Friday, August 19, 2011

Quebec Day 2 - The Neilson

Camping in New York the previous night left us with a long drive up to the mountainous regions of Quebec. After some lengthy debates and lots of waffling, we decided that although the Neilson was low, it was supposed to be classic and it might be our only chance to hop on it. So, off we headed to Saint-Raymond and after plenty of delays and a modest fee at the access gate, the Neilson Valley. I think the first thing we all noticed was the towering granite walls of the Gros Bonnet, an unexpected surprise. The second thing we (at least those of us waiting for shuttle) noticed was the ferocious black flies. They look like gnats and don't hurt when they bite, but they pack a punch leaving welts and drawing blood. Little did we know, the Neilson would have the tamest bugs of any of our stops in Quebec.

Once the shuttlers returned, we quickly geared up and headed downstream, where our low flow was tolerable as the rapids built to long hard class IV boulder gardens which were mostly boat scoutable and super fun. Most of the run was just that: high quality class IV+ boulder rapids with enough pools to break the action but basically no flatwater. The scenery was better than expected with nice gorge walls but scouting was always possible (although not required except at Picard). Eventually the river opened up to some nice view of the cliffs and we came to the big rapid of the run: Island Falls. It was a little too low to run the left sneak, but the right side fall went nicely despite being a little tricky. A few bedrock drops and we arrived at the take out.

Alex Warming Up on an Early, Typical Neilson Rapid (Photo: Jeff Moore)

JJ digging while probing the top of Picard (Photo: JM)

Alex blasting through the entrance to Picard (Photo: JM)

After a lot of semi-continuous read and run in a narrow canyon, the river opens up and gives some great views of the Gros Bonnet (Photo: JM)

JJ taking off at Island Falls (Photo: JM)

Wanting more, a few of us headed downstream for the lower Neilson. The rapids got larger, although in general we thought the quality dropped. We all portaged the second rapid and the pothole drop. The pothole looked great, but my shoulder just wasn't ready for the beating that it was capable of dishing out. Soon enough, we were dodging rocks in the dusk as we rolled up to the take out bridge.

We had about 10 cms on the online gauge, which is about minimum. Still, this run is a classic, and was the first, but certainly not the last, Quebec river to exceed our expectations. This run would be phenomenal with a nice medium flow, but we weren't complaining about catching this gem in early July.

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