Words By: Brandon Willms
I’ve got a second to spare now to put up some photos from a little river report on Cataract. I’m still pretty technologically challenged with my camera, so things are not turning out quite as good as I hoped, but will keep trying.
So far this spring is unravelling in what I remember to be pretty standard fashion. We still have a good amount of snow hanging out up in the mountains ready to melt. The weather we are getting has been variable as far as temperatures and precip goes. So far we have not had the warm weather/high precip combo that will really get things high, but I suspect there is still significant opportunity for that to happen. In the meantime, we do have some rivers moving now at least at runnable flows. Cataract has been up above 5 for over a week and the sheep has been hovering at low runnable flows for almost as long and the gate was scheduled to have opened a day or two ago.
The River Report – Cataract Creek
Location: Eden Valley, AB
Our Water Level: 6.1 cms on Cataract Creek Near Forestry Rd Gauge. (General Consensus of the paddling community is that the Gauge is reading about 2cms lower then normal. Expect things to be a little higher than the reading suggests).
Grade (at this level): III+(V+)
Character (at this level): Small volume creeking; pool drop; constricted bedrock ledges, and rapids; irregular shaped drops and features; some classic drops and features; couple messy rock gardens; three portageable waterfalls ranging from class IV+ to V+ (Titan 8m (IV+) requires a seal launch in order to run it separate from class V+ Hercules which is just upstream, but are both portageable on river left) (Zig Zag (IV+) requires either a rappel, an arduous hike, or a simple chuck and jump to portage); a portageable challenging slide Leviathan (V); a few rapids pushing class IV that are portageable with effort; scoutable; portageable; hazards include potential for wood (mostly clean at the moment), pins, a tight slot to navigate, rock bashing, entering Hercules by accident.
Run Spotlight: (the part of the show where we discover the good, the gross and the glorious parts of the river through trial and error/success)
- At this level, the first few km’s of floating are much more pleasant than at lower flows. It goes by quick enough and with fewer rocks to hit.
- The last reasonable eddies before Hercules are a little small and swift at this level, so don’t overcrowd them. If running for the first time, be sure to leave plenty of space behind the lead paddler and use solid communication as the river starts to steepen and bedrock starts to show in the river bed.
- I eyed up Hercules at this level and I think it is something I am willing to tackle, just gotta be in the right mindset and have sufficient safety set up.
- I paddled two laps of Titan (had to hike through a bit of snow on the portage trail). It’s Glorious at this level! The left hand wall is always a bit nasty, but get yourself on the middle to right side of the tongue and you are guaranteed to flush out on the right. Behind the curtain was looking very manageable as well. Spenser Sedgewick ran Titan for the first time which was his first drop over 5m. He went over the bars a bit, but quickly flushed out on the right side.
- At this level, Zig Zag has mean recirculation and a gross pocket on the river left at the bottom of the main drop. A mistake could end in a significant beatdown. Don’t take this rapid lightly, it is a solid IV+. Proper safety can take a bit of effort to set up, but can be done on the river left.
- I had fun running Leviathan at this level. It is quite cushy, and the hole at the bottom hasn’t quite developed its mean side yet. It goes without saying though that staying upright on this one is your top priority. It is fast enough and shallow enough to cause severe trauma.
- The last canyon has four or five exit drops that are worth a scout at this level. They can be portaged in pieces at river level or entirely above the canyon on river left. Other than the big drops, they are the crux of the run for a grade III+ paddler.
The entry to Hercules. Be cautious once the river steepens a bit and bedrock starts to show. Horizon line of Hercules is obvious, but eddy's are small by then.
Class V+ Hercules. In that rating I have taken into account the fact that safety is challenging and Titan is just downstream. Stand alone, its a quirky class V.
This is a super fun drop somewhere downstream of Zig Zag.
Leviathan is an aptly named beast. The rest of my line was spent mostly hidden from view slamming into walls of water. You get sooo much speed on this rapid!
So let’s hope the weather warms up soon, and we can really start getting after it here in the Rockies. Happy Paddling!