click here to see Lower Elk video!
Standing beside the drop it looked good, kind of like a donkey puncher that would want to throw you over the handle bars. The only problem was it was super low. I had talked to Shane, who lives at the put-in, earlier and he had said the North Fork of the Catawba would be going, but dropping fast. I didn't know how fast, but my guess was it was too low. Spencer and Nathan showed up and confirmed my suspicion, we ditched the micro-flow to go get on something with water. Spencer had done the Twisting Falls section of the Elk River once before at flood stage, and Nathan and I had yet to get on it, so Elk it would be.
Nathan at the put-in.
We showed up to the put-in after a rather long shuttle to find the water at a great level, it looked padded out enough without being too high. As we were gearing up we talked about if anyone was going to fire up Elk River Falls. It seemed that no one wanted any part of the infamous 50' waterfall, but that was soon to change. As we walked up to the drop I looked over the lip to find a drop that looked suprisingly good. I remember Chris Gragtmans once saying that this drop just "spoke to him," I always thought he was crazy, but now I understand exactly what he is talking about. After another scout from down below, Nathan and I both wanted to drop her. Spencer set up a camera at the bottom, and I filmed from the top as Nathan took the plunge first. His line looked great from the top, and he seemed pretty fired up as he came back up to film me.
Nathan taking the plunge off Elk River Falls.
The skill and practice to be able to stick a pefect angle off any drop is something I know I wanted to improve on, and this drop seemed like a great step forward. 50 feet is huge, so I didn't want much if any speed going off the drop, but I also didn't want to go over the handlebars. It was one of the best feelings in the world to look down such a huge distance and see my line melt away. I rolled up at the bottom and paddled away from the biggest vertical fall I've ever taken.
Commited at the lip.
We continued down the river to find great drop after another - the river was a playground of slides and drops that makes this run a true High Country Classic.
Spencer gettin' jiggy with it.
After we portaged around Twisting Falls, an un-run mangler, we roped the boats down to the river to find two drops with Caleb Paquette and Scott Fisher scouting the first. One 10 footer with a sticky hole leading into a 35 footer; it was creeking paradise. Spencer boofed off the first one and got out to scout the big one, and we all followed cleanly with the exception of Nathan who stomped the boof only to get the beat of the day right above Compression Falls. Props to him for staying with it and getting out if it clean. A scout off the monster showed a rolling entrance into the drop. Caleb and Scott fired up sweet lines, as did Spencer.
Spencer airing it out on the entrance drop.
As I walked away to get into my boat something didn't feel right. I'm not sure what, or why, but I wasn't mentally on top of my game. I peeled out of the eddy high, and paddled. Exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do, I know, but I paddled. And I paid for it. Going off the lip I did not see down my line like I did the 50 footer, I felt as my bow refused to dive and prepared for a heavy hit. I landed flat, and took a shot to my deck.
Not quiet enough angle.
I paddled over to Spencer to see if I had any teeth left, he informed my my lip was busted and nose looked bloody too, but that seemed about it. I feel lucky to have been able to make such a big mistake and paddle away from it. Nathan still had to run the drop, but he cleaned it no worries.
Nathan showing how to get er down.
We quickly got down to the take-out as the sun went down. Thanks to Scott for the derma bond at the take-out. And thanks to Spencer and Nathan for filming all day.
click here to see Lower Elk video!
Until next time, this has been Cooper Lambla telling you to go big up yo' self!