Kayakings first natural 20 meter megaramp! Summit Creek, Washington is the venue for one of kayaking most noteworthy drops. First found by up and comers Todd and Chris Wells, they soon spilled the beans to Cody Howard who in turn thought it was the coolest drop he had ever seen. However no one was sure how 50 to 60 feet of freefall transitioning to a nearly flat rock slab would feel on the body.

Way back in the day I used to specialize in low water big drops, and even in my "old age" this one was right up my alley. After Cody, Bett Adems, and I explored the upper gorge of what will be known from now on as skate park creek, Cody insisted on hiking into the lower gorge to show me Mega Ramp falls. With rain pouring down and light waning everything I saw in the drop exuded perfection. The was visibly raising the level of the creek and I knew that the following day could be the perfect opportunity to probe the giant ramp. With an all important Ashland showing of Hotel Charley Vol. 4 to attend that same evening, we would have to get to the creek at the proverbial butt crack of dawn in order to run the drop into the down stream gorge and still make the 7 hour drive to Ashland, OR by show time.

At 6 am Cody, Bett and I were joined by videographer Ryan Scott and Pro Photog Lana Young to make the return trip to Summit creek. Visual inspection revealed that the once paltry flow was now roosting over the massive drop. Although the entry to the falls had cleaned up considerably, there was concern that the thick flow was now vaulting over the transition and landing abruptly on the flat slab below. Cody decided against probing the drop but was eager to help with safety and cameras. After a few more test logs, I was confident in gaining the transition and rocketing cleanly into the pool below.

Avoiding the acceleration of the lead in flume, I ferried into the drop at the lip and tried to hold my speed to a minimum. I went dead vertical right away and rocketed at 32 feet per second squared towards the flat slab 20 meters below. As hoped and anticipated, the transition was as perfect as anything dreamed up by Tony Hawk, sending me flying off the trani into a 40 foot dart move towards the pool below. The descent was so clean that Cody quickly followed with and equally spectacular and clean descent. Cody and I then proceeded down the rest of the gorge below the falls that was something like nearby Little Goose Creek (aka Kenobi gorge).

Big props to the whole crew for their commitment to expanding the boundaries of the sport in the already ultra-classic Columbia River Gorge!


Central Brazil: A new world record

We took a frame from one of the angles for you to check out!

Yesterday the 4th of March, 2009, Brazilian kayaker and fellow Brazil World Record Attemt Expedition member Pedro Olivia shattered the existing world record (108 foot or 33 meter) with a 38. 7 meter (127 foot) waterfall descent on a tributary to the Amazon on the Rio Sacre in Campos Novos, Mata Grosso, Brazil. His 2.9 seconds of pure freefall sent Pedro rocketing into the pool at right around 70 miles per hour in his Jackson Kayak Rocker. Although people have certainly perished upon hitting a pool of water from such heights, the team counted on the massive, gushing rivers of Central Brazil to produce the softest water landings on earth. This particular falls was nearly a foot ball feild in width, with approximately 5000 cfs of crystal clear 70 degree rain water spilling over the lip. This meant that although Pedro´s boat went over vertical, he and his boat were swept and kept intact into a deep mist filled pool. Infact Pedro resurfaced behind the falls were he was able to right himself with his hands on a conviently located boulder bar. The place is truely beyond description, and I guess that is why it is aptly named Salto Belo or Beautiful falls.

As with the majority of our descents in Brazil, we were led to this falls by extremely friendly and helpful locals. So friendly and helpful infact that they set a 40 meter repel for us inorder to access the base of the falls.

Our team and Pedro inparticular have been searching for a world record falls during the rainy season in Central Brazil for the last two years and it was certainly surreal to see both the Team´s and Pedro`s dream come true. I think it is now official that this Area of Mato Grosso and Goias is the true ``North Shore´´ of big waterfall kayaking.

Our team of kayakers is a international subset of Team Jackson Kayak that include certainly some of the most able class V (extreme) kayakers in the world including (USA)Jesse Coombs, (Mex) Rafael Ortiz, (USA) Chris Korbulic, (USA) Ben Stookesberry, and of course the venerable Brazilian Pedro Oliva. In Pedros words his descent was a reflectoin of this teams cohesion and support from the moment everyone got off the plane.

From my point of veiw Pedro, alone has shattered all preconceived notions of what is possible in a Kayak!

The trip is still not over yet as we move back into Goais for 3 final days searching out the biggest runnable waterfalls on the planet.

Make sure to check out this record braking and mind boggling descent in this year´s late April debut of Hotel Charley volume 4: At your Own Risk.


Back in the USA: Outlet Falls

Since getting back from Pakistan and India 2.5 weeks ago, I have been in touch with Erik Boomer about the record snow pack that was soon to be hit by a relatively warm torrential rain. With the true eye of the storm veering north into Washington, the Columbia River Gorge was blessed with the perfect amount of rain to bring creeks and rivers up to flood stage, but not to catastrophic levels like what happened around Seattle. When the storm finally came to an end, Devin Knight and I made an all knight drive to Portland to meet up with Boomer and the Herbecks (aka Nate and Heather). Apparently, they had their eye on a falls that had been bouncing around the collective imaginations of the Northwest paddling crowd for several years: Outlet Falls.

In the spring of 2004, I scouted Outlet falls with Josh Bechtel, Tao Berman, and Eric Link only to find the creek far too low to run despite heavy rain the night before. From nearly a quarter mile away high on the canyon wall, we could see a perfect but extremely tall punch bowl style falls that was the gatekeeper to an impressive canyon below.

Despite seemingly large drainage basin, located directly under the impressive summit of Mount Baker, Outlet Creek is completely cut off from the surrounding mountains that funnel more significant water into the White Salmon and Klickitat basins. Rain on a big snow pack was literally the only type of event short of a full Monsoon that would transform a tranquil trickle into a raging runnable torrent.

When Dev and I arrived on the seen, it was apparent that the word had gotten around as many of the Northwest finest paddlers and personalities where on hand for a would be first descent. Sam Drevo was the first to greet us and let us know that Boomer was at the lip and ready to go. After a 7 hour all night drive, Dev and I were weary of just jumping into the Malay of a flooded big drop, but a short visual inspection had us scrambling for our gear to join the rest of the team in preparation for the first descent.

Of course with this type of unique winter induced opportunity, comes hazards also unique to mid-winter paddling. Outlet was now a thick tongue of brown current spilling 60 to 80 feet into a boiling , icy cauldron below. Due to the 2 to 5 feet of snow pack, the peak of the rain of event was only now entering the falls indicated by the river lapping up to the edge of the snow packed bank. 7 foot boils at the base of the falls sent the 35-degree water hurling towards ice shelves on either side. Dry suits were certainly mandatory in light of the significant hazard of hypothermia from any would be swim.

To complicate matters more, a 5+ rapid above the falls was preventing an easy entrance into the creek necessitating a pretty exposed seal launch above another significant rapid that led right to the lip of the falls. Boomer is certainly no stranger to exposed situations and radioed to the rest of the group that he had his line dialed and was ready to launch. Dev and I where positioned directly above the lip as Boomer used a hybrid form of snow kayaking to fly off the canyon wall and porpoise perfectly into an eddy above the massive drop. 2, 3, 4 strokes to the lip of what Boomer would later describe as "ka-ra-te" and he set the classic stern draw to tuck which has become a hall mark big waterfall kayaking. From what I could see from above it was a perfect descent, but seconds later I saw his paddle float downstream and then Boomer appeared fighting to hand rolled against the icy wall. In the end, he swam just feet from Heather running safety in the pool below. He was ok and super pumped on an amazing first descent, but it was obvious that the falls was extremely powerful.

Many of you already know that I love big waterfalls, but what you may not realize is how much they scare me at the same time. To intentionally enter an avalanche of liquid ice is counter intuitive, yet a clean line will yields a feeling of elation and personal accomplishment that lasts a lifetime. In the end it is all about the feeling of the place and the people around you and that day the situation was perfect. Devin Knight and I dissected the line and came up with the ideal scenario. The rest of the crew including Ryan Scott, Barnie Bonito, Charlie Munsey, Christie Glismyer, Richard Hallaman, Keel Brightman, Jed Weingarten, et. al where on hand shooting photos and film, and running saftey to make the event a one of a kind experience. I'll let Sam Drevo's sweet photo tell the story of my descent. What can I say... the Super Hero Loves to fly!

Also huge thumbs up to LJ Groth for is third and final descent of Outlet that day. He tossed his paddle and nailed a beautiful plug, flushing straight downstream and nailing his hand-role!

Check out more on our Outlet descent at:

www.pbase.com/ greglief/outlet_falls


Intercontinental Crossing: Northeast India and Bhutan

Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulics transcendental journey through a 130 mile swath of the Himalayan front.