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Whitewater Weekend - PA to VT, Pt VI

Friday-Monday Apr 12-15, 2013
Kayak: Jason M, Dan M, Jamie D, Paul C, Ryan M
Organizer: Ryan
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Author: Ryan

This was the 6th annual pilgrimage to VT for the Pee-yea boys. Over the years it's been a mish-mosh of buddies that have made the trip up every April since 2008, but two of the guys have been a constant and were the only ones to make it up this year, Jason McMullen and Dan Mayer. Both solid boaters an considerably better than me. So being on the water with them is both fun and usually low stress. This year would prove to be a a lot of the former and mostly some of the latter.

Day one. They drove up through downpours to hit the VT/NY state line and be greeted by sleet and snow. WELCOME TO VT! This sort of screwed up the late afternoon paddle that we had slated for the day. No worries, a class IV+ drive up Route 100 filled their cup with enough gnar for the day. Plan B - eat, drink and be merry.

Day two. We had planned to hit the Baker Valley in NH for the day. Knowing that Jamie S and Brandon A were going to be over there as well, it was a no brainier to hit it and have some good local knowledge with us. A quick call to Paul and Jamie D also brought two other solid boaters into the fray. With a group of 6 we were all set for the day. We ran the South Branch Baker first and it was at a medium low level. It is for the most part read and run with fun bedrock stuff at the top down through the Mill drop (which always requires a scout because of wood) and then below you have cannibal falls (walk) and then lots of fun pinball stuff to work through. We spent a few extra moments at cannibal because Jason was planning to run it until he finally gave up the ghost, concerned that he wouldn't make it far enough across the current to where he needed to pull the boof stroke. On down the river we went to the last drop above the take out. Impressive in view it is less than inspiring when paddling down it at lowish levels. However one of our group found the deep spot and had a little town time in this hole, both in and out of his boat. Crazy and sort of comical at the same time - everyone was just fine when it was said and done with. The run was over and the NH boys had to get off to their respective duties for the weekend and Paul and Jamie D headed back to VT for late day commitments. Jason Dan and I were off to Pond Brook... At a low fluid level, pond offered up some really fun drops and a couple of great slides and one of the best boofs in the north east that you can sky off of. We all had solid runs down this river with a couple of funky miss haps, like a wicked piton on Megaslide for Dan and a sideways pin-flip-kick-donkykong think for Jason on one of the drops that he drifted into sideways. However the sun was shining and the day was shaping up nicely. We all finished off the run with a three amazing boofs off the flake in succession at the end of the run. Back to VT for a night on the town in Burlington - man these boys like the UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ. I think the hardest part of the day was negotiating the class 5 crowd at the red-square that night!

Day three. Recuperating from the class V night in Burlington, we watch some golf and got our bearings straight, before heading out into the raw spring day/afternoon for a run on the local standard. The Lower Lad was around 900 cfs and was feeling much more grumpy than usual. Jason was still foggy so decided to sit in the warm truck as Dan and I got in a run. I found out I was still foggy once on the river, flipping in the eddy and making a necessary roll (a rarity for me). The run went with out incident and we were headed back to my place for some more R&R and some of my wife's class IV+ curry!

Day four. Time to head back to PA for the boys. We stopped by every damn river on the way south to find them all running too low (WHAT THE HECK!) until we got to Rutland, then things seemed to have a good bit of flow coming into them and were on the rise from the warm sunny morning. Bingo - that is when we pulled the trigger on the Clarendon Gorges. Man what a high quality run! It was at a much high level than I had ever been on it, but was a load of fun. The first gorge was clean of wood and mostly read and run with great ferry moves and boof's galore. Then the flats leading up to the Mill Drop were less bony than usual (more water + Irene scour) making for quick work. Mill Drop was looking rather stompy and had some nice fluffy holes in the lead in to the crux. We all ran it cleanly down through the slot - VERY COOL! Off we went thru the next shallows section to the head of Devil's Gorge (Lower Clarendon). Grundle Puncher - the class VI rapid at the head of the gorge looked more ugly than I've ever seen it - terminal would be the right word. So off to the portage we went to put in below this rapid. The portage is a total PIA and to top it off it was still covered in ice because the gorge doesn't get sun in this area. Options - seal launch 20 feet down the ice bank and slam the wall on the opposite side of the gorge or toss in your boat and jump in to get an eddy! Neither option was ideal, but we got down to the river in one form or another and started paddling. If you haven't been in this gorge it is as tight as anywhere I've ever boated. Some places are less than 10 feet wide. The rapids are more or less class IV and sport some pretty good holes to ruin your day if you aren't on line and there is the occasional vertical drop that can take you by surprise. We all had decent lines through the gorge except for one of mine which ended in a bit of a thrashing, but in the end it was HIGH QUALITY white water in a beautiful setting! We got off the river around 4:30 and it felt like it was pushing 70 degrees. Spring had sprung in Rutland County. The guys had about 6 hours of driving ahead of them and I had a little over an hour back to Monty-P. Life was good and we wrapped the 6th edition to the PA-VT series.

Looking forward to Next Year....

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