Part 1 of the Wigston '06 Adventure Update
|Wigston on Cake
After Team Cella completed the first known raft decent of Oh be Joyful in 2005, we decided it was time
for them to step it up a bit. After work one Friday, Team Cella and some members of the elite Chunderposse
(followers of the legendary Chunderboy), loaded up six high performance creek boats, courtesy of CKS, and one
11.5’ raft into our vehicles. Included on this team were two cliff-hucking Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and a
Beagle named Rebel. Complete with New York Strips and a gourmet breakfast, we headed to the North Fork of the
We set up camp in a meadow near the put-in with surrounding views of Snowmass Mountain, the Maroon Bells
and other awe-inspiring 14ers. After lunch and a shower under a 40-foot waterfall on one of the tributaries,
we decided it was time to go kayaking. As we were getting ready, Tommy Hilleke, the last member of our crew
arrived with his wife Polly and eight-month old son Kelly Rivers (KR). Tommy, Andy Blakeslee, Sean Lee, and
I geared up and went paddling. Due to a wood situation in the Crux, we decided to just lap the first four drops.
Drop 1, Cake is a long 50’ stair stepping slide. Drop 2, Icing is the best drop on the run and is a very steep 40’
slide with a launch ramp at the end. After Icing is drop 3, the pinch, which is a narrow slot best run with a boof
on the right followed by drop 4, the most perfect 8’ boof there is.
|Raggedy Andy putting the Icing on the Cake
After four laps, we returned to camp to find Team Cella completely wasted. The team captain, Chris Cella,
was chasing the dogs in his underwear with his belly hanging out, his brother Pete was passed out in a camp chair
drooling, and Ryan “the Lion” McGowan was hitting on some hippie backpackers with dreadlocks. At this point, we
joined the fun. After lots of beer, whiskey, New York Strips, and plenty of exaggerated river stories, everyone
hit the sack.
|Sean Lee Icing
The crew slowly awoke the next day, to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking in Chris’s portable kitchen.
After breakfast and several cups of coffee, we decided it was time for Team Cella to make the first raft decent
of The North Fork. We walked down to the creek to scout and make a safety plan. Cake and Icing were good to go,
and we could set safety below Icing. The next drop, The Pinch, would be tough, due to a dangerous log across
the left channel. Sean, Tommy, and I set up in a strong safety position below Icing, with ropers on both sides
anchored in to the riverbank. Raggedy Andy was set as a chase boater in the eddy.
|Wigston speeding towards the perfect 8
We started getting nervous for our friends who were currently contemplating their own sanity at the put-in.
We waited, and eventually heard the camera crew cheering. They had launched right above Cake. I couldn’t see
anything from my position, but the crew on the other side of the creek alerted me that they were coming.
A second later a large yellow raft fired down Icing, nailing the boof better than most kayakers, and landed
in the pool, inches from flipping over. We grabbed the raft and pulled them to the river right bank. Half of
the crew ran down below the pinch to set safety while Team Cella calmed their nerves. Once we were set up below,
they slid back into the creek to run the Pinch. Unfortunately, it’s called the Pinch for a reason. The reason is
that there isn’t enough room for a raft to fit through. As they entered the drop, they were pushed into the left
wall and dump trucked. We now had three swimmers. Chris was able to climb back into the raft as I threw a rope to
try to pull them to shore. All three of them grabbed the rope as they started floating into the next 8’ drop. Due
to the strong current they let go and jumped off the next waterfall, which landed in a safe pool. The raft however,
continued downstream and into the inner gorge.
|Team Cella stomping the boof at Icing: Photo by Tommy Hilleke
The whole team began running down the trail to intercept it. Tommy reached it first where it was pinned in the
entrance to the Crux. After a heroic down climb into the gorge, he was able to hook a line to the raft’s D-ring.
The canyon was about 50’ deep where it was pinned, so it had to be hoisted straight up and out of the creek to the
rim. The rafting adventure was now over. Team Cella retreated back to camp for more drinking, while the rest of us
kayakers made some more laps. Eventually, we decided we had better head home. It was hard to leave such a
spectacular place, but I’m sure we’ll be back next year.