I think when you are starting out on class v stuff make sure you go with a solid crew that knows the run and start out on runs where the drops are easy to portage and scout and are not too committing so if you get in over your head you have some choices other than having to run the meat. Have fun and good luck. Its not around Durango but the Baily run on the platte is a good iv+/ v run at medium flows.
Paddle the top half of 1st Gorge Lime, low to medium flows, and see how you feel in the eddy above Adrenaline. If you feel confident enough to drop Adrenaline, you should be able to get through the rest of the Gorge. If you've already crapped yourself, shoulder your boat around the Falls and hike up the side creek to the road. You can mostly portage anything of consequence above the falls, but there's mandatory drops below.
You should talk to the other, more advanced paddlers that you're paddling with and get recommendations from them. If the people you should ask don't automatically jump to mind, you should spend a little more time building up a core group of boaters who are willing to introduce you to Class V. It's not the realm to be venturing into for the first time with a new group.
Bailey is a nice run to step it up a bit. Clear Creek of the Ark is also a blast and pretty steep in parts. Be careful on OB, lots of people get wrecked there. The East (also in CB) is a nice easier creek. Just don't blunder in Stupid.
Yeah, I don't think I'd start things off with OBJ. It's not particularly technical, but the drops are big and fairly high-consequence if you screw up. Take that 30 footer the wrong way and you'll know what I mean. Fun run, but I don't think I'd make it my first V.
You have been much great advice above. Except OBJ. It is certainly not were you start. Personally, I would suggest you get down to Toas for the next couple of weeks and more. The UTB is worthy of demanding a class V mind and skill set. The goal with any of the class IV to V runs suggested is to pursue accomplishing the no-portage descent. I feel that only once you are routinely doing no-portage runs of the classic combination IV-V rivers are you then ready for the solid class V creeks. IMO the UTB, Pueblo (sans the last 3/4 mile), Red River, Bailey, Gore, and always Pine Creek rapid (no peeky) on the Ark are the prime IV-V runs to advance on. They will not only test, but will develop your skills and mind set. Also, they should, hopefully, prove to be so much fun that you will always cherish them as the classics, over and over. Someday the likes of OBJ, Big South, Black Canyon, Embudo, and many others, may beckon your calling. )
I would not consider the number grade so much. I know it is tempting to try to bag your first hardest descent, but this may lead to some problems for you. Instead try to find a group of paddlers better than yourself who have run a considerable amount of class V and roll in a big pack. Ask them what they think you should run once they have paddled with you. Pick Class V rapids that are V because of their size, but with with easy spots to set up safety and enough people to run safety so that if you mess up you are not going to have a near death experience, which is usually what makes a class V drop a class V drop. Think Gore, class V, but if you are a class IV boater and you don't like the looks of Tunnel or Gore rapid, you can portage them while still having a great class IV day. Just make you decision based on the feal you get when you scout the rapid. If you are scared shitless, but just working yourself up to run it to bag the number, then you are misguided and will get chundered. If you sit below the drop and think, damn, I can stomp that line, who cares what number it is. If it's class V then your ready, stomp your line and keep repeating that process untill you have enough under you belt to feal solid at the grade.
One last thing. Every time I run a class V run I am scared and keenly aware of severe consequences. I pretty much make my peace with the possiblities and rely on my skills to make it through safe. That said, I'm still freaking scared. That's what makes it class V. If there where an easy V, then its a IV. Class V is V because it the real deal. So try to give yourself the oppurtunity to back out of running something, instead of running a V that is a V because once you put in, you're not getting out untill the end.
I think the single most important skill a class V boater can have is the ability to look at a rapid and know whether or not you can make the moves. You should be able to assess your ability to make a move both from shore and from an eddy at the horizon line. The best way to pick up this skill is to practice harder lines in less consequential rapids. If you don't stick the line ask yourself why, and keep tabs on what you can and cannot do. This will change as you progress, but I notice a slight reduction in my confidence/skills after a long winter.
If you roll with a patient crew and know your own limits you can get down most runs as long as the portage/scout options are reasonable. I'm frequently the only person in a group walking a rapid, and that bothers me way less than a beat down. If you are efficient about decision making, portaging is often equally as fast as a thorough scout. Just be sure to avoid runs with limited portage options or more class V than you can portage in a day.
Perfectly stated, iliketohike. I'm of the firm belief that every class V should get your heart pounding, scare the shit out of you a little (or a lot depending on the day/run). Being able to identify your skill set at every given moment and during every scout is huge. There may be a day when you can look at a line and feel pretty good that you'll stomp it. The next run you may scout it again and just not "feel it".
I think the Ouray run/Uncompahgre is a great run (600-900 cubes for a virgin, pretty pushy above). Easily scouted and portaged (smallllll eddies though).
it's true that class 5 should get your heart pounding like lotsof waters laser like masterbation skills. a good way to practice for 5 is to make your class 3 or 4 stretches harder by adding must make eddies on the difficult rapids. even though they aren't true must make eddies. its good for practice. and to get better at 5 i suggest playboating alot.
Yeah, my first class V run was the West Fork of Clear Creek. Try and explain that one! All good suggestions. Definitely get on as much IV+/V- as I have found the line gets blurry in there and a lot of IV+'s I've run were harder than some of the V's.
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