Back-to-Back BIG rapid day two of three.
River Day 9 started out sunny— with a nice relaxing stop at Phantom Ranch.
Phantom Ranch sort of feels like Disney World when you’ve spent several days in the wilderness with only the team you launched with. Nick hiked up the Bright Angel Trail for a bit to get cell reception, and I used the payphone to call home. I was excited to check out the Phantom Ranch Canteen because it was closed to the public when we stopped during GC2015. The man working in the canteen was a little odd, and was very excited about his postcards– maybe he had been at the bottom of the Grand Canyon just a little bit too long.
After several days of bad weather I was most looking forward to getting an updated weather report from NPS while at Phantom Ranch.
Talking with our new friend in the Canteen, his thoughts on the weather went something like this– “The only person in the world paid to be wrong all the time is the weather man. The weather is the Grand Canyon has a mind of it’s own. But it’s definitely going to rain for the next three days.”
The good-ish news– It was supposed to rain off and on the rest of the day, then for the remainder of the weather report, not a drop of precipitation.
The bad news– It was going to get cold. And I mean, COLD. Temperatures in the teens were predicted. Granted, I don’t think we ever quite got into the teens, but we definitely dipped into the 20s.
Not long after our stop at Phantom Ranch we encountered Horn Creek Rapid, a class 8.
Horn Creek Rapid was actually one of the rapids I was obsessing over in preparation for GC2017.
There is definitely bliss in ignorance. I didn’t bat an eye over Horn Creek Rapid during GC2015. I don’t think we even scouted it. Charlies gave us some gouge and we played follow-the-leader.
However, this time around I watched way way too many bad YouTube videos of carnage at Horn Creek Rapid. I was absolutely terrified. All I could think about was the boat flipping and getting pinned under the boat or against the canyon wall.
The pull-in for the Horn Creek Rapid scouting location is kind of sketchy. You can hear the roar of the rapid from a ways up the river, but the canyon walls are steep and narrow in this section, and there’s not much of a beach to tie up to. The entire team basically inched along the canyon wall, yelling back and forth “Do you think this is it??”
Let me just say– I was completely surprised to find that Horn Creek Rapid at high water levels was actually a FUN rapid. Nick “split the horns”, pushed through the crashing wave at the base of the “horns”, and had a fabulous line. Whew! What.a.relief.
Next up was Granite Rapid, a class 8. I have two pages in my journal written up about Granite Rapid.
“Terrified again. There was no clear line. Every direction looked bad, really bad, and worse.”
– AK’s River Journal
We actually had a great run through Granite. BUT! Both Nick and I ended up going for a swim after we made it through. The whole thing was incredibly stupid and I was a combination of scared shitless and pissed off.
Since we were the first boat through Granite Rapid, we were trying to catch an eddy to wait for the rest of the group / act as safety. For some reason Nick went to grab a rock on shore, the oar got knocked off the boat– which, in turn, knocked Nick into the river. I went to reach for him and then I fell in.
Nick grabbed the boat, I grabbed the shore.
And here’s where the scared shitless part came in– I am now [safely] standing on shore alone. Literally one of my biggest Grand Canyon fears coming true. I was able to get the kayakers attention, but every single boat missed the eddy and didn’t even realize I was on shore. Evan was able to catch a downstream eddy on the left side of the river [the side I was stuck on], but there wasn’t an easy way to get to him. Will and Biggs were wonderful in my “rescue”. Will hiked with me as far as we could go, and helped me in some areas that made me nervous. Once we got to the “end of the line” I hopped in the river, and holding on to the back of Biggs’ kayak, he paddled me to Evan’s boat.
Needless to say, I really didn’t want to be on the river anymore that day.
Unfortunately, we still had one more big rapid to get through– Hermit Rapid, a class 8. I was still really shook up when we got to Hermit Rapid scouting location. Evan told me that if I didn’t want to run Hermit any more that day, we could camp there and run it first thing the next morning. But the camp kind of sucked, and I wasn’t going to do that to the group.
Instead I just sucked it up. I wasn’t terrified of Hermit Rapid. It was actually my favorite rapid from GC2015, I just wanted to get it over with, get to camp, and get off the river for the day.
Nick agreed to run the “cheat line” by breaking across the top left lateral and paralleling the top section of the wave train. We were able to bypass most of the waves, but there is no getting around the last few, which seem to span the entire width of the river. We estimated that the biggest waves were probably 22 – 25 ft high.
I felt must better after getting through Hermit Rapid unscathed– but River Day 9 was undoubtedly a huge growing experience for me.
River Miles: 9.5 miles
Camp: Boucher [mile 97.2]
Water Flow: 11,000 – 17,000 cfs
Temperature: 37 – 48 deg F
Precipitation: 0.12 in
Wind: 11 – 21 mph, gusting to 39 mph
Weather Event: Rain