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Old 08-11-2014   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 17
Grand Canyon mileage per day question

I got invited on a Winter kayak oriented GC trip that has time restraints and I was wondering if running a 14' oar rig from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek in 12 days is feasible, reasonable, or doable? I know one isn't supposed to rush in the canyon, but my first trip was a 6 day self support - so 12 days will feel like a leisure cruise.

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Old 08-11-2014   #2
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
When exactly?

We rowed for our allotted 15 days in May of 2013 and it felt rushed but we also had the reliable May winds. I did a Jan trip in 25 days to Diamond and that felt perfectly extravagent but it also gave us days off for deluges that happened multiple times. I know friends who have done the GC in December in 16 days-ish.

If you are within a month of the winter equinox on either end I would think 12 days could be brutally tiring and provide plenty of opportunities to compromise safety. The further from that timeline the more light you have which makes life a lot easier. Most people I know have a cutoff during the day when they will no longer run major rapids to aid with mitigating contingencies in a safe and productive manner. During the winter that can be as early as 2 or 3 pm as daylight is so compressed. That means you are at max running like 8 hours on the river a day which means you must be averaging no less than 2.5 miles an hour the entire trip (20 miles a day). And this only if you stage your camps out perfectly, which is more of an option with the few launches a day.

It can always been done it is just a matter of what you want to experience, what your threshold for safety is and the skill set you bring to the river.

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Old 08-11-2014   #3
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Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 884
I rowed it in 12 days in may. I think we had 8-12k with some pretty windy days. We had a wierd schedule with a whitmore flyout so we actually had a short day at the bottom which is exactly where you dont want it. We launched early (9ish) everyday and cooked dinner in the dark often. We rowed all day, didnt hike but a couple short ones, and didnt do much lazing at the oars. I would think 12 days with any less sun would have to launch earlier (7ish) and plan on getting to camp in the dark everyday. I dont know that I would do another 12 day row trip. I definitely wouldnt do a winter trip in 12 days. We rowed hard and drank hard. Thats about all i remember from that trip. It was fun because of the crew we had but i can see it becoming a sufferfest if the crew isnt up to it. If you get the 5k-8k flow regimen and some wind it could be pretty brutal.

It can be done and is feasible if you are dedicated to getting up and on the water super early, you are ok with steadily rowing all day, and you dont care about passing attraction after attraction while the kayakers stop and check it out then catch up. If I was gonna try it, I would make sure that the food was all but done in advance and realize that you are going down there to row row row your boat and not much more. I'd have the kayakers carrying most all their own shit (figuratively and literally) as well.
zach baird
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Old 08-11-2014   #4
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 69
You may be able to do it, but I'd guess not. We did a January launch and made it in 18 days with a couple of days worth of delays/layovers. We weren't the most efficient crew, but to shave another 4 days off would be pretty damn difficult. Days are really short that time of year.
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Old 08-11-2014   #5
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Gypsum, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 458
I admire those self-support kayak guys. Wouldn't want to be one but they can set their own pace.
Why does Pluto walk on all fours, drink from a dog bowl, and get treated like...a dog, while Goofy drives a car, wears clothing, and speaks in English?
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Old 08-11-2014   #6
Basalt, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 25
12 Day Grand

You can do it, if you get up early. when I worked commercially for OARS in the 1970's we always did the trip in 13 days, no matter what the water level. I have done trips anywhere between 35,000 cfs down to 1,500 cfs in 13 days, which usually included an overnight hike up Havasu Creek, or up Tapeats Creek and over the top to Deer Creek. We typically spent a lot of time in the upper canyon, and did long days on the lower section. I can remember one long 40 mile day 12, to get to Diamond Creek by noon on the 13th day, but this was not typical. I do think that having shorter days during the winter months would make things more difficult with less daylight. Have Fun!
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Old 08-11-2014   #7
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 35

I have been on 2 trips, both college spring breaks, first week in March.
Each time launched on a Friday, took off the following Sunday. Back to school on Monday.
1st trip, kayaks, rafts, dories
2nd trip dories, raft, catarafts

Short daylight hours, on the water by 9am, off before/at dark.
One to two hikes

Loved it, would not fear doing it again! Anything just be on the Grand again.
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Old 08-12-2014   #8
boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 298
Just about anything is doable if you want to put in that kind of effort. Why a 14' boat. It will be small as a support/gear boat for kayakers. How many passengers? How many helping you row? Are there any other rafts for support? Are you going to be expected to carry someone and their kayak possibly?

My shortest GC trip was 16 days, but we had 2 rest days. We could have reasonable done it in 12 days although the wind was pretty light. If you are looking forward to long days with little light then it sounds reasonable.

Most importantly, how is the group? How many do you know, and for how long? How much experience to they have and have you been on trips with them. If I were going with good friends I might do it. With casual acquaintances I probably wouldn't.

Either way it will be a good learning experience.
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
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Old 08-12-2014   #9
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 883

Old guy that I was (even then), I once did Lees to Diamond in 12 days. It involved a push of 40 miles from Whitmore down, on the day before Diamond. That trip was in September, with nominal winds and roughly 12 hours of solid daylight, and an hour of semi-light on either end of the day -- call it 14 hours of usable light.

Like most folks here, I'd say more is better. But if that's all the time you and your party can get off work, then some time in the Canyon is better than none.

I would note the question about boat size and consider other trip composition issues -- if only for the safety concerns that arise, and which are even more acute in the winter, when there are far fewer folks down there to help you if you run into trouble.

Rich Phillipz
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Old 08-12-2014   #10
Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 56
Of course you can make it!

If 12 days is what you've got it's what you've got. You will get a late start on the first day and probably need to finish early on your last day. I've made two winter trips and a March trip - I think you'll be fine. You'll hit your stride on day 2 or 3 and everything will seem normal from then on. Your biggest challenge will likely be weather and or broken boats. You won't have much margin but I'll bet that becomes part of your story when it's all said and done - good luck - don't listen to the naysayers - it's the GFC.

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