Is there a difference in grades?? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-15-2010   #1
brenda's Avatar
bc, CA
Paddling Since: 2007
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Is there a difference in grades??

I am from Canada and was wondering if the way rivers are graded in the US different from here? We met up with some paddlers from Montana while on the Clearwater (great paddlers - cartwheeling and doing tricks down the river). They did comment though that they thought the river was graded too lightly. In my guidebook it says 3-3+ at high water. This was at medium to low water and they told me it should be a solid class 4.
I am hoping to do a road trip and paddle in the US next spring/summer?, but will I be able to add some rivers to my list that I normally wouldn't run? Any beta would be greatly appreciated.
I only feel solid up to 3+ but have run short sections of harder. Ya...I know...pretty lame!

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Old 08-15-2010   #2
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Books like Whitewater of the Southern Rockies, if that is indeed where you're headed, generally give more than just a single rating (we typically use "rating" or "class" and roman numerals down yonder). Your best bet is to identify some runs that seem plausible and research them.

It has been my experience that anything classed III and greater can sometimes be undervalued, meaning that a III is really a III+ or even a IV- at times. Sometimes this is due to differences in water levels, and sometimes it's due to expert boaters downgrading a run based on their ability rather than an "empirical" measure... of course, it's impossible to get an empirical mesaure and they do the best they can in most cases.

Take, for example this run: American Whitewater - NWRI - Clear Creek 03. Lawson to Idaho Springs

At certain water levels, part of this run can be considered a IV+/V- due to the river bottom and swim hazard. The book I mentioned gives a better description than AW, and even EddyFlower (if it were up) doesn't catch the character entirely. It could be that my idea of IV+ is someone's IV- or even III+ and it's difficult to compare notes at times.

Good luck in your paddling. I hope you find some fun water.
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Old 08-15-2010   #3
White R. BC
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Durango, Colorado
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Not sure.

Have done some boating up N and didn't see a big difference. What section of the Clearwater? Are you talking about how Stuart Smith uses Grade in his guide books?
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Old 08-15-2010   #4
Thronton, Colorado
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IMO, any book or site I have seen is probably rating a rapid or section about in the middle of the possible range. There are so many variables, a person's experience on any given day could easilly be a solid grade higher or lower, depending on conditions. A lot of it also has to do with why a rapid or section gets the rating it does. Some IV's may get their rating based more on how technical they are vs another getting a IV based on consequences vs. another based on size, etc. Depending on what a person's strengths and weaknesses are, that person may have a completely different outlook on the rapid.

Just look at several sources to see what I mean. One book will call a rapid a IV, another will call the wmae rapid a II and yet another will call it a III+. The more detailed the source, the more credibility I tend to give it. For example, the source that give multiple ratings depending on water level are more useful and more credible to me personally. Take the Arkansas River Guide for example. It has as many as 4 ratings for some rapids, and descriptions to go with them as to why. EddyFlower has a single rating and description (nothing against EddyFlower, it's a great resource for many reasons) for a given rapid or section.

Individuals you meet on the river are certainly sources too, but just because they say it's a IV, doesn't mean that's the general consensus. Look around this site. You'll find a lot of disagreement on ratings on various rapids here too. I think if you take a few different source and get a general feel for a rating, then go out expecting it to be anywhere from a -1 ot a +1 from the general rating, you'll be in good shape.

This is all my own personal theory of course, based on my personal experiences....
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