Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rafting with the ghosts. . .

Several months ago, a couple of my former team members in Taiwan let me know that they would be in town. Two years ago, when these two (Cedric and Sam) were in town for an extended stay, I took them up South Sister - a 10,000 ft (~3000meters) peak in Oregon (a REAL mountain with glaciers!), and into the Gorge, and to the coast. So, they wanted to do something different with the 1 day that they had available for touring this time. We decided on whitewater rafting down the Deschutes River.

It turned out that 5 members of the team would be here - 3 members (Sam, Cedric, and York) who had been on the team when I was there, and 2 new members (Shuwen and Jack). With me, we made the perfect number to fill my friend, Bob's, paddle raft, with him as the captain. He's rafted this particular river at least 50 times, so he has some clue about it and the rapids on it, and has done it in all sorts of conditions. We were lucky - we had hot weather (felt like in the 90's on the Fahrenheit scale - mid 30s on the Centigrade scale), so that getting wet in the 65F/18C water was a blessing and enjoyable, rather than an annoyance or uncomfortable. Everyone was excited to have this new experience.

As we traveled to the river, I was informed that it is Ghost month. Ooops. During Ghost month, when the ghosts are let out of Hell and roam the earth, one shouldn't go camping or go near the water. Was the team ok to do so, anyway? Yes. Shuwen mentioned that as long as she didn't tell her mother, she thought she'd be fine. . . The team was more interested in rafting than worrying about the ghosts.

So rafting we went! Bob gave the safety and "how to paddle" talk at the beginning. Safety: If you get thrown out of the boat, keep feet in front of you, hold on to your paddle, and hold on to your life-jacket; and how to pull someone into the raft should they get thrown out of the boat for some reason. How to paddle: together - both sides watch each other and paddle all at the same time. We didn't expect any problems, but just in case, we give this talk at the beginning of any rafting trip. And then, we were off! Right away, we had a nice rapid, where the boat went down into a swell and the waves came splashing over! It felt great, and was fun. Bob told us that "the black hole" is next - this is one where it looks as though it's no big deal - and then, when you're there, the boat drops down about 3 or 4 feet into a "hole" - it's like one of those carnival rides! Sure enough, it looked like it was no big deal. Everyone began to doubt Bob's warning, until we saw the boat in front of us disappear! By then, it was too late, we were headed for the hole (as planned), and came down just next to, and maybe a tad on top of the boat that seemed to be stuck there in that hole. The force of our boat pushed him out, and we, too, came out. One doesn't like to come down on top of other people's boats, normally - sort of considered rude, but fortunately, it turned out ok. The other boat was an oar raft, and he was trying to prevent his oars from popping out, and so sort of got stuck in the hole, since he wasn't able to push the paddles to get the boat out. Our little nudge moved him, and he was fine with it, thankfully!

Bob provided us with a couple of super-duper water guns. These are tubes (I think that they used to have other parts, but the working mechanism is just a tube), where you can put the end in the water, and pull on an inner tube, filling the outer tube with water. When we got hot, we'd shoot water at each other. It passed the time, playfully, in the time between the rapids. We noticed that some of the quietest, most gentle people could turn into amazing "fighting machines" when this tube was placed in their possession! Jack, who hardly ever said a word, shot water at his team-mates almost with a growl!!!! We all laughed at his brief change in character.

It's hard to get pictures of the rafting, because, well, we're in the water, and water isn't very compatible with our electronic cameras. Enterprising photographers are quite aware of this, and therefore set up some shade for themselves and sit at each of the big rapids to take pictures of everyone that goes by. At the end of the day, we were able to go to a store, find our pictures, and get a CD of all of the pictures for a fee. We did this. I found the next sequence fascinating, and thought that I should share it. When we were in the boat and it was folding up, none of us were particularly aware of it - just the experience that we were having at the time - not understanding what was happening to everyone else.

This rapid, we hit absolutely perfectly - look at the sequence:

(I asked Shuwen, later, if she were aware of my hair in her face - nope!)
Bob told everyone to hang on - so everyone leans toward the center of the boat and grabs one of the red straps that Bob put in the boat:

Look at how much the raft is folded up!

And how high the front of the boat is out of the water!

And here, I had no clue that Bob was getting drenched in the back - Cedric and I had been out of the water for what seemed like eons at this point:

Here, we made it out of the rapid, but not quite - the water coming from the side managed to push us into a nearby eddy (a current of water that takes us upstream, in a little circular pool), and this picture was taken just as we were going into the eddy. We wound up going round and round a couple of times, before we all were able to paddle together and strong enough to get us back into the rapid and downstream. Note the smiles on everyone's faces - this was FUN!!!!

We splashed through the rest of the rapids without incident, and just had a great time. We got to the end, and Bob suggested that we do the last third, again, since that has a lot of fun rapids, and is only 3 miles down the road. We were all in favor. All 7 of us piled into my Saturn station wagon and with the raft strapped onto the roof, went the 3 miles up river to just before the rapid at which all of the photos, above, were taken. There were two sides to this rapid - a left and a right side. We'd gone in the right side. We discussed - should we do the right side (more exciting) or the left side (less exciting) this time? Shuwen figured that Cedric, who gravitates to exciting things, would surely want to do the right side, again. Cedric surprised us all by saying, "let's do the left side." Ok!

York and I spent some time dealing with the car shuttle (getting his car that was at the original put-in, driving both back to the take-out, leaving my car there, and driving his back to this new put-in), and finally we were ready. First thing was to get back into the boat. A couple of us got in, and then Shuwen tried to get in. Something happened, and she fell in between the bank and the boat. She was fine, just couldn't get into the boat, so we hauled her in using the technique that Bob had taught us at the beginning. We were off, again! We went splish, splashing through a tiny, tiny little rapid, and the next thing I knew, *I* was in the water. Someone hauled me into the boat before Bob even knew that I'd ever left it!

Next, was the left side of the Oak Springs Rapid. Everyone was prepared - after all, we'd done this rapid, only on the right side, and this one was going to be just a piece of cake. The camera suggests what happened next:

Yup, this was just before the raft flipped completely over. Cedric and I were pretty entwined, so I spent part of the time under water trying to separate from him, and then I felt myself being pulled down - not the way I wanted to go! I wondered about this, and realized that for some reason, the paddle that I was clinging to (never let go of your paddle!), was actually dragging me down. I decided that I preferred going up more than I preferred to hold on to the paddle, so I let go of the paddle, and immediately began shooting up. I thought that I was about to break out to the air, and was thinking great - I need to breathe, but it turned out that I wasn't there, yet. I wondered if I could hold my breath any longer - yes! I could, and finally I popped out! Yippee! I saw Bob's water bottle, a paddle, and one of the water guns in front of me as I continued to travel through the rapids. I struggled to get them and keep my feet in front of me, since there were rocks in these rapids. I managed to get all three things in my possession, and started to worry that I wouldn't be able to get out of the current, so I switched everything to my left arm and hand, and started swimming as well as I could with my right arm to the left bank. I finally hit shallow water running over rocks and just stayed put. This was the first time that I was able to look around to see how everyone else had faired. I saw Cedric with a couple of paddles sitting in the middle of the river with current on both sides of him. He seemed fine. I yelled to ask if he knew that everyone else was ok, but couldn't hear the response (and, it turns out, he couldn't hear the question). I saw Bob's boat a little further downstream, and over on the right bank, out of the current. I started to wonder how I was going to get to the boat when another raft made it through the rapid, and decided to rescue me. They pulled over a little downstream, and I got up and got into their boat, and then we all paddled as hard as we could to get to the other side of the river as close as possible to Bob's boat. We were fairly far downstream, so after thanking that raft team profusely for the rescue, I had to climb up the bank to the road, and go down the road a bit to where the others all were. Fortunately, everyone was there, including Cedric, with their own story to tell. Sam and Jack had each lost a shoe - one lost the right one and the other the left, so when we were all done, Jack got both of their shoes to make one pair, and I happened to have another pair in the car that Sam was able to wear. Jack, the only one who hadn't strapped his glasses to his head, had lost them, and he was pretty much blind without. Sam gave him an extra pair of glasses so that Jack would be able to have SOME vision. . . York told me that when he popped up, he saw a shoe and a paddle, and grabbed the paddle, but couldn't get the shoe. Shuwen popped up next to Sam, and grabbed his life jacket, and he, in turn grabbed the boat. Cedric popped up under the boat, found a little place to take a breath, and then went back under in order to get out from underneath the boat. He was sorry that he'd been told to keep ahold of his paddle, since it made it more difficult for him to get to a safe place. However, after getting to that safe place, he judged that he could make it to the bank of the river after studying his position for a while. The team had to help flip the raft back so that it was right side up, and had already done so by the time I got there. We stood there a while, letting the adrenaline rush pass by, and finally got in the boat. We went through several fairly benign rapids when Cedric gave me a look that said "what is happening?" and he fell out of the boat! After hauling him back in, we ran the rest of the river without incident.

We went to visit a nearby waterfall, where the Native Americans are allowed to fish with nets (they aren't fishing at this time, since the fish aren't running in big enough numbers), and took our rafting team shot with the falls raging behind us:

In the back, left to right: Bob, York, Cedric, Sam, and in the front, left to right: Jack, Leora, Shuwen.
(You can't see Jack's mismatched shoe!)

So, my conclusion after all of this? Never underestimate the ghosts! I'll never forget the confused look on Cedric's face just before falling into the water when just he fell in - he was wondering what he did wrong - but it didn't appear that he did anything wrong - just plucked into the water. . .

I'll go climb a mountain, instead. . . (oooo, but we'll be camping - shouldn't be doing that, either - I'll have to be extra careful!)


Monday, August 11, 2008

Adams Glacier, Mt. Adams, August 9th, 2008

All photos should be clickable to get the high-quality version of the photo.

(This was written for our Ice Climbing class - this was the easiest place for me to put up pictures and commentary that they would have access to. Sorry that it's not readily consumable by all. . .)

This is Adams glacier taken from Divide Camp trail (we didn’t go to the actual “Divide Camp” camping ground, by the way – we, instead, camped near Adams River). On the glacier, there is plenty of water streaming, so no need to bring a lot of water. . .

This next picture is taken from our camping place, just at sunrise, looking at Adams Glacier:

This next picture shows the base of the glacier in the distance, as we were approaching. Note that it’s very broad, and the snow ramp up into the glacier comes from the far left, so, of course, we went up the middle of the right hand side – easy ice walking.

This next one I took because there was an optical illusion, when I was approaching the stream from the bottom, it looked as though it were flowing uphill, because it appeared that I were walking downhill. This picture is taken from the uphill side, looking downhill, and it had the same optical illusion from this direction, where it appeared as though the water should be running toward me, rather than away from me, but it was, in fact, running away from me, since that, in reality, was downhill. . . (doesn't it look as though the top of the picture is uphill?)

The clouds were finally lifting. After the initial easy glacier walk, we moved to the snow ramp that is just right of dead center of the photo:

The glacier really started to look spectacular at this point, so even though we were in the middle of a bunch of boulders, which would suggest that they might come tumbling down from above, I stopped to take some pictures – this one looking up as much as possible to the snow ramp we were about to ascend:
and this one looking northward:
Ok, at this point, we rejected the snow ramp to the north east, and headed up and to the right, thinking that there was also a snow ramp, there, too. After crossing a crevasse and moving to the right, we saw ice to the right (you’ll see it, better, in the next picture), and the rest of this beautiful stuff (sorry about the sunshine in the lens):
Here’s the ice wall that we climbed, thinking that on top would be a snow ramp, but instead, were greeted by ice, but at a much, much tamer angle:

Yeah, I know that this picture is crappy, but it gives some perspective – we were at the top of the ice ramp – just another hundred crevasses left to cross (ok, ok, it wasn’t a hundred, but it was QUITE a few after I thought that we were “almost there!”). You can see the start of the glacier (from a climbing perspective) in this photo:

And for this one I swung the camera more north-northeast – on the far, far right of the photo, I think that you can maybe make out the north cleaver, beyond the red ridge that is close to us:
And, I continued to swing the camera to the east – should be almost due east – looking up –that bump above the yellow – I think that that was the top of this ridge. Backtracking, and looking at the map, I’m thinking that I took this picture from 10200ft, and that the top of the ridge was at 11800ft, so a lot more crevasses and ice climbing left to go:

This is pretty much the same picture, but with the perspective of the rock cliff that we were at, just before climbing the rest. . . we followed the edge of the shade up:

I took no more pictures on the way up - just tried to get my butt up there. . .