There’s a section of a river that I know that’s popular with paddlers during the warmer months, and sports two class IV rapids. During the spring thaw, however, it’s between 100 and 170 ft wide, and class V. The water is probably 35 degrees F. Not once have I ever seen anyone running this. I guess I always thought that to do it would be to commit suicide. However, it seems like it might be possible for an experienced paddler in a dry suit. Do people generally run things like this, or is it just too dangerous for all but the insane?
yeah there are folks that do that. They are highly skilled and understand the dangers involved but choose to do so anyway.
I enjoy some winter ww boating myself. My own rules, as a mere intermediate mortal, include boating one class below what I normally would paddle. I also tend to pick smaller streams (think hundreds rather than thousands of cfs) where immersion times are likely to be short in the winter. Pogies are heaven sent but I still carry gloves in case of a rescue situation. Getting dressed is a major undertaking with all the layers. Don’t forget to protect the head and feet as well. Nothing wrong with skirting around stuff as well- sneak lines tend to be my friend in the winter months. The clothes don’t fit as well, the boat time is decreased and a bit of rust kicks in, so lots of reasons to drop it back a bit in addition to the cold water.
The folks that do the kind of paddling you talk about aren’t so much insane as they are insanely good.
There are local spots in many places that only a few people will try due to the risks. We have one locally that runs in the spring. The folks who do it are very, very good. For most of the paddlers around here, it would be proof of insanity or extremely diminished IQ to try. But honestly, most people who are that good end up driving a bit further to spots that will give them longer and more straightforward, though technically very difficult, runs.
Sure. Many steep creeks only have enough flow in the early spring during snow melt to run. Many runs in the western US are dependent on snow melt.
Some do, though not many. I remember seeing a helicopter rushing away a WW boater who was not successful in his attempt.
Spring thaw is what most creekers live for. In fact, “March Madness” here in the Northeast doesn’t mean College Basketball, but good cold whitewater! Don’t know where you are in the country, but I’d say 35F is pretty damn cold water, even with a dry suit. 45-55F is more the norm when me and my buds go out–But in Class Five the water temp be the least of one’s worries. Myself, I don’t do no Cl. V, even though I have well-experienced friends who do(or did, as one very experienced friend lost his life running one down in New Zealand :# ) Some of these places I’ve looked at and thought, “Yeah, I could do that.”–Then sanity returns when I remember I have people waiting at home who count on me…I DO run Cl. IV after ice-out a good deal all year round(or when rain brings things up, up, up.) But as I have gotten older (and as my usual ww partners are both well over 60) I almost exclusively use a Thrillseeker ducky in Cl. IV (I’m still good confidence-wise in hard boats to Cl.III)
All depends how familiar the run .I don’t have any pics in Cl. V, but I do have plenty of shots of what to wear in icy frigid freshwater…My take on Class Five is, it’s not at all insane to those who have the skills(of which, with an off again-on again-offside roll, I don’t!!!). Or as Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies has grunted:
“A man has got to know his limitations.” If you go, don’t forget your helmet, skull cap, pogies/glacier gloves, wool socks inside yer booties–And for gobsakes, don’t go alone!
Do people run class V rapids - yup. Do people run class V rapids in cold water? Sure. As planc said, a lot of runs are dependent on natural flow, so you run them in late winter early spring when the water is cold. Anyone doing those types of runs would have proper cold water gear.
There’s a big difference between a cold water swim in a river and in open water. In a river, you are probably not far from shore, you will expend a lot of energy swimming to shore, and then it’s over. River swims tend to be short. In a class V rapid you are more like to flush drown than you are to die of hypothermia. In open water, hyperthermia is the bigger threat.
Like Spiritboat, class III is pretty much my limit. I’ll run an easy class IV if it’s short and there is an easy swim out at the bottom. Otherwise, I’ll portage and take pictures. Some people call this a tough class III, I consider it a class IV, and after a long nasty swim it’s one I now portage.
@eckilson said: “…Some people call this a tough class III, I consider it a class IV,”
I fully agree, eck–Especially If one swims it–it’s definitely a four!;-
Otherwise, like you said, a tough III.
My own criteria is pretty much based on drops/ledges in the mix. Any ledges/waterfalls/chutes higher than 2 feet–it’s automatically a IV! Anything with ledges PLUS constant turbulence where there’s little or no way to eddy-out (or even swim immediately out of, for that matter)–Then it’s a V! Below are some pics of my local steep creek–A pretty solid IV where one of my partners broke a wrist going over a six-foot ledge in a play boat. I do these drop filled sections very warily, and only using a ducky. Because of the gradient, walking/climbing around certain sets along the way are an automatic given.
Yes. Up here in northern MN, most of the class V creeks only run in the spring. Paddling in air temps from 20-40 with water at freezing point more common than not. You go when the water lets you.