During the fall of 2008, Pacific Northwest paddlers found themselves out in the cold. An epic high-water spring and summer had transitioned into a dry, brutally cold spell that left the rivers dry, and nervous energy high. While Hood River locals took to running up and down the painfully steep five-tiered set of stairs downtown to get their rocks off, Mother Nature quietly planned her next move.
Just in time for holiday travel, she delivered a debilitating blow to the area with a blizzard dubbed, “the worst in a decade.” Local padders then found themselves trapped in their homes, and were forced to take even more drastic steps to get their fix. The cold temperatures finally eased and the snow transitioned to rain, setting the stage for an epic high-water huckfest. PL caught up with local femme phenom Heather Herbeck to see how it all went.
PL: So after a long, cold, dry spell, things changed pretty suddenly in the Hood River area. Why was everything primed to go off? What happened?
HH: Mother Nature worked her goodness. We had 2-3 weeks of heavy snowfall, followed by days of warm temps and rain. Rivers were actually too high to run for a few days, which limited our boating. And areas impossible to access because of snow limited a few drops from being ran earlier in the melting period.
PL: Explain the scene. What are the geography and rivers like?
HH: Most of the runs/drops that we like to hit when the rivers are juiced are located at higher elevations. This is definitely a challenge because we end up hiking into our destination through 2-3 feet of snow for multiple, vertical miles. That’s how I get my buns and thighs of steel!
PL: Besides yourself who are some of the other local paddlers?
HH: Nate Herbeck of Sheer Madness Productions, Erik Boomer – local hucker, Lana Young and Christie Glissmeyer – my partners in crime, Ryan Scott of Northwest Video Scrapbook, Andy Round – we call him the “Jedi Master,” Tao Berman, Jay Gifford . . .and many, many more talented boaters!
PL: So you’ve got a bunch of professional, Class V creekboaters with pent up energy from months of nothing to huck—when things suddenly flashed, what was the vibe like?
HH: Kind of intense--it’s like all of a sudden there were too many options. There were a few days I missed kayaking in order to hike into waterfalls and scout for the crew. We would scout a falls/drop, take photos, head back to “group camp,” share our findings with the crew, make phone calls, confirm information, make more phone calls, meet at the drop, set up for filming/photos/safety and watch our crew huck. I can’t really explain the energy...we were all like kids in a high-water candy store!
PL: What were some of the things that people ran? Any first descents?
HH: Hmmm, let me think. Three drops stand out in my mind from our high water frenzy:
1. 70-foot Outlet Falls on Outlet Creek (a tributary of the Klickitat), a 1st descent by Erik Boomer. Ben Stookesberry and LJ Groth followed for the 2nd and 3rd descents. The coolest thing about the day was the fact that Erik Boomer had been eyeing this drop for 3 years. And had either seen it too high or too low, but it was the perfect flow the day he ran it! He was stoked.
2. 55-foot Lower Bridal Veil Falls at a fun, juicy flow.
3. 55-foot Money Drop. The significance of this drop is that whenever you hike in to look at it, you can never predict how big the drop will be because landslides continue to fall into the river. These landslides have made such an impact on Money Drop, that in the last 3 years this drop has went from a 70 footer, to a 10 footer, to a 30 footer, back to a 70 footer and now a 55 footer. Crazy!
All these drops were filmed by Sheer Madness Productions and will be highlighted in our next film, “31 Days of Living”.
PL: And now what? Is everything still going off?
HH: Flows are coming back down, but we are all still fired up from the last few weeks of extreme conditions. Now, we head back into the gym to keep ourselves strong for when Mother Nature makes her impact once again on the rivers
PL: So one last question. Is Tao really a superhero?
HH: Yes! I lived with him for over 2 years, and I’ve looked in his closet! You’d be surprised at his super hero outfits...