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Bottom Moose (class IV-V)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yesterday I ran a new river, the Bottom Moose.

This river has been a sort of milestone for me. I have been aspiring to run it for a while. This is the kind of river most white water kayakers come to the Adirondacks for, and the past couple of years I've had to run easier things while my friends paddled on it because I was a beginner.

The description of it on the American Whitewater website says: "The Bottom Moose is perhaps the most famous, biggest, most important whitewater run in New York state." It also says, "Generally speaking, paddlers should have Class-V skills if they want to have fun on the Bottom Moose."

To put this into context, here is a summary of the river and rapid classification system:

- Class 1: Very small rough areas, requires no maneuvering. (Skill Level: None)

- Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, small drops, might require maneuvering. (Skill Level: Basic Paddling Skill)

- Class 3: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe a 3–5 ft drop, but not much considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill Level: Experienced paddling skills)

- Class 4: Whitewater, large waves, long rapids, rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed. (Skill Level: Advanced Whitewater Experience)

- Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, continuous rapids, large rocks and hazards, maybe a large drop, precise maneuvering. Often characterized by "must make" moves, i.e. failure to execute a specific maneuver may result in serious injury or death. Class 5 is sometimes expanded to Class 5+ that describes the most extreme, runnable rapids (Skill Level: Expert)

- Class 6: While there is some debate over the term "Class 6", in practice it refers to rapids that are not passable and any attempt to do so would result in serious injury, near drowning or death (e.g. Murchison Falls). If a rapid is run that was once thought to be impassible, it is typically reclassified as Class 5.

As this is only the end of my second season I certainly do not claim to have class V boating skills, by any stretch. At the moment I'm working my way up into class IV.

But the water was low, we had a big strong group, and the weather was fabulous. My friends assured me I had the requisite skills. So I went for it.

One of the more entertaining parts of the run is a 15-foot vertical drop. I didn't bother "boofing" or jumping it, but just penciled in.

Right after this a friend met us on the side of the river with a hot lunch he'd prepared on his camp stove - quesadillas with cheese and ham and salsa, and hot dogs, and cans of Mike's Hard Lemonade. Although these are not my normal foods, they definitely hit the spot as I was HONGRY. I even had a couple of the miniature Reese's.

My heart rate monitor estimated that I burned 1400 calories in the 4 hours we were on the river. In the end I ate far more than I needed that day, and when that happens I just have to eat at a deficit for a while to make up for it.

It was an awesome day, and I felt really good about how I ran the river. I only had one flip, and in most of the rapids I was just about where I'd wanted to be. I only "snuck" one of them - the class V named Crystal since I have a kayaking trip coming up in Argentina in two weeks and I want to stay uninjured until I get there! The other class V drop was dry and no one ran it.

I've forever heard talk about how scary the drops on this river are, and how technical - I wasn't prepared for how beautiful it was. The frequent twists and turns provided new views around every corner and the terrain was stunning.

I had fabulous company on the river that day - several very good friends and the coaching they gave me with suggestions about how to make it through big rapids like Shurform were spot-on. In the end kayaking really is about sharing time doing what you love in beautiful places with your good friends who have your back and vice-versa.

GPS tracks and a couple more photos here:

From a whitewater kayaking perspective, having run this river in relative style (even at low water) is kind of equivalent to having gotten to goal in weight loss. I have, in a way, finally "arrived." From here on I will continue to improve my skills, but finally now I can play on the rivers with most of my friends.
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