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First Westwater trip - what do I need to know?

7603 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  DanCan
I am ready to run Westwater - so what do I need to know about the canyon?

Confident behind the oars, work as a guide on the upper-C, rowing a 14ft cat, have the right gear and know how to use it, I ran Westwater with family 20 years ago and I think it's time to go back...

I'd love to hear about what line to take in what rapid. What to watch out for, where the monster holes are and what not to hit - that sort of thing. We're thinking middle of next week - so plan on a little more water than there is right now (I know that canyon changes a lot at different flows).

Also, I found one decent map, but if you know of a good one with campsites and rapids marked that'd be a great resource to have (perhaps we should create a pdf on the permit site Westie rangers?).
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The most important thing to know is you need a permit.
You know you need a permit that you acquired 60 days in advance, right?
Lots to know about Westwater. Along with Permit requirements mentioned...

1. 17 miles long. All the rapids are in a 6 mile or so stretch in the middle.
2. Most are read and run
3. Skull rapid. Start right, and go hard to break the lateral on the left when going in. Essentially you want to avoid the right and center line as it can cause issues at most levels. At high levels you can get sent to room of doom which is hard to get out of. At low levels there is a big rock with a gap to shoot. Medium levels have some waves that cause more problems than fun.
4. Sock-it-to-me. Seems simple enough. Narrow tongue into a haystack with no good way to avoid if you wanted. I just hit it hard and fast, and have everyone hold on tight for potential sluff off the haystack. Immediately after haystack it will attempt to send you toward the Magnetic wall. Avoid the wall if you can, but hit it straight on if you can't as it can flip a boat. Depending on how you come around or off the haystack you can avoid by either hitting an eddy on left side before the wall or catch right side of main current. YMMV.

Beautiful canyon. Neat rocks and formations. 1.7 billion year old granite like you find in the bottom of the Grand.
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Last Chance

I don't know if it is because I'm becoming more of a competent boater or if I really did not know what I was doing before, but the last couple years Last Chance rapid has been a little gnarly. If memory serves me right, and the Buzzards can correct me if I'm wrong, there is a huge hole in the middle of the river, I've been going left of it. A couple years ago I went right over it and fell off my perch, not very impressive to the five gorgeous girls I had with me that trip.

I love WW. First trip I was invited on and I look forward to it every year. Make sure to eat at Ray's Tavern in Green River after.

Have fun!
Take Caution...

We're thinking middle of next week - so plan on a little more water than there is right now (I know that canyon changes a lot at different flows).

Unless you have lots of big water experience I wouldn't go when the flows are above 10K until you've seen it at low water. Only my most badass friends go in there in the scares the shit out of me and I've run a fair bit of class IV. FWIW.
If you guide the upper c be careful it makes that run look like a kiddie pool at high flows. After sock do not go into the eddy on the left like was mentioned above, there you can get pushed onto into the magenetic wall which is on the left. Work right immediatley after you hit sock it to me. If its in the teens not a good time for a first run in a raft its efin rollin.
I've seen Westwater at almost every flow over the last 25 years and the terrible teens seem to give people the most grief, including myself (flipped once at 17000). Personally, I do not scout Skull as it's a real pain sometimes to get out of the eddy and get positioned properly to get any real momentum to break the lateral coming off the left side. It's a timing move, where I've found it best to break through close to the top of the lateral but not hit the any exposed rocks or sleepers that can spin you from your 45 degree downstream ferry angle. That means either set up middle right of the the river and point your bow to the right and somewhat upstream, get your momentum going to break the lateral, and keep pulling into the slower water and then straighten it out. If you mistime it like I did once, the lateral can flip you or surf you right into the hole.

Going into Sock it to Me depending on the level I point my bow at 1 o'clock to meet the right side wave as head on as possible.

I'm guessing that the peak will occur about the first week of June this year, maybe a bit later if cool weather prevails.

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As I found last year, go straight into the tongue on Funnel Falls or you might end up upside down.

Go left at Last Chance, I have gone right over the rock at 9500 and it was really fun, but a bit hairy.

Others have mentioned Skull. I've gone down the middle and right side with varying degrees of success, left is the best way. :)

Just keep your nose pointed down river and in general things will go well. :) At least that's what they told me the first time I ran it.

I'm going to tag onto this what point do features wash out?? Planning to run it on Memorial Day and assuming it's goint to get big if the weather heats up...never run it above 12000...Any thoughts?
I ran it at 24,000 in 2011. It was pretty well washed out then except for Skull. I flipped and I still have nightmares about the waves leading up to The Rock of Shock. It usually take us 8-9 hours to do the run, lunch then motor out. That day, we did the entire 17 mile run in just under three hours and we ate lunch at the take out. I don't care to do it at that level ever again.

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In my opinion, above about 20k and it is washed out pretty bad.

Above 30k and you get mean azz whirl pools that like to pull the back of your boat down.

I did it, what, 3 years ago at like 40k, like being flushed down a toilet. Under 3 hours.

The only thing you need to know is how to oar for hours with a 50 mph wind in your face. Take a pair of goggles so the spray coming off the white caps doesn't beat your pupils to a pulp.
If you have never rowed WW before and you have a 14 foot cat then be prepared to swim at this water level. It is already over 10,000 and will rise dramaticaly over the next few days. You should seriously consider waiting for the water to drop under 8000 for your first time. If you go now wear a dry suit and helmet and rig for flip. best of luck.
Ran it this past weekend. Whatever you do, don't be left on funnel falls, or you and all your shit will be taking a cold,long and very unpleasant ride through skull... Ask me how I know.
Westwater beta

I'm in agreement with others that flows in the teens cause the most problems. I have run the canyon at flows up to 24k and at 15k I found it especially challenging and scary. The holes in the drops become exploding breakers. The flow has jumped today from the upper 9ks to 10800, so mid or upper teens are likely. When does it wash out? It becomes different with each 1000 increase, but for me above 17k was "easier", but still a beast.
Wear a helmet. If the boat goes over the frame and gear can whack you hard.
Some folks use flip lines on the sides of their boats and others tie webbing from bow to stern or perpendicular across the bottom at the mid point. Much easier to get back on the boat, especially in huge turbulence.
I'm in agreement with the downstream ferry angle and right to left at Skull. I try to kiss the bottom of the lateral with the back right part of the boat (so, your upstream side tube). That way you will get spun towards the left side, then pull left more to miss the massive hole. If you hit the lateral in the center with the intent on punching through it you won't; as stated before it will catapult you into the hole.
The other significant drop is Funnel Falls. In the teens it has a right to left curler wave referred to as the Five-O wave. Think of a wave break in the ocean. Do not let this wave hit you from the side, as it will likely roll you. Be ready to spin the bow of your boat into the curler so that the boat slides on the long axis and not the short side-to-side.
Finally, I suggest no drinking or "smoking" until after Last Chance, at which time you will deserve it! Cheers and have a good run.
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Ran it this past weekend. Whatever you do, don't be left on funnel falls, or you and all your shit will be taking a cold,long and very unpleasant ride through skull... Ask me how I know.
Uh, yeah, I know this well and have captured it on video.

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