Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The BOX

As Cutch and Stafford put it simply, there is only one Box.  It resides in northern Wyoming, almost into Montana.  Here exists an amazing dichotomy between one of the most peaceful places I've ever been and yet it is also one of the most intimidating.  There's simply no quantifying the experience.  It's a journey into the wild west as it was in the years of old.  

Ben coming to terms with Big Sky Country

Inside the Box, you'll find western big water, mixed with big gradient, nauseating sieves, and committed drops.  It's exactly what the kayaking would be like through the Black Canyon if the Black Canyon had good kayaking.  The Box is better in every way - cleaner and bigger drops, more committed, a longer gorge, smoother walls, more beaches, easier portages, and instead of poison ivy there's raspberries.  Plus instead of gapers and cameras on the rim, there's grizz.  

Ben was pumped on his smooth line through Double Suck and lovin' the scenery.
Looking down into the Box from our hike-out.
We hiked out of the box to enjoy the creature comforts that come with a car.  The hike-out for Alex and I was an amazing journey into the lives of mountain goats as we followed their trail straight up 1500 feet of vert.  The other boys committed to a sketchy 5.8 chossy free-climb and all agreed to never do it again.  In retrospect, there's amazing beaches throughout the entire run and I'd prefer to bust a self support trip although a loaded boat would make the portaging extremely sketchy.  It's such an amazing place, your best bet is to spend as much time deep down as possible - 3-4 days would be fantastic even though it could be routed with a good guide in a 12 hour day.
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Here's our guide, Barry, smoothing the morning drop.
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A rough day in the Box at low flood-stage
So a word on the gauge....Leif's bachelor party dropped into the Box at about 1,500cfs on the gauge, which is 50 miles downstream of the takeout.  Between the Box and the gauge lies multiple farmer's diversions.  The group described low flood stage huge water.  Six days later we dropped at 950cfs.  During the warm-up Honeymooner section, our guide Barry repeatedly mentioned that it was still a little high for his tastes.  I definitely would have described it as the habanero side of medium, not medium or medium low like we were expecting.  However, everything went on our trip except the top of Deliberation, which was intense.  Basically, it appears that the farmers had just begun taking a lot of water out below the Box, but above the gauge and thus causing the gauge to drop a lot faster than the run.  Barry believed that the Honeymooner foot gauge was at 24-25" for Leif's group versus 21" for us.  Take what you will...

This shot is Alex waiting for the 8' boof off the must run Deliberation Corner drop.  You can see the must make, one boat eddy where Barry and Orion are waiting.  If you were to miss the eddy, you'd survive if your read and run solid V-V+ skills were polished.
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To think that I could only fit one of the two rainbows in this picture...


Be sure to check out www.gravitysessions.com for a full trip report from Ben.

Also, a bit of cheese here, but I'm dedicating this post to my Werner Powerhouse.  The damn thing is tough as hell and I beat it senseless this season.  It's the one piece of gear that I trust to not fail and that definitely can't be said about other paddles.  Four of the five people on the trip had Powerhouses.  

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