Ahhh the Upper Elk, I have talked about this run before and really my writing and photographic talents don't do this run justice. A short run with challenging rapids in a very unique boxed in canyon and one of the best 40 foot waterfalls I have ever paddled. The very square like nature of the bed rock either makes the drops very easy to scout and portage when the walls form steps or impossible when it forms a head wall.
This past weekend we had a large group of boaters looking for water due to the recent cold snap so most of them ended up at the Elk. In total we had 8 boaters on the Upper Elk, 6 of them being first timers down this run, this made for a slow fun trip with a bunch of media opportunities.
The run starts in a narrow hallway with a long low angled slide followed by another small slide. When the river makes a left turn get out and scout Horseshoe falls, a 15 foot drop with a technical lead in. From below Horseshoe falls you have two fun class 4 rapids before you reach the crux of the run which comes at the newly named Cave Man. If you run cave man there is a greater than 50% you will end up in the cave or against the head-wall on the left, neither of which is a nice place to be. The problem with the rapid is there is no easy way to portage or set safety so if you head to the Upper Elk you are committed to running a challenging class 5 rapid with no back up. The portage options are to bring some rope and a harness and rappel, or to do the old chuck and huck, except that you have to jump across the main flow of the river to get into the eddy on the far side and avoid the head wall no easy task, especially if there is no one in their boat in the eddy to help pick up the pieces.
500 meters after Caveman eddy out on the right and portage around the class 6 slot, from here seal launch back into the canyon. Once you are back in you are committed to Leap of Faith, the aforementioned 40 foot water fall, on this trip we had 7 total and 4 first timers run the falls. From the pool below the falls the River enters into a 3 km section of good class 4 whitewater with big boulders and beautiful scenery. If you ever find your self in Fernie you have to go paddle the Elk River, no matter what level of boater you are, there is the class 5 Upper, the class 4 Upper Lower and the class 3 Lower Run, (the Lower has some class 4 in high water), the entire stretch runs in the bottom of an impressive gorge.
Unfortunately, I lost most of my head camera footage during transfer so I only had a little left over for the video, oh well it will give me a good excuse to get on that run again later this year. Thanks to Pavel Bendl, Chris Darlington, and Dan Whiting for some photos and a little extra footage.