So as Stafford and Cutch put it, "Sometimes even the best get beat." I make no claims at being the best, but I sure did get beat this year. I haven't previously given a written account even though many people have pestered me about it, so here it goes:
I organized a BOX trip on the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone. I personally rank the Box in my top three all-time runs. The place is unbelievable. If you have the skills to pay the bills, you must go, no questions. So we dropped in - the gauge was reading an optimal 1100, but the flow was definitely low side of good due to irrigation removals messing with the gauge. We made our way to Balls to the Wall. I have to admit that I wasn't really feeling it, but I wanted to run the rapid so bad. It's like Double Trouble on the Big South. It's burly, consequential and yet the line is so aesthetic that I'd been dreaming about it for a year after walking it the first go-round. Basically, you drop in and try to keep your balls right next to a 2,000ft wall raising straight out of the river. It's impossible to photograph the scope of it. I dropped and chickened away from the wall by just a couple feet. It was enough to catch my edge and careen off a steep mank pile at the bottom of the rapid. I thought I felt my boat chalk upside down between two tight rocks, panicked and pulled. Rookie mistake for someone running a drop of this magnitude. I came up in the tight pool and Michael Phelps-ed at a rock in the middle of the river. My boat and paddle continued down into the extremely sieved out and solid class V Lower Balls rapid. Here's the predicament: I'm now standing on a rock in the middle of the river. River left is cliffed out 2,000+ ft until below Lower Balls. Swimming the sieved out Lower Balls from the top definitely had the potential to leave me under-water for a long time, like weeks. River right is cliffed out above and below Balls by 2,000+ ft with no egress. The time is 5 pm in deep in the Wyoming wilderness. I can get to river right, but it more or less guarantees spending the night with nothing and waiting for SAR in the morning. Tom and Eric Parker come out to the rock with me. We convince Tom to paddle down the left bank and climb precipitously out on an ominous rock. Tom asks if the plan B slot left of the rock will go. Eric and I shrug our shoulders and say, "Think so," but we really had no idea. Tom makes the move. The plan B slot definitely did not go and would have left Tom vertically pinned with absolutely no help. We then roped Tom's boat and paddle back up to my rock. I make the same move. Then using some crazy rope work and mank boating skills, combined with several short swims I was able to skip from sieve to sieve through the rapid to the spit of land on river left. Now we're at 7 pm. I start running down the bank to reach the hike-out point and avoid spending the night. I probably make 4 more swims around various cliffed out points. We made it, no sight of my boat. The next day, I'm shuttle bunny. A group behind us found my boat and paddle the following day. It had apparently spent the entire night underwater. Lessons: trust your gut, check your ego, always rally with heavy hitters. Thanks to Tom for not only getting me out, but also going back in after dark and helping to hike my boat and gear straight up out of the Box. Since my camera was destroyed, here's some vintage photos of last year by Alex Clayton:
Me Deep Sixing with Barry Boher setting safety
Ben Cophitorn on Calendar Falls. The Box is DEEP!
The must run Deliberation Corner
So after a multi-day pants crapping mission like that one, it's nice to get out on a little boozing mission with 26 of your closest friends. The fall Westwater trip is a must-do annual for me.
Chris Menges and the first ever River Pom, Willa, getting it done on the SUP. I was recently asked if I thought SUPping was a fad. All I can say is that I love it. The SUP makes class I a great adventure.
"I'm on a Boat, I'm a boat, take a good hard look cause I'm sailing on a boat"
One of the best things about Westy is the great hikes:
...and that you can bring your lovely lady
But never worry. I couldn't possibly finish off a season sippin on Santana champ - even though it is so crisp. So, again we rallied the boys and set off to the Black Canyon. Marty was so stoked that he bought a chocolate silk creme pie for the drive.
A Black trip is never complete without contacting Captain Black himself. Tragically, he was busted up from dirt biking. So, for a 30 rack of PBRs he put on his tightest pants and shuttle bunny shirt.
Mike Hagadorn dropping in...
And sticking it smooth
Marty knows how to get down with the gnar... when he's not showing the Jackson Rec fleet!
Yeah, it's deep
Here's me in my Black boat reaching for the boof in the Black
After pulling into camp, Mike and I caught a couple fishies, threw them on the grill with tomatos, onions, limes, and salsa for fish tacos. Cave camp rules.
The next morning Mike's boat broke. Large quantities of bitchathane is an absolute necessity for any over-night mission of this magnitude. Here's the boys piecing her back together at beach camp:
And Mike sorting out the sieve maze of Sieve City
Finally, we have proved that locking gas caps are worthless. Here's Brodene busting off his cap with a hammer after leaving the key on a pump in Denver. Bummer, but it didn't manage to ruin any part of the trip.
All-in-all, it was one hellva summer. I managed to spend over 20 nights on the river bank.
This being a CKS blog, I did want to endorse a couple of products that make overnighters much better/easier. Have no fear, anything I list here meets my 5-star approval rating and I am very abusive to gear. Click on any of them to get the CKS specs.
Big Agnes air mattresses are the only way to roll because they are comfortable, light and super compact.
Get a down sleeping bag and compression sack - this should end up being no bigger than a Nalgene in the back of your boat.
Kokatat GMER drysuit
- it's bone dry so you don't have to bring a change of clothes, saving weight and room.
Bitchathane - you will break boats and still need to paddle them, this is the only way.
Lendal Breakdown - far and away the best breakdown, worth the money to your buddy who's non-Werner just broke.
IR Union Suit
- for cold days it's super comfy and without all the bulk
NRS Kayak pack
- it does require a little TLC, but does the job 100% better than pool toys and cam straps
s - they have a grab loop inside on the front bulkhead which makes portaging 93.2% easier and helps control the boat on your should to keep crashes to a minimum.
Astral chest rope
- I always wear a rope so if you swim, you're not totally helpless to still help your buddies. Please always carry a full size rope also. If I didn't, I very well may have watched a friend drown on a small low volume creek this summer. As is, my 75ft rope just barely made the toss and pulled him out.
....JR FrontRanger... over 'n out