Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 5 - First day in the Canyon

Everyone's super excited as we set of into the canyon. 2 rafts, 7 kayaks. We are all well oiled kayaking machines, setting off into the relatively unknown, helming two 18 foot beast loaded with excessive supplies. 
Heading of into the unknown
As the canyon walls build so to do the smiles. Andy and Rob take on the first challenge of mastering the art of rafting and it isn't long until we reach our first rapid. Hovering high upstream the rafts wait as we scout the lines, find the best picture and video spots and prepare for our first team whitewater descents. The rapids grade 5. Absolutely terrified at first we approach it before realizing it is not the British grading system and 5 out of 6 but instead is the canyons own unique grade system 5 out of 10 and is actually closer in difficulty to a British grade 2+/3. Excited me, James and Scout head down and enjoy the big bouncy high volume gem of a rapid scooting around holes and flying over waves before punching the eddy lines and grabbing the cameras. Next up its the rafts, Rob first followed by Andy spinning his way down momentarily pausing at each hole! 
JB and Claireo dropping into the lead into to one of the first rapids
Styled it? Maybe not! But completed it? Yes! A successful descent for all. Once again everyone's buzzing! 
Andy figuring out how to control the 18 foot raft whilst been eaten by a big hole on one of the early grade 5 rapids
Not quite up to making the eddy the boys plough on into the sun filled canyon. The weathers hot (warm) about 20 C. I've ditched the dry suit for a short sleeve cagdeck and it's perfect. My new fun runner is awesome, loads of speed, easy to move around and the perfect size it's great.
We stop for lunch and tuck into a feast of food. Ceiba have provided us with kit including food and oh my god what a great job they have done. Everything has been thought about from condiments, to tables. I the planning stages we were each asked our food preferences and our eating amounts. Despite loving my food I opted for normal as the portion option as a posed to huge. All the lads had selected huge and at lunch we found out Rob had also changed mine to huge to make sure we would have enough food! We had forgotten its an American outfitter providing food for the appetites of American rafters. We have an insane amount of food. All fitted perfectly into daily boxes, snack pouches, bags and crates. Dinner tonight was lovely 2 chicken breast and 13 massive salmon fillets between 9 of us, marinated with spice, served with rice and broccoli followed by biscuits and fruit after a starter of Pringles.
Coffee break

Sat around burning embers, on a fire mat of course to collect the embers (park rules) we watch the sun set over the canyon walls, listen to the wind and water in the canyon and enjoy sharing story's and adventures. Accompanied by Antoine on the guitar. What a day!
Check out the amazin Canyon walls all around the campsite
Photos by Antoine Dupis, Anne Pimpanelle and Claire O'Hara

Day 4 - Launch Day 'Stars'

Group 2 have arrived. Dave 'Scout' Whortley, Ted Piper, Charlotte 'Chuck' McCauley, Antoine Dupuis and Anne P 'The Frenchies'. 
The Ceiba team lead by Scott Davies picks us up and we are on our way to Lees Ferry to begin our journey down the Grand Canyon. 
Arrving at Lees Ferry

For just 9 people we have a ridiculous amount of kit! Somehow and in only 6hrs!!! we have managed to load it all onto the rafts. Beer, boats, books, cameras, kit, chairs, tents, you name it we've got it. 
Hows much kit!
Loading all the essentials for the trip
 As we have to get an offical permit to get onto the canyon there are a number of legal requirements that have to be met. We meet the offical rangers and have our kit checked. One of the things thats checked are the bouyancy aids mine is the only bouyancy aid that isn't US Coast Guard approved but after a couple of minutes chat the National Park Ranger 'Peggy' gives it the all clear.  It looked for a moment that I may have to wear a bright ornage life jacket (neck collar and all) for the duration of the trip!!!

Its amazing how much gear you can fit onto 36ft of raft!
 Scott briefs us on how to set up camp (poo cans and all), use the kit and rafts, cook and make sense of the 19 day food plan before sending us on our way. Then we are off. We finally set voyage onto the crisp cold waters of the Grand Canyon. 100 yards later we stop and set up our first camp!
Scotty briefs us on how to set up camp
 A quick meal at Marble Canyon allows us time to look at maps and chat briefly about the plans. 20 miles ish a day 4/5 hikes before Diamond Creek then 3/4 days to Pearce Ferry. This is going to be an adventure I never forget.
Discussing plans for the 3 week trip
We step out of the minibus and all just stop. I have never in my life seen a sky like it. So many stars! So clear! We just stand, look up and watch. We are in the grand canyon!
Shiny new boat finally hits the crisp blue water of the canyon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 3 - Snow on the ground

6 days ago Flagstaff had 2 feet of snow!

Flagstaff is the main town at the Grand Canyon. At 7,000ft it is quite high and is surrounded by mountains and hills. A desert town most of the year it's altitude also means it gets winter weather and turns into a ski resort in the winter months. We transitioned quickly from the 75*  + weather in Vegas to 54* in Flagstaff with snowball fights to help ease the transition.

Up early at 6.30am, thanks to the 8hour time change. Today was a super busy day. First thing was a trip to Ceiba where I picked up my new Jackson Fun Runner kayak and we met the outfitter team who would be kitting us up for our trip. Ten it was a quick (2hr) trip out to the South Rim, through the settlements 'No Trespassing, Trespassers will be shot!' to the Canyon Rim! What an absolutely awe inspiring incredible beyond explanation place! 'massive, orange, incredible, unreal'... There aren't really words to describe the views. I expected a canyon. A gap in the ground. But not the perfectly level plateau tops, the varying gradients, the plateaus on plateaus, the river deep down below, the tracks of meandering channels cut at each level cut into the sandstone rocks. To see it was incredible to know that for the next weeks we would be paddling at the bottom of it made sense of the enormity of what we were about to do. The scale of this adventure, the reality, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

Day 2 - Hoover Dam

Up and out and on our way to Flagstaff via Hoover Dam. 
My history knowledge of most things is pretty poor but my American history is pretty much non existent. Seeing the massive dam that produces all the electricity for Vegas and the surrounding areas was my first American history lesson and I feel the 1st of many more to come. We walked the bridge and then walked the dam before driving the 5 hours from Nevada to Arizona the home of the Grand Canyon.

Day 1 - 24th March 2012 - Vegas

I have never been to an airport where you can play slot machines whilst waiting for your baggage! 
Today I left the UK and travelled out to America on the first leg of my adventures. The journey went really well. Mum dropped me off at the airport and I travelled over with James 'boring' Bradley. 
Looking out over the Strip from the roof of the Stratosphere Casino Hotel
Arriving in las Vegas at 6.30pm we met up with Andy Gardner and Rob Harris and quickly found ourselves in ' New York New York' taking in the incredible magnificants of the wealth, size and madness that is The Strip! Casinos, themed buildings, restaurants, taxis, lights, castles, pubs, hotels, money, limo's, hummers, music, red bull DJ trucks, walking, flyers, leaflets, walkways, police with film crews, suits, bandits, blackjack, strippers... This place is insane and so tall but so small. It's all in one area surrounded by normality / slums! We stayed the night at Motel 6 fresh out of CSI and the X Files. 4 of us slept in the very basic motel, air con blasting, trying to make sense of what we had just seen.

The Adventures of Claireo

I have just seen the grand canyon and it's unreal!
Looking out over the Grand Canyon before setting of on the 19 day adventure
March was my last day at work. It was quite an important day as it not only was the first time i have ever put an official out of office reply on my email system but also the day i sold my trusty 'tan' van.  The tan van is my red (pink) VW Transporter T4 that I bought in 2006 and that I custom outfitted into a basic camper system with Pete and have taken with me on all my UK adventures ever since. Selling the van was a momentous moment in my life. It is the end of one era and the beginning of the next massive adventure.
I am 30, I have no house, no vehicle and technically no job. However I am a boater! I own 7 kayaks and a passport and I am about to begin one of the biggest and most exciting adventures of my life so far. For the next 7 months I will be traveling the world, training and competing as a full time kayaker. I cannot wait. 
This is my story. This is my life!