Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grand Canyon -- Day 3

27 September -- The Roaring Twenties

Today was a day of Kayak Carnage!
We started at the 18.5 mile ledges, a great camp site with entertaining interplay of the moonlight playing on the cliffs above. Floating through the boulder narrows was interesting, seeing the > 40 year-old driftwood at the top of the large rock gave me a respect for the amount of water that flowed here when the river was wild.
From Grand Canyon Day 3

First on the agenda of the day was North Canyon Rapid. We got backed up behind the private group from Oregon and a commercial trip so we had to wait our turn. It was a fun run with a nice long wave train. The camp in the eddy below would be a really nice spot. Next was 21 Mile, my log says I can't remember...must not have been notable. Indian Dick Rapid (23 -), well marked by the phallic pinnacle on river right, had pour-overs left and right with large lateral waves. 23.5 - rapid, my notes say run the right channel. We ended up not scouting 24-mile rapid, bigger than expected, Michael flipped and rolled back up.
From Grand Canyon Day 3

We stopped for lunch at 24.5-mile r. Dan caught a trout here. We scouted the rapid and were awed by how tight and sharp the turn is. While setting up to run I watched Tim ride the crest of the guard wave above the big hole at the base of the rapid. He seemed like he was on the skyline for a long time. Everyone got through this just fine. In short order we were at 25-mile rapid, big waves, hole in this rapid was pretty easy to miss. Big Eddy below, it took me three tries to break free and get back into current.

Since we are now in the Redwall Limestone, caves, alcoves, and springs are starting to appear. Some larger cave were explored by some of the Kayakers on river left at 26 0r 26.5 mile. Tiger Wash Rapid (27 mile)was straight forward at the beginning, with huge waves, but the hydraulics below on river right are tremendous. I had a tube of the raft sucked almost under, and tried to wave the kayakers behind to go left, but it was too late. Dan M., Erin, and David all had long scary swims. It took awhile to sort out all the boats, boaters, and paddles.
From Grand Canyon Day 3

29-mile rapid was easy. We camped at Shinumo Wash, a large camp with the kitchen area on a ledge of sand just below a cliff of Redwall Limestone. While writing in my journal a golf-ball sized chunk of limestone bounced off of an un-occupied chair next to Sam, and hit my headlamp and head, knocking off my glasses, and kind of surprising me! Initially I had though that Sam had tossed a rock at me to look at without warning, but then after recovering from our shock we figured out what had happened. It was a good thing that the chair had been unoccupied!

Time and distance are starting to make our exchange at Phantom Ranch look tight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grand Canyon -- Day 2, House Rock Rapid

September 26

Jackass Camp to 18-1/2 mile ledges.

Soap Creek Rapid was a little more challenging, yet there was no excitement (carnage) here. We stopped for lunch just above Shearwall Rapid on ledges of the Supai Group. There were shadowed overhangs, clear deep water for swimming, and lots of trout. Scott caught three and some of the rest of us had a lot of sport. We all kept cool in the water and shade. The kayakers started the seal-launch tradition. The canyon here was deep, and required lots of active rowing and paddling all day; it was little tiring with the hot weather.

Near the end of the day we arrived at House Rock Rapid, the first of the "big" rapids. We had all understood that this rapid of all, would be most difficult at the lower water that we had at the steady 8Kcfs discharge from the Glen Canyon Dam. Once we saw the rapid, we all understood what the difficulty was about. All the water was getting shoved by the debris fan on river right into a curving and broken rock-fall and cliff on the left. Guidebooks and advice from professional guides were not helpful, some said "scout right" some said "scout left" however, all emphasized moving from left to right to break through the lateral waves on the right to avoid getting shoved into the ledge hole and then the second hole on the left in the bend. That was all well and good, but the right side was really bony, with lots of rocks at this water level. These rafts were loaded more heavy than any thing I had ever tried to maneuver in any moving water.

The suggested strategy for us neophyte oarsmen was to start on the left side of the tongue and to row or pull (facing upstream)in a down stream ferry (meaning crossing the current at an angle) to hit the laterals below the worst of the shallow rocks, and then spin to face the holes head on, which we were going to inevitably go through. That was the plan, I had my landmarks selected, and committed the plan to my head. So the kayakers went, with not much problem; Michael and Tim as the probes did fine, Jim paddled through fine, but flipped and swam in the tailwaves, Erin did a 360 but stayed upright in the hole, Dan flipped but pulled off a roll. I followed Sam, I didn't see his run. I started in on the line that I had picked. However, everything accelerated. Suddenly I knew that I was not making the ferry, nor was I going to be able to spin the boat to face the hole, so I did my best to line up on the hole backwards...I think that I did okay, but as soon as I hit that hole the raft stopped, tilted upstream and spun counterclockwise all in one sharp movement. Before you read that last sentence I was ejected (according to eyewitnesses I did a great forward flip) almost taking the left oar with me, I tried to grab the lifelines and missed but grabbed the blade of the right oar as I hit the water, and so hung on to the raft through the two holes. Once out of the worst of the rapid I tried to climb back in the raft and couldn't; after some moments of frantic effort, Michael appeared with his kayak and lent his bow as a platform to to allow me to re-board. After watching Sam and I try the recommended maneuver, Dan Solie and Max opted for taking the whole thing on straight away, and made it through without any further drama. Dan M. and Andy have excellent accounts of the House Rock "experience(carnage)". House Rock was a humbling experience, knowing full well that there were at least 10 more rapids with this difficulty or grater, and lots of miles to row, I hoped that I had learned something.

We camped at 18-1/2 mile ledges in a busy eddy with a line that is hard to make in a heavy raft, if you plan to camp here, be prepared to hit the eddy line high. There is an interesting interplay between the cool downstream breeze and the warm side-canyon wind; one moment you are chilly and putting on clothes the next you are HOT!. Very nice camp.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grand Canyon -- Day 1

25 September -- Lee's Ferry to Jackass Camp

12:00 noon start, kind of like a normal Alaska river trip, at the "crack o' noon". But we've got lots of excuses. The ranger briefing show was delayed because of the other private group that was launching, one of their party left their ID at the South Rim. I'm really glad that our trip leaders Andy and Wendy kept reminding us: "Do you have your ID?". Two most important parts of this trip: PFD, forget the food, camera, clothes or anything else just remember your ID&PFD (at least the PFD has real world consequences; if you are not wearing you will sink in the river). The water here is cold, it comes out of the bottom of the spillway Glen Canyon Dam at a less than refreshing 50 degrees F.

Finally we were rigged, and we started down the river, 4 rafts, 6 kayaks, one inflatable canoe and one inflatable kayak and 15 souls. We floated our way down into the Kaibab Limestone, descending into the Permian age.
Click on photo to enlargeFrom Grand Canyon Day 1
We lunched at 2 mile (number of river miles below Lee's Ferry), just above Cathedral Wash. Lots of locals were fishing the banks along the first mile or so.
Click on photo to enlargeFrom Grand Canyon Day 1

After floating under the Navajo Bridge we crossed the base of the Kaibab Limestone and floated down into the Coconino Sandstone, a red cliff and slope formation ; the upper part was planar bedded with thin beds or red sandstone alternating with shale, perhaps laid by a river near the Permian coast. There were also lenses and beds of thicker cross-bedded sandstone that appear to be fossilized sand dunes.
Click on photo to enlargeFrom Grand Canyon Day 1

Badger Rapid culminated our day. Pretty much a straight forward read and run with a rock/hole/pourover on right-center and boulder garden on left. Ran tongue favoring right and downstream ferry right to meet lateral waves head on. Tail waves were surprising. (In retrospect...I give my rowing abilities too much credit here, the river has much in store for us!)