Upper Death on Colorado River - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-06-2005   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
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Upper Death on Colorado River

I am looking for some info on the history of this rapid. Has it been run in a raft? What levels is it most commonly run in a kayak? I am also interested in some of the hidden dangers involved. Thanks for all the info.

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Old 07-06-2005   #2
Join Date: Mar 2005
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I have no idea as far as rafting is concerned. I ran it in a kayak at low water. Jonathan Satz ran it at high water but got a little punished. I think Charlie Ebel ran it pretty high with a similar outcome. I was just looking at it a couple of weeks ago at high water. Looks gnarly, but at least its short!
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Old 07-06-2005   #3
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Pretty sure Matt Solomon can chime in and give you the scoop or Ben G????
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Old 07-06-2005   #4
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You'll probably want to wear a helmet, and maybe even a pfd.
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Old 07-06-2005   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I've run it at about 1,500 and way down. I did have a very bad experience in it. The center haystack above the fall is caused by a large rock. That rock is undercut on the river right side. I blew it coming in and ended up in that undercut. My boat was colapsing around me when I wrenched myself out and broke my paddle in the process. That brings you to the second hidden danger of the rapid. The recirculation below the fall is hard. It tokk both me and my boat in many times. I finally escapped by pushing off the back wall as deep as I could get and swimming as far as I could under water. By that point, I was so worked I could barely stand. My boat escapped eventually but not bofore several rivets were torn out. If I were to do it again, I would want a bag on both sides of the river so people could get me out of that hydrolic. I might even consider two bodies as that is the strongest hole I've ever experienced, and it might take two strong guys to pull me out.

Outside that It's like most class five big water. When you go clean it feels easy. I've only run the river right side. Just land a clean boof and paddle like hell to keep out of it. If you screw up, it will make you pay.

Good luck and get it on video so we can all be wowed!! Someone posted a picture of someone going into last year, so someone has a good story to tell.

Also. I've only run it in high volume boats.

Set good safety and good luck


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Old 07-06-2005   #6
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Successful Run?

Rumor has it that Upper Death was run in a 16 foot raft successfully on 7/4...
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Old 07-06-2005   #7
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Dave Russell ran it in the 80's at around 30,000 cfs...The footage I saw was from channel 4 or 9 or something on reels...This is back when those drops were even worse then now,believe it or not the run has gotten easier since the damn was put in place...It was absolutely crazy...I think he owns an embrodery(sp) shop in boulder...He has most of the big raft 1st D in colo,Idaho,nm ect....
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Old 07-06-2005   #8
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Upper D has changed though in the past year. Last winters rock slide, pushed boulders into the rapid. At low water a seive that didn't use to be a problem, now causes problems. A new center boulder is also causing problems, but im not sure of the line at these levels. Scout carefully, have saftey, use a creek boat, and DONT SWIM.
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Old 07-06-2005   #9
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depends on your definition of success....
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Old 07-07-2005   #10
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upper death has been run several times over the last few years by local kayakers in the area. it was my pic and video running iot last year that was posted. those runs were at about 1400 cfs and lower, in a kingpin. due to the rick slide, low water runs are extremely hazardous now, as 1/2 the water now flows into a sieve on river left, brad and i both opted not to run the upper half of this run below 1500 this spring due to this factor. hobie recently ran it at about 4500 cfs in his crazy 88 and was vert and "post vert" through the rapid, but came out with an ear to ear grin (i think it is still there). brad ludden, tyler brandt, steve fischer, and corey volt ran it the next day in their creek boats. the last raft i know of that ran upper death was in 1997, billy mattison and mongo r-2'd it at low water, clean.

this rapid is "beautifully ugly". ugly looking consequesnces, beautiful run (when you are at the bottom!) check yourself before you run this and watch the changes in personality at different water levels. the features of this rapid have changed a few times over the last 10 years.

i think it used to be called "cottonwood falls", but this was back in the 70's. i forget the reason's the name changed (raft guide stories about a death in the rapid; other - older, i mean more expierenced - folks would know better than i). there was a book on the Hx of glenwood canyon that listed the name cottonwood falls.

hope this helps.

Alpine Arms
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