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Old 05-04-2009   #1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 213
Scouting/Reading Holes

Just wondering what everyone looks at (features of the hole) when scouting and deciding whether to T-up and hit it (clean) or try and manuver around it (keeperish). Obviously shape (frowning vs smiling), overall size, etc. play major roles in the way a hole will act but was wondering what people thought about the face/drop of the hole, the whitewash (run-out), and other factors you look at.

There is always a reason not to...
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Old 05-04-2009   #2
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Summit, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
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Boil line-the dividing line between the water moving downstream and the water recirculating back into the hole. If this line is more than say 5' from the hole, you're going to have to paddle like hell to get past the recirculating water even if you make it through the hole.

"The world would be a better place if everyone kayaked."-Brad Ludden (Valhalla)
"You only get one chance to run a drop blind."-DD
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Old 05-04-2009   #3
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Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: '78
Join Date: Mar 2006
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Oh man....that's such a tough one to answer. When I'm scouting from shore, it's easy.....volume of water, gradient/fall, boil line. But read and run??? Pretty tough to answer.

Big water pool drop.....usually a "calm before the storm"....and seeing a big glassy build-up (imminent huge ledge....ex. LAVA) at the top of a drop is a clear indication I'm probably going around it. Big water, middle of the rapid, I'm looking more for boil areas than ledges as they can be harder to see in the middle of a rapid. In other words, it's easier to see turbulence created by a ledge in the middle of a rapid rather than spotting the actual source. Does that make sense???

Lower flow, greater gradient. It's usually easier to see, read and run. The higher flow/tongue is easier to spot (for me). big deal in a kayak, but rowing that little rapid is KICK ASS. Probably one of the funnest on numbers on the oars. Higher flow, I'm talkin' about 2k+. The ledges that a few of those rocks form is VERY obvious throughout the rapid....avoid.

Read and run (on a new stretch)....I do my damndest to see the WHOLE rapid as best I can before dropping in. Keeping with the main flow is always my goal....kayak or raft. If I'm feeling saucy and want to punch something....I'll scout it usually.
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Old 05-04-2009   #4
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Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,448
A few additional thoughts
From a class IV read and run perspective: glassy dome = sticky hole, boof or skirt
When scouting: rock in hole backwash (sometimes evidenced by uneven boil line, spashiness in backwash) = don't want to be there
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Old 05-04-2009   #5
Cisco, Utah
Paddling Since: Dawn
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 351
I look for other kayakers getting absolutely trashed in it, then run left (right...).
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Old 05-04-2009   #6
Wydaho, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 118
I like to take several probes along. If they have problems, I take a different line. My attempts in the role of a probe generally encourages my fellow boaters to portage.
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Old 05-04-2009   #7
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SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
This is my boat-scouting routine. The larger the difference in surface elevation between a hole and the surrounding downstream water, the more suction/power there is. So if I can actually see the water inside a hole from upstream, I might run it head-on.

If I can't see the bottom and the tailwave is really steep and haystacky- looking, with visible surges (building and breaking upstream) then I try to go around. Unless it's too late.

O shit!
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Old 05-04-2009   #8
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Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
The lead-in: Is there a nice clean boof, or maybe a spout or a flake or something to get me up and over? Or is it a big, sloping ramp driving straight into the meat?
I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied...learn to swim!
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Old 05-05-2009   #9
denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 172
I like the probe technique user-hout employ. Makes for good stories at the takeout and something to include in your home made river songs.

I remember not checking the flow in upper blue with a newbie. Came around the bend above boulder creek and my newbie had the deer in headlights look. My probing adventure was interesting in the least but he made it.

Seriously though, as a kayaker I feel anything I can punch/slice through then I will run. As long as I am stroking hard(everyone loves a good hard stroke) should not be sucked back in, which can happen to rubber. Steepness is the key for me unless I am really safe in a smiling free trundler.
Its called a Lurk. Its what the old Norwegians used before we cut em up into two pieces
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Old 05-05-2009   #10
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Denver, Colorado
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Chip's advice is pretty solid; if I can see the wash-out from upstream and there isn't a noticeable difference in height between the boil and the rest of the river, it's probably punch-able. For ledges, I often look for the strongest downstream current below the ledge and just boof into that.

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