First Timer Westwater - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-10-2015   #1
New Castle, Colorado
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 85
First Timer Westwater

So I just started rafting this year, with no prior river experience. Thus far I've bought my own 12' Maravia, taken a guide course in Durango, and done Desolation along with several other stretches around Glenwood Springs. I was recently invited on a Westwater trip at the end of September. I have been reassured that consequences are much lower at these levels and all should be well. I realize these sort of questions depend on the person, but I wanted to know the thoughts of other buzzards. How hard is Westwater for a first timer? I rode as a passenger through it last year, which sparked my interest and love for the river. I WANT to go, and I feel ready to manage bigger water. My biggest reservation is my wife, who has little to no experience in whitewater, especially with swimming. I have considered having her hop on someone else's boat, although I know she'd rather be on ours. So what does the buzz think? Am I pushing my limits too far too soon?

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Old 09-10-2015   #2
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 197
If you've been through you know where you want to be right? So, do you feel you have the ability to get your boat there? I say go and rig to flip. Swim(s) shouldn't be overly cold or long if your with a competent group. If the significant other is terrified of being in the water put her on another boat, but in my experience lack of confidence and the coinciding indecision is when you get in trouble in a rapid. Best way to learn is doing it!
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Old 09-10-2015   #3
k2andcannoli's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 854
Personally I say leave the wife at home and run the meat. Not great advice for a newb however, so if you insist on bringing the ol ball and chain (or she insists), I think y'all will be fine. I was nervous my first time down, I rowed my lil 12ft cat and found it non-intimidating. Not much whitewater considering the distance of the run, lots of flat water to recover if something goes wrong, and it's still a deep river even at late summer flows, meaning swimming should leave you physically uninjured compared to a shallow and continues river.

Have fun!
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Old 09-10-2015   #4
glenn's Avatar
BZN, Montana
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,493
Take the old lady on something a little less committing until she's got her water legs. Go run westwater.
The sunshine walked beside her
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Old 09-10-2015   #5
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: Dawn
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 36
I did the same thing last year - rowed WW in early October at low flows at the end of my first "real" rowing season (i.e. having my own boat). I also had a female companion that I was concerned about taking for a swim. It was a fantastic trip, no swims, and a great confidence builder for the next season.
The best advice I can give is get a little beta ahead of time, and have a more experienced boat show you how to take the safe lines (don't run the meat). I just remember following the boat ahead of me, setting up the same and running the same line.
If you are super nervous about the wife, have her jump in another boat and take some experienced passengers that will be helpful if shit hits the fan. Your wife will be able to watch you run all the rapids and it will still be tons of fun for both of you. It's a pretty short, action-packed stretch, so she'll be back in your boat in no time.
My last piece of advice is make your wife drive home so you can pound a few celebratory beers!
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Old 09-10-2015   #6
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 127
if it's 3k-6k I would say don't even sweat it. The flow is slow enough and your boat small enough that you will have plenty of time to get away from rocks and T up to waves. Dont hit holes in a 12 footer unless you're prepared for a chilly swim.

If it rains a ton and gets to 6-10 then you may have reason to be cautious.
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Old 09-10-2015   #7
Tyrrache's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 94
I was just on WW last weekend at 4500 CFS and it was very mild.

Just do your research and like stated before, Rig to Flip - Dress to Swim.

Marble, Staircase, Funnel, and Surprise are all read and run at this level.

Skull is a very difficult scout so if you do not have someone in your group who can lead the way just be sure to downstream ferry and burst the left lateral at the beginning. The slack water will pull your front in perfect position to clear the rapid.

Sock it to me is exactly that. Tee that beast up and take it to the Jaw!

Based upon your written resume on the OP you should be just fine running WW at this level.

Good luck!
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Old 09-10-2015   #8
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 2,261
No black and white answers on questions like these. A lot depends on your skill and threshold for mistakes. Desolation is not a great warm up for Westwater. WW as you know is a lot more constricted, much pushier and the rapids are noticeably different in character than anything in Deso. That said, at some point you have to try newer and harder rapids. When stepping up your game you just have to be prepared for swims and flips. It is a pool drop river but you will want a crew who can help recover your passengers and gear fast as some of the rapids come up on you quick.

Best of luck with your decision.

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Old 09-10-2015   #9
Swank's Avatar
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 251
Should be fine. On skull before the hole stay right, stay right, stay right, when you think you should pull left across the current line wait then pull. I did this last year in October and it worked perfectly. It looked like we were going into the skull hole and we crossed the current line with momentum and slide just left of the hole and I was able to pull the 16' cat right into the eddy just across from the room of doom which one of our party stupidly got caught in and it took us 45 minutes to get him out. Should be a blast in a 12' boat. Avoid the big holes.
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Old 09-10-2015   #10
colorado_steve's Avatar
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 287
you'll be good! dont let the "what ifs" stop you from going. Skull is a right to left move below the razor rock to avoid the hole and T-Up to everything else.... do a little youtube scouting and go for it!

staying left of the hole in skull will keep you out of the room of doom
Oh! I don't take it lightly! I've always got to know
There's an old lion a roarin' n the river down below
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