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Old 03-25-2012   #11
Doubledown's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 76
Your last sentence "it's either alone or nothing" concerns me greatly. If you are serious about going down alone then I'm not sure why you would be resistant to doing your homework first. I understand your desire for solitude in such an amazing place but I don't understand your thought process to making this dream a reality. When you are awarded a permit you get to hand pick your very best friends and the number of participants that go down with you. My suggestion is to get your feet wet first and then see if this is still a potential reality for you. You can do this if you set your mind to it and ACCEPT the exponentially greater risk of going alone. Since boating is not your background yet, you cannot fully understand the risk. My other suggestion when you finally feel you are ready is to do it in the winter when true solitude is available. A summer trip would be far from 'solo' in my opinion. I did a 29 day solo trip in January 2 years ago and ran every rapid alone. The trip impacted me in way beyond my expectation. I will be going down again solo this coming January. It's the real deal down there alone in the winter. Patience my friend. All the best to you.

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Old 03-25-2012   #12
mtriverrat's Avatar
Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 222
In response to the subjective comment - I will elaborate. I went down the Grand with some of the best rafters I've ever seen. Bad stuff can happen to even good rafters. I read something wrong and ended up swimming and it was cold - I was sure glad there was someone there with a great rope throw. I was the medical person on the trip. I stitched someone up, we had broken bones and dislocations and yes it is very hard to flip a boat by yourself. Can it be done - probably. Again is it smart - no.

If you're determined get on a trip with others first, and then after you've gone with others see how you feel about solo.

If you lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Winnie the Pooh
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Old 03-25-2012   #13
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,131
Originally Posted by steven View Post
these last 2 posts are completely subjective. it can be totally fulfilling and safe to boat alone, raft or kayak, as long as you stay within your abilities.

Agree! Its been one of my goals for years. Have done a lot of solo day trips, but no extended overnighters. And yes, you better be prepared to reflip your own boat. The safety planning is on a whole different level.
Certainly would not do a solo as a FIRST GC trip.
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Old 03-25-2012   #14
So Cal, California
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 5
I know it's not the safest thing in the world but I accept the risks. I have done stuff like this before - camping alone in forests with no weapons, did a 15k motorcycle trip and hit the 4 corners of the country over 3 months, solo. I'm not stupid. I know I can't just jump on a raft and float down. I'm still researching. This forum and question are just a small step in finding out what I can expect. I will do my homework, reading books, talking to others more experienced and doing smaller runs. I just wanted to know if it was possible and worth putting in the effort to get to that point.

I'm still not sure if I would do it on a raft or a kayak, as long as I can hold enough supplies. And I don't want to do that trip with anyone else, but that's not saying I wouldn't take smaller trips with experienced people beforehand to prepare.

So far some problems I see are what I would eat since I'd be gone for so long. Also a raft or kayak that I can store supplies in, but not too big that I can't control. Normally when I camp I survive off fish I catch in creeks. I still have much to think about and look up.
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Old 03-25-2012   #15
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 535
currently, you sound like you are in la la land, dude. no trying to be a dick either. just make sure you don't approach it with your head up your ass. as my dad beat into me as a kid... there ain't no off switch on a river. no pause button. no timeouts. respect it's power immensely.

spend a couple years minimum doing ALLOT of multi-day rafting trips and know how to deal with BIG water and all the potential shitshows that can happen there well before you try managing a permit on the GC ect.

and get a big 18ft raft to act as training wheels too when/if you ever get around to running it. it'll handle fine and give you the best chance of not flipping. load it down too. you could be ever so seriously,seriously fucked with just one bad flip alone. stripped off and lost gear,lost frame,lost oars,lost food and the boat floating out of reach around the bend even. one injury and you are dependent on other parties to save your stupid ass or the full rescue from the NPS,ect.

again, not trying to be a dick but from what i read right now, you sound like a prime candidate to be a future statistic.
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Old 03-25-2012   #16
So Cal, California
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 5
Yeah I know I'm in la la land, but that's how all my crazy adventures start. I doubt I'll even have the time to do it this summer but it's a fun thought. Unless I could do it on something small I wouldn't do it anyways. I wouldn't want to do it on a 18 ft. raft. Looking at all this kayak stuff looks pretty cool though. I'd be interested in getting into it regardless of this trip. Seems pretty cool to cruise around on a kayak through some harbors or something.
"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind, civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstances, and barbarism must always ultimately triumph." - Unknown Aquilonian Soldier
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Old 03-25-2012   #17
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 535
have fun with that.

and,dude, it seems you don't have a clue about the permit process,as well, if you were thinking you would be able to get on it this summer at the drop of a hat. up until a few years ago, it was a 10+ year wait list. since the new rules, it's still very,very hard to get one at all. even harder with only 1 name in the lottery. plan on waiting years ,if ever, and more likely going in the very,very off season times like in the winter.
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Old 03-26-2012   #18
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 18
It takes years of experience to gain the kind of skill it would take for a solo trip on the GC. I went recently for my first time down the Grand and I had a few close calls... I'm not a novice boater by any means, i've been a commercial guide for 6 or 7 years as well as 100s of private trips including alot of class V(not to say I don't have a lot more to learn). I was with people equally or more experienced than myself and we had 6 rafts flip out 9 that were on the trip. One trip member, a 2 or 3 year guide on the grand itself flipped her 18' fully loaded raft on an 8/10. A Flipped raft with no one to help is nearly impossible to deal with, involving mechanical advantages, ropework, etc, and somehow recovering the boat. You may end up far away from the boat and having to get back to it. Once you do you have to get it to shore cause there aint no way you're going to flip it back over in river by your self. No easy task...

Not saying it can't be done. I am saying it can't be done this summer(for one you'll never get a permit, cause i'm going to get it first...). Give yourself some years to gain experience. Try as many rivers as you can in a safe situation cause they all have a different character. The colorado is desert big water, very different from the kern. Try doing some other sections of the colorado, some less difficult ones, to learn the desert big water. The bookwork is great, but nothing beats actual experience.

All this being said I think its a great aspiration, I wish you the greatest of luck, just don't die dude.
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Old 03-26-2012   #19
Avatard's Avatar
portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 2,188
I did my second "big water" trip two years ago on the thompson in BC. My first trip was about 12 years ago when I flipped in Granite on the Snake. 10 years of experience makes quite the difference but am still smart enough to never attempt anything solo that could result in death. Get some friends or get on someone elses permit
Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it "guaranteed", I will. I got spare time.
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Old 03-26-2012   #20
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 883
Hi Conan,

As noted, enough people have done solos in the Grand that this isn't a novelty. Colin Fletcher was old and gray when he did it in a 14 footer, and it was indeed his first trip down. But he had taken rowing instruction and done the entire upper basin as a warm-up, including Cataract Canyon. And the Park required that he run all the major rapids with another party. (But that is not required of most solos -- I think it was because of his age and low level of experience.)

There's no reason you couldn't build a skill set for doing it by raft between now and the time you got a hit in the lottery. The 2013 lottery was held last month, so most of those dates are out. Permits are not transferrable, but there will be secondary lotteries for unclaimed dates. Go to the Park lottery site Grand Canyon National Park - Weighted Lottery - Noncommercial River Permits (U.S. National Park Service) and start reading up on the process.

And just so you know, if you think it's wise to go in the winter, every year there are some winter dates that are easy to pick up. But dates in the other seasons are tough to pick up that way. Last week there were 547 entries for 17 2012 dates that had become available.

No need to repeat the safety concerns of others, except to say that summer and winter are very different indeed. When it comes to other people being around to help you with a flipped boat, badly dislocated shoulder, or something like that, you may be days waiting for someone else to come by in January. And if the incident involved the boat getting away from you and you're stuck with whatever you have in your PFD pocket, it won't be fun.

You might want to spend a little time over at, reading up on things, and also join the GCPBA listserv.

Good luck on working this out.

Rich Phillips
Secretary, GCPBA

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