grand canyon 1997

Grand Canyon 1997

A Malcolm Slater inspired excursion and a first for a holiday with the awesome foursome, Malcolm, myself, Dylan Raw-Rees and Gareth Rowlands. The 9 days on the river took us through spectacular geological scenery in great style, with only one near death experience (Lava falls). The organisation was superb, with excellent food  including riverside baked cakes, typical american style steaks and even salads kept fresh to the last day, occasionally washed down with bucket of G&T – all carried in the boats as we had no contact with ‘the outside world’ for the whole journey.

Friday June 6th River miles 88-98, 10 miles in 2.5 hours Hiked Bright Angel Trail starting out at 6.15am arriving at Phantom Ranch at 12 noon. Cloudy at first with strong sun for the last 2 hours. The first stage of the walk was not difficult and I did not encounter any fatigue problems until I reached the river. River trail to Phantom Ranch proved quite arduous with my rucksack actual weight of c.13lbs increasing each step.Everyone issued with a robust waterproof day bag. Started rafting at 2.00 pm and finished after Crystal Rapids at c.4.30 pm. Went in the paddle boat (6 paddlers + 1 crew) with Dylan. Very excting through some rapids particularly Horn Creek and Hermit. Last one almost suicidal. High water flow as Lake Powell very full from the thawing of high snow falls in the Rockies. Thunderstorm as we made camp. Slept with Malcolm in a 2 man tent. The party is made of three rib oar boats (5 ‘passengers’ and one crew rowing), two rib service boats and the one paddle boat. We have booked 2 places in the paddle boat and 2 places in a rowing boat and plan to alternate on a daily basis. Evening meal of barbequed steak – very good.

Saturday june 7th River miles 98-131, 33 miles in 6 hours Rafted from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm with 2 hours for lunch. Coffee at 5.30 am, breakfast of eggy bread, bacon plus fresh strawberries and yoghurt. Should have put maple syrup on bread. Rafted in oar boat with Barb in charge with Dylan, Arion, Jackie and Ruth. Ruth is a 74 year old writer who is going to descibe her experiences in a new book. Her husband died 4-5 years ago with a brain tumour before he could raft. A quieter day on the river – rode in the front in the morning and at the back in the afternoon. Three decent rapids but nothing spectacular. Cloudy morning, sunny by lunchtime and until we camped for the night. After putting up the tent we had a horrendous wind and heavy rain for about 30 minutes, which blew the starter away and delayed the evening meal.

Sunday June 8th Rained most of the day and stayed in camp at mile 131. Did not go on short hike up Stone Creek.

Monday June 9th River miles 131-151, 20 miles in 4.5 hours Dylan and I in paddle boat. Started with one good rapid, Deubendorf, plus one unamed rapid. Stopped at Deer Creek at 9.30 and made a two hour hike to the spring head of the river. Most of the group staying halfway at the Potis (?). Tricky walk from the river to the Potis due to a section with a very narrow ledge underneath an overhaning rock causing Dylan some concern because of the drop.. Huge waterfall at the stop off point – the hike was to the source which came out of a hole in the sandstone. Seats were carved out of the rock at the base of the cliff. Camped just after mile 151 on a rocky ledge on the north side of the river. Played pigs for the second time. Restless night on sloping hard rock outside the tent.

Tuesday June 10th River miles 151-167, 16 miles in 3.5 hours Early departure at 7.15 am, breakfast at normal time with no cooked eggs or meat but with food to make our own sandwiches. Parked at Havasu Creek at 8.15 and hiked up the creek to Beaver Falls, arriving at 11.0’clock – a long hot fast hike. Magnificent falla and pools to swim in. Eat lunch in tree shade in middle pool. Very blue. Returned to boats and continued rafting (in oar boat with Buzz rowing) until 5.00 pm. Camped on sandy site on south side next to National Rapids. Chinese style rice chicken and vegatables – very good again. Weather now improved all day – virtually no cloud in the 90’s with hot wind blowing down the canyon from Lake Mead end.

Wenesday June 11th River miles 151-202, 45 miles in 7 hours Left camp at 7.30 am. Slept better on sandy site. In paddle boat. Arrived at Lava falls at 10.30 and made a recenoitre. High water flow – now clear river water after appearance of mud when we returned to the river from the Havasu Creek hike. A fearsome rapid with a tongue of clear water and big holes to the left and right of the tongue, very rough wavy water down the centre and boiling ferocious white watre to the right Watched from the side while three oar boats went through safely including Gareth and Malcom with Randy. A rough but controllable ride. We then started with considerable personal trepidation from Dylan and myself. An OARS’s large boat came in to moor as we set off and this may have influenced Mac’s approach. We finished up to the right of the tongue and was drawn straight into, and literally vertically down, a 10 – 12 foot hole. I think I was catapulted out of the boat as we hit the bottom (or started up the other side) I was sucked down in every direction with just enough chance to take in a gulp of air. There was no time to think whether this was terminal, I just wanted air. I opened my eyes and all I could see was frothy white water – it was like being in washing machine. I popped up with only a chance for a brief gulp before I went right down again – I think I saw a rock. It seemed light under the water. After an age I popped up again and got another gulp of air. This was repeated 4, 5, 6….10 times with a slightly longer period to take in air each time and feeling being under a shorter time. My early reaction was to assume that I would not obtain enough air and sooner or later I would drown temporally. Panic seemed uneccessary as I had absolutely no control over what was happening to me. I knew my lifejacket would make me surface some time before it was really too late. When once I had an opportunity to look around and take stock I was disorientated and thought I was being dragged back to the rapids. I could not understand , when I saw one of the oar boats, why it was nearer the rapids. It obviously wasn’t. Initially the boat seemed a long way away but I quickly made up the distance. Dylan was in the water with me at this time and I had asked him if he was OK. I can’t remember that. I had also seen Mac in the water at some time which was not clear to me, but I do remember the look of panic on her face. Herc got hold of me and got me to hang onto the boat and said he had to rescue someone else – Dylan. He pulled him into the boat and then me. Six of the seven of us in the paddle boat went down the full lenght of the centre of the rapids (the longest rapids in North America). Jo went down the side in shallow water and hit rocks and took longer to be rescued. He alone seemed shaken. I was now on Barb’s boat with Dylan and Mac. We pulled the paddle boat on top of us and when we had drifted into calmer water we flipped the boat rightside up and went to the shore to take stock. Nothing lost I kept my hat on (with string around my kneck) and more surprisingly, also my sandals. Randy rescued Dylan’s hat. After minor repair to the paddle boat we continued downstream for an hour The OARS’s boat passengers took photographs of our incident and will send them to Mac. I will contact OARS. Had a tiring afternoon paddling into strong head winds.

Thursday June 12th River miles 202-238, 36 miles in 6 hours In Randy’s boat. Headwinds most of the day. A few good rapids. Had a rowing race in the afternoon (c. 1 mile to the cable crossing) Herc 1st, Dylan 2nd, Excellent race, Germany 3rd. Another water fight in the morning. Took photo of Diamond Peak (equals the hieght of the fall of the river from Lees Ferry to that point 225). Very sandy and windy campsite. Dressed for dinner in black tie with white bibs and cuffs. Presented guides with tip ($100 from the welsh team). We were all given T shirts with Gareth awarded “best punter” additinal T shirt. Singing session after the meal.

Friday June 13th Left camp at 7.00 am in pontoon fashion. Randy read a section from ‘Wind in the willows’. Arrived at take out, Seperation Canyon (240 river miles). Gear loaded on to a jet boat. Left 9.00 am and arrived at Pierce Ferry at 10.10 am. Had early lunch and left by coach at 11.15, arriving in Las Vegas at 2.15 pm.