Whitewater Blog

ACA Swiftwater Rescue L4

What a great weekend we had at 4 Corners Whitewater with our ACA Swiftwater Rescue L4 Skills Course. The sun was out shining as we took to the river for lots of swimming and throw bag practice. Other topics covered included wading, mechanical advantage systems, tyrolean, v-lowers, stabilization/cinch lines and more.

Everyone had a chance to show off their new skills during some scenario practice at the end of the day on Sunday. Look for our next ACA Swiftwater course next year.

Upper Animas Training Trip

This Sunday we headed to the Upper Animas for a training and scouting mission. We did the Upper Animas Marathon trip from Silverton to Tacaoma (24 miles of whitewater in one day!). The river was running about 700cfs below Silverton and about 1900cfs at Tall Timber. The day was filled with sunshine, whitewater and amazing waterfalls visible from the river.

Waterfalls flowing into the river just below Silverton.

The San Juan snowpack will deliver a long Upper Animas season this year. We can’t wait to get you and your group up there for your next adventure.

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Self Support Kayak down the Grand Canyon

Nothing like a trip down the Grand Canyon in a kayak! Ten days and 225 miles on the river with a group of friends for great kayaking, hiking and camping! Mix in a well timed High Flow Experiment (HFE) release of 36,000cfs and now you get a premier big water trip!

Lees Ferry Put-in Lees Ferry Put-in

Here is the release from Glen Canyon Dam:

The powerplant can release a maximum of 21,000cfs, so they ramp up to that and then begin opening one overflow tube per hour until they get to 36,000cfs. The entire ramp up process happens in about six hours. We were on night 5 about 90 miles into the trip when the high water hit us. When we got to camp in the evening, the river was running 6k-9k cfs, when we woke in the morning, the river was flowing at the full capacity they were releasing and then some.

High flow taking over camp. High flow taking over the Crystal Camp. Whitewater for breakfast!

What better place to have high water hit us than Crystal? We were impressed with the amount the river rose on the shoreline that night. We heard a rumor it would rise 4ft, try more like 8-10ft (I think Cruise said 20). The water took over camp, there was some 5am boat and tent moving that had to take place.

This was the possible release plan:
Possible HFE Release

And this is what actually happened:
Lees Ferry HFE 2016

Here is a short video from Lava. The first clip is Cruise gutting it down the middle. He is so small out there!

Featured image photo by Matt Gerhardt.

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Sorry Folks… Park’s Closed

It’s that time of year… time to clean and store all the gear in preparation for winter. We are all finished up for the 2016 rafting season.

And so as the Moose should’ve told us at the gate, “Sorry Folks… Park’s Closed”.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on an adventure, we you hope you left with some memorable stories to share with family and friends.

Here are some sweet photos from the season.

cam-sawmill

nice-splash-smelter

sierra-having-fun

kevin-stands-raft-up-smelter

cam-having-fun

stu-smelter-shot

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Photo of the Day

Photo for blog

Conditions are perfect. Book your trip now.

The Rafting Season is in full swing

The 2016 season has started out strong on the Animas in Durango, CO. With the additional late snowfall in May, we are sure to have some great rafting for you this summer. We have been running trips daily in Durango and Telluride. The Upper Animas season also started up and has been great so far.

Join us for a great time today!

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Private Boaters – Preparing for the Grand Canyon

This past weekend, April 9-10 2016, we held a class for a group preparing to go down the Grand Canyon in about two weeks. They will be launching on a private group permit from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek. For some in the group, the information covered in this class was just a refresher, for others, it was all new.

Day 1:

We began in the classroom with whitewater swimming techniques, including the defensive and aggressive swim. We discussed throw bags and how/when to use them. We then went outside and did some dry land throw bag practice. A little less than two hours into the class and since there was a break in the weather, it was time to get our feet wet.

After a quick snack and change into our river gear, we headed to Smelter Rapids on the Animas River to practice everything we had discussed in the classroom and on dry land. We began with swimming, jumping in at Corner Pocket and swimming through Ponderosa and then self-rescuing into the eddy. Some found the barrel roll technique helped them to cross the eddy line.

Once we were all comfortable with swimming, we practiced our throw bagging. Each person took turns swimming and throw bagging. The dry land practiced had paid off, lots of great hits with the bag.

We brought a raft with us to do a little training on how to get back into a boat. Each person would practice climbing back into a right-side-up and up-side-down boat. As easy as it sounds, we all struggled a little bit to get on top of those rafts. It’s definitely harder than it looks. We then got comfortable being underneath and swimming underneath a raft that was upside down.

Climbing on top of upside down raft

Ashleigh successfully climbs on top of the upside down raft!

At this point, most of the people were quite tired and cold from being in the chilly waters in early April on a cloudy and rainy day. So, we headed back to the shop to get dry clothes on and then break for a late lunch.

The afternoon included classroom discussion of topics like the risk matrix, river absolutes, personal protective equipment, first aid kits, and more. Then we got some ropes out and spent the rest of the evening practicing our knots. Again, some of the people in the class already knew most of the knots and more, for others this was all new information. We practiced an adjustable knot called the taut line hitch. It’s useful on the Grand Canyon for tying your boat up at night so you can adjust your boat according to the water level. We then moved on to knots like the bowline, figure eights, clove hitch, munter hitch, double fisherman’s, and the water knot.

Day 2:

We began the day outside with mechanical advantage rope systems. We put a raft up against a huge boulder and setup a river scenario in the backyard. We setup a Z-drag 3:1 system using our rafting wrap kit that includes the basics: a static line, anchors, prussics, pulleys, and carabiners. Some mad scientists began discussing the physics behind the mechanical advantage systems. We took a quick look at how one would go about setting up a 4:1. However, there are other methods before going to a 4:1 that we looked at. Such as, adding a vector pull to the static line that is already under tension from the 3:1. And the good old boatmans trick of helping to free a raft from a pin by bleeding some air from the tubes in order to allow the water to pass around.

We headed back to the river for more practice in the water. We covered topics like wading, live bait (tethered rescuer) and using a rescue PFD. We practiced a foot entrapment rescue using a support line and a snag line. A very simple strainer scenario, practicing getting over a strainer by aggressively swimming at it and barrel rolling over it. Plus topics such as combative swimmers, managing unconscious victims, runaway rafts, and more.

Loving it!

Super excited to be going down the Grand Canyon!

Again, the weather was a bit chilly, especially for most people that only had wetsuits on. And so, we headed back to the shop and took a quick break for lunch. Everyone wanted to get an early start home, so the afternoon was very basic. After the group did some shopping at 4Corners Riversports, with finished up with discussions of rowing techniques, some water reading, and things to think about taking for a Grand Canyon river trip.

What a great group of people heading down the river. They are well on their way to having a successful and memorable trip down the Grand Canyon.

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Gold King Mine

On August 6th 2015, the Animas River closed due to the EPA triggering the release of acid mine water into Cement Creek, a tributary to the Animas River in Silverton, CO. Many images were taken of a river that should have been clear that time of year and was instead running a mustard yellow color. The river was closed as the plume made its way downstream slowly making its way to the confluence of the San Juan and then finally Lake Powell. Most likely, Lake Powell will act like a pea trap and most of those heavy metals will settle to the bottom.

This was a very emotional and sad week for all of the communities up and down the river. It affected our economy and our way of life. Farmers had to close their head gates and not allow any of the contaminated to enter their irrigation ditches. Fishermen were not only unable to fish, but were scared that most of the fish would not survive the yellow waters. The river was closed to entry and recreation including rafting, kayaking, and tubing.

Confluence of Cement Creek

The confluence of Cement Creek with the Animas River in Silverton, CO. This shot was taken about a week after the EPA accident.

The Animas River is strong and tough. Within days of the initial plume passing, the river was significantly clearer. As the water receeded, it left a bath tub ring of sediment on the rocks. More evidence of sediment settled in some of the eddies. About eight days later, the river was reopened after the water had been tested to show it was within safe levels for human contact. Luckily the fish dodged a short-term bullet and survived the initial impact of the metal-heavy waters. Long-term effects on the fish will be closely monitored and studied by the Department of Wildlife.

Gold King Mine Metals in Eddy

About a week after the accident evidence of metals in the eddy just downstream of the confluence with Cement Creek.

Since then, we have had a couple of small run off events that have raised the river just a little bit. One was a rain event, the other from snow melt when temperatures warmed up towards the end of February. Each time the river would rise, its color would turn a slight hint of mustard yellow, but not nearly as drastic as the initial plume. As the water begins to significantly rise in early May, we should see any remaining sediment quickly wash away.

After the accident, the EPA went to work setting up a water treatment plant above Silverton. This plant will treat all discharge from the Gold King Mine. The EPA will continue to closely monitor the water quality of the Animas. The Animas River took a huge hit from this accident, but hopefully a positive to come out of this situation will be the cleaning up of more of these old mines and closer monitoring of the future water quality.

Gold King Mine Treatment Plant

A view of the water treatment plant being built at the Gold King Mine.

After much deliberation, the Gold King Mine and other mines in the Silverton caldera mining network have been designated an EPA Superfund site. With money coming in to help clean up these mines, we hope the future of the Animas will be an even cleaner one than it was before the accident.

What does all of this mean for rafting on the Animas this summer? Lots of Rafting! Currently the water quality looks good. Let’s get out there on the water and enjoy the beauty of the Animas River. Let’s work to take care of the river and inform future generations of the need to clean up old mines and prevent this from happening on other rivers and to other communities.

The Turkey “Shoot”

This is one of my favorite skis in the San Juans that Matt Wilson introduced Cruise Quenelle and I to several years ago. On our hike up, Cruise asked, “What is the difference between a chute and a couloir?” I didn’t quite know how to answer that except, they must be very similar, perhaps you must be French to be able to ski a couloir? After returning home, I Googled the topic and it looks like it’s up for debate as to a true difference. Either way, our plan for the day was to ski down a very long run with big rock walls on both sides of us!

Turkey Chute Trail Head

The plowed road to the start of the skin.

When we showed up to the trail head, to our surprise San Juan County had been hard at work and already plowed the road, cutting off about half a mile of hiking in. Instead of starting our skin there, we cheated and drove up the road until it was no longer plowed. From there, we slowly attained our way up into the basin behind the Turkey Chute. For the most part, it’s a mellow skin in, until it’s not. After working our way up through the first basin, you must climb a very steep hill, then it mellows out as you enter the second basin, then you have the final approach to the saddle of the Turkey Chute. The final approach is a steep, bullet proof slope of snow. Luckily, Cruise and I both brought our ski crampons, and they were definitely the tool of the day.

Ski crampons proved very useful on the Spring slopes.

Ski crampons proved very useful on the Spring slopes.

We spent some time at the top, eating some food, admiring the view and checking out the goods in the chute. We walked down a little ways to get a better view and check out the snow.

Top of The Turkey Chute

The view looking down from the top of the chute.

After we made our switch from uphill mode, to downhill mode, Cruise got into a position to take some photos. I got to go first. Looking down the chute one more time, I moved to a spot and rolled some snow down the chute. It looked like the roller ball was moving through softer snow on the middle left of the chute. And so, that’s where I dropped in and I did not stop until I skied almost the entire chute.

Near the bottom, I saw an opportunity to duck to the side and get below a rock. From there I quickly got my phone out to get pics of Cruise. The first few photos I took it’s hard to see him because the chute is so long. If you look at the small dot partway up the slope, that’s Cruise.

Cruise in the Chute

When he got closer, I captured this great shot of him.

Cruise Up Close in the Turkey Chute

Cruise crushing the Turkey Chute.

The apron run out also held some great turns, but not quite as good of snow as the chute itself. Wow, it’s a great ski. About 2,800 vertical top to bottom. Check out the ski tracks for the decent vertical.

turkey-chute-ski-tracks

From there we made our way back to the plowed roads and then had to hike for about a mile back to the truck. And that capped another great day skiing in the San Juans.

Bottom of the Turkey Chute

Looking back up from the bottom of the chute.

Skiing Red 3

After a few weeks of warmer weather and little to no new snow accumulation, Erin and I were trying to figure out where may still give up some good powder turns. Erin came up with the idea to head to Red 3 Summit, and what a great idea it was!

Erin on the Summit of Red 3

Erin on the summit of Red 3

The view from the top of Red 3 is just as fantastic as the ski. This is considered a classic Silverton backcountry ski tour. You begin with a fairly mellow skin up the road base for about an hour, then some boot packing across scree, then the last skin to the final summit elevation of 12,893 ft. Lucky for us the weather was really nice that day on top of the summit. The sunshine was out with some thin wispy clouds. I noted the clouds may almost be thin enough to allow most solar radiation to pass through, however they are thick enough to back radiate a good portion of radiation that should be outbound.

Due to snow conditions being a little thin, we opted for a different line than we had skied previous years. Instead of heading directly off the summit towards the Northwest as we had done in the past, we skied the ridge line North and then dropped into the Champion bowl. Directly below the ridge line made for some challenging turns with rocks hiding just beneath the surface of the snow. Then it opened up to some beautiful turns.

Red 3 Champion Bowl

Red 3’s Champion Bowl

We then found some variable snow. But then got back into some amazing snow that had more of a Springy snow feel to it. With a total ski descent of 2,578 ft and an ascent of only 1,836 ft, no wonder this makes for a Silverton ski classic.

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