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!
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,