Grand Canyon of the T paddler report
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, from the water.
Four AM wake up, five AM put on. It was rough, but as the guidebook says, useful for “avoiding conflict” with the rangers. It worked pretty well until John discovered that his helmet was still in the van. During the run to get his helmet, John, um "soiled" his pants. Now we have one more thing to give John (AKA Isheet MeDrawers) a hard time about.
Once on the river, it was mad bombing to the top of the portage above Glen Aulin. The rapids were pretty runnable, but the water was very low. We were very exited to get past Glen Aulin without seeing anyone else. The best rapid of the river is right below G. A., a big slide with a couple of moves on the way down. It is the slide where one of the Knapps does an aerial 360 spin in the old liquidlifestyles video.
Below that slide it was flat meadows, interspersed with mostly unrunnable huge waterfalls all the way down to the top of Waterwheel Falls. I think that we may have run one rapid in this whole section.
Waterwheel Falls is enormous, not good to go at any level. We knew that we would have to portage it just from looking at the postcards at the gift shop in Tuolumne Meadows. So on to the shoulder went the boats. And there they stayed for the next hour as we switch backed down the hill. Below Waterwheel it seemed that all of the cool bedrock that we had expected was covered by enormous rock piles. We would bang through one section of manky rocks only to discover that the river disappeared into sieves in the next rapid. Back on the shoulder went the boats. Every now and again we would get back into the river when it flattened out and the sieves became less heinous. Even then it was a butt bruising experience. This was pretty much the routine all the way down to the top of the Muir Gorge. I think that we ended up being able to run two or three good rapids in this section.
Once at the top of the Muir Gorge we got on the radio with Nikki, she reported very difficult hiking around it. We had been told by Scott that it was all good, just when you get to the unscoutable one, run it five feet off the left wall. It was supposed to be an easy plop into the pool below. We found nothing that was good to go five feet off the left and nothing that plopped into a pool. All that was in there was one sketchy rock pile after another. Luckily we were able to scout everything and portage a lot. The last portage was the scariest. It involved a marginal jump onto a rock in the middle, then a traverse down the sharp spine on another rock to yet a third rock. In order to get from the second to the third rock we had to lower ourselves as far as we could hang and then drop down to the slick, wet rock from which we could seal launch. Passing the loaded kayaks from man to man through these moves was no picnic to say the least.
Below the Muir gorge it back into the rock piles and the portaging. We camped for the night at the first flat spot that we could find; exhausted and very glad to have survived the Muir gorge.
Day Two there were two more cool slides and a lot of rock piles and portages down to Pate valley. Below Pate Valley it gorged up again and many manky rock pile rapids and sieve portages brought us to the lake.
All in all we ran seven good rapids, hiked about as many miles with our boats and all swore that we would never go back. The consensus was that the guidebook is right, a backpack is the best way to see the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.