Sunday, April 11, 2010

Low water? I'll show YOU low water!

Too low? I'll show you low water!

Low water looks like this:

As usual, I seem to have written a pretty long and frankly sort of boring article, yet again. Here's a slideshow which contains most of the one-liners but none of the whining.

Now, where was I?

After hearing the crushing news that the mwave was not quite in (too low), Natalie and I started investigating other paddling options. We were pretty stoked to paddle, since we were going to be joined by Conor Flynn, who we hadn't seen in about two years. He just got back last week from Japan, with his wife and son. I was really excited because last time I paddled with Conor, I think he might have beat me at the ice cream game. It was rematch time. Anyway, we looked into some options, and Escalante seemed like the best choice. True, it was a little on the low side, but to phrase it in a more positive way, the barometer creek was only about 50 cfs below "low". What we ignored was that this meant that the barometer was only running at about 66% the flow that it would need to be considered possible. But hey, a waterfall is still a waterfall, regardless of the flow, right?

So we loaded up, and drove to Escalante, meeting Conor along the way. On the drive in, we began to understand the meaning of "too low," (see photo above) but at this point, what else was there to do?

When we got to the gorge, it was so low that the normal line off the falls was pretty much dry. I can't say totally dry, because there was a hilarious little 2 inch wide ribbon of water flowing off right where you would want to go, but the normal line was a no-go. I decided that the full suit of armor would be appropriate.

The first few drops of the gorge were... technical. Yes, there wasn't much room for error as we worked our way deeper into the canyon. There wasn't much room for anything, really.
Yeah, that's it: "technical". Not low. Full Album

We eventually reached '57 Chevy. We weren't quite sure which flow category we were in. Here's the eddyflower table, and a photo of the fin.

Robideau Level (cfs) = Estimated Escalante Level (57' Chevy Fin)
0 - 149 = TOO LOW (fin very exposed)
150 - 249 = LOW (fin exposed)
250 - 349 = MEDIUM (fin barely covered)
350 - 599 = HIGH (fin completely covered)
600+ = CRANKIN
Here's Conor smacking his elbow on the infamous fin. Full Album

And just below that drop, I had to include this photo of Natalie making the "Awesome" face.
It's like she's facing into a strong wind, or afraid of something. Blue steel! Full Album

Well, despite our shenanigans, we finally reached the falls. As we'd seen from the rim, the normal line was out, but the water was mostly pouring into the normally deadly pothole on river right. We scoped it out for a while, and I decided to give it a go.
Having a conversation with Conor across the river.
The wet streak of rock on the far far far right of the photo is the normal line. Full Album

Check out this old photo of me firing off the normal line at normal flows for comparison.

The entry was a pretty narrow slot, pushing onto the left wall, which somehow made it pretty difficult to get a boof. I ended up doing a total meltdown, and coming up in a bow ender, but clawing my way out of the pothole. After the run, I immediately climbed out and walked back up through the river left cascade to try again, I was so ashamed. One my second run, I got a bit of a boof, but flipped in the pothole. Fortunately, I grabbed some current underwater while upsidedown, and was already out of the hole (literal hole, not like recirculating water) when I rolled up.
Attempt #2 made an ok photo. Full Album

Seeing my lines, Natalie figured that it would be hard to mess it up worse than that, so she geared up. She had all kinds of complicated plans, with speeds and angles and strokes, but her line went about like my first run. This was apparently a no-boof zone.
Natalie, dropping into the cauldron of doom. Full Album

Encouraged by seeing two other people do nothing impressive, Conor decided to give 'er a go. His line was indeed impressive.
Conor later admitted that the plan was to put a stroke on the other side. Full Album

We had set safety at the cauldron, in case someone couldn't make it out, and we had all independently decided that if worse came to worst, it would probably be possible to make a couple small laps in the cauldron and attempt to paddle out (there was quite a bit of space behind the falls). Conor tested this hypothesis with the scientific method. It worked exactly as we had thought.
Time for plan B. Full Album

We also had some opportunities for creative photography. Here's Natalie on Magnetic Wall:
Woah! Splashing water! Boofs everywhere! Oh my god! Full Album

Looks pretty good, right? Like, it's low, but there's some gradient, there's some dramatic lighting, you know... It looks good. Looks fun. Here's another:
How tall is that slide? Man, I want to go run that! Full Album

Pretty much epic. Well, here's a shot of me walking back to my boat after taking those photos.
Is he... stepping over the river? Full Album

Not so epic all of a sudden. Especially not so epic when compared to the run that Natalie and I made a few years back. There was enough water to flip over that year. Here's the article: Escalante 2008

Needing just a little more of a mank fix, we hiked up for a second lap, without the camera. Of course, on that lap, we all totally styled the falls (especially me. I finally got a boof. It was beautiful.) but there are no photos. We drove back and met Conor's family over a delicious pan of enchiladas. Also, Ty was there. I gave him that autographed photo that he'd asked for.

Sunday, after much deliberation, Natalie and I decided to give Barrel springs a shot. We got confused and thought the Hanging Lake exit was closed, so we took an extra scenic flatwater paddle. It was artistic and cuddly.
Little kids, puppies, scenery. No room for any of those things here. This is a hardcore whitewater blog. Full Album

Of course, the Shoshone dam above Barrel Springs, cut the flow to less than 1/4 what we'd had on the flatwater, but compared to Escalante, this was like floodstage.

My boat is barely even touching the bottom of the river! What do I do? Full Album

Natalie's Upper Death line. Full Album

I'm actually about 3 feet offline, but I love this photo. I guess that a good photo is worth a bad line. Full Album

Natalie in the crux of Barrel Springs rapid. Full Album

Now, I have to get back to grading, research, and homework. Until next time!