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I got invited on a Winter kayak oriented GC trip that has time restraints and I was wondering if running a 14' oar rig from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek in 12 days is feasible, reasonable, or doable? I know one isn't supposed to rush in the canyon, but my first trip was a 6 day self support - so 12 days will feel like a leisure cruise.
 

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When exactly?

We rowed for our allotted 15 days in May of 2013 and it felt rushed but we also had the reliable May winds. I did a Jan trip in 25 days to Diamond and that felt perfectly extravagent but it also gave us days off for deluges that happened multiple times. I know friends who have done the GC in December in 16 days-ish.

If you are within a month of the winter equinox on either end I would think 12 days could be brutally tiring and provide plenty of opportunities to compromise safety. The further from that timeline the more light you have which makes life a lot easier. Most people I know have a cutoff during the day when they will no longer run major rapids to aid with mitigating contingencies in a safe and productive manner. During the winter that can be as early as 2 or 3 pm as daylight is so compressed. That means you are at max running like 8 hours on the river a day which means you must be averaging no less than 2.5 miles an hour the entire trip (20 miles a day). And this only if you stage your camps out perfectly, which is more of an option with the few launches a day.

It can always been done it is just a matter of what you want to experience, what your threshold for safety is and the skill set you bring to the river.
 

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I rowed it in 12 days in may. I think we had 8-12k with some pretty windy days. We had a wierd schedule with a whitmore flyout so we actually had a short day at the bottom which is exactly where you dont want it. We launched early (9ish) everyday and cooked dinner in the dark often. We rowed all day, didnt hike but a couple short ones, and didnt do much lazing at the oars. I would think 12 days with any less sun would have to launch earlier (7ish) and plan on getting to camp in the dark everyday. I dont know that I would do another 12 day row trip. I definitely wouldnt do a winter trip in 12 days. We rowed hard and drank hard. Thats about all i remember from that trip. It was fun because of the crew we had but i can see it becoming a sufferfest if the crew isnt up to it. If you get the 5k-8k flow regimen and some wind it could be pretty brutal.

It can be done and is feasible if you are dedicated to getting up and on the water super early, you are ok with steadily rowing all day, and you dont care about passing attraction after attraction while the kayakers stop and check it out then catch up. If I was gonna try it, I would make sure that the food was all but done in advance and realize that you are going down there to row row row your boat and not much more. I'd have the kayakers carrying most all their own shit (figuratively and literally) as well.
 

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You may be able to do it, but I'd guess not. We did a January launch and made it in 18 days with a couple of days worth of delays/layovers. We weren't the most efficient crew, but to shave another 4 days off would be pretty damn difficult. Days are really short that time of year.
 

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I admire those self-support kayak guys. Wouldn't want to be one but they can set their own pace.
 

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12 Day Grand

You can do it, if you get up early. when I worked commercially for OARS in the 1970's we always did the trip in 13 days, no matter what the water level. I have done trips anywhere between 35,000 cfs down to 1,500 cfs in 13 days, which usually included an overnight hike up Havasu Creek, or up Tapeats Creek and over the top to Deer Creek. We typically spent a lot of time in the upper canyon, and did long days on the lower section. I can remember one long 40 mile day 12, to get to Diamond Creek by noon on the 13th day, but this was not typical. I do think that having shorter days during the winter months would make things more difficult with less daylight. Have Fun!
 

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Yes

I have been on 2 trips, both college spring breaks, first week in March.
Each time launched on a Friday, took off the following Sunday. Back to school on Monday.
1st trip, kayaks, rafts, dories
2nd trip dories, raft, catarafts

Short daylight hours, on the water by 9am, off before/at dark.
One to two hikes

Loved it, would not fear doing it again! Anything just be on the Grand again.
 

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Just about anything is doable if you want to put in that kind of effort. Why a 14' boat. It will be small as a support/gear boat for kayakers. How many passengers? How many helping you row? Are there any other rafts for support? Are you going to be expected to carry someone and their kayak possibly?

My shortest GC trip was 16 days, but we had 2 rest days. We could have reasonable done it in 12 days although the wind was pretty light. If you are looking forward to long days with little light then it sounds reasonable.

Most importantly, how is the group? How many do you know, and for how long? How much experience to they have and have you been on trips with them. If I were going with good friends I might do it. With casual acquaintances I probably wouldn't.

Either way it will be a good learning experience.
 

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Hi,

Old guy that I was (even then), I once did Lees to Diamond in 12 days. It involved a push of 40 miles from Whitmore down, on the day before Diamond. That trip was in September, with nominal winds and roughly 12 hours of solid daylight, and an hour of semi-light on either end of the day -- call it 14 hours of usable light.

Like most folks here, I'd say more is better. But if that's all the time you and your party can get off work, then some time in the Canyon is better than none.

I would note the question about boat size and consider other trip composition issues -- if only for the safety concerns that arise, and which are even more acute in the winter, when there are far fewer folks down there to help you if you run into trouble.
FWIW.

Rich Phillipz
 

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Of course you can make it!

If 12 days is what you've got it's what you've got. You will get a late start on the first day and probably need to finish early on your last day. I've made two winter trips and a March trip - I think you'll be fine. You'll hit your stride on day 2 or 3 and everything will seem normal from then on. Your biggest challenge will likely be weather and or broken boats. You won't have much margin but I'll bet that becomes part of your story when it's all said and done - good luck - don't listen to the naysayers - it's the GFC.
 

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The only bummer there is your friends in kayaks will be all smiles with plenty of time to surf & hike. Chances are you'll be kinda whooped pulling into camp. Do you not kayak? Thats a chill schedule for kayak self support. As mentioned above, 13 day commercial oar trips happen all the time. I think OU does 12 nights to Separation. I will say, those OU guides usually look pretty tired by the end. The biggest factor is getting on the water efficiently each day. Hopefully if you're bringing an oar boat on a kayak centric trip, they need and want you in an oar boat. That way they'll help you break down & load all that rafting gear you bring. It could be demoralizing rigging a frozen raft each day while the kayakers cram a few drybags in their boats and slip into the water.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Some boxes must wait

Thanks for all the replys and insightful info. The trip is at the end of January so the amount of sun is definitely a big worry. I just dont think there will be enough light to cover the miles I'll need to cover. Also I think i'd either hold up the group or i'd have alot of 1 on 1 time with the Canyon every day as the long boats fly down stream. Also, as a few of you have pointed out, I worry about the safety aspect with the 14' boat.
So I guess I'll have to paddle the Tornado down again. And I say that almost wholeheartedly. Because even though I loved my first trip paddling down in the ol' Prijon, I told myself as we flew out of Flag on Christmas Eve that next time I'll have; sunshine, oars in my hands and will be floating on rubber taken my time. It's been a dream of mine to row the Canyon for over a decade. I just need to be patient and cultivate more rafting friends:) One day i'll be able to check that box and I cant wait.
Thanks again for your help guys!
 

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Thanks for all the replys and insightful info. The trip is at the end of January so the amount of sun is definitely a big worry. I just dont think there will be enough light to cover the miles I'll need to cover. Also I think i'd either hold up the group or i'd have alot of 1 on 1 time with the Canyon every day as the long boats fly down stream. Also, as a few of you have pointed out, I worry about the safety aspect with the 14' boat.
So I guess I'll have to paddle the Tornado down again. And I say that almost wholeheartedly. Because even though I loved my first trip paddling down in the ol' Prijon, I told myself as we flew out of Flag on Christmas Eve that next time I'll have; sunshine, oars in my hands and will be floating on rubber taken my time. It's been a dream of mine to row the Canyon for over a decade. I just need to be patient and cultivate more rafting friends:) One day i'll be able to check that box and I cant wait.
Thanks again for your help guys!
You're probably making the right decision here. It really is worth taking your time and seeing the sights. Good luck getting on future trips.
 
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