In case you missed it, here is Becky’s account of her Grand Canyon paddling adventure
In July of this year I was very lucky to be part of a group of friends who went to kayak and raft the Grand Canyon self-supported. This trip was different to previous self-supported kayak trips that I had been on in the past, as this experience was not just about the kayaking but exploring the beautiful canyon, with all its side hikes, side creeks and caves.
One of the things that appealed to me the most about this trip is that I got to do it self-supported with my friends. This means no guides. No guides means you lead down the river. Therefore it is even more important that each member of the group works together as a team to make sure everybody gets down the river safely. You get to plan how far you go each day. You get to decide when you leave each morning and when and where you stop at the end of the day. You decide what hikes you go on and what you want to see and how long you stay there. Basically you and your team get to make up all the rules! What I loved most about being deep in the Canyon was that you lost all sense of time, and that everything you needed to survive three weeks away from the rest of the world was all rigged on the raft.
After a year or so of planning, launch day finally arrived. We launched from Lees Ferry and here we were shown how to rig the rafts. I was issued with my kayak – a fun RPM! Even though I kayaked the whole river to the take out at Pierce Ferry, it was also important for me to know how to rig the rafts properly as it was a team effort every single morning and evening for the next 15 days to break down camp and set up camp.
And then we were off, and it wasn’t long until we were in the beautiful canyon. There were so many cool and fun things we saw and hiked. However, my favourites were red wall cavern and visiting the side creeks of the Little Colorado and Havasu. The colour of the Little Colorado and Havasu creek was just the most amazing turquoise blue, and the water was so warm. There were also many fantastic waterfalls and of course rocks to jump off in to the water.
I am definitely a big water kayaker. I have been very lucky in that I have managed to get to a few big water destinations so far. However this is definitely the biggest water I have ever kayaked. Those rapids were huge! The Grand Canyon has its own grading scale. It goes from 1 (being a riffle) to 10 (with monster waves and big holes and rocks). The biggest rapid on the river is a rapid called Lava, and this is graded as 9. It was fun going down this rapid first, and therefore important to remember all your markers that you looked at when scouting – there were some big holes! The waves were massive and it was such a great feeling to get down it having run a good line and then to see the rest of the team in kayaks and rafts nailing it too.
The next biggest rapid was a rapid called Crystal. There was a nasty hole in the middle of this rapid that was big enough to flip a raft. The kayakers went down first. Two rafts down safely – great. However the third raft ended up in the hole and in a blink of an eye the raft flipped. Immediately we left the eddy to people chase and then…raft chase! I have to say it was an interesting (but kind of fun too) experience people chasing and then raft chasing down one of the biggest rapids I have ever paddled. Everyone got out okay and luckily the raft ended up in an eddy. We lost a bit of kit and food and broke an oar lock of the raft. It then took five people to right the raft. But we managed in the end, and needless to say, with more big rapids coming up everyone was much more careful when rigging the rafts. ‘Rig to flip’ as they say.
My most favourite rapid of all (but there were so many great rapids) was a rapid called Hermit classed as an 8. This is the biggest and most friendly wave train I have paddled, and I felt so lucky that I got to paddle this rapid. There are no nasty holes on this rapid. The reason it is given an 8 is because the waves a just so huge. It is the coolest feeling riding up the diagonal of the wave and then being able to boof of the top of the apex of the wave if you manage to get the timely right. I get filled with pure happiness and joy when I think about that rapid – it was ace!
If anyone of you are thinking of applying for a permit to do a self-supported trip like we did, you should definitely do it. I would definitely go back to get to spend 15 or so days kayaking and living outdoors every day. I think I might have to try my luck for the 2021 lottery!