Friday, July 29, 2016

June 2016: Southern Utah trip

Cataract Canyon is the last major segment of Colorado River whitewater that I hadn't paddled yet, and in 2013 I set up this trip, but then couldn't go. Five in the group still went, and raved about it. So I was waiting for at least an average snowpack year to reschedule. This time our group was eleven, mostly Hiking Club members, and I booked us a paddleraft trip.
Because flow in Cataract Canyon (the segment between the Green River and the Dirty Devil) is unregulated, springtime flow usually peaks at about 40000 cfs, making the rapids some of the biggest in North America, for a while. Really big years might see 70000cfs, so last year I planned this 5-day river trip for about ten days into June, which ended up perfectly timed. For three days, the flow peaked at 46000 cfs, and we nailed it exactly.
Five of us added extra days onto the trip for hiking in Bryce Canyon NP, Escalante NM, and Arches NP before meeting up with the others in Moab.
On the trail at Bryce Canyon NP
Hoodoos and tall fir trees
In Escalante NM: all day spent exploring slotcanyons. This is Zebra Canyon
Mark showing us how to keep his camera dry in Tunnel Canyon
An evening hike to swim in this pool at the top of a waterfall. Best EVER.
One of the biggest alcoves I have ever visited, 3 mi into Escalante Canyon
We were on the trail in total darkness to make the 6am sunrise at Delicate Arch (Arches NP)
Park Ave (Arches NP)
In Moab: we are now a mighty group of eleven! This is the BEFORE shot.
Finally, on the river! Our flotilla is powered over miles of flat water by a motor rig.
On a hike in Indian Canyon, Canyonlands NP
Sunset at our Spanish Bottom camp (Photo by Kay Roney)
Shade on a hike is always great, but this was unexpected: an entire room!
At the beginning of the whitewater stretch. Suited up!

We scouted Big Drop 1 from the right bank, and watched this oarboat go thru.

I guess this would be the AFTER shot. At the bottom of Cataract Cyn, in Glen Canyon NRA. Our last day on the river the paddleboats are lashed again to the motor rig.
The bridge at Hite, where Lake Powell starts. It's the first manmade thing we have seen since 5 days previous.
The day we were in rapids, the flow in Cataract Canyon peaked at 46000cfs. Average flow in Grand Canyon is probably around 16000cfs, for comparison. It's big enough that most trips only run motorized boats thru Cataract. As it turned out, our two paddleboats were the only ones in Cataract on that day, all the other boats were motorized.  As we pushed off the banks, a lot of the other crews on the river were pulled out, and watched us go through from ledge perches above. I know I'd have wanted to watch! In fact our guides had never guided paddleboats thru Cataract at water that big.
There was a pair of wooden dories that endo'd in Satan's Gut, wrecking them both. They were on the last afternoon of a 13 day trip. Luckily nobody drowned. We found the dories lashed to a giant S-Rig, later duct-taped together, to get them out, but the boats' structures were crushed. Our two paddleboats made it through, with only one swimmer getting washing-machined through Satan's Gut, and he was the guide! It was all good though and a great time was had by all.
Here's my one-minute iMovie version of the GoPro footage. 

Want more? Tohru's photos are here, and Mark posted some here.