anybody have any experience with lodore at 850cfs? taking a 16' cat down to split mountain next week. aside from the cold....what's to watch out for in triplet, disaster and hell's? thanks for any info.
Never done a November Lodore trip before -- 850 is low, but doable (especially in a cat).
I seem to recall Disaster Falls (middle and lower) being the most difficult at really low flows. There's one spot in particular between upper and middle where everyone gets hung up (and easily off).
The dangerous section, in my mind, is the final drop along the river-right wall at/below lower disaster. Stay to the extreme river left. There's a huge shallow eddy on the left before the drop. You'll see the undercut wall on the right. The current is misleading and various channels drop you right into an undercut. I've seen many wedged rafts in there over the years. We (local commercial guides) used to call it "Miwok Wall".
Triplet is boney near the top and middle but fine because the current is moving so slow. Don't worry about getting too far against the wall at the bottom before making the move down the chute -- it's not pushy at low flows. Stay in the current and away from the shallow rocks along the right (upper section) and left (middle and lower sections), which will only screw you up.
Hells is fine, too. Definitely try to stay left at the first big sloping rock (Hippo rock? Satan's?). If you go right, you'll park it just downstream on a ledge. The problem lies in the lower middle section of Hells. Look for the middle line and visualize water flowing around all those rocks. Somehow, you'll make it through.
The times I've done Lodore at low water with cats, we spent a lot of time pulling them off rocks while the SB rafts had very little trouble. Its good that you'll pack as lightly as you can for starters and resist the temptation to bring the kitchen sink - that's what got us in trouble on one trip.
In my experience:
Disaster itself should be OK, then there's the 1/4 mile long rock garden below it that will be a challange. Keep an eye out for Miwot Wall - it is treacherous and an easy trap to fall into.
Triplett - you'll have to thread a rock garden above triplet - that's where you'll run the risk of getting hung up. You should spend more time scouting the rock garden than Triplett itself... Triplett is a relatively easy move if you're set up ok coming into it. Just be ready to pull to the left. There are a couple of rocks below Triplett that can hang you up also.
Hell's Half Mile - Here's where I disagree with Gard_nerd. Run right of Lucifer's Rock (the big rock in mid-channel after the first drop) at low water. The move to the left is much more difficult to make than it appears and I've only seen a master oarsman (in a 14' raft) and micro-cats make this move to the left. It's a simple matter of going with the flow/momentum to make the right side run at Lucifer's Rock. Then you've got another rock garden to thread below HHM.
Its been my experiences on Lodore with cats at low water that have convinced me I want to stay with self-bailing rafts. Rafts distribute the weight across a broad area so they draft a lot shallower. Cats put all that load on two parallel tubes that draft deep and tend to hang up on rocks.
If you go through Split Mtn. there are rock gardens to thread there also.
Good luck and travel light!
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