Upper Cherry Creek Trip Two
“The one day descent turned mandatory 5 day overnighter”
With temps and flows on the rise, we found ourselves facing a long stretch till our next river would drop into a runnable level. Tommy had concepted the goal of running the entire Upper Cherry Creek in one day (10.5 mile hike/ 12 mile paddle + 3000 feet of gradient). We had nothing else to do so set off for the river and a mid day rendezvous with Lindgren, Little Dave, Shannon, Bennie, Matze, Jason Hale and on and on.
Al G, our trip leader, had stayed within the gorge when we paddled out the first time and was awaiting a food re-supply from us and was on radio contact for our intended Monday rendezvous.
Feeling the spirit of the alpine start I (Daniel) headed out at 330 am from the Kibbie Ridge trailhead. Armed with a headlamp I began the 10-11 mile schlep up the hill and through the impenetrable forces of mosquitoes.
photo by Nikki Kelly
I got lost about 4:15 am in a burnt out section of the trail. It was still utterly dark out and I was in a deep dark place in the woods. Reluctantly I put my boat down and began to walk in concentric circles. The fire was so intense that the trail was obliterated in sections with burnt out ash lines looking like the trail.
Frustrated as hell I wandered farther into the darkness in search of my trail, the LED lamp hardly doing much justice in the ash-out of the forest floor. All of a sudden a heavy big noise came from the woods near my wandering path. At that moment the reality of the deadly mountain lion came to me in a shocking start. With my trusty paddle I was determined to defend the death leap of the lion if it should come. Just two years earlier we saw a huge mountain lion at Kibbie Ridge. The bears and rattlers I can take, but the lion scares the hell out of me.
Fortunately, the “chipmunk” inflicted no harm I found the trail and drug myself into the putin at 832 am to some high ass water. Happy with my decision to bring my 1 pound sleeping bag I dropped out for a bit of shut eye after my 5 hour/ 10.5 mile slug up the hill, and awoke to Tommy dropping into camp at 11 am.
Good news was he also had a sleeping bag and a bit of food, bad news was the rest of the crew bailed out 2 hours in after talking with Al at base camp and getting the highwater report from within the gorge.
With the clothes we had on, a sleeping bag and 1 and half worth of food, Hilleke and myself set off for base camp, just below the Cherry Bomb gorge.
The two of us essentially bombed the very high water upper down to the top of the Big Gorges, understanding the way too high nature of the flow, we schlepped our boats the 40 minutes down to the top of the Money Potholes Gorge. It was there we boomed through some huge holes and slid into camp (after a lap on the potholes of course).
John Grace running the gorrilla rapid during the first trip
photo by Nikki Kelly
In Base Camp we found over 25 people, most were happy to portage and get out, but a few were there on an HDTV assignment and really wanted to drop the gorge.
A day later our crew invaded base camp from all sides.
After a couple of days of deliberation the big game hunters dropped in and pulled off one of the highest descents of the Gorge to date (Alex Nicks, Toby MacDermott and Gary Edgeworth also have high water runs from 2003).
The next day we watched the SLP crew paddle out and run ALL of the big drops and gorges below. Of note were Shannon Carroll’s money line at “Kiwi in a Pocket” and Little Dave’s determination to not land in green water going off the left side of DeadBear Falls.
After the SLP crew bailed we stayed in the gorge for 2 more days.
During that time the water level remained very stout. Tommy (who ran the gorge with the SLP crew) dropped in for a solo, unprotected run through the gorge. He came around the corner and into camp telling stories of big surfs and an epic fight to escape the gorge. He was berated by the rest of the crew for not waiting for Nikki and John who were behind him.
Nikki and John ran through later that day and had stellar lines through all of the holes. Nikki fought proud, becoming the first woman to run the gorge at high water (and the only woman as far as we know).
The next morning Tommy headed up the hill for his 6th trip down the gorge this year (John Grace in tow).
Here is a 16:9 format video of that run.
After their run the whole team paddled out to the lake. Of note was the vertical extraction of Mr. Hilleke from the “Kiwi in a Pocket” pocket (named for the previously mentioned Nikki Kelly named during the first descent of the falls 2 years ago.
We set up a Z-drag and Tommy clipped into his Astral “Grab That Bitch” loop and up and away he went. The rescue team was a bit overzealous and drug a good bit of skin off Tommy’s knuckles.
Tommy running dead bear falls after said extraction
photo by Nikki Kelly