Icicle Creek rushes down an airy canyon near the town of Leavenworth in Washington's Cascade Mountains. The creekbed is filled with granite boulders which create long, powerful rapids with some pretty burly holes. The area around the creek is wildly scenic with broad swaths of granite teeming with climbers and an equal number of hikers, bikers, and other more mundane looky-loo's.
It was early June and we were taking a rest day during a road trip, looking for an easy run after paddling some grippy class five. We drove up to Icicle and decided to run the lower IV+ section in spite of the estimated 1500 cfs of snowmelt that was rocketing down the riverbed below us. ('Rest' is not what Icicle had in store for us at all!) John doesn't like Icicle because of the recent drowning here and the fact that one of the best boaters he knows narrowly escaped a flush drowning after he swam in a hole here... Nevertheless, we had driven a long way so he reluctantly agreed to go after I ruthlessly bribed him with some microbrews.
Just upstream from the put-in the river thunders down through a class six cataract that is mighty impressive to look at. This is the climax of the upper run, which is supposed to soar well into the range of hard class five. We weren't interested in anything that hard though, so we wrestled our boats down the granite boulder field at the put in and were off in a rush.
The Cataract just above the put-in. There were two hikers scrambling around on one of the mega-boulders when I took this shot- I have highlighted one of them with a blue box for scale. The red band crossing the creek just upstream is a hiker/sightseeing bridge.
Just downstream from the put in we tore down through a long riot of big waves and offset holes and I was feeling not very warmed up at all. This run really cranks when there is this much water in it, so you have to stay on your toes! I careened crazily through some hidden rocks at the bottom of the first drop and at this point I began to feel quite un-relaxed...
John eddy hopping down the upper section.
Almost immediately we swirled into an eddy above the biggest drop on this run, a very long and complex boulder garden. I got out to scout and after about five minutes of scrambling through the brush and peering into the river I hiked back up to John. "Ok." I said. "You see that rock there on the left? You gotta go between that rock and the bank. There's an there eddy but skip it 'cause you need lots of momentum. Next angle towards that pointy rock but be careful not to get pushed too far out into the middle of the river 'cause there's a hole there that'll eat ya. Boof hard on the left with lots of right angle so you don't faceplant into the boulder just downstream. Then there's this sieve and some logs..." Before I could finish John pulled his skirt and headed downstream to scout the drop himself. Soon he was back and tore off down the rapid, cleaning it perfectly...
John in the eddy at the top of the biggest rapid on the lower run. It keeps going around the corner...
I followed, had no problems, then followed John as we blitzed down through the lower rapids. It was a beautiful day, so we took our time and scouted often. Eventually the creek mellowed a bit and we were able to boat scout all the way to the reservior.
Hole avoidance is the name of the game on this creek- Here John punches the shoulder of a burly one on Lower Icicle.
When we got to the huge low head dam at the take out I tossed some wood into it, much to the delight of the tourists on the bridge overhead. (None of it ever came out...)