - hitting the shore and making a sizable but slow moving eddy that went down the slide - some of it emptying into the hole and the other to what looked like a weak shoulder.
I visualized starting left with speed and paddling like hell to cross the light reactionary between the left and right flows 3/4 of the way down and then punching through the far right shoulder. I was not confident that any amount of paddling would get me enough speed to get right and over the hole. Would be better to just square up and plug it rather than hitting it sideways trying to make the right corner. At the end, I didn't really like the look of the left lines because of how shallow it seemed and I didn't like the right line so I opted to walk.
Video at lower water:http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Cx0ik42V_xA
Putting in at the bottom, I ferried across to take a look at the river right shoulder from ground level. The shoulder looked extremely steep (the hole itself was very steep) and I wasn't sure that I could have punched it. I could have sworn it!
True to form, I was proven wrong minutes later when Ian ended up on far river right on his and literally floated over the shoulder. People also were running far left and left of center without the hole really coming into play (other than being a hard hit). And I think Matt also opted for the right line and did not have any trouble dealing with the mean looking hole.
My final thought is that because there is so much volume coming through the slide and the bottom is not very deep, the hole looks mean (big angry pile) but there is actually quite a lot of green water not too far underneath and there isn't much recirc on the back side. You could probably tuck and plug it. BUT if you did get stopped or sideways - it probably would be a short, very shallow albeit violently, trashy beat.
Twisted Ankle (Relaxed[+-]) After some flat water, the river narrows down into a long, canyon'ish section. It is possible to scout from river left at the portage signs. This is a boat scout rapid with no hazards at higher water levels.
Wayne and Leah peeled into an eddy and exclaimed that they were going to run it again. I questioned this and was berated that I was lacking a child like sense of adventure (and there was not much more to the river after this point). Not in a mood to argue the point, I got out of my boat and started up the path.
The hike back up to the top ended up being quite laborious. At one point I stumbled upon Wayne who was on his ass, holding his ankle. He had twisted it earlier in the day, though his sense of adventure did not preclude him from hiking several hundred metres, up and down over slippery moss covered rock to run a fairly tame stretch of water again!!
Another Day (Dread[+] - or Peaceful[++] walking) At this point I am tired of writing this trip report. Last rapid on the river flows under a dam and into a very large, manky drop with some good gradient. Leah gave me poop for starting to walk before I looked at it (I heard everyone walks it.. he he)
I will let Wayne or someone else who said they saw the line and 'would run it another day', comment about what the line could/would be at this level!!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!