South Fork Silver Creek above Icehouse
Also see Bill Tuthill's 2007 trip report on Brian Vogt's river blog.
Even Freud said sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar. But make no mistake! Not all class V runs were built like the South Silver above Ice House Reservoir. Hands down, the South Silver is the most frickin' fun 1.5 miles of Cali creekin'. God, I love California!!! [Brad was forced to live in Texas for two years.]
What we loved about running this creek was that it dropped so quickly, one had to focus and think about only one drop at a time, or risk suffering from paralysis analysis.
As has been proven before us, it all goes. We'll disclose that we portaged twice, not including the standard portage: once for lack of water and once around Skyscraper because our little boats don't work well when upside down.
We waited until hardshell kayakers started complaining about bony flows on Boof.com before embarking on our inflatable-kayak descent. Doug's son Daniel had ran it in a raft several weeks earlier.
Suggestion: From the staging area at the put in, it pays to find the superb trail somewhere amongst the grasses at 2 o'clock rather than schlepping your boat straight down into the canyon. This trail guides you gently to a clean pool above Autobahn where you can begin the descent.
Autobahn is like a speedway. You can easily reach 20 mph bombing down this really long granite slide. Doug proved you can run it backwards while Brad finished by launching over the top of a 10 foot granite out-cropping to land in the eddy below.
Triple Slide: a fun and straight-forward pair of shelves followed by a long rampy run out. The first drop looks bad on the left side, though.
The South Silver Teacups comprise four respectable falls each with a choice of lines. We scouted right and set up safety from there. The second drop is the most technically challenging while the third drop is the largest. In the Second Teacup, it's difficult to stay as far left as you want to be. The drops measure 8' 12' 16' 3' 2' 10' according to kayakers with yardsticks. Because the post-middle ones are small, we call them Teacups 3.3 and 3.6. For the Fourth Teacup, make sure you walk to the bottom so you can see the boulder on the left side of the falls.
Immediately below is a waterfall that needs no introduction: Skyscraper. We portaged Skyscraper because a potential swim looked to be hazardous. Skyscraper is pictured on Dreamflows here at higher flow and here at lower flow.
We put in immediately below Skyscraper to run Offramp. You will laugh yourself silly running this drop over and over and over! The fearsome looking undercut wall that appears at higher flows becomes very understandable if, at lower flows, you explore the rocks and pool at the bottom. It's not as dangerous as it looks.
From here we elected to portage right. Yes, right. Unlike the commonly chosen line on the left side, which involves a substantial climb, we traversed across steep granite on river right, and put back in several hundred yards above Plastic Surgery. This route seems easier at low flow, but perhaps inadvisable at higher flows.
The series of bedrock slides that leads to the pool above Plastic Surgery are nothing short of boating heaven.
Plastic Surgery is the final drop of the series and the second single largest drop that we run. The entrance is tricky, with the best route (left of center) blocked by a large boulder. Dreamflows provides this excellent top-to-bottom view of Plastic Surgery. At all flows, the waterfall plows into the pothole on the right. Watch it! Mark piled right into the pothole and was pounded by water from above. But Marvelous Mark kept his cool and surfed out of the pothole to complete the drop in fabulous style!
Finally we reached Quadruple Bypass, the final series: a closely-linked series of four slides into a welcome recovery pool. The guide by Justin Sites on Dreamflows says to run the slides right, left, center, and left.
After that we elected to walk to the car from here, but in hindsight, I would have kept boating as the gradient mellows out and the creek takes on a similar look to the final quarter mile of Fordyce Creek, which we affectionately call No Man's Land.
This is a must do! Be safe, set safety everywhere and bag the bomb! Peace, Brad
Editor's note: This is an odd run. Despite the insane gradient, there seem to be relatively few deathtraps. Chris Shackleton graciously sent this risk assessment:
Yes, South Silver above Icehouse in a hardshell at decent flow is an absolute and total mind-blowing classic. Difficulty is hard to rate, since it's very steep (800 fpm from the Teacups thru Quadruple Bypass, as I recall). From Autobahn down to the lake is about 600. But it's not too serious, for the most part, at low flows. It's very rare to see anyone flip and I've never seen anyone swim (though I hear stories of those who have, usually in the series of ledge drops leading into Plastic Surgery). But at higher flows, when it gets really fun in a kayak, penalty points for swimming though Offramp would probably be very severe, and would likely include evacuation. If you got injured-- and it's hard to imagine not tangling with that fantail and other stuff while speeding at 15 or 20 mph-- you could even get swept into the portage. Ugh. There are other iffy drops, including the manky chute between Autobahn and Double Drop (which I think of as Single Drop), and Double Drop if you get pushed left into a sort of undercut, Triple Slide if you landed way left. Likewise Boof, Boof, Slide if you wander way far left at the top (seems to me you could even get trapped, especially if you flipped). Skyscraper apparently has a pothole system going all the way thru and once swallowed a larger-sized dog without trace! And of course Plastic Surgery can hurt your back like hell in a hardshell even if you run it on line and right way up; I wonder what would happen if a kayak ran it upside down. So anyway, the idea is not to flip, and swimming is streng verboten. At normal fun flows in a hardshell kayak, I vote for Class V skills.
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