Three days of wilderness paddling, Moose, Elk, Swimmers, Sieves, waterfalls and the A Team crew, has been added to my list of amazing outdoor excursions and has certainly formed long lasting memories of adventure.
With nearly peak flows and plenty of cocky testosterone, Jared Jonson decided that the long anticipated Pinos weekend had arrived. We decided to plan for the trip in typical laid back kayaker style. We got our paddling fix in the morning and headed for some climbing in the early afternoon. Knowing that we still needed to buy food, drive 4 hours and find a willing paddling crew, we promptly arrived back in town by 6pm and motivated to put things together and in motion.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought we would be rolling out of town by 7:30pm and getting a good nights sleep before the 7 mile hike in. However after raiding City Market, getting our gear together and motivating Brad Higginbotham, Scot Baker, Ben Stokesbarry, Lizzy and Raffa to join the team, we were sluggishly departing Durango some late hour after dark when you’ve simply given up caring.
Finally getting to bed with the moon falling rather then rising.
The fallowing morning, bummed that we had more miles of hiking in front of us then we had of sleep, the boats were slowing being loaded with all our multi-day necessities. Annie’s Tuna Mack, sleeping bags, whiskey, and various other goods, such as the B.J.M.
Unfortunately the other half of the crew were a little off from their anticipated arrival time. After several hours of waiting Brad Hanganbothem decided to urinate a finishing line in the middle of the road with the hope that our other frinds would arrive before it dried back to its dusty state.
Around 2 O clock the crew had been assembled and we embarked on the hike taking us from the Rio Grand reservoir, over Weminuche Pass and into the headwaters of the Pinos River.
With the Sun just hanging high enough we found enough water to begin our 25+ mile paddle to Lemon reservoir.
Soon after beginning our late afternoon paddle we found ourselves barreling through a small, manky miny gorge without the key ingredient, “eddies.” This quickly led to two pinned paddlers, a simmer and a cracked boat. A unanimous vote led to finding camp 1 and telling rumors of what one believed to find in the rarely explored whitewater to come.
Beginning day 2 at camp 1.
Lizzy throwing downs her mad boofing style day two
Towards the end of day 2 we reached the rumored “first gorge,” which really isn’t much of a gorge but rather one burly section of whitewater. The holes were looking meaty and drops stout, so the idea was thrown out to camp and hope for lower water in the morning. However with Brad’s solid energy and our confidence in paddling with each other, we couldn't’t let the opportunity to probe the Penos’s inner depths pass.
Loaded boats make the best hole bashing battering rams, myself surviving drop 1 of 4
Photo Scot Baker
Drop 2 had a good old, sticky ledge hole that had both Brad and I digging for freedom.
Photo Scot Baker
Drop 3 was a killer supper boof that lead into one of the biggest holes on the run. Yet by this point we where so jacked up on adrenaline, the safety was sweet, swim lines chill and it was no time to hold back. I found myself swimming out of this one, followed by Brad stomping the line and showing everyone how to get’er done.
Camp 2 was found a short walk down stream and was well beyond the word “amazing.”
Side hikes and relaxation filled the remaining afternoon.
With the start of day 3 almost everyone found a little chunk of action in the first gorge.
Jared firing up the first d on a drop just upstream of our put in from the night before.
Ben on the first drop of his 3rd day. One hell of a warm up.
Jared stomping the last drop of the section.
Rafa in one of many drops following the first gorge section.
By the Time we made it through this large section of whitewater it was around 3pm on the 3rd day and we still had another burly gorge section and 15ish miles of water between us and our PBR’s basking in the blistering head of the shuttle rig. Jarred, Lizzy, Been and Rafa were in no rush and decided to find camp 3 before the last gorge. Brad, Scot and I needed to be back to work the following day so we embarked and an afternoon endurance run of the remaining miles.
With so little time for scouting and portaging I think we where all tweaking out on adrenaline as we closed the gap between our shaking fingers and the warm waiting love of the PBR.
With the lack of time very few photos where taken of this section, except for this one by Mr. Baker, of myself and the goods in the lower gorge.
Photo: Scot Baker
The rest of the crew had an amazing day finishing the run on day 4 with no time restraints. This was one vary worthy mission in the San Juans and I would highly recommend it to anyone.