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Old 02-26-2008   #1
JCKeck1's Avatar
Seattle, Washington
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Trip Report: Three short days in AZ

So I get back to the buzz and in three days I can see that still nothing has changed - we're still bitchy as ever. However, the goods are on the way, so let's all chill our flavor holes and get ready for the season! I just got back from AZ with Maria and Christian - it's all ready going off down there!
My take:

Skip fossil creek unless it's absolutely flooding. The waterfall is fun, but it might be best to just hike the boat back out after it. We had probably double the normal flow at 100-150cfs.

Instead of Fossil, put onto Hellsgate early. That run is absolutely the shit and you want to spend as much time in there as possible. You get mind blowing scenery and non-stop pool-drop IV/V boating for three days. I don't have the AZ guide book so forgive me if I'm repeating things, but I'll throw out a little beta here. The beta might be a spoiler if you're looking for your own personal first D, so you've been warned.

The first miles are very similar in style, feel and flows to Bear Creek. You probably want as much water as you can get up top (just like Bear). Most of the horizon lines go, but there is one insidious boulder choked portage that would provide a bad pin if run.

The gorges are obvious. The first rapid of the first gorge is definitely runnable, but you're hoping to watch someone else do it first. Call it class V with a seal launch portage.

The Hells Gate (2nd) gorge is intense looking. The first rapid is V+ with a funky entrance into caves on the left and right (easy portage). The second rapid is very difficult to scout well and must be run. You can see it from the lip and with a little grit, you'll fight through it (V-). The next mini-gorge contains a rapid that has a narrow runnable line (V). The portage requires you to toss your boat and swim after it.

The 3rd gorge has tons of fun IV/V and is longer than the others.

The fourth gorge we took the liberty of naming the Colosseum (people cheer you on from the rock bleachers as gladiator paddlers face off with the river!). Basically it's one long rapid. Scout the first set of holes by clinging like a lizard to the walls on the left. Run them down to a moving pool where you can hopefully get out again on the left to scout the crux. I'd call this rapid class V for the commitment, poor safety and consequences, but the move is probably only V- (give 'er right up the middle). The portage would be extremely difficult, so this rapid probably sets the rating for the entire run.

There's a few more V and maybe a V+ through the rest of the run. I took Christian's word and just humped the boat without looking back around the 6th gorge. We portaged up to the gorge rim on the left bank, which took an hour, ten minutes compared to his previous 3.5-4 hours along the river level. One more meaty hole and it's time to hitch hike.

All and all the rapids are exactly like Bear Creek and Escalante combined (quality, continuousness, difficulty and character), for three days. I thought the scenery was as good or better than the Black Canyon. The beach camping is best between the 2nd and 3rd gorges and between the 5th and 6th gorges. The run is IV/V with a couple Vs and another couple portage-able V+s. Definitely one of my top ten runs, possibly top five.

We managed to hitch hike and run (literally) the shuttle, but if that's your plan, you better get off the river early and have experience with 'heavy handed hitchhiking' as Vince would say.

Don't drop in with a part-time V- crew and make sure you know how to repair boats in the field.

Get you some boys and girls,

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Old 02-26-2008   #2
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Summit, Colorado
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Thanks for the TR, Joe.

"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 02-27-2008   #3
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Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
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sounds like y'all had a good time down there, wish i could have gone. you up for another lap in a few weeks if it goes again, I just gotta get in there again.
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Old 02-27-2008   #4
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Sweet trip report Joe on Hellsgate. Thanks.
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Old 02-27-2008   #5
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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Can it be done in two days for a first time? Anyone in for this weekend?

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Old 02-27-2008   #6
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In my opinion there would be no way to do this without a guide in two days, I think it is best to put-on late on day one to have max snow melt (if it is going from sonowmelt) on the top section and then just do the rest in two days. There are so many horizon lines and so many gorges and mini gorges that require scouting, that I don't think it is fesible to do in two days, plus it is a fuckin sick canyon.
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Old 02-27-2008   #7
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it's could be done in 2 days if you are with someone who knows the run, otherwise it would be really hard. The runoff patterns might also affect your ability to do it in 2 days. If your doing it on snowmelt, it's better to put on in the afternoon so you have as much water as possible for that first section. I gotta agree with what Joe said, it's on the top of my list.
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Old 02-27-2008   #8
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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thoughts on the flow? Will it be low without rain?

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Old 02-27-2008   #9
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we had no rain the first time down and I think if we waited until the afternoon to put on it would have been better. looking at the weather down there this weekend I would think that it is going to go, you are looking for 800-1200 on the gauge as a crude estimate, and as much flow as possible at the put-in. we put on with 60 cfs and I would say that is the cut off for low flows at the putin.
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Old 02-27-2008   #10
Join Date: May 2006
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I would go back in a few weekends from now if it's running well like it was this weekend. Top of my list too.

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