Swimming Lava? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-06-2004   #1
Caspian's Avatar
Englewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 882
Swimming Lava?

So my dad tells me, "I think I'm gonna bring two inner tubes on the Canyon trip, just for the heck of it." I said, "You know my friend Mark is gonna have to tube Lava if you do that, right?" (I suppose that's how you get your kicks when your line at Gorilla is so consistent that you have time in the middle of your boof to give the finger to your friends who are walking the drop.)

So has anyone here swam it? I know some guys tubed the whole river back in the 60s, so of course it's possible. I don't know tons about the rapid, but from what I do know, I wonder if you wouldn't hit the rock on the right and then get taken down for the mother of all mystery moves when you hit the eddyline below the big rock. Water will be 8-10K, whaddya think?

Also, has anyone ran Havasu Creek? I think that's the one that you can hike up and run down to the river. Any beta? I'd love to get my boof on down there.

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Old 09-07-2004   #2
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120
Re: Swimming Lava?

Howdy Steve,
I did the grand back in '97. While scouting we saw a raft flip for about a minute straight stuck in Lava hole (it was 21,000 cfs). One of the swimmers was still in serious shock over an hour later after taking a bad swim in that flip. I didn't kayak it but took a ride in a raft and the guy rowing told us a story about a friend of his who swam Lava hole and ended up with two burst eardrums, had to be helicoptered out. I personally wouldn't be swimming Lava for kicks , but I'm sure plenty of people do swim it without such problems.

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Old 09-07-2004   #3
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Distiller and Salida's Mayor, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 68

Lava is a big fat class 3+ rapid the hole in the center top is ugly but after that no worries. Granted it sucks to flip a fully loaded raft on the grand and that can be done there, but still not a difficult rapid. I have seen it swam on a boogie board, an air mattress, a pfd and a inflatable alligator. The great thing about lava if you are kayaking is that it is only about a 100 foot walk up the left bank to run it again. 12 is my personal record but I am sure if your rafters are scared enough you could do a lot more.
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Old 09-07-2004   #4
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 498
Not sure I agree with the III+ but it has been swan numerous times on pupose. A freind did a trip for a commercial (Marbaro) and the camera men got in the water right behind the boats entring on the right side. One of them swan numerous times in 2 days down the right side with camera gear. this guy had no previous WW experience.

The deal is if you miss the hole up top which is fairly easy it just becomes a class IV swim with a chance of hydrolic misfortune if you get stuck behind the big lava rock or just you're garden variety big water rock bashing. I perfer to swim Hermit then just carry up and do Lava many times If you're that good play the big hole then post about it . Shouldn't be a problem for a hero boater from the green. peace sj
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Old 09-09-2004   #5
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Salida, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I missed my mark and went straight into the ledge hole at 22,000 cfs. I don't
recommend it. I spent a considrable period of time under water and the forces inside that hole that day were astounding. It does however tend to spit swimmers out and shred equipment.
No amount of money is worth your free time!
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Old 09-11-2004   #6
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 4
swim fest

Took a swim down Lava in '83 (24-30K cfs) just for the hell of it...hitched a ride in a raft and jumped off upstream of the middle tongue and swam a decent line. Momentary lapse of reason = lucky monkey. I had just boated it and hiked back up after spying the the line I wanted to take. Only did it because of the "I could see myself doing it so did it" kind of experience.

However, my buddy who couldn't resist the taunt and challenge to swim was near hypothermic and really shaken by the time he was dragged out of the drink below Little Lava.

2 cents:

The water is cold so be prepared for serious scrotal or nipple shrinkage

If you are going to fly by chopper, you can't appreciate the view from a Stokes litter.

The water level and nature of the rapid can change from year to year, ie. paddled it again in '94 at 14K and it was totally different. Just say no to elective swims in '94, a campaign promise I kept only b/c I made it up after the fact.


Would not swim it until I ran it and knew what I was getting into

Stay away from the rock down stream RR..."sport death...deaaaaath"

Why bother? Unless you get the wild hair... (depending on your preference...the wild hare) I don't condone animal abuse unless you are a lucky monkey with plenty of lube.

Enjoy the Canyon...you may not need to swim Lava by the time you get to it! It's hard place not to love.
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Old 09-13-2004   #7
Monroe, Utah
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Jake Luc

I asked Jake Luc (an old boatman) in the 70's if he thought I could make it though Lava in a Sport Yak. He made a classic statement, "everything always comes out the bottom". Those are words to live by.
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Old 09-13-2004   #8
Monroe, Utah
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 137
Jake Luc

I asked Jake Luc (an old boatman) in the 70's if he thought I could make it though Lava in a Sport Yak. He made a classic statement, "everything always comes out the bottom". Those are words to live by.
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Old 09-20-2004   #9
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 71
I just retruned from running the Canyon. As far as Lava goes- good luck and have fun if you swim- it is the lowest level right now so a few more holes and I would not want to run into that Lava rock at the bottom right side (shouldnt be an issue...?). THe side creeks are quite low right now but if you happen to catch them right they would be sweet. The one I would reccommend hitting is Tapeats creek if the level looks right. IT looked runnable while I was there but would be ideal with at least a titch more water- maybe you will catch it while its raining (It poured rain the night before I hiked along it). There is a trail you can walk along to get to various put in sites and provides decent scouting from above. Good luck and have fun if you do it. Let me know how it is if you run it- I will be jealous!! Havasu was pretty low too but has the potential to be fun!
Have a great time!! (Its hard not to...)
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