Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Upper Death and Barrel Springs

Me at the Entrance of Upper Death- Photo by Ross Mohsenin

After being off the water for almost a week my hands were getting shaky, anxious to get back in the boat. A couple weeks ago during the US team trials some friends and I headed up to Barrel after our heats were over, and during the first rapid, life after death, I came out with a busted nose, broken knuckle, and cut lip. I knew I had to go back and conquer the run, and Upper Death which I had never tried……..so I did.

Some Splash About a Quarter of the Way Down- Photo by Ross Mohsenin
Jake Saxon, Fred Norquist, and I with some friends headed up there on the 15th to run get a good day on some stouts. Upper Death is the first rapid below the dam in Glenwood Canyon and is usually portaged being a class 5+ rapid. You paddle up to the horizon line a little left of center seeing nothing but spray shooting into the air like fireworks. With a right angle you slide by the side of a large pour over hole and head right, then pointed straight and charge. You take off in a matter of seconds down the steep incline and then have to plug a massive hole, and trust fate from there. It's is one of the biggest wholes I have ever plugged and shot me deep, letting me pop up around 30 feet downstream of the hole. After that with, no pool or eddy’s, you drop straight into life after death, a class V with big lateral waves and a few big sticky whole. You enter it from where ever Upper Death decided to put you (or river right if you portaged UD) which for me was far left, and try to get center left to slide between two crashing holes and then charge right to avoid some sticky holes. The next major rapid is Barrel Springs, class V, which is one of the biggest and longest rapids I have ever run. The entrance is three head towering laterals leading to a curler that’s pushes you left into a set of four more curling laterals that push you left, and you need to get right. Keep digging right and pushing your way, and don’t stop till you get there. You then just keep trucking down stream until you ride over a lateral that’s big enough to catch air off and book it left! A massive pour over hole is seconds below you that you need to go around left or right. Just read the river after that and ride out through the amazing Glenwood Canyon, it’s all easy fun after that!
Almost Down and Getting Ready for the Hit- Photo by Ross Mohsenin
This was one of my top three favorite runs I have ever done. Big water creek boating is a feeling like no other, and the rapids on this section of the Colorado are gigantic, making you feel dwarfed even in your creek boat.
After Upper Death and I'm Starting Life After Death- Photo by Ross Mohsenin

Sorry we didn't get any pictures of barrel springs, here's the link though to a sick edit fred made of the Upper Death runs.


  1. you spelled hole wrong

  2. had to go back and "conquer" the river? good luck ever "conquering" any river! lets hope each time we paddle the river is kind enough to allow us passage...