Originally Posted by Trevorlee
Has anyone done Gates in May? I have vacation May 25-31 and will be taking young kids (assuming I get a permit). Ages 7 & 10. This will be my 3rd season as a rafter and most my experience comes from the Alpine section of the Snake (6000 cfs to 14,500 cfs) Moab Daily (34,000 cfs), and San Juan (1,300 cfs) all in a 13' NRS Otter. Will my family be cold and miserable? Do I have enough experience? Is my boat sufficient? Is it possible for my kids to walk Hells Half Mile? Any advice? Thx
That would be Memorial day week... get a permit first and then the answers to your questions might actually matter. The odds are not in your favor if its just you and your spouse putting in. Ladore is popular and hard to draw from mid-May through the summer but especially on holiday weeks.
In my opinion, 7 years old seems too young for your boat size and experience level and 10 years old is borderline. If they're great swimmers and have wetsuits (or drysuits) and the water happens to be low, then its more of a parental judgment call, but if you're asking, then maybe you shouldn't. What I'm saying is ... your tolerance level for flipping can't be 0, cause it may happen. Assuming you handled the rivers you listed fine and have learned and worked on good techniques (face the danger, downstream & upstream ferry angles, punching holes, adjusting your line in the middle of big water, etc.) and have quick decision making skills and good river reading ability (able to react quickly to maneuver around big holes, on the fly) you'll probably be all right. If your plan was to solo it in a 13' boat with little kids... that falls under "highly not recommended, please don't do that". If it was me I'd leave the kids and go for it if I got a permit. You can bring the kids once you've experienced the river and can judge for yourself.
This past season, the river was running 850 cfs over memorial day. 2 weeks later it was running 4500 cfs. Three weeks later it was running 8200 cfs. (off the top of my head, but something like that.) Every year is different. So, depending on the decision making of federal agencies (and snowpack, to some degree), you could have really low water or really high water... I ran it at the middle stage and our group flipped two boats (1 12 foot raft and a 17 foot dory) in lower Disaster, run by people with experience level similar to yours, one of which proceeded to pin (very) badly. We had enough experienced boaters in the group that it wasn't a total disaster (no pun intended) but did result in a good deal of lost gear and a damaged and almost lost boat for the one who pinned. And a 13 year old kid was bucked out of a raft in Moonshine and took a rather long swim.
On Memorial day in Dinosaur, you might see snow flurries (I have, twice out of maybe 10 times around that time of year) or you might have 90 degree weather. Winds through island park can be crazy bad or nothing at all. Being prepared for any of the above is part of being a rafter in those parts.
Your boat is definitely sufficient, but smaller boats flip more often in big water... that's just is the way it is. If you wanted to minimize that possibility you should get a 16 footer. Those flip too but much less frequently if you take the right lines. From my experience, the ultimate non-flipper is a loaded 16 foot cataraft but the lack of a floor is less kid friendly. I'm starting my 3 year old and 1 year old in a 16 foot bucket raft this year.
Yes Hells can be walked, but its a long (half mile
) walk up and over and around loose rock and boulders. And as noted above, that's not the only place you can get in trouble. If the water is high, there's all sorts of places that can capsize a 13 foot boat.
IMO, Desolation Canyon would be a much better "next step" for your progression, and is easier to get a permit for, and is generally lovely that time of year since the mosquitos generally aren't as bad when the water levels are still rising.