We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields, and we ask that they teach us and show us the way. -- Chinook Blessing
In 1869, ten men and four boats embarked on a journey through almost 1,000 miles of uncharted canyons trying to map one of the west's last great wildernesses and forever changing our view of it.
"We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore," said one-armed Civil War hero leader John Wesley Powell, "What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things."
The party experienced calamity after calamity. One of the boats sank in a rapid, taking with it all their scientific instruments and a quarter of the party’s provisions. Another near-sinking of a second boat took the remaining food through spoilage. Morale disappeared as party members gave up and abandoned the expedition. After three months, only five of the original company would emerge from the depths of the Grand Canyon. Although hailed a hero, Powell's first trip into the unknown was a disaster.
"The relief from danger, and the joy of success, are great." wrote Powell in Down the Colorado: Diary of the First Trip Through the Grand Canyon, describing the perils of the trip, "The first hour of convalescent freedom seems rich recompense for all—pain, gloom, terror.”
|Photo by Roger Peka|
"The first is just to make sure it has an exit. If I’m paddling on an unfamiliar stretch of river and no one in the crew knows it then it’s crucial that there is a way out of a rapid before you commit to dropping in." said Current Adventures Kayak School & Trips instructor Pete Delosa, "In California it’s not uncommon for the river to run into and under a pile of boulders. In the Northwest, it might end in a pile of trees. If you can’t see the exit from the top, you don’t really know."
The California-based kayaker Delosa sponsored by Immersion Research and member of Team Pyranha, recommends that if you know it’s going to be a hard rapid to paddle, to study the flow and get an understanding of what the water is doing. Look for hazards you want to avoid and the line you want to make. See how much of the water is going into the hazards versus where you want to go.
"Are there certain features that are going to flip me?" said Delosa, "Maybe there is a feature like a small eddy that I can use to get to where I want to go, or maybe there’s a really big hole that I need to avoid because it feeds into a sieve."
|Rafa Ortiz via Facebook|
"I often find that too much information doesn't necessarily result in them having a good line, " Ortiz wrote on Facebook Messenger, "When you scout a rapid, for example, with a bad hole on the left, as you get in your boat and paddle into it, all that is in your mind is the dimension and apparent stickiness of the monster on river left. Your mind is often blurred by fear."
On the other hand, he warns, not to make someone drop into a rapid their first time without enough information. He says, it would be neglectful on his part if they ended up in the gnarly hole on the left, swim and get body recirculated just because he didn't emphasize its dimension.
"What I do nowadays is an in between," wrote Ortiz, "I suggest people scout a rapid that in my opinion does have a life-threat in it and even something that could result in a negative enough experience for them to want to quit kayaking. Otherwise, let them enjoy the pleasure of the one chance they have to run it blind."
|Photo by Ethan Howard|
"Landmarks are really helpful for knowing where you are in a rapid when you can’t see the entire thing from the entrance." said Delosa, "A good example is Skyscraper (rapid) on South Silver Creek in California. There are two really tiny standing waves right at the lip of the drop. From the pool above you can’t see anything past the horizon line, but if you go off between those two little waves with a slight left angle you’re in good shape to start."
Sacramento paddler Gavin Rieser agrees and thinks the biggest reason, is being able to see a pool at the bottom of the drop.
"If I can't see what looks like a pool below," said Rieser, "I have no idea if what I'm about to run is a huge monster drop or not."
Rieser also does his homework by reading up on the rivers he will be running and checking in with area boaters on what to expect.
"Another big factor is how much I've heard about the run or not." said Rieser, "If I know it's supposed to be a Class III to IV run, then I'm not likely to scout it much. If it's a Class V run, I will be scouting a lot more"
If you’re on a longer mission day to save time, a good habit to develop is to always take your rope with you whenever you get out to scout. Delosa says by doing this you won't have to go back to your boat and then back down stream if someone in your crew asks you to set as the safety.
"Also, while you’re scouting," said Delosa, "Another crew might come along and paddle into the rapid without scouting and you’ll be well positioned to help them should someone get in trouble."
If you want to learn more and practice some advanced skills contact us at Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips and ask about private advanced classes.
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
owner Dan Crandall firstname.lastname@example.org