Alright... Saturday, March 21, 2009
We left jake's parent's house in Pagosa @ 6:15 am and headed toward Chama & Taos. We got to the Chiflo trailhead (I believe it's called this), which is an upriver put-in, around nine, took our time to gear up and waited for Jake to drop off the Jeep down at Little Arsenic and ride his road bike back to the put-in (a nice paved road). By the time we hiked down and put on it was pushing 11:15 am.
Above the obviously marked Powerline Rapid there is some nice warm-up bogee water class 3 or 3+. Look for a significant drop over a horizon line under the powerlines for indication of this first consequential rapid.
This is how we recognized all the rapids, not knowing the run, we just kept heads up w/ the horizon lines and got out to look at anything remotely intimidating.
NCO was relatively straight foward. There is a constriction and a drop with a small hole river left. Immeadiately following the small hole river left is a boofable rock on river right at, I imagine, most water levels... boofing this is probably the line. There is a seam of green water @ 600 cfs inbetween the hole and the boof rock. Most of the water pushes left after the boof rock towards an apparently undercut wall. However, the wall did provide a pillow to work with. On my run, I got pushed up against the very end of this wall and was pushed over. I got pushed downstream and away from the wall, which I think is one of the sieves people talk about, and ended up hitting my only roll of the day and rallied downstream to an eddy.
Very quickly after NCO is Hell Hole. Keep heads up for it as I was surprised how quick it came. At 600 the line is usual, a few feet off of the river left shore w/ a boof. However, there is a rock that you may land on if you absolutely hug the river left line. BY NO MEANS AM I ADVISING ANYONE TO GO ANY FARTHER RIGHT, but just heads up on that landing. Center and right look horrific... a raucous hole with endless possibilities. Two out of the three of us had good lines. Dan, however, went too far center and got sucked back into the hole after his landing. He commenced his fight and stuck it out for three to four agonizing seconds where he was flipped as many times and then popped out upside down only to miss a roll and get slammed against a rock river left downstream about 30 feet from the hole... After hitting the rock and slidding off he hit his next role attempt and we decided to take a breather, -a debrief- (of the experience), and some lunch.
Needless to say Dan was a little shaken up, but rallied throughout the day and finished strong.
Long Rapid and Pleasure Plunge are extremely fun. Not quite as difficult as NCO or as consequential as Hell Hole... at least not from my perspective. Make sure not to miss the 6 or 7 foot clean drop on center right at the end of Pleasure Plunge, I imagine the namesake chute.
Then comes the strange and ominous Great Calm... We origonally thought the day was over, but were quite wrong. We eventually rounded a bend in the river to hear the water's furry echoing off the canyon walls once again... backed up by a horizon line.
The next couple of rapids are hard for me to remember distinctly. We did a lot of read and running, probing and signaling with success, but definately kept heads up for horizon lines in which the vertical drop looked substaintial... We got out to scout at these places.
I believe one of the Arsenic rapids at the end had a very substaintial drop in which the river right line at this level led into a sieve unless you cut river left off of a drop in the middle of the river right channel with immeadiacy... that move looked very very difficult... however, there was a really tight entrance river left that opened up at the end and was extremely fun... This is the line at this level... w/o a doubt.
Now that I think about it.. I think the three off us might have taken out early... I don't remember the last two rapids (little Arsenic and Little Arsenic junior) happening as distinctly as the rest. The rapid I described in the paragraph above was pretty stout so I think that was Big Arsenic... We took out pretty quick after that.
Are there two trails to the rim in that area? Maybe we took the first one out... Jake had some trouble finding his car when we got to the rim... Let me know what you think...
Either way... hiking out your boat and your wet gear is difficult. I had a NRS kayak backpack and bruised my trapezeous muscles pretty good from all the weight on the shoulder straps... I think it's 750 vertical feet in 0.8 miles. Lots of switchbacks and gradient. Just what the doctor ordered to get that full body workout...? I would advise taking a break at all the signs they have posted and catching up on the local flora & fuana... if for nothing else a breather...
As for the sieves... yea.. they are there... but I fell with enough respect and humility those risks can be mitigated. We didn't have any swims or any real real close calls... (arguably Dan's Hell Hole experience) but... as long as one isn't overly ambitious to where their ambition way exceeds their skills or complacent from years of paddling and a loss skewed sense of the laws of the river one will have an unforgettable day.
Basically... if you're new or afraid... that is good... be cautious and respectful.
Going with someone who know the run would have been nice... but we got it done.. I am glad the water was low ofr our first time though...
Could be more quite a bit more intense @ higher water
Anyhow... we didn't get out of the Questa area until 9ish because we took so long documenting the run, scouting, hiking, shuttling, and looking for the car at the take-out... We slept at Jake and Dan's parents house in Pagosa once we got there around 11:45pm.
Good times.. hit me up.. or get out there..
an instant favorite for me...