Monday, May 28, 2007


Though we'd mostly agreed that we did not want to do too much driving around (esp with the heinous price of gas, at $3.50 a gallon), the temptation of checking out Crested Butte was not to be overcome. After meeting up with Monica on our second run of Gillman Gorge, we debated our next move. Check out some northern creeks or head south? The choice was easy, we were off to Oh-Be-Joyful.

We left Monica's car at Dowd Chute and all piled in the truck. The drive turned out long but well worth it. After camping at the Arkansas on the way there and stopping at Colorado Kayak in Buena Vista we arrived in Crested Butte early afternoon. Several groups were already set up at the Oh-Be-Joyful campground.

Crested Butte

Since the creek relies on daily snowmelt (ie higher flows in the afternoons) we wanted to put on quickly so as not to end up with too high of a flow. In order to drive to the put in you have to ford the Slate River. Though this is done frequently there is an inherent risk of flooding ones engine. So we weren't too keen on taking the rental truck across it. Not wanting to wait around for a ride we opted to just go ahead and hike the mile up. It would be a good opportunity to scout the run along the way. Though this initially seemed like a simple enough task it quickly turned into quite the challenge.

Ascending 400 feet over a mile to get to the put in with 50 lbs of gear on your shoulder, and very warm temps, at 9400 feet elevation, proved to be fairly exhausting. Loose dirt and gravel on the steep trail also did not make the trek any easier. Nonetheless we continued on and eventually made it to the put in (one wrong fork in the trail cost us some unnecessarily difficult hiking as well).

After taking some time to rest and cool down we scouted the first drop, "Heart Attack" (well the first drop is actually "Ankle Breaker" but at the name indicates it is not one that any of us were to keen on trying out, esp at the medium-low flow we had). "Heart Attack" is a 18ft drop that sends you flying close to the river right wall into a conveniently placed eddy. Great way to jump start your run as you put in in a tiny eddy just barely 15 feet or so above the drop.

Maggie on Heart Attack

After a series of slides you come to the biggest drop, 25 ft tall "Dead Zone" (my tallest drop so far). Rated 5.1 and for apparently good reason as poor Monica discovered. Going off too far right land on a nasty rock shelf, not good for your bow for sure (thankfully she was uninjured herself, but Monica's Jefe did not fair so well, though the plastic did eventually straighten out reasonably well teh large crack was not to be fixed).

Dead Zone casualty

Matt, Ed, and I continued the run to the final series of big slides : Avalanche, Ode-to-Joy, and Oh-Be-Grateful. We all had good runs on Avalanche and climbed out to portage "Pickup Sticks", a nasty wood pile. We took the opportunity to scout the last two slides on more time.

Portaging around wood

Matt on Avalanche

Matt on Ode-to-Joy

Maggie running Avalanche

Now it was my turn to provide some carnage. At the top of Oh-Be-Grateful i hit something (hole, rock, tree?) and flipped... not good. But i rolled up quickly and continued on down the long slide without further incident. At the bottom of this slide the creek hits a wall and takes a sharp 90 degree right turn. There is an eddy on the right just above the final slide. I probably should have gotten out at this point and scouted it again from river level. I had seen it from above and new the danger: a large guardian hole midway down the slide just before the final 12 foot vertical cascade. I pealed out of the eddy and was shocked at the speed of the water. Hit the corner of the hole but not quite right and of course flipped again. I rolled up quickly but unfortunately was facing backwards, and so went the rest of the run.

Maggie on Ode-to-Joy

I eddied out at the bottom to find Matt with a look of concern on his face. "I'm really glad you rolled up quick" he said. "You probably would have broken your neck otherwise"..... great...

Well aside from those two screwups i had a great run. Oh-Be-Joyful is just a fun, fast rollercoaster ride the whole way. I look forward to going back again. The hike up was exhausting and only Ed headed up for a second run (this time he was able to get a ride). Overall well worth the long drive out to Crested Butte. Fantastic whitewater and amazing scenery!

For lots more Oh-Be-Joyful photos see here.

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