Rafting the Grand

How ironic that the pinnacle of whitewater rafting experiences is found over a mile deep into the earth.

As the Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon, numerous side canyons and rock falls have deposited piles and piles of rocks and boulders to create some of the most notorious whitewater in the northern hemisphere. Because the constraining canyon walls rise thousands of feet above the river, it has no way to go around these impedances. It has no option but to go over these obstacles in a churning, violent, frothy flow. And once we’re in the canyon, we have no option but to navigate our way through these unyielding currents in our little rafts. As one of the earliest river runners of the Colorado in 1869 described it, the water snagged a boat and “whirled it around quick enough to take the kinks out of a ram’s horn.”

Atlas Trans-Sierra Snowshoe Trek

The Sierra has truly been blessed this year with record snow fall. So, although the weather this spring and early summer has been warm, there is still plenty of snow in the beautiful backcountry. With that in mind, some colleagues at Atlas Snow-Shoe Company came up with the wild idea to do a traditional skiing route across the Sierra-Nevada mountain range on snowshoes. While this was admittedly for our own personal fun, we could justify it as a work trip to test the snowshoes.

The result was a 45 mile trek across the breadth of the Sierra. We started just east of Independence, off Highway 395, and hiked up Symmes Creek. After 12,000 feet of vertical gain and traveling and camping for six days above 11,000 feet, we arrived at the Wolverton Ski Area in Sequoia National Park. The route is usually done on skis with a few mountaineering sections to get over the highest passes, including Milestone Col on the Great Western Divide at over 13,000 feet.