Day 15: Upset Rapid
Today, after yesterday’s layover at our OC’s camp near Deer Creek, we’ll be traveling about nineteen miles, where we’ll
stop at Last Chance camp on river right at mile 156. Last Chance is the final campsite above Havasu Creek, one of the
most popular side canyons along the river. We’ll be pulling in to Havasu tomorrow to re-create some historic photos
of Moulty Fulmer and Pat Reilly’s boats, so our camp at Last Chance will set us up perfectly for an early arrival.
Power Trouble Again
News on the generator front again–last night’s rising water washed away a critical part of the system, leaving us
with no diodes to generate current and recharge batteries. That means very few, if any, opporunities for recharging.
It also means this blog could come to an abrupt end at any time. Finally, it also meant half an hour of wading into
the rushing river this morning in full drysuits and PFDs to recover the pieces of the generator system that were
still in place.
The Colorado River Swim Club
Upset Rapid, the only rapid we stop to scout today, looks mean and ugly. On the far left, giant lateral waves smash
into the rock walls and rebound fiercely. In the center is a giant wave train and, at the bottom of the rapid, a huge
hole. And the right side is almost a smooth waveless run–except for a strong lateral wave midway that’s angled just
right to throw a raft back into the center to hit the huge hole.
I’m thinking a right run–hit the lateral wave hard and perpendicular and I should be able to slide by everything
else and miss the hole. Tom Martin, though, suggests a left-side run. If we enter the V just left of center, the
wave train should slide us right past the hole at the bottom. After watching both Tom in the Gem and Hazel in her
sixteen-foot raft make perfect left-side runs, I decide to try it.
Again the long slow slide down the tongue. This time nothing looks the same as it did scouting from shore, but
I’m dropping into some kind of a big wave. And then it’s all big waves and my raft is shooting straight down the
wave train. Everything’s slow, unhurried, even relaxed. I row just enough to keep my bow into the big waves–a few
strokes at most–and then I’m shooting past the giant hole at the bottom, barely touching its left side. Somehow
I’ve run Upset Rapid perfectly.
Yoshie, who follows, doesn’t. I’m eddied out below the rapid, waiting with Hazel, when whistles start to blow.
Yoshie is in the water, our fourth swimmer. All of the boats waiting below the rapid converge on Yoshie’s raft
as it comes bumping down the tailwaves, Yoshie still clinging to the side. She got separated from her raft at
some point but managed to swim back to it on her own; she just hasn’t been able to climb back aboard. It’s hard
to judge angles and current flows to intercept her, but with four boats all doing their best to cut Yoshie off,
we manage it. Craig Wolfson maneuvers the Susie R close enough to throw a line to Yoshie while someone else grabs
her raft. Soon she’s aboard again, all smiles. And the Colorado River Swim Club has found a new member. Four out
of eighteen people on the trip have swum at least part of a rapid.
Five miles past Upset Rapid we’re in camp on river right at Last Chance. The only indication of the day’s troubles
are the clothes Yoshie hangs up to dry outside her tent. So far so good.
Sorry for the short entry–conserving power. Two days until Lava Falls, the biggest rapid in the Canyon.
You guys will do great at Lava–just watch out for the hole on river left that will flip you towards the left. And the huge hole on river right that will make your boat eat the meat. (from a person who watches a few Youtube videos) Go team go!
Hope the power holds out or can be redone. I have a morbid fascination with Lava – probably a mother’s proper response! Stay safe.