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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Did Westwater Canyon on the Colorado today. It was my third time. I've rowed it twice (clean) in the past, once at 2,000 CFS and once at 3,000 CFS. Today was 8,500 CFS. A friend wanted to get some more experience so I let him row my rig. He did it clean too (very nice run at Skull actually). I decided to be a little more ambitious (stupid?) and went in my new Alpaca Gnarwhal packraft. I'm not new to paddling an IK by any means. I've done the Middle Fork all in an IK, several rapids (including Hermit) in the Grand Canyon in an IK, and some class IV in Costa Rica this Spring in an IK. But I was humbled today. I swam way more than I expected (at least as many rapids as I cleaned). It turns out a packraft, even a "whitewater packraft", is NOT an IK! Lost the packraft on two swims. Lost my paddle on another (and grabbed it just in time to eddy out to scout Skull Rapid). At any rate, for those who aren't aware, at 8,500 Skull is one huge wavetrain from the top of Skull all the way to the Rock of Shock. I made it through almost all of it, finally tipping about 2 waves before the Rock of Shock, and unfortunately washing right into the Room of Doom. There was already a 16 foot catamaran tied up in there (thought about rowing that out) and a nice looking paddle circulating in there from someone earlier today (they're going back tomorrow for it). I tried 5 times to paddle out. It wasn't a power thing, more of a tippy/balance thing. Each time I thought I had it, only to hit that eddy line and flip. Any way, after 5 laps I tucked my tail between my legs and climbed out. Luckily I only had to carry my 10 lb packraft and paddle up and over the cliffs. Watched 3 other boats flip on skull while we were there, including a guide in a motor rig. The most impressive one was a private group who no kidding flipped a loaded raft back upright in 10 seconds. Super impressive.

Anyone else had to do the walk of shame out of the Room of Doom?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, it can't be too bad. I did it with a raft in one hand and a paddle in the other. I'm an experienced climber, but I never felt like it was really sketchy at all getting up out of there. There are two ways to get back to the river though. The "low route" has a bit of a sketchy move on the way down (I gently dropped the packraft 6 feet onto a ledge before climbing down at one point.) There is a high route as well that I didn't do but some of my companions came over to see what I was doing. The low route gets to the river earlier. If you go too far down the river, you can't get to that one so they took a different route.

I wouldn't want to haul a real IK over it, but I could do it, especially if someone came and helped. A raft? Forget it. Tie it up and come back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What's the climb out like? Sheer wall? Scrambling? Where do you go after reaching the canyon rim?!
I didn't go all the way to the rim. I would call that the "high route." As far as the way I went, it was pretty obvious. There's a well trod footpath on most of it. I'm clearly not the first to do it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I didn't go all the way to the rim. I would call that the "high route." As far as the way I went, it was pretty obvious. There's a well trod footpath on most of it. I'm clearly not the first to do it!
You are well above the river though at one point. Perhaps 100 feet above it (but on a huge 20 foot wide ledge you'll never fall off of.)
 

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Lots of beat downs around here lately too! I’ve only done west water once and it was low but I thought it was intimidating lol! Live and learn and have a new understanding of the world we live in. Do it again and be happy! Woot woot! I’ll be asking humbly and sincerely for safe passage each and every time I am on a river bank from here out lol!! Oh great river goddess…
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A flipped motor rig? Please elaborate. What kind of boat was the motor rig?
The guided folks there that day had two big red paddle rafts (16? 18?) and a raft the same size with one guide in it and a little motor on the back. That's the one that flipped. He had a hard time getting the motor started for Lake Westwater, but eventually got it going after a sat phone call.
 

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To my eye, the key at that level is to get as far upstream in the circulating pattern as you can before starting your move. By hitting the eddy line as high up as possible, you've got more time to break through before coming up against the Rock. I was I there a couple of times to assist in a recovery, and it took everything I had pulling only on the downstream oar to hold my ferry line and break across.

Of course at some levels, even that would be futile, as the eddy fence is simply uncrossable.
 

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Is the mistake that he hit the flipper seam/wave sideways? As soon as he comes over the wave which takes him into the flipper, should he have corrected to aim the rear of the raft into the seam?
Sure, in theory that may have worked. He may have been able to hit the pillow with his stern and then do a really nice, elegant spin move off the pillow, spun to his right and into the main current facing downstream, gave a loud hoot, cracked a beer, and then cleaned SITM & LC.

But theory often goes out the window in that kind of situation. The main goal was to break the eddy fence and then to get as far into the main current, and then get as far as possible beyond the line that would carry him into the pillow. Once he'd broken past the eddy fence, he was trying as hard as he could to get his bow squared up to the pillow but the current wasn't having any of it. Considering that the upside down turquoise boat was circling in the Room getting destroyed for about a week when "Harold flipped out" I'd say that just getting out of there was a win. Sure, maybe he could've gotten a little further upstream before trying to break the eddy fence, or maybe there was just no way to get to a better place to break out with all the debris (including an upside down boat) getting in the way. It may not have made any difference. I just hope there were some of his crew over in the eddy across the river to go after him and his upside down boat after he flipped or it could've been a long swim before climbing up onto the bottom of his boat.

Go to the Youtube video and read the comments for more info.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Not sure he could have avoided the rock of shock. The key is simply to hit the left side of it so you go left instead of the right side so you go right! I mean it's great if you don't flip, but at 11,000, getting out beats tying the raft up in there and coming back in a couple weeks to get it when the water drops!
 
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