Last weekend Pete, Preston and I headed out to the Upper Animas to run a multi-day trip. We had originally planned to try and sneak in a run on South Mineral, but Pete had some sort of work/investment emergency and we didn't roll out of Golden until noon. We camped off of Lime Creek after talking to the good people at Four Corners and getting our camping situation setup.
The next morning we drove into Silverton and put in fairly late. The first few miles of river was beautiful, though pretty mellow. Flows were pretty low, around 850 cfs, so the boating was a little more technical and not the quintessential big-wave, big-hole Upper A experience. Regardless, it was a gorgeous canyon. We caught up with the commercial trip at Tenmile Rapid, where they were scouting and grabbing lunch. It was pretty mellow too; we could have soldiered through and boat-scouted it if we had wanted. We let them get ahead again so we would know where to socut No-Name Rapid, the biggest drop on the run (including Rockwood). As we boated down, we saw a few trains on the way up on the Durango-Silverton Railroad. I've been on the train before; my parents and I rode it in the winter up to Cascade.
No-Name was quite a bit more technical, with an S-move between holes above a sieve, and then a steep, just off-vertical slide. Everyone boated it cleanly, including the rafts. I was stuck in a little hole after the meat of the drop, but eventually surfed my way out of it. Things picked up a bit below No-Name; fun, technical, III+ creeking for the most part. Eventually we made it to Needleton, dropped off the commercial customers, and then boated with Dana, the head guide, down to 4 Corners' campsite below Needleton. We had kicked 4 Corners some cash, and we were able to use their tents, stoves, water purifiers, etc. We packed in some of our food and our clothes, and they were nice enough to pack in the rest of our food and, more importantly, our beer.
Camp was great; between the food that we and Dana had, we had a huge dinner. Noodles, corn on the cob, chicken breasts, baked beans, boiled potatoes with peppers and grilled shallots, and beef stew. Dessert was chocolate chips and burbon. Tough to go wrong. We all rolled to bed after a good game of Hot Dice.
The next morning, Dana hung back to wait for the next commercial trip, and we headed down towards the Rockwood Box. Broken Bridge Rapid was really straightforward, though it looked like things would pick up quite a bit at higher water. Then it was more III-III+ boogie on the way down to Rockwood, where we met up with some of Pete's friends who would lead us through Rockwood. We scouted Mandatory Thrashing, the first and probably biggest rapid in Rockwood, from the train tracks, though we couldn't see the line we would end up running. We had a pretty big crew, 7 altogether, but things boated pretty easily. Mandatory Thrashing was a little tricky, but the rest of the rapids in the run were really straightforward, mostly IV-IV+. I think the rating gets bumped up a little bit due to the confinements of the canyon; in a number of places the walls were probably 150 feet tall and 20 feet apart. It was probably the coolest canyon I've ever been in; made even better since I had seen it from the train on the canyon rim a couple of years ago. Fun, beautiful boating, without too much stress.
The take-out came too soon, followed by the steep but not too tough hike out to the railyard. We packed things up and drove up to South Mineral, where we scouted the short run which was really low. We could have geared up and dropped the 20-footer, Huck The System, but we were tired, the hike was meh, and dinner was calling, so we drove back down the canyon to look at Ice Lakes Creek. On the way, we managed to rocket-launch 2 creekboats off of the front of the car, since Pete's knots were sub-optimal.
That night we camped on a gravel bar with a group of other boaters inside Silverton. Camping was fun; we hiked up to just under where the firefighters were shooting off the fireworks, allegedly the best in Western Colorado. They were great; the echos bounced off of the mountains around the town and scared the hell out of the dogs.
The next morning we started the drive back to Denver, which turned out to be a lot longer than expected. Monarch Pass, between Gunnison and Salida, was closed due a big highway smashumup. We ended up driving down a dirt road through another pass stuck behind a host of RVs and boat trailers that were taking a beating on the rough road, and it added about 2 hours to the drive time. We had originally planned to run the Numbers, but after grabbing food in Buena Vista the boys decided to head home, and I stayed out in BV for an extra day to boat with Jeff and company, who had driven out from Indiana.
We camped up in Cottonwood Pass, and the next day got onto the Numbers bright and early. I put on just below Pine Creek and met up with the boys below #1. The run went smootly, though Kyle had a bit of a swim. The level was good, 2300-ish, and everything boated smoothly. After the run, I headed home.
Yesterday, Jeff, Preston, Kyle and I got onto Black Rock at around 500 cfs, medium levels. Things were pretty mellow, especially in the in-between bits, though the entrance to the Narrows was a lot trickier and narrower; I ended up getting typewritered quite a bit to the right and almost ended up in the rocks. That rapid is such a blast though; I always come out of it with a smile on my face once I get through the run-out. Preston and I took a hard look at Rigor Mortis, but when we looked at it from upstream it looked a fair bit worse than it did when we looked at it before putting on. Funny how that works.