Interesting Trips With Our Inflatable Products
John Auerbach's Account of a Pack Cat Trip Down the Jarbridge and Bruneau Rivers in High Water
Here is a recap of my recent trip to Jarbridge/Bruneau rivers. We had an excellent trip - adventurous, beautiful scenery, perfect weather (almost too perfect - the water kept rising and rising...), fun and exciting whitewater, etc., etc.
We put in late Saturday afternoon after the 2 hour, 75 mile desolate shuttle to the base of snow covered Jarbridge Mountain. The Jarbridge was flowing pretty good and it had a definite alpine flavor in the upper sections. We spent 3 and half days doing the Jarbridge. The river has a fairly steady steep gradient and got tougher the farther we went. We portaged the 3 biggest drops (IV, IV+, V+) but did run the remainder which included a lot of III/IV. I got pinned once between a couple of rocks but was able to self extricate myself pretty easily. I also swam once in one of the tougher sections and this was sort of scary because it was above a huge tree jammed in the middle of the river. Fortunately, I was able to semi-swim and push myself and the boat to the side to clear the tree and then was able to self rescue. The other biggest hazard we encountered on the Jarbridge was big, fat rattlesnakes. One crawled out from under my friend's duckie one morning. They also made hiking kinda sketchy.
The Jarbridge eventually turns into the Bruneau River. The upper Bruneau is one of the most incredible canyons I have ever been in. Narrow vertical walls, huge blocky roof alcoves and spectacular spires/hoodoos were abundant. The character of the river was much different then the Jarbridge. The upper Bruneau is very pleasant - pretty much slow moving - but the flow was definitely higher and I could tell the difference. We started to hit some drops (III) and the bigger water feel really hit me. I ended up swimming 3 times that day! We decided to push through the Bruneau as fast as possible especially considering the daily water rises and the toughest section of the Bruneau, Five Mile Rapid, lay ahead. So, we did 20 miles that first day on the Bruneau. We had 8 miles of relatively easy water the next day and then we were at Five Mile. Five Mile Rapid is basically 3 miles of fairly continuous III & IV followed by 2 miles of slightly easier stuff. My friend pinned and flipped in the first part of Five Mile (called the Boneyard). I swam in the 2nd hard portion and it was a fairly brutal swim. We decided to play it pretty conservative. We ended up doing 3 difficult lining/portages around sections that just looked too dicey. I was pretty wasted and the paddling was still difficult. We got through the rest without incident and even got to watch a big 16' double cataraft bounce through some ofthe gnarliest parts. We finished up on Thursday.
Overall, the Pack Cat performed greatly, though I didn't always perform that well on top of it. This was my first time using it fully loaded, and I foundthat it plowed through waves and smaller holes effectively. It felt a little harder to maneuver weighted down especially in bigger water. Also, on the day I swam 3 times, it felt like the boat was buckling when I was hittingbigger waves and holes even straight on. Some of this I think resulted from that I couldn't pump the boat up tight enough with the Bravo foot pump and my paddling performance was off that day. I tried compensating by moving more weight up front and sliding the foot and seat frames up several inches. This seemed to work. The boat is tough as I skidded over some rocksand had to haul it over others (dry) when lining/portaging. The gear frame was a big help. I am very pleased with the Pack Cat and can't wait to do another trip with it.
By the way, the flow from the gauge near the end of the Bruneau on when we put in on the Jarbridge was about 1100 (obviously the flow on the Jarbridge was much lower). The flow on the day we ran Five Mile was 1300 - it felt much bigger!
I plan on writing up a more descriptive and hopefully entertaining story at some point. I'll pass it along if I ever do. In the meantime, if you have any input on some of the stuff I mentioned (buckling effect, maneuverability,big water skills, etc.) it would be appreciated.
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