Sunday, September 6, 2015

Big Waves, Little Boats

10+ years ago, while likely avoiding a college paper, I somehow learned of an Alaska based company named Alpacka. Alpacka's product was a 5lb inflatable packraft that was designed for use in the Alaskan wilderness. Within seconds, I wanted one for adventures that were not yet thoughts. The pricetag was out of reach for a college student working part-time at a gear store and the raft drifted into the back of my mind. Over the years, I'd take notice of a photo or read a blurb about one, but was focused on all things climbing or mountain biking; packrafts stayed in the dusty corners of my mind between calculus and aging.

MC, said friend
This summer, a random email from a friend reading something like, "would you be interested in doing X and Y via packraft? I have a boat you can use."

Perhaps the smarter choice would have been to say thanks, but no thanks. I'll never know since I quickly punched the send button with a YES in reply.

All the borrowed gear became owned gear and at least a day per week was spent at the local whitewater park, floating a river, or rolling in a lake. With the increase in skill and confidence came more challenging waterways.

This summer's experiences on water recently peaked when that same friend who put me in a packraft offered to secure a permit to float Westwater Canyon, a classic 17 mile Class IV stretch, on the Colorado River. Our group consisted of 8 guys, all sporting 6lb packrafts from Alpacka.


7 miles of flat water floating led us into the 3 mile stretch where the canyon pinches down and the rapids begin. Though the rapids don't require too much in the way of eddy hopping or tricky maneuvering, they do consist of large wave trains and munchy holes.



It was read and run. A few of us ran everything clean on sight and a few had some nice swims. By the end of the day, those who hadn't swam on the first go, hiked the boats back above a rapid looking to find the biggest waves and deepest holes. We all swam eventually.




The passing of a flask full of Mezcal, bantering about gear, and smiles had the leisurely 7 mile paddle to the take out over too soon.

Not trying to surf the hole...



Find the face in the rock


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