Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Forking Skippy.

Spring is speeding toward summer with rising temps, fading flowers, rapidly desiccating soil and, most worrisome, falling river levels.

I love to ride but knowing the water will be gone in a few short weeks puts the priority on paddling.  Thus the bulk of my riding this month has been on (gasp!) paved bike paths or even paved roads, en route to and from the local rivers or when retrieving a shuttle vehicle.


Last week my OCD went into overdrive as a few ephemeral creeks twitched to life and bumped their respective gauges into action.  I sent an email to both Greg and Skippy to ascertain interest in going creeking.  Greg shot right back an enthusiastic "Heck yeah--let's go!" but Skippy's response seemed, at best, apathetic.

For shame, dude.  

Much consultation of The Bible ensued, crossreferenced with the USGS streamflows to figure out where best to spend our day.  Byers and Fraser Canyons were at the top of the list until the night before, when someone at Denver Water flipped a switch and drained them dry to fill swimming pools and water lawns on the Front Range.  Tweaked is what that is.

Next on the list was Bogan Canyon, followed by Lake Fork of the Gunny and then North Fork of the Gunny.  But then in my flurry of page flipping I caught sight of "Slaughterhouse" and stopped to read up.  "Scenic", "easily accessible", and "only runs for about a month each year" populated the first paragraph.  Once I confirmed that the flows were suitable for our first time down I was pretty sure that'd be our target.  Then when I saw that I could 'run shuttle' via singlespeed on a nearby bike path it was a slam dunk.

Gearing up at the put in.

Skippy attempting to translate anxiety into stoke.

Greg, punching.

Although this run is anything *but* remote, the boulder-choked and channelized streambed required constant attention--such that the last thing on your mind was anything outside of the banks.

We boat scouted and eddy-hopped our way down, only portaging once at the falls due to lack of water.  Put another way, the falls were runnable but almost certainly would have inflicted severe boat damage or ankle injury in so doing.  Easy choice.

A misread of the map had us running an extra ~4 miles of continuous II+ cold and splashy boulder dodging to where I'd left the bike.  Note to self: next time, take out above Woody Creek.

The combination of low flows and decent (~80fpm) gradient made for a great first time down.  I'd jump at the chance to go back, and hope to do so ~next week when it's in the ~500 to 600 range.  More water than that is probably going to move things along a bit faster than I'm capable of processing just yet.

Skippy swam once and junkshowed gear all over the river.  I think that was his karmic toll being paid for lacking in enthusiasm to begin with...;)  He made things 'right' at the post-paddle ice cream stop.

Overall, a great day of learning is what it was.

Nitty gritties:

Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork, mid-May 2013. 

Put in near Aspen, take out below Woody Creek.

~380cfs on the Roaring Fork @ Maroon Creek gauge = ELF in a hardshell, perfect non-pushy III to IV- for packrafts.

Blue boat = Skippy Wixom, black boat = Greg Luck.

Shot on a Canon 5d3 w/24-70mm Sigma lens, Olympus TG830, and Sportsvue POV.