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Discussion Starter #1
My only whitewater experience is Class 3 in a huge raft on a guided tour... in other words, I have no whitewater experience.

I want to cross a local creek that's flowing at 400 CFS and about 6' max depth (ie, it's too deep for waders). Is there a reasonable way to cross it in an inflatable?

I'm hoping someone with experience can advise me

  1. Is this a reasonable idea?
  2. What training should I undertake (if any) before attempting this?
  3. What is my best bet for a reasonably-priced one-man raft for me and 30 lbs of gear? (This is next to the road, so weight is not an issue.)
If it matters, this is for Clear Creek canyon west of Golden Colorado.
 

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Jake,

It sounds like you're considering crossing Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon. Depending on where you go, you are considering a potentially fatal swim in ice-cold water in anywhere between Class II and Class V rapids. If you've never swam a rapid, it's easy to underestimate the power of moving water and swimming that kind of water is strongly discouraged even with the proper gear.

You may want to check out packrafts. These open up a whole new world for hikers. Otherwise, you may be able to arrange a ferry across with some boaters in a raft.

Good luck and be safe,

-AH
 

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Are you looking for hidden treasure?

With this year's "snowpack", if you wait a couple weeks, the river bed will probably be burning along with the rest of the state so time your adventure carefully. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Jake,

It sounds like you're considering crossing Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon. Depending on where you go, you are considering a potentially fatal swim in ice-cold water in anywhere between Class II and Class V rapids. If you've never swam a rapid, it's easy to underestimate the power of moving water and swimming that kind of water is strongly discouraged even with the proper gear.

You may want to check out packrafts. These open up a whole new world for hikers. Otherwise, you may be able to arrange a ferry across with some boaters in a raft.

Good luck and be safe,

-AH
Hey Andy! Thanks so much for the reply.

I'm a strong swimmer (NCAA collegiate swimmer) and I've done Pumphouse to the State Bridge in an innertube and no PFD, but I'd like to think I'm smarter now. In any case, if I thought I was going to end up swimming in Clear Creek, there's no way I'd do it given the hazards... like you said, water temps mean quick hypothermia along with rocks, strainers, etc.

There are some pretty slow-moving areas along the creek right now with no exposed rocks, so it looks pretty tame if you pick your spot, but I'm pretty naive and inexperienced so I could be deluding myself.

I've looked at packrafts, but they seem to be targeting the low-weight crowd where this isn't an issue for me since I'm driving up to the creek. I could use something a lot bigger and more robust if that increased my safety. Also, I wouldn't mind a motorized-pump for inflation.

To your last point: how would I go about arranging for a ferry across from a company? I could call a rafting outfit that does Clear Creek, but I worry about scheduling the trip back... getting stranded would suck.

(There is a cable tyrolean about a mile-downstream, if all else fails I guess.)
 

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Came to the right place;

What you are describing, does not sound like a good idea at your skill level. Early flows this time of year on Clear Creek are very dangerous, the fast and extremely cold water, along with rocks and boulders that brake fingers, wrists, arms, legs, heads etc. when propelled into them, is not a good mix of conditions. I pissed on an electric fence one time and for two weeks my girlfriend asked if there was something wrong with our relationship, I said there sure is, I did something really stupid.
 

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Not only are you likely to lose your life, more importantly, you might lose your rack of climbing gear. I assume that is why you want to cross Clear Ck.

Everyone is expressing appropriate concern for a reason.

With appropriate practice, in an appropriate boat(not a blue light special), at the appropriate location; what you are asking about is not out of the question. Accept for the lack of background in whitewater, you sound very competent and it should not take long for you develop the skill and river sense that will permit you to do what you want to do.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everyone for the comments. I realize you are not expressing concern to put me down or denigrate my abilities, but rather to encourage a responsible and safe (as possible) approach.

I found a ferry spot along the creek today that looks really tame: huge eddys on both sides and a deep slow center. But of course I realize I'm probably being dumb thinking it's "easy" to cross there. And the runout is terrible: if I tried to cross and got pushed downstream, it immediately becomes Class 5 which would be... bad.

---

Current Plan: I'm really psyched about this. My current plan (no pun) is to find a kayaking expert (how hard could this be in Colorado?) and hire her/him to help me find an appropriate boat, then spend a few hours with me on slow water and then finally do this crossing with me if/when I'm ready.

Question: Where is a good place to hire such a guide/teacher? Are these forums appropriate?
 

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Discussion Starter #9

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Discussion Starter #11
So what's the hurry? Just wait a month and wade across. Or is that too much common sense for everyone?
The creek is currently at 450 cfs. Next month, if we follow historic patterns, it will be double that. At peak, it will hit 1500-1600 cfs in midsummer, and won't get down to 100 cfs (which is where I feel safe wading the creek) until September.

https://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/uv?cb_00060=on&cb_00065=on&format=gif_default&site_no=06719505&period=365&begin_date=2017-07-25&end_date=2018-05-21
 

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Obviously, first ascent fever? Just looking at a beautiful crag with no recorded first ascents results in uncontrollable urges. Been there, been afflicted.

Jake, I suggest that you go into Golden River Sports or Confluence Kayaks and ask about developing your paddling skills. They can put you in touch with a kayak school. Renaissance is one that I'm familiar with and is excellent. In that school, in a few weekends, you will learn all of the basic strokes and most of the river sense necessary to cross a creek safely at a location you describe(sedate). Who knows, perhaps a new affliction may result. As they used to say, "Old climbers don't die, they just paddle away."

I suggest for a boat that you purchase what is called a ducky, aka inflatable kayak. Very, very stable. A boat that I would recommend is not as cheap as you might like. Paying for a decent ducky might cool your jets a bit. Getting a less than decent one might be next to the last bad decision you ever make. Putting it in the water and pushing off the bank might be your last.

Of course you will need a paddle. I strongly recommend a helmet but your climbing helmet would be adequate. I suggest a dry bag for your gear.

Developing your skills and purchasing the appropriate gear is what you need to do, similar to your experience in climbing I assume. Once you get your boat, take it to a few places for practice runs and especially ferrying practice.

However, as Griz suggests. It won't be long before the river will be trickle, especially this year. However, wading a river at the wrong location with a pack on ones back has resulted in many body recoveries.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks so much Ron!

I posted yesterday that I had contacted Renaissance and was scheduling a lesson with a guide who would drive out to the crossing with me and help me assess, plus learn some skills and advise on a ducky to purchase.

But my last two posts haven't shown up here, awaiting mod attention, perhaps due to the fact they had links (the first was a link to Renaissance, the second to USGS river data). Or it may be that I'm posting too much for a newbie and the site doesn't like it.

In any case, I think I'm in good hands now... thanks gents!

P.S. The post with USGS data was noting that the flow on Clear Creek remains high through August, historically, so waiting a month would probably not be a strategy.
 

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I'd encourage you to be mindful of how your decisions may impact other folks.

You have a whole thread of seasoned and trained professionals who are trying to, in the nicest way possible, tell you that this is not a great idea/decision.

Just remember, if something were to happen, will you have a friend/safety there who will be forced into a rescue situation. Will this friend have the adequate skills to assist? If no friend, do you have the skills to act in a self rescue?

What about Search and Rescue? While they are professionals and may have the skills to assist, I am sure participating in a rescue that can result in bodily injury or death isn't very high on their list of things they want out of their shift. And I'm quite certain that participating in body recoveries are even lower on that priority list.

There's that age old saying, Don't know, don't go.

Good luck on getting your education, and just know, turning around is always an option and never something to be embarrassed about.
 

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P.S. The post with USGS data was noting that the flow on Clear Creek remains high through August, historically, so waiting a month would probably not be a strategy.
Historically , we don't have such a low, shitty snowpack, too.

Seems like allot of fuss and expense over something you can wade or take a stupid $5 inner tube over with a little patience.

Anyway, good luck finding your buried treasure, dude.
 

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Yeah ,it seems like you, and others giving advice,are making this out to be much more dangerous and difficult than is necessary.If you are a climber and ex- collegiate swimmer ,then I would think you are fit and have a high fear threshold.The only real skills you need are,good judgement on where to cross and understanding eddies and ferrying.The creek ain't that wide .Even on Black Rock there are class 2 spots.I saved a lady's dog that was stuck on the other side of the creek once right below Black Rock rapid(V).I was just looking at the rapid ,on the way home from an upstream run.The lady saw a ducky sticking out of my vehicle and recruited me to get the lab.The dog was pretty cooperative until I let go of him and tried to exit the eddy,he would jump out back onto the same bank.Finally,I just threw the dog out into the deep current while the lady called him eenthusiasically .He swam and ferried perfectly and caught the eddy slightly downstream like a slalom champion.The dog and owner were very happily reunited.All the dog had to do was overcome fear and do what comes naturally.The crossing is not that hard.Use a drybag with extra air trapped in it as a flotation device ,wear a life jacket and good shoes.Don't do it above dangerous rapids.You could use an innertube .Go tubing on something easier and practice ferrying.You only have to cover a short distance look for a place with one or more eddies on the other side and put in a little upriver.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks Cayo. Of course I felt like this shouldn't be that hard, but so many people telling me I'm gonna die has given me pause.

This is the crossing I picked out: huge eddys on opposite banks, but a deep channel in the middle. It's at most 25' across the creek, and the moving part of the water is maybe 8' across. It probably goes Class 3 immediately downstream of this however.
 

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I am not trying to encourage anybody to do anything foolhardy .That looks very doable to me,easier than I had even envisioned.You mentioned a cable,the only one I know of on C C is right by Double Knife rapid,the best rapid on the Kermit's to 119 run( you definitely don't want to swim that).Is this photo in the stretch just above it?Swimming across at the water level shown in the picture looks easy,but it looks like it would be pushier there at high fows.
 

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Get the IK. Wear a pfd and tie your gear to the boat. Rent a couple models for your first few crossings until you ID which boat you like. They have a quick learning curve and are very stable. Practice ferrying a few times in flatter water downstream before you head up the canyon.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I am not trying to encourage anybody to do anything foolhardy .That looks very doable to me,easier than I had even envisioned.You mentioned a cable,the only one I know of on C C is right by Double Knife rapid,the best rapid on the Kermit's to 119 run( you definitely don't want to swim that).Is this photo in the stretch just above it?Swimming across at the water level shown in the picture looks easy,but it looks like it would be pushier there at high fows.
Lol, yup, I'm amazed you recognized that from one picture!

This is about 1 mile upstream from the cable tyrolean (which is just west of Tunnel 2). It's right where the "6" badge is on the map below.
 

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