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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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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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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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GoBro
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Take the old lady on something a little less committing until she's got her water legs. Go run westwater.
 

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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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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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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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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.

Phillip
 

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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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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
 

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I just ran westwater last week for the first time! It was an awesome experience for sure. My key to success was going with a great group of experienced rafters and kayakers. My comfort level and confidence level definitely was boosted by a group that could lead me through and show me the ropes.
I would say to enjoy the experience. Rig to flip, stow the wife in a friends boat so you can worry about yourself only, and bring a few cold ones to toast your success!
 

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take the wife, make love the night before the gorge knowing that you might die the next day this will add intensity and afterwards you'll fill like a million bucks when you pull it off, I mean out, I mean... well you get the idea go and have fun!
 

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Send it dude. Ran it for first time today. Was running ~5000. Big pushy, crunchy waves. No issue in 13' oar boat. Should be pretty exciting for your 12'er.


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Watch the youtubes, there is plenty of footage of WW in all details, howto runs and all levels. Right now is an easy level (3-6k cfs). Make sure you have a few other boats in front of you to follow what they do (or not go where they flipped).

Your biggest problems will be (in order): Funnel Falls (stay center, stay away from the left side on the tongue), Skull (point bow to the river right, at the crest of the river pull hard left away from all the shit down below) and Sock It To Me (SITM), this one has many approaches, but the big lateral wave from the right usually dump trucks noobs. Get ready for a hard hit from the right and then the Magnetic Wall on the left side right after. If you mess up on SITM, there is plenty of time to recover before Last Chance rapid. "Hold your breath" through SITM, that's about all the noobs remember from my safety talk as they swam SITM :)

Make sure your PFD tight as hell and wear a helmet. Swimming at this level and water temp isn't bad at all.
 

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sock it to me is a heavy hitter around 5k, ended up on the floor of the boat holding one oar for some hot tub time! have fun, i ran westwater for the first time after 3 trips down the moab daily, good place to cut your teeth , and an awesome place to spend the day!
 

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Yes, I agree sock it to me was a big hit. Try to run the right side at the crest of the big hit. Skull was also on the rowdy side, those holes/waves on the right run will definitely have their way with smaller craft.


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its not always the rapids that get you...

I have now been down Westwater twice and as much as the Westwater noob is concerned about what is going to happen in the rapids....other sh*t can and will happen...
My advice is to get on the water early for your run of the rapids. The first time I went down, we didn't get on the river until 1pm. After going thru Marble canyon rapid, we got caught in a MAJOR hail/rain/wind storm and had to eddy out and wait above the bigger rapids. The river went from 6K to around 10K and a few of our party had to dodge giant boulders falling from the cliff walls above us. We were stuck there for the better part of 2 hours before we could make our way downstream...the rest of the rapids (maybe except skull) were somewhat underwhelming after that experience. Our lead boatman was pulling 6" diameter rocks from the bottom of his boat at the takeout...

The 2nd trip down, we had Lower D campsite. The ranger warned us that at the current level (around 12K), the eddy for Lower D is very hard to catch. Our lead boatman of course missed the eddy as well as the 2nd boat but managed to get their boats on the rocky shoreline downstream of the camp. I was the last boat down, rowing the biggest and heaviest boat of the 3...It took all of my strength to get the boat out of the current of Little D rapid and close enough to shore to catch a rope from our party on shore...after that, we had to haul all the gear up river to the Little D camp...way more of a workout than the rapids the next day!
 

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I think you should definitely go.

But I see lots of inexperienced oarsman and paddle boaters miss the move on skull and flip their boats at this (or any) level.

If you are prepared and geared correctly, there is little risk of injury, hypothermia or drowning. But for newbie's, a flip can be terrifying, be or feel like a near-drowning experience, and sour them on running rivers ever again.

You must ask yourself: are the consequences of a flip going to just be a brief swim, or are they going to be a wife who will never want to run rivers with you again...

If it is the latter, think about it and maybe wait a few years to take her on Westwater.

Its a straightforward run, but its one where people flip boats regularly. We always rig to flip and dress to swim on Westwater and about 50/50, someone ends up upside down... usually the new guy, the guy with the new equipment, or the unguided paddleboat
 

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Take your wife
After the rapids, explain to her that you are worn out from making the run, and you require some relief.

If she declines to row, kick her butt out on the bank somewhere and tell her you'll wait no more than 60 minutes at the truck, then you're headed for the barn.

Get her rowing on the way out, sit back, have a beer or 2.
Pray the winds stay calm.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for all the advice and help! I have decided to go, and bring my wife as well. If things get too dicey for her liking, there are other boats she can get on, but she's ecstatic to try bigger water. We've talked about the "what if's" and I think it will all be fine. I've been watching tons of youtube videos of what to do and not to do. Assuming flows stay lower, I think everything will be manageable. Needless to say, many celebratory beers will be had post rapids!
 
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