Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Night Fiasco on the Colorado River

“Can you help me pick up Wes and Christie?” where the words from Andre that prompted it all. We were at our halfway point on the trip, eight days had passed since we put in at Lee’s Ferry and it was time to drop off five people and pick up 2 leaving us with thirteen for the rest of the trip.

(Picture by Fiona "Hiking" in the Grand Canyon)

To add some background, the Grand Canyon isn’t too cooperative when it comes to leaving or entering the beast from the Colorado River. The only way to make a passenger exchange on the trip is to have whoever wants to leave hike out and whoever wants to join the trip, hike in. On paper, it seems like a simple task but in reality you have to remember that you are literally hiking one mile up or down. It just so happens that in January, the trail can become nothing but glare ice and snow at the top. I had already given my make-shift crampons to one of my comrades that was planning on hiking out the next morning as they hadn’t thought about the icy possibility and they weren’t needed for hikes around the river.

I thought it was going against our agenda picking these folks up in the evening instead the next morning as I had originally thought. However, when Fiona (our trip leader and permit holder) said it would be my only chance to use the one and only pay phone in the entire canyon, I jumped at the proposition as I was longing to speak to Kristin.

So our mission was to travel ½ - ¾ a mile from our camp to Phantom Ranch downriver and on river right as our camp was on river left would seem like a simple task as Andre, Robert, Doug and I all took off to find our new trip goers.

(Picture Blue Skies in the beginning of the Canyon)

After successfully finding out that Wes and Christie were on my page instead of Fiona’s as they had decided to stay in a cabin at Phantom instead of coming back with us, we made our phone calls and headed back to the raft. With new life in my bones after talking with Kristin, I wasn’t worried that the dark was quickly approaching and we still had to oar against the mighty current of the Colorado to make it back to camp.

Seeking comfort I had removed my dry suit and thinking we would simply row our way back to camp I neglected to put it back on. Our first attempt at crossing an eddy line proved the fact that we were in no way going to row this beast of an 18 foot raft loaded with gear back to the camp. I jumped onto shore and donned my dry suit. Andre and I were now on a new mission, to pull the raft up along the shore. We had to create a two person system, one would hold the boat in place (in chest to neck deep water with sharp rocks and ledges underneath your feet) while the other carefully made their way up shore holding the rope. Once in place we would both pull the boat up the shoreline. This process was repeated in the dark about 20 times before we could row again.

(Picture Moon and Beginning Canyon Walls)

We finally saw the light of our camp and knew we had one chance to make it into the eddy on the other side of the river crossing the downstream current. With some vigorous rowing we made it to safety and informed Fiona our trip was fruitless. Well except for those of us who were able to talk to loved ones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you could be rejuvenated, ohblogieone. Maybe you are ready for some real singletrack, yess