yet another maze trip report..

Kullaberg63

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Mar 6, 2014
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Spring break, april 2014.

I dropped my family and our packs off near the Needles visitor center then drove the car to Elephant Hill and biked back. After hiding the bike we walked down to the Colorado river via the 'Kelsey Cattrack Route', ending at the little beach called Box Elder Camp.

Here we launched our boats and floated to Spanish Bottom. Recent rains had bumped the river up to 10000 cfs making the Slide an honest class 2, and prompted us to hike out to Brown Betty in Cataract for a peek at real whitewater.

A typical cold front had settled in after yesterday's storm so we spent the night up high near the Doll House in hopes of warmer temps.

On day 2 we moved camp to the big reliable spring in Water Canyon and did a loop up Water down Shot in the afternoon to visit friends at Chimney Rock. The exit we took out the head of Water is different from the 'Inverted Y' route Kelsey describes, and has 4th class moves with bad exposure.

The third day was spent exploring side canyons to Shot and the ridge east of Jasper. The gps track best shows this complex but safe non technical hike. At the far end we were almost at the limestone shelf at the mouth of Jasper.

Finally on day 4 we went down Water Canyon and floated back through the Confluence, this time from the Green River side. We used Lower Red Lake Canyon to take us back to the vehicle.

A great trip for sure.

About 50 miles of hiking plus 20 on the river. Here's a confusing GPS track showing the route. The start is the eastern most end:


View larger map.

image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The packs: Bjorn customized an old Dana to carry the packraft externally against the back, with a Cuben drybag for the rest.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The packs: Sonja's old '89 Lowe is still going strong!


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
I use a Khamsin 50 liter with the raft inside.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
A tricky spot on Kelsey's Cattrack route down from the Colorado River Overlook road near the Needles visitor center. Because of recent rains this road was gated off, adding 4 miles to the descent. The old bulldozer track which one is following for the first hour or so is a little difficult to spot on the ground.
Besides Red Lake, we have tried 3 other ways to reach the river from the Needles: this one, the elusive scramble from Cyclone Canyon and the canyoneering route down Big Spring to Salt. This one is the simplest and fastest.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Box Elder Beach where we launched for the 10 mile float to Spanish Bottom.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Fossil.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
On the way.


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There was time to explore the many flooded side canyons. It rained hard the night before we started, so the river was up to a seasonal high of 10000 cfs. If I remember correctly this is Elephant Canyon.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The old river runner sign-in register and a warning of upcoming class 4 in Cataract, luckily past our take out for the maze.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Arriving below the spires of the Doll House.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Brown Betty, the first big drop in Cataract and easily accessed in 20 minutes from Spanish Bottom on a good trail. While Sonja and I were very intimidated, I suspect Bjorn was dreaming of running it one day. Hopefully that will be in a J-rig and not a packraft!


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Brown Betty. Serious stuff.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Spanish Bottom on the left and the big sand bar below Lower Red Lake canyon on the Needles side on the right.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The day had been cold following the storm, and once the sun dipped down it got very chilly by the river. We decided to head up to near the Doll House for our first night's camp....


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
..which ended up being here. The tarp looks pretty sloppy in this pic!

More pics asap.

Featured image for home page:
slide.jpg
 
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Kullaberg63

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Mar 6, 2014
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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
On the trail between the Doll house and Water Canyon.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
On the trail between the Doll house and Water Canyon.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
At the camp in the Doll House we had to eat our sandwiches for breakfast as we didn't have enough water to cook. That meant oats for lunch!


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Climbing out of the head of Water Canyon had two crux passages, one on top of the other: First balancing up these logs and exiting into the bowl above. Not too bad. The next section involved leaving the bowl up exposed slippery rock. Off course it doesn't look bad on this pic but was kinda scary, as the there was plenty of air below and just friction for the feet. Sonja has the head for this stuff and was the chosen one to bring up the rope.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Near Chimney Rock is this well known vista into the elusive Jasper Canyon.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Our little afternoon loop up Water and back to camp via Shot also involved this classic piece of trail: the incredible stacked rocks of an old cattle trail, merely balanced there in the middle of a drainage.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Same trail, another view.


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Skipping stones. The alternate pastime, when forgetting the Frisbee.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Near the Doll House there was very little surface water despite the recent rains. However once in the canyons there was no more problems in this department.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Our camp under a rock ledge. We stayed here just above the big spring in Water canyon for two nights.


image
by kullaberg631, on Flickr
A homemade alcohol stove and a Trangia combined with two small pots work well for us.

To be continued..
 
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Kullaberg63

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On day 3 we explored out the ridge east of Jasper. This pothole arch we found on the way out of a side canyon to Shot.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Near the top-out to gain the ridge. Sometimes pics don't show the reality too well, but you wouldn't want to slip here.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Jasper, with Pete's Mesa beyond. Behind all this, and out of sight, is the Maze Overlook.


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Fresh rain water! Okay, not super fresh, but 3 days later it was still pretty tasty!


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Pocket garden.


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The north end of Jasper Ridge, with the limestone shelf above the river seen below. Getting into, and even crossing Jasper from here is no problem. A while back Sonja came to this area from lower Horse Canyon.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
On the way back we went to the top of the pothole arch shown earlier...


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...and played around a bit. This bridge was plenty wide for our shenanigans, but the thought of all the air below didn't prompt us to linger on the span.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
More pothole arches on the Cedar Mesa rimrock.
 
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Kullaberg63

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Found this guy (on the left!) in an unnamed canyon. Just the skull remained, together with an old radio collar.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The abundant drips and seeps of the spring in Water canyon makes this spot an irresistible camp for year round Maze explorations.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
Heading downward in Water one will find a well used trail leading to the river. Shown here is the big limestone shelf and pour off that's making so many other canyons in this vicinity impassable. In Water there's a narrow ledge leading to an old rock slide making further downstream travel possible.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
On the ledge.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
The Wall of Looseness. Walk swiftly here.


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Lower Water Canyon near the river. Last clear water until the car many hours away.


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Launching for the second transit of the Confluence.


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by kullaberg631, on Flickr
A look up Powell's Canyon, which appeared to have a good user trail going up to the top.


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After the steep climb out of Lower Red Lake. Dolls House in the background, and the trail in Red Lake barely visible by my left elbow. Still 6 miles back to the car...


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..which we got to here. Sonja's first trip back to the Maze in 22 years. She now has almost 70 bag-nights out there, all of them backpacking!
 
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BJett

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Your TR's are killing me. All I do at work anymore is plan packrafting trips.
 

steve

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awesome idea for the tyvek spray skirt!

how old were the kids that went along? I'd love to do a variation of this route someday.
 

Kullaberg63

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Thanks for all the comments!

awesome idea for the tyvek spray skirt!

how old were the kids that went along? I'd love to do a variation of this route someday.

We have one kid. He's fifteen but has a long history with stuff like this. The Tyvek experiment was his project. It probably will come back off as it is def light but not tear resistant enough. The other prototype he brought on this trip was a PFD doubling as a sleeping pad.
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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While Sonja and I were very intimidated, I suspect Bjorn was dreaming of running it one day. Hopefully that will be in a J-rig and not a packraft!

While you may be intimidated, do you think a packraft could handle that class of rapid? I love running white water and
would want to be able to rapids like those pictured in a packraft.
 

Kullaberg63

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Packrafts are commonly used to run class 4, but it seems even the hardcore users shy away from big river class 4 with all the powerful hydraulics. While inherently stable these things do flip, and even skilled paddlers can't rely on rolling the current models except in ideal conditions. Wet exit - reentry can take as little time as a kayakers second attempt to roll, but only if the boat stays with you, which is less likely on a big turbulent flow. Creeks and small rivers deep in the wilderness is what tempts most experienced paddlers to go the whitewater packraft route.
 

steve

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While you may be intimidated, do you think a packraft could handle that class of rapid? I love running white water and
would want to be able to rapids like those pictured in a packraft.

these guys are nuts. I can't believe the abuse a 5 lb boat can take.



You can even paddle upstream in them, as long as you fill them with helium first. ;)

 
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BJett

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Hardcore packrafters take these things down class 5, but they outfit them with thigh straps, custom backbands, etc.
http://packrafting.blogspot.ca/
http://thingstolucat.com/packraft/

Kayaks are much better for hard whitewater, but Kullaberg63 summed it up. These super light boats (I packed mine up smaller than a 1-person tent) are made for remote whitewater or flatwater trips where you need to haul gear. They track well, ferry, eddy...but not as well as a kayak. Personally I'll stick to my hardshell kayak for class 4 and above, but for anything up to class 3+ overnight trips packrafts are the bomb.
This TR is a great example of what these crafts are made for.
 

Nick

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Man... one trip like this seems like justification to own a packraft. Totally amazing. Thank you for the map too. That is way cool that you explored the east Jasper Ridge. I don't think I've ever seen pics or heard of anyone heading out there. Are all your pics taken with the GoPro again? Very impressive. Do you use the LCD backpack so you can see what you are shooting?
 

DrNed

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This TR is a great example of what these crafts are made for.

Thanks for the links and further distraction during my workday.:twothumbs:

This trip report is exactly the kind of trips I want to be doing next summer. (Meaning this summer I make the purchase and get comfortable with it and get a little more adventuresome next summer) I guess what I was trying to decided is, would rapids like Brown Betty (Based on the photos I'm guessing a class II?) be a hinderance to where one could take a packraft? Honestly, when I saw the photo of the rapids I thought, "thats intimidating?" In full disclosure, my white water experience is limited to rafts so maybe a class II in a packraft would leave me intimidated, crying for my mama.:help:

Is there anyone who makes a quality packraft outside of alpacka? I've looked at the NRS, which are more competitively priced, but don't appear to be the same quality as the Alpacka.
 

BJett

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Is there anyone who makes a quality packraft outside of alpacka? I've looked at the NRS, which are more competitively priced, but don't appear to be the same quality as the Alpacka.
I don't want to threadjack this awesome TR anymore than it is. One last link...he compares different packrafts. That said, Alpackas are the best overall packraft on the market right now...
http://forrestmccarthy.blogspot.ca/2013/03/packing-for-packrafting.html

Kullaberg63...I'm curious as well....are all your pics on these trips from GoPro? I only use mine for video, but those pics are higher quality than I thought you could get from a GP.
 
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