Thursday, May 31, 2007

Teva Mountain Games

After over a week of great boating I was actually quite content to take some time off and just watch the events of the Teva Mountain Games. Spending the day hanging out at Homestake and watching all 60 competitors was a lot of fun. Seeing some of the top boaters in the world run this manky little creek was awe inspiring at times. Some made it look so easy, others not so much. Overall still I was happy to leave it to them and simply watch from dry ground! It was also great to see several DC area boaters competing and giving it their best. The rodeo in Vail was also fun to see.

Jeremy Lauks

Matt Walker

Stephen Wright

Geoff Calhoun

John Grace

Stephen Wright

Dane Jackson

See here for more photos of the Homestake Race

And here for more photos of the Rodeo

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Homestake Creek

Matt on Leap of Faith

Though i had initially hoped that Homestake Creek would be something i could run, one look at the steep, manky beast quickly changed my mind. Low flow, tons of pin potential and high gradient made for a combination that did not appeal to me. Of course this did not stop the guys and i was left to hold a rope in one hand and a camera in the other. Fine by me. I needed some time to rest anyway and it was plenty fun just to watch them run it. I ultimately had a great time watching multiple practice runs, setting safety and getting to play with my camera. Needless to say a full album of photos resulted (giving me some good Photoshop play as well!).

See the full Homestake photo album here

Honestly, just watching Matt and Ed run it was enough excitement. I must say that my heart raced just watching. Especially after even a mild mishap (though most of their runs were fairly clean). It was especially hard setting safety and watching when there weren't other people around and Matt was doing practice runs on his own. I wanted him to do well but mostly i didn't want to see him get hurt. That is one manky run!

Matt on Little Sunshine

Leap of Faith

Matt on approach to Leap of Faith

Upper Stretch of Homestake

Ed on Homestake


See here for the full Homestake Photo Gallery

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gillman Gorge

Maggie on Falls Creek Rapid Crux

Gillman Gorge of the Eagle River is a classic Colorado run not far from Vail. It also happens that Homestake Creek flows in right a the put in. This made it a very convenient run since we were spending a lot of time there already. We all got in a few runs together and I got to paddle it a total of five times while Matt ran laps on Homestake.

The run flows through a deep gorge surrounded by a lot of mining history in the form of abandoned buildings and other mining structures. It is rather eerie floating past these ghostly places as you approach the first major rapids. Starting off quick and gradually building up to class III-IV boogie water the run is quite fast. Shortly after passing the ghost town you see Falls Creek (a huge cascading waterfall coming of the mountain) on your left. This begins the main section of the run. Falls Creek Rapid starts things off with multiple drops to negotiate and a big water feel. We all got out and scouted on the first run.

Several quality rapids follow with a short section of class II leading up to the final rapid, Slurry Pipe. Rated class 5.1 by AW this is a long complex set of drops. It starts off with an easy approach and boof but picks up quickly as you negotiate one hole after another. First a large guardian hole threatens to stop you but is easily boofed on the right (just below the bridge). Next a large diagonal wave-hole shoves you to the left and threatens to slam you in a boulder pile (and on one run it succeeded, forcing me to wiggle myself off a slightly unpleasant pin). Several more drops follow and eddies are scarce. Additional danger comes from artificial hazards that have fallen into the river here. Definitely a heart racing ride the whole way down. We spent a fair bit of time on the first run committing each move to memory before making our way down. A great rapid for sure.

Overall the Gillman Gorge was a very fun run and I enjoyed getting to run it multiple times and learning the rapids.

Matt scouting Falls Creek Rapid Crux

Mining village

Gillman Gorge

Ghost town

Matt at Falls Creek Rapid

Ed on Gillman Gorge

Slurry Pipe approach

Matt on Slurry Pipe approach

Matt boofing entrance hole on Slurry Pipe

Slurry Pipe

Matt on Slurry Pipe

Slurry Pipe

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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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