Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Southwestern Colorado Classics Part 1

Box canyons, granite gorges, and huge boulders characterize the rivers of southwest Colorado, making for some great whitewater. Click for hi-res images.

Scouting a steep box canyon on the way to Durango. It contained tight steepness with a couple impressive falls and at least one hideous rapid. Is it runnable?

Watching a rainbow hang over a roadside hundred foot slide that drops off the face.

I spent some time in the Vail area during the Teva games, the highlite of which was running Gore Canyon at just under 3 grand. Big water fun. Click HERE to see a vid of Gore being ran even higher.

Then I hopped down to meet up with Scotty Baker and some other Durango boys and started on the 1st Gorge of Lime Creek - epicness was sure to ensue. This is an awesome run through slot canyons and granite gorges with class IV boogy and 3 class Vs. The crew lived up to their name as "The Clown Posse"... First, the posse was a couple hours late because their buddy got arrested for an old warrant. Then on the way to the put-in Dan got a flat tire on this super rocky old road... Luckily after a couple miles on this heinous road riding on a rim, we made it to a putin. First up was Adrenaline falls - pretty much a crap shoot. Boof or plug a six foot ledge and try to keep a little left angle down a 2 foot wide slot almost 20 ft. tall. Out of 4 of us 2 skirts blew so me and Dan swam. 50/50 is pretty standard on this one. Next major rapid was S-Turn. Dan surfed a hole just above the rapid and rolled up just in time to plug the right side - not where you want to be! After a valiant surf with several window shades he swam S-Turn, a gorged up powerful steep rapid. His boat was long gone. Dragon's Back is the last major drop and went well, and luckily Dan's boat was breached by the takeout. Dan was bruised and battered from having to climb/jump/scramble/swim out of the canyon, but luckily back at his house there was a keg, beer pong, and ladies waiting.

Our next (mis)adventure lay just over an hour south of Durango - the West Fork San Juan. A 3 mile hike in rewards kayakers with a paddle through a thousand+ foot granite gorge down some steep and clean class V. Baker, Steaves, and I hiked in the three miles hoping to be rewarded for our efforts. Upon arriving at the first rapid, Triple Boof Shuffle, we found it to be juicing and rising fast as the afternoon was progressing. A maximum recommended flow is around 500cfs and we were looking at the 800-1000 range with a deep brown water. The river was bankful and flushing very fast. The scarce eddies were lined with willows and any mistake was sure to result in a bad time. We decided our chances weren't very good for keeping our boats if we proceeded so we bushwacked upstream, ferried across, and hiked out the 3 miles. Darn! A wasted day of paddling and over 6 miles of hiking with a 50 pound boat. Good practice for the Los Pinos hiking trip though - more on that later.

With Scotty headed to Cali, I cruised up to Rockwood to meet back up with partner in crime Eli Loper and his friend, another CO native son, Sean Vierling. We set the shuttle in Rockwood and cruised up to Silverton to crash out and put on the next day for our marathon of paddling on the Upper Animas. The Upper A is 25 miles of class IV-IV+ with a couple Vs and is one of the funnest runs I've ever done. Awesome scenery and big water with no flatwater - just big wave trains and hole dodging for miles and miles. Stupid, silly fun. Futalafeu style wave trains for miles - and you can bite off as much of big holes as you want. 6-12 foot waves and holes are commonplace, stupid fun. Pretty much hole/wave dodging and punching for miles and miles. The amazing scenery and snowcapped peaks around every bend in the river made it that much sweeter.

The combination of bedrock and big boulders in the area make for high quality rapids.

Eli doing some bouldering during a safety break.

Eli dwarfed by No Name Rapid, a maw of big water features.

Good scenery abounds at every turn.

Walking the plank.

A fine gentleman named John Ickes gave us a ride in a train car back to our car, saving us over a mile of hiking - nice!

Checking out the Rockwood Box from the train car.

Sean earning our keep and switching the tracks over.

"Dude, we didn't have to hike... High-five!"

Typical SW Colorado scenery.

Ickes is a part-owner of the Olde Schoolhouse which is the best pizza and beer joint in SW Colorado. It's also on the way back to Silverton from Rockwood, so make sure to stop there and check it out.

Full moon risin'.

This is why I love SW Colorado.

While in Silverton, South Mineral Creek is a must hit for any class V creeker. Rumors of crystal clear water, a few slides and drops, and a clean 20 foot waterfall turned out to be all true.

Up around 10,000 ft. there's still quite a bit of snow on the ground.

Dog-friendly park and huck. Look closely for the boater in the picture to see the absolute magnitude of the area.

Scouting the gorge with a big waterfall up the hill.

The boys scouting the exit of the gorge - a twisting drop into a cauldron.

Eli on the 20 footer.

Sean dropping the 20.

Baker with the 20 footer in the background.

Eli slidin' his way down the gorge.

Scotty catchin' some boof after the gorge.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Southwestern Colorado Classics


Anonymous said...

Looks like a good flippin time man!


Rosie said...

Wow, that's just beyond words!