Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 9 in the Grand Canyon: Staying Warm

Chasing the Sun Down the Canyon
Day 9 we started at Ledges Camp (Mile 152): not a warm place in the winter. The morning had been a little cooler temperature wise, a huge wall shadowed camp, and ice had formed on the water buckets. The sun was never going to hit us there. The cold wasn't bad but the wind bit a little as we slid into the water. We chased the sun down the river, through a few rapids, but mostly just pretty relaxed whitewater. Havasu Canyon gave us one of the highlights of the day. We squeezed the entire group of 16, in our boats, up into the tight slot gorge. Everything glowed iridescent blue from the travertine-filled water bouncing around the canyon walls.

The Glow in Havasu Canyon
Warm Sun Lunch Spot
As we continued downstream, the sun only hit us in a couple of small patches. On days like this, the only consideration for a lunch spot is that it must be in the sun. We finally found a spot tucked up against a vertical wall with a waterfall spraying off the rim above and bright warm light on our faces. Our destination that afternoon was Cove Camp (Mile 175). It felt good to put away so many miles, but I was starting to feel the accumulation of several days paddling and hiking. From camp, we strolled up through a side canyon where a mud flow had thrown huge boulders around. As we returned to camp we found the sun had swung around the wall was blaring down on our camp. We all stopped what we were doing and soaked it in for the 30 minutes it allowed. It felt great. The second it went behind the walls again, we all pulled on our coats and hats and built a fire.
The Sun Hits Camp!
Staying warm in the Canyon during the winter is not hard if you are prepared. We were lucky this year with the weather. We had bright blue skies with lows in the 20s and highs near 50. There have been colder trips for sure. Last year they had some days where it never got up to freezing.

On the river its amazing what paying attention to layering and good gear does for winter paddling. Most days I was in light leg tights and a single heavy top under my drysuit. I like to keep my core a little extra warm so that warmth radiates out to my extremities I wore my paddling mitts almost every day and a beanie whenever the temps dropped. Warm food and drinks are a must. One of my favorite pieces of gear on this trip is my thermos. At camp, I wore heavier fleece pants and wind pants on the colder nights. Up top I wore a fleece and down jacket. Obviously you need a warm hat but the one piece that I think people might forget which makes a huge difference is a neck warmer. It closes that last little gap where the wind and cold try to get to my jugular. As for sleeping in the cold, of course a good sleeping bag but don't forget to have a sleeping pad that will insulate you from the ground. Shnuggling against frigid sand and rock caused a few of us to have a cold night along the river.

Full Moon and a Warm Fire by the River
Here is a link to all the photos from Day 9 in the Canyon.

As Day 9 finishes it begins to settle in that we are getting close to the end of the trip.  I try to keep  as present mentally as I am physically in the Canyon.


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