Skykomish III (IV)
May 23, 2015
As a California boater living in the San Fran area, a “local run” is typically a 3+ hour drive away. After coming to Washingtion, I can imagine boating here can make you soft in terms of driving. My host and kayaking mentor, Ben Waxman, treated me to one of Seattle’s local runs: The Skykomish. Waking up at 10:00am, we leisurely prepped gear and didn’t get on the road until close to noon. When it was all said and done, we returned to Ben’s apartment by 6pm. This was a welcome change of pace from the normal 5am wake-up and 9pm+ return.
I’m always impressed by the kayaking culture. Complete strangers can become trusted friends within only a few minutes. Arriving in Index, WA, Ben and I had not come up with a plan for setting our car shuttle. We relied on finding a fellow kayaker for help or, if all else failed, just walking the 4-5 miles back up the road. Sure enough, while driving by the take-out we came across a local boater who, unfortunately for him, had been waiting for a ride for more than an hour and a half. Happy to have gotten a ride back to his car, our local kayaker (sorry can’t remember his name) agreed to help us set our shuttle.
The Skykomish is a real gem; even at the low flows at which we ran it. The rapids offer countless different lines that give it a sense of choose-your-own-adventure. Every rapid, save for Boulder Drop, have at least one straight-forward class III line so you can always take it easy. On the other hand, if you are looking for more of a class IV challenge, many rapids offer the possibility of linking a series of boofs, eddies, and ferries to take it up a notch. It’s ideally suited for making the step from III to IV.
Boulder Drop – a fantastic, respectable, multi-move class IV – is the centerpiece of the run. The drop starts with a pushy center-to-right move off a large boulder. Catching an eddy on the right, you can break up the rapid into two parts. The second part starts with a set of 4 or 5 doors. I don’t know the rapid well enough to say which doors are clean, but we took a boof line near the center. Immediately below the doors is a powerful run out of waves and holes that finish to the left. The rapid was reminiscent of Staircase on the Chamberlain Falls section of the North Fork of the American.