Matt Gerhardt Photography

Whitewater Blog Category: Drew’s Adventure Blog

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.

More Gallery Images

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.


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.