Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quebec Day 6 - Riviere Mattawin

After getting done with the Cachee there was quite a bit of discussion of where to head to next. The Malbaie was the one run that we all wanted to do that we hadn't hit yet, but it was a long drive out in the wrong direction for us and was really high as well. We talked some other options and finally settled on the Mattawin. The guide book mentioned some big rapids and it sounded like the 50 cms we were supposed to have would be okay. Instead of braving the bugs in the Jacque-Cartier Parc, we headed back down the hill to try to camp at one of the Tewksberry raft companies. We never found the company and poached a bug free night at the put in instead.

We woke fairly early and got packed up (in fact it was really early relatively) and hit the road for the long drive to the Mattawin. We made pretty poor time and were crossing the Batascin into the Reserve Faunique Mattawin around noon. We found out we had to pay a fee to both cross the bridge and enter the parc (Looking back, the Tewksberry is the only fee free Quebec river we did). After hammering a good dirt road for a while, we broke left down towards the take out for the upper. The road wasn't terrible but it was slow going and long and we finally found a trail that led to the river in about ¼ mile (I think the road hit the river about 1 mile from where we parked). As we got organized, it became quite obvious, the mosquitoes were brutal. We quickly donned the rain jackets and head nets to avoid choking from mosquito inhalation and were headed for the put in quickly.

After driving back out to the main road and heading upstream for a ways, we eventually started paralleling the river. We ended up putting in a few km downstream of the guidebook recommendation as it looked like that's where the decent rapids started. We geared up in slightly less mosquitoes than the take out and paddled across the first lake with head nets over helmets. We quickly bombed a few high volume ledges before another pool and a nice constricted lead in rapid. Around the next corner, we all quickly grabbed a fairly walled out eddy above a frothing horizon line. A quick scout revealed a massive hole that looked likely to beat you until long after the lights went out. There looked to be a fairly bold sneak down the left or a partial portage on the right to just below the nasty hole. We couldn't really get a good look at either option until we did a wading scout at the base of the river right cliff to see that the partial portage went. We all seal launched into the surging mess behind the hole before being shoved around the corner and spit out the bottom. Just downstream another big water rapid laced with fierce, although not terminal, holes. No one was feeling up the meat, but Brandon and I snuck the entrance to get to the great finish. What awaited us as we left the road was not what we were looking for, a lake. This was probably the largest natural lake I've ever paddled across (although I've never done the Magpie) and after about 45 minutes of cranking we reached the other end.

Upon a quick scout, our fears were confirmed, another massive rapid with ugly looking ledge holes. I was the only one feeling up to the first few tiers, which went smoother than anticipated but still had big time beat down potential. We worked our way down a few more tiers until we had to portage the nastiest 2 ft drop I've ever seen. It was pretty much a natural low head dam with about 50 ft of backwash, totally runnable but don't even think about bobbling it. A little more flat water brought us to another ledge with yet another man eating hole, but a decent little sneak down the left. After some more flatwater and some more moderate rapids we reached a pretty impressive feature: the whole river slid down a wide low angle 100 yard long slide. We all took slightly different lines and the big curlers at the bottom of the main chute were great fun.

At the bottom of the slide, this river's main theme continued, more flatwater. At this point, the sun was starting to go down and there was nothing to do but put our heads down and crank. Soon we were came to yet another large horizon line, which ended up being a 30ft relatively clean ledge, without a massive hole at the bottom. I quickly lined up a vert to reconnect line on the right which went super smooth. I was really surprised when Alex and Jeff followed me, as they aren't usually in to this kind of rapid, but they had smooth lines as well. In the waning light we paddled a little flat water, all secretly hoping the river would have no more big drops and suddenly turn to continuous class III. Well, we didn't get it, but we did get some long sections of class II to speed the process. About 30 minutes later, we came to a spot that the road came down to the river but unfortunately it wasn't our spot. Knowing we were close, we cranked out another 15 minutes before finding the trail up to the truck, where the mosquitoes were certainly waiting for us.

This was probably the only river of the trip that didn't exceed expectations, mainly due to the staggering amount of flatwater (not moving at all). I'm pretty sure the Alden never ran this before writing the guidebook or there would have been some mention. That said, there were a handful of super fun rapids, although less water would make them more user friendly, and the run had a seriously out there feel, but that came with a long confusing shuttle (make sure you have a good topo map). It's one I'm glad I've done, but won't be in a hurry to go back to.

The Hole That Nearly Ate All of Us (Photo: Jeff Moore).

Brandon Launching Just Downstream (Photo: JM).

JJ in the Mellow Set of a Long Series of Ledge Holes (Photo: JM).

Half Way Down the Big Slide (Photo: JM).

Crashing Through Some Curlers at the Bottom (Photo: JM)

Tony Taking the Lower Volume Side of the Slide (Photo: JM).

Waning Light Below the Big Falls (Photo: JM).

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