Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Packrafting the Piedra.

Remember spring--way back before summer caused us to lose our minds and punt the idea of rest?

You know--cool temps, blooming flora, cresting rivers?

Yeah.   Somewhere back there Doom and I ran the upper and lower Piedra over the course of two gorgeous bluebird days.

 Both ends are road-accessible, making packraft use somewhat superfluous. We're happy making mistakes, learning from them, and thusly acquiring skills in the crafts we like to use in the backcountry.  Must walk before run, grasshoppa.


The run started with lots of splashy class II to numb your hands and lull you to sleep, with a neat mini-gorge inviting you to stay and gawk, then increasingly difficult and pushy drops through the middle to test your mettle.  It devolved to splashy class II for the last few miles. 

I admit to feeling a wee bit overwhelmed at the size, speed, and push of some of the rapids. Doom just looked at me quizzically when I balked at one particularly violent chute.

He pumped me up with "Dude, you're a solid paddler and this is well within your ability."  He then proceeded to swim after safely punching the crux.  Had there been a way to portage I would have, but lacking technical climbing gear (and the skills needed to use it) the only way out was *down*.  Climbed in, cleared my head, ran it clean somehow.  Huh.



 We spectated 3 competent if nervous kayakers scouting and somewhat reluctantly running Eye of the Needle.  Watching their borderline successes convinced us that although we stood a 50/50 chance of punching the meat, we weren't quite ready for the consequences after--a very shallow, very high speed swim.  We ran everything else.

Even with time burned scouting and photogeeking it would have been very easy to run both sections in a day.  Instead we opted to relax, skip some stones, snuffle a few flowers, enjoy a peaceful evening, then sleep 'neath the stars and waxing 3/4 moon.


This was my first extended viewing of the preproduction Alpacka 'Diva' in the wild.  Doom paddled it both days and repeatedly overran me in every kind of water imaginable, even when he was deliberately giving me space.  His Diva was so much faster everywhere--piercing waves and holes instead of riding up/over/down them the way my Yak does, gliding across seams and boils as if motorized, and carrying speed through boogie that made my best paddling efforts seem pathetic.  He'd just blow right past me.  This is well represented in the above vid.


We finished the weekend energized by all that we'd seen, done, learned.  I then spent the bulk of the ~5 hour drive home mentally composing and recomposing an email to Alpacka in hopes of getting some extended butt-time in a Diva.

Stay tuned for the results of that...