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River runners expect peak within the week

Tim Mutrie
Tim Clark, right, and a friend prepare for a ride down Slaughterhouse on the Roaring Fork Friday afternoon. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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Some of Aspen’s saltiest river rats have a theorem for forecasting the arrival of peak runoff on the upper Roaring Fork River, home to classic whitewater runs such as Slaughterhouse and Toothache.The upper Fork hits its peak, the theorem holds, when the last sparkles of snow melt off Bell Mountain.Now go ahead, take a look.As you can see, Bell Mountain doesn’t have much left (that is, the last I checked Friday). And that means it’s high time to hit the rivers in a raft, kayak, ducky boat or whatever (including shredders, cats and the like).

Many of the local whitewater outfitters – including Blazing Adventures, Aspen Whitewater Rafting and Up Tha Creek Expeditions – are currently offering special rates for local workers. The outfits have $35 specials for the Slaughterhouse trip (Class IV water from the Cemetery Lane to Wink Jaffee Park) as well as less-extreme Class III trips past Woody Creek and down Snowmass Canyon (Toothache).Lakota Guides is wooing locals on trips that, with a coupon, don’t cost anything.Looking further afield, river rats throughout the state are taking full advantage of the abundant runoff and summery weather.”This is going to be one epic runoff,” said Bob Harris, owner of Blazing Adventures.

“It’s like a powder day statewide right now,” said Rick Covington, owner of Up Tha Creek. “I’m hearing it’s the best runoff in eight years so everybody should definitely get out and take advantage of it.”One friend from Denver, who recently paddled a Class V stretch of Clear Creek, e-mailed with this report:”Flipped at Black Rock Rapid and had to roll. Bruised my shoulder a bit and bumped the bottom with my helmet, but that’s it. Ran the crux narrows section solid, but decided not to run ‘Rigormortis,’ the coup de gras of the run, a straight V at 500 cubic feet per second.”For students of the game, the same friend recommended several websites that serve as beta (river-ese for knowledge of particular water and current conditions) exchanges for the paddling set. The sites include mountainbuzz.com, americanwhitewater.org and phateye.com.

According to the flow chart on mountainbuzz.com, the upper Roaring Fork was pumping at around 1,100 cfs Friday afternoon. And, last time we checked anyway, there was still snow up on Bell Mountain.”We’ll be seeing peak within the week on the Fork,” Covington predicted.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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