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Old 12-02-2010   #41
Denver / Coloma / Monterey, CO / CA
Paddling Since: 1971
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 119

There is some great advice above. Especially from Mogur about the downstream ferry, and other posters about gear. Frankly, I think you'll have a blast. Some of the rapids change dramatically between normal low and high flows so scout anything you're concerned about; there is always a good line available. I used to own a company down there (with my family) and have run it from 800 to 80,000 cfs, including two trips in the last two years at roughly 18 and 8k. Here are some suggestions:

14' cat: Should be a very fun boat but you might choose to skip the meat on some of the drops if you want to stay dry (as in upright). Most folks row bigger rigs for the storage space and comfort, not too mention they don't flip as easily.

1. Rig to flip, every day. I always rig my boat so that, if it goes over, all of the gear will stay put. I mean not even move.
2. Use tethers on your oars. Much easier to grab a loose oar and slap it back in the lock than deal with the spare.

Cracking hands: It's true, the constant wet/dry action will create cracks, especially in the ends of your fingers, that can be really painful. Some pro guides even use bag balm (for milking cows) to keep their hands from drying out. Take super glue and keep it handy in case you do get cracks, but mostly be dilligent about keeping your hands from drying out.

Key extras: Said above but I'll repeat: Extra hat, sunglasses, headlamp and flip flops are so worth it when one of them gets lost or broken 4 days in.

Bedrock: You'll likely want to go right but the left is runnable. The island in the middle of the river ("Bedrock") runs perpendicular to the main flow. The move is to line up center-ish and make a hard ferry to river right (downstream ferry to the rescue!). The consequence of missing the ferry can be an ugly stamp up against the island. If you crab an oar or are sure you're not going to make it, you can eddy out river left (provided you make up your mind soon enough). Don't despair, you can run the left channel, which is actually behind the island relative to general direction of the river. This channel flows hard into the backside of the island. If you run it, make sure and pull hard to river left to avoid smashing into the back wall. Again, a downstream ferrry helps!

Horn Creek: Below 8 or 9k it gets tougher but there is a run right between the horns that comes in somewhere about this level and gets more obvious and cleaner as the water gets higher. Even if the center slot has a breaking wave at the bottom of it, you should be able to bust through and have a cakewalk avoiding the wave/hole on the bottom right.

If you choose to run right with a left move to avoid the meat lower down, be super aggressive with your downstream ferry and dump the back of your raft directly into the slow water behind the right hand horn. You can also run the meat if you're feeling frisky.

Granite: Stay close to the right wall, despite what it looks like. It's so much easier to just ride the river right tongue about 25' off the wall, and cruise the laterals, than it is to try and work away from the wall. It super fun too. Go for it!

Hermit: The meat is really fun. The big surprise is actually a sharp wave/hole about 3 waves after the biggest waves (#4 and #5). I think it would be #8 or so. You can run the meat and move right or left (right is usually easier) as soon as you bust the big waves. If you're not up to the tongue, staying right is much easier than staying left of the meat.

Upset: The key is to decide on a right or left run and then commit early and often. Don't let up until you are beyond the hole. The right run is dryer but you need to stay just off the shore once you clear the initial debris fan at the top. Don't let up!

The left side is wicked fun but is much bigger. Stay close to the wall (you'll actually have to push left to stay there) and you'll have a big ride and end up left of the hole. Again, don't let up until you're clear of the hole. There is a good eddy on river left to catch and watch the rest of your crew come through. Be ready to help out in case of a flip.

Speaking of which, I suggest your trip get in the habit of playing leap frog down the bigger rapids. As the first boats get through they should eddy out and play safety boat for the others still coming.

Lava Falls: If you elect to run right I suggest you actually enter center/right at the top. There is a "bubble line" that you can work off. In the green water of the tongue you will see what looks like the bubbles from a giant scuba diver surfacing then flowing into the center of the initial drop. It looks like they lead you directly into the giant center pourover but, if you stay just to the right of them (not more than an oar length) you will actually drop into the lateral that is coming off the right side of the giant pourover. I swear you'll think you're going into the pourover but you will actually be set up perfectly for the rest of the right side.

The reason this is such a good line is that the lateral surfs you to the right but usually only into the left V wave midway down the rapid. If you enter on the right tongue you'll likely end up on the right V wave. It has been my experience that the left one is much less sharp than the right one and you will be more likely to cruise through it, setting you up nicely to work your way towards the left side (but not left of - they're fun!) of the bottom waves, therefore avoiding the "room of doom" directly above the big black rock just river right of said bottom waves. You will still definitely be running the "right side of Lava" but simply be 10' left of the nastiest stuff. A great run!

All this talk about the river and rapids is fine but the overall experience is truly amazing! The hiking and camping are as good as it gets. As a friend of mine once said "You have to be a real ass not to have a great time in the Grand Canyon".

Have a great trip!

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Old 12-02-2010   #42
BCJ's Avatar
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 523
Awesome Kyle. Sounds like you know it because your descriptions of the runs are dead on (cept' I really would do my darndest not to go left at Bedrock). I've enjoyed this thread and all the good advice and tips. No one should be timid about asking. I recall my first high water Main Salmon trip (7 ft) and a guy in northern Idaho who wrote the most recent guidebook for that stretch (Eric Newell) gave me some great email tips and he was dead on too. Since we had only 3 boats, 6 people, 3 of whom were rookie passengers, getting that advice really took the edge off and yes, it was pretty big in places too.

You'll love the GC Squeaky. Maybe see you down there someday.

Best regards,

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Old 12-03-2010   #43
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
I am not a GC veteran with only two runs down, but I can give you a couple observations.

My first run was in a kayak with a guide, big cargo raft and all we had to do was paddle. At the time I was big time scared but found the kayak lines offer all sorts of options. I remember the guide's directions were often something like: Run the tongue left, center, right and point your boat right, center, left and paddle thru the foam pile. Kayaks were often surfed big time left or right by the lateral waves - just be prepared and enjoy! I remember many of the sneek lines had "funny water" and the easiest line was often the one down the tongue.

My second run was in my 18 ft Aire Cataraft with a very experienced GC private group of rowers and kayakers. Had a bunch of very experienced oar captains to learn from. I enjoyed this run much more than the first commercial trip. For me, rapids that in a kayak were pretty simple became nightmares rowing because of must make moves and current feeding directly into the holes or rocks. The Key thing for me was to watch the lead rafts and do my best to enter where they did and position my raft to either push or pull or go directly down into the rapid. Advice on the down stream ferry angle is right on. For me it was almost always an angle of 90 degrees to the current as the GC current force is way more than I was accustomed to. I like to push so I can see better where I am going, but the ability to do a double oar spin and pull off danger is critical and you have to spin early on to give you time to deal with the current. And, the advice about keep on rowing and do not give up is spot on.

The river itself is awesome someone mentioned the camps. I have to agree the camps are just spectacular as well. We got the ledges camp one night and that is a magical spot. We got a lot of sand beach camps that were stand out spots to camp. I am not much of a hiker but the hikers in our group just had a ton of fun.

Bottom line this trip is indeed more than a person thinks it will be as far as being special is concerned.

Addon: I did not have a passenger. If you have the option, a passenger in the raft is golden! They can hi side and help get you out of a nasty situation. Having some one in the bow to help with landing the raft and push off is just a big help. This is where our kayakers were awesome help!! I found sometimes landing the raft (especially on scouts) with no one there to catch the bow line is very difficult. If you do not have a sand stake, buy one. And a extra long tie in line. Never trust just the sand stake. Tie to it then run your extra line up the beach laying on the sand to a secure tie in. We were eating dinner one evening and a entire section of sand caved in and one raft with just the sand stake broke away and floated up the big eddy which was a good thing as it let the chase raft catch the runaway before it exited the big eddy.
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Old 12-03-2010   #44
boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 142
I would like to have a passenger but could someone stay on a cat through lava? At least in a raft you are sitting inside something. Lava looks huge and intimidating and I cant immagine someone staying on through the 'V' wave (that is where the two waves crash together on the right side?).

On cataract I spent a lot of time thrown overboard of my cat, and I even had oars to hang onto.
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Old 12-03-2010   #45
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Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2003
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You need to find someone to ride the bull through all the big ones. Otherwise you're screwed.
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Old 12-03-2010   #46
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Oregon City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 457
Originally Posted by squeakyboater View Post
I would like to have a passenger but could someone stay on a cat through lava? At least in a raft you are sitting inside something. Lava looks huge and intimidating and I cant immagine someone staying on through the 'V' wave.
You will have been on the river for two weeks when you get to Lava. Throughout the first 178 miles of the trip, you will become accustomed to seeing and rowing big, challenging rapids. But Lava will always be in the back of your mind. When you finally get there, it will be bigger than you had imagined. You might think, "What am I doing here?"

As you approach it after scouting, there are a few moments where you will feel completely disoriented. You can't see the rapid, because it drops away so apruptly. The river at that point is huge-wide, and there are no refrence points. But then you see the burbles--a neat row of surface disturbances--and then you know where you are, exactly as described above. Set up ten feet to the right of the burbles and be prepared to keep pulling right to hold that position, as the current tends to pull left, toward "the death rock" and its vertical pourover.

It's a thrilling, steep drop right next to the death rock, but then you are perfectly positioned to push through the v-wave. Your passenger will already be clenching her hold-on straps with white knuckles, so when you punch the v-wave, she'll be wet but happy.

Below the v-wave, there is a smooth run between the Big Kahuna hole and the Cheese Grater rock. You run toward the rock like a runaway freight train, and you feel like there's no way you're going to avoid running up onto it; but at the last second the hydraulic cushion in front of the Cheese Grater slows you down and you slip left and pass the rock, so close you could spit on it. And just like that, you are in calm water, enjoying that wonderful feeling known as "Alive After Lava."
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Old 12-03-2010   #47
boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 142
Isnt that an entrapment hazard to have the person straped to the front of the boat? In guide school they told us to never have people straped to the boat.
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Old 12-03-2010   #48
over the horizon
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Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 267
Pool/drop river. The drops are nice but those pools are a bitch. You will be an expert at avoiding eddies halfway through.
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Old 12-03-2010   #49
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 175
Originally Posted by yakkeranna View Post
I haven't been rowing recently? Psh, I took my fully loaded raft off a 10ft waterfall just a few weeks ago.

Stop trolling mountain buzz or I'm uninviting you from my grand trip.
Wow, Anna.eric don't seem to listen and he sure seems like hes just trolling the buzz and wasting a lot of folks time. he says hes gone to guide school, rowed cat at 55K, the MF at 5.5' and didn't have any trouble with those rivers, and now he sounds like a first-timer getting ready to hit the class 3 and worried about it. i dont know how somebody that ran those rivers and has been around hasnt gotten some info on the grand from boating buds but he sure is showing he can be a expert boater and not learn anything. the more i read the stuff in this thread the more ticked off i get at your friend. if hes done half what he says hes getting lots of advice from people that he don't need and wasting a lot of well meaning peoples time responding to his questions. if he hasn't done what he says, hes lied about what hes done and would be suspect on a river trip cause nobody wants to have a guy along that says "i ran cat at 55k" when they didnt. he must have a lot of time on his hands to keep askin stupid questions after they have all been answered.sounds like a long 3 weeks with this kind of guy on the trip. might as well bring a smartalek 16 year old.
I'll boat til the rivers run dry
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Old 12-03-2010   #50
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 11
I don't know about squeaky, (sure sounds trollish) but as a rower looking at a first GC trip soon, I've gotten a lot from the replies, so I appreciate it. I'll be taking a 16' cat, and my husband won't ride with me on the big ones because he wants to be hunkered down inside a raft.

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