I have a question about Cataract Canyon - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-03-2013   #1
Gunnison, 81230
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 96
I have a question about Cataract Canyon

Two buddies and I are doing a self support trip down Cataract and I'm relatively new to class IV and haven't had my boat loaded down before. I was wondering if the Bigdrop rapids are portageable and about how long it would take to hike them if they are. If it's any concern to anyone, I've run Waterton in a playboat during high water and Westwater during low water. I didn't swim at all in Waterton, but kinda got surfed and munched on Skull when I lost all of my momentum trying to sneak but then having to turn back for the meat. I did both of those in a playboat and am now running a pyranha burn that is rated up to 80 over what I weigh. Any thoughts? Are the Bigdrops portageable? Is there anything I should be concerned about? Thanks

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Old 03-03-2013   #2
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 286
Sounds like a great trip you guys are going to take. I have not run Cataract so I do not know how portagable the rapids are. But, if you run Waterton and Westwater in a playboat, you will probably be okay on Cataract.

Paddling a loaded boat is a little different than paddling an unloaded boat. Everything takes a bit more time to get somewhere and turn the boat because of the added weight. After the first few hours of just paddling you will start to get a feel for how it's going to handle. I would recommend taking a few practice rolls also to get a feel for how the boat is going to roll with the extra weight.

As far as the self support, pack light and try and keep everything in quality drybags. Especially your sleeping bag and food. Try not to have anything on the outside of your kayak because it makes rolling tougher.

I'm a class IV boater, I paddled a loaded kayak for the first time in December. Seven of us spent 9 days self support kayaks on the Grand. My base weight for all my gear was 50 lbs. groover, food, camp setup, breakdown, and clothes. After the trip I realized I could have possibly shed 5 lbs of gear I brought and didn't need.

I kept my meals simple. I brought 10 days worth of food. 20 packets of instant oatmeal then added 1/4 cup almond slivers and 1/4 cup dried blueberries (2 packs per day). Lunch was gorp or a pb&j. Snack were kind bars (I brought 30 only ate 10), 3/4 pound of beef jerky, and dinner was 10 boxes of Kraft Mac & cheese (1 per night). I always felt full an had plenty of energy. I have to say by the 8th Mac and cheese dinner I was ready for something different. Gained a half pound on the trip.

After paddling everyday all day you will feel pretty good in your boat at the end. Have a great time!

Edit: I forgot to say that is is also easier to punch holes and big waves with a loaded boat! Scout the drops, stay in the tongues, miss the holes and t up to the big waves. On the Grand the rapids looked chaotic but boated much easier than they looked.
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Old 03-03-2013   #3
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 234
From what I remember, there is plenty of room to portage everything, and each individual rapid is relatively short. There were also sneak routes if you didn't want to portage but didn't feel up to running the meat. I don't remember anything any more difficult than Westwater, but it is more volume so it feels different. I've only done cataract at low water though, and I've heard at high water (30k+) the big drops merge together into one continuous rapid. This does not seem to be a year where you're going to have to worry about that, but when are you planning on going?
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Old 03-03-2013   #4
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11
If you're going soon, like before spring runoff starts, I wouldn't worry about a thing. Low water Westwater is more technical than Cat at low water. Big Drop 1 is a bunch of medium-sized waves, 2 is a piece of cake, and 3 just has a few moves to make, but then spits you out in a big pool. I think you're in more danger of breaking an ankle by portaging than you are of swimming. If you go at high water (which may not really happen this year), it's true that it's more like one long rapid. That might be worth a portage.
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Old 03-03-2013   #5
Colorado Springs Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 254
I did a self-supported IK trip with 2 other buds at about 7K. Great trip! The only issue is Big Drop 3. The right run is pretty long with the harder section at the bottom. The left slot is short but the entrance is pretty blind until you are right at the lip. It's easy to miss (lots have including me) and is guarded by holes on both sides. The portage would be short but the boulders are pretty big to carry over. Maybe line it? Either way I wouldn't let that stop an otherwise great trip.

High water... not a good one for your first self-support trip!
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Old 03-03-2013   #6
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 622
It is possible to portage the Big Drops, even at high water (~40Kcfs). There isn't a trail though, and the rocks are big and jumbly. If your trip is at low water, I wouldn't think you'd have any problems if you're a III-IV boater. Like Eric said- I'd be more worried about hurting yourself portaging with 80lbs of crap than about swimming. Sounds like a fun trip! Look for the nice surf wave in Rapid 10 (I think)- there's a huge sandy beach there, and it's a good layover if you like to play.
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Old 03-03-2013   #7
Gunnison, 81230
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 96
We're planning on launching on the 18th.
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Old 03-03-2013   #8
Gunnison, 81230
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 96
Thanks for the info guys! I love how awesome being part of a boating community is
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