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Thread: Floating Atigun Gorge

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    Default Floating Atigun Gorge

    Hi all, I am making a post about a topic that has come up a time or two before. I have researched some past threads but was not able to find the exact answer to a question I have.

    I am floating Atigun Gorge the 1st week in September. My buddies are taking inflatible kayaks but I am taking an Aire Traveler with a small rowing frame. I am curious if this is good set up for this time of the year. I don't have a kayak (and more importantly don't know how to kayak) but I do know how to row. My buddy has done this trip in a kayak a few times but he has not ever done it in an inflatible canoe. We are purposely going later in the season with the hopes that the water will be lower to ease the anger of the gorge, but I was curious if anyone has done this trip in early September with an inflatible canoe and rowing frame.

    Any help/advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Member Spanman's Avatar
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    You don't really float Atigun as much as Survive it. Going later dosn't really dictate water levels either, any good rain up there will increse the CFM on the river. I did it two years ago and I cheked the levels before we left on the interwebz, by the time we got up there it had rained and the float was almost unmanageable. There was actually a group that has abandon the rest of the float and were packing items back up to teh put in as they didn't want to proceed further. I did it in a ProPioneer with Oar saddles and at one point (not on the Atigun but the Sag) almost had the boat fold in half on me. An inflateable conoe is a better option than a round IMO only because on low water levels (which is still a challenge) you can drag.
    Yesterday I ran into an Old Girlfriend and I thought I missed her...
    So I backed up and hit her again, ya know sometimes I really do miss her!!

  3. #3

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    Yikes. See that's my problem. My buddy (who has done this trip several times in a Fred Meyer Sevylor kayak with chest waders) tells me, yes its a tad tricky but it's no big deal and assures me we'll be just fine. But then I read posts and research on this site and folks make it sound like death on a stick. I guess it all boils down to water levels huh? Any way I appreciate your post. By the way how do you like your oar saddles? I looked at those but I am thinking I will just have Raft and Kakak make me small frame with a seat mount and everything.

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    Member Spanman's Avatar
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    It ain't no joke!! I did it two years in a row...low water and high water, and I prefer neither. The thing is that people get scared because of the word Gorge.....all that implies in steep walls (with no way to walk around). It's not the gorge that is the issue, it's right after that with boulder sized cars and quick turns that get people. Class IV in the middle and the constant Class III to II to III to II to III to (well you get the picture) at the end. My last trip it was high water and right out of the gate I knew we were screwed, in the end we had two capsizes and lost 1/2 our meat, a gun, clothing, two oars, dry bag full of camp gear, and pride. For the record I have some time on the sticks and been in kayaks and canoes my whole life...I am done with that river. I have no plans to ever do it again.
    Love the oar saddle's, I have the older style so I have more micro adjustment...Light weight and works great!!!
    Yesterday I ran into an Old Girlfriend and I thought I missed her...
    So I backed up and hit her again, ya know sometimes I really do miss her!!

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    Ill second what spanman said "it aint no joke"! Ive been there, done that, lost gear and other stuff. Its just like he said class 4 rapids and 3's then 2's and 3's... Yep pretty much summs it up. Early september youll be dragging lots. Ive seen lots of plastic up there from hard kayaks and seen several cheap boats up there as well tangled up in the bushes, by the way anyone know the story of the Zodiac that went down the gorge sometime last summer? All I know is thats as far as it made it. I wish I had taken pics but I didnt, it was in bad shape!

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    Tried to float it this August in Alpacka rafts. Bad idea. Capsized both boats in the gorge and had to hike out. Managed to recover all gear but had a few scary moments floating down stream after the boats flipped. Saw two other groups go through. One had inflatable catamarans the other had some NRS inflatable kayaks, self bailing. They also were wearing dry suits. (Smart thinking). It can be done but sounds like a big adventure. Hear it gets worse once you hit the Sag. We never made it that far, luckly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishnmagician View Post
    Hi all, I am making a post about a topic that has come up a time or two before. I have researched some past threads but was not able to find the exact answer to a question I have.

    I am floating Atigun Gorge the 1st week in September. My buddies are taking inflatible kayaks but I am taking an Aire Traveler with a small rowing frame. I am curious if this is good set up for this time of the year. I don't have a kayak (and more importantly don't know how to kayak) but I do know how to row. My buddy has done this trip in a kayak a few times but he has not ever done it in an inflatible canoe. We are purposely going later in the season with the hopes that the water will be lower to ease the anger of the gorge, but I was curious if anyone has done this trip in early September with an inflatible canoe and rowing frame.

    Any help/advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
    I am pleased to see this thread came up...

    And yes, the Atigun into the Sag is a no-joke venture (read as should be taken more seriously) and water levels fluctuate considerably in no time. Many focus on the Atigun, yet had better be thinking about the Sag stretch as well. I've hinted to folks over the years including on forum and through PMs about this fun and beautiful run, how to go about it, and so on. Some have taken my advice to the letter (boat selection, how to rig, suggested gear, etc.) and had great experiences --- while others payed no attention whatsoever (wondered why they fell out of boats, lost gear, incurred damages, walked out, worked much harder than needed with bad choices of boat or gear, mentally or physically stressed out, poor planning like over estimating skills underestimating trip, etc.).

    September can magnify errors into (for lack of better wording) real bummers after making the long haul Arctic adventure. Colder more unpredictable weather trends, colder water with levels that change in a day or overnight, more difficult repair issues if you do damages... are to be seriously considered.

    I would say a canoe to the skinny-raft hybrid boats of any make/type is not the ideal choice for running this stretch of whitewater rivers. I'll relate that a canoe looses much of it's 2-person recovery stroke features, and C-2 paddling dynamic by rowing from a frame or saddle set-up. This trip is also not really a suitable entry (novice to intermediate) into pack-rafting or kayaking without knowledgeable raft or cataraft support. Proper apparel is key and tho' not 100 percent necessary --- dry-suits are a great idea.

    A good warm-up is to run "guardrail" section of the upper Willow Creek at both high and medium water levels. If you can't conquer this 9-10 times in a canoe, kayak, or pack-raft (I'm addressing more than just the boating - also self-rescue)... Atigun into Sag is not your easy run cup of tea.

    Boat-wise... very sound notion to stick with watercraft in the upper middle tier thru highest end of reliability and overall quality. Think newest line SATURN (mid-tier) to SOTAR (always top-level). In terms of boating package... all components should be highly dependable/durable. Skill-wise... Honest Class III-IV skill-sets, scouting plus read and run route-finding, with recovery.

    The AIRE TRAV is a fun downstream hybrid (better as an unloaded fun paddling C-2) I have raft supported intermediate boaters in the Trav. on the Atigun... Their boat was unloaded. At the lowest and last stretch of the Atigun they required help and also for the bigger water in the Sag. Similar issues occur on streams like Lake Creek and the Happy (another good couple of warm-ups)

    Hope this lends a hand -

  8. #8

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    yeah, leave the Traveller at home, brother. It's too tip-proned for that stretch. The floor is made too high into the hull, which forces your center of gravity to rise above safe levels, making it a tippy trickster.

    I'd say it's doable, but you better be real comfortable with tricks and flips. rocks are numerous, rapids require fast maneuvering, and you need a rig that has a naturally low center of gravity or width to counter the hull design.

    If you do it in a Pro Pioneer, make sure it's a self-bailer mode and have a good rowing system with tight oars and oar locks. I like to pinch my oar locks closed around the oar shaft to prevent the oars from popping out of socket...which will screw you like a sloppy pig in the mud.

    I'd sell that Traveller and buy or rent a Big Rig, you gain about 250 lbs usuable capacity and it's maneuverable for rivers and water like the Atigun.

    Just my 2 pennies worth, but gain some experience in whichever watercraft you opt for.

    larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    yeah, leave the Traveller at home, brother. It's too tip-proned for that stretch. The floor is made too high into the hull, which forces your center of gravity to rise above safe levels, making it a tippy trickster.

    I'd say it's doable, but you better be real comfortable with tricks and flips. rocks are numerous, rapids require fast maneuvering, and you need a rig that has a naturally low center of gravity or width to counter the hull design.

    If you do it in a Pro Pioneer, make sure it's a self-bailer mode and have a good rowing system with tight oars and oar locks. I like to pinch my oar locks closed around the oar shaft to prevent the oars from popping out of socket...which will screw you like a sloppy pig in the mud.

    I'd sell that Traveller and buy or rent a Big Rig, you gain about 250 lbs usuable capacity and it's maneuverable for rivers and water like the Atigun.

    Just my 2 pennies worth, but gain some experience in whichever watercraft you opt for.

    larry
    Come on we are not lookin' for advertisements --- This is not good advice all the way around! No dig!

    1st (to the original poster) your AIRE Trav. is a fine boat... it has proven itself as quite a durable, high-quality hybrid option. Used within spectrum of its best attributes, this boat will deliver very good performance. It is also not too-tippy being very forgiving and stable to a point. That said, it is going to react more quickly (even suddenly) to capsizing than a typical proportion raft or cataraft. All skinny rafts carry a slimmer margin for error when running oar-rig raft style lines or R-2 vs. C-2 lines that will also play a role in flipping. Load her down, take away her agility and forgiveness... what you get is (like I said before) just not the ideal.

    Do same dynamic to a S O A R PP results are indeed similar. Why? 'cause simply that you'll try to stuff more into it believing all that lower-center extra useful weight talk in a skinny boat toward the practical overload point all into a (believe it or not) weaker construction, less rigidity, less-performance oriented gear hauler that will be more apt to hitting things than avoiding, plus the exponential issue in a capsize on the Atigun. True you could use either a Trav. or PP 'BUT' that does not make them Ideal!!!

    2nd anybody that suggest that oar-locks be 'pinched closed' is inviting you to break blades and oar shafts. Funny... to have seen this exact thing on some PP out of Fairbanks on the lower Sag... Hmmmmm?
    Slow water, maybe get away with it 'BUT' bad idea for technical moving waters, with loads, on remote multi-day.

    3rd, I'd not think to sell your proven Trav. for some b. rig. Again, Atigun - for some maybe, however probably not the testing ground for stretch versions of pack-rafts 'BUT' why would you want to be the test dummy on an unfamiliar river when concerned about what you already have of quality to use. I can assure you, your Trav. is much more durable than any pack-raft from smallest to biggest.

    4th, Hands down -- the most suitable boats for multi-day Atigun River into Sag float trips are high quality 13'-14' self-bailing rafts and 12'6"-14' cats for the better intermediate to advanced and professional boaters at all water levels. Kayaks are suitable only for good kayakers if going un-assisted. Unsupported Canoeists very much in the same camp as kayakers. The sound strategy if the kayaker or canoeist or pack-rafter is less than that of reasonable high intermediate skill-sets... is to be conservative/smart using experienced raft support for a watchful eye, helping hand on recoveries, and the gear hauling.

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    Note to original poster here:

    Please take my word for it that I am not trying to scare you or anybody reading my posts to your thread. My only participation here is based on providing good intel, skill-sets aspire to and practice, gearing yourself up, and to dress for success.

    Stats are actually all provided in this thread... pack-boats flipping, canoes capsizing, wrong watercraft trashed, walk-outs, loss of gear, and loss of meat. A multitude of these all stem from the not so good choices people made running the Atigun River into Sag vs. incidental accidents on a well planned adventure.

    Not to say by being all the wise, practiced, and geared up that you will not incur challenges, possibilities of breaking stuff, and still landing in the drink... only a far less likelihood if following some of what I've related.

    Cheers!

  11. #11

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    slow your roll, brian. not advertising, but river rats need technology and experience to weld their options. what you see as advertisements is my way of pointing out the number of times i've seen travellers get swamped by guys who eventually trade up to a pro pioneer and perform better the next time out.

    you haven't even sat in a Big Rig, so why would you assume you have knowledge of its effectiveness or appropiateness in any scenario?

    interesting that you tried to make a rip off of the attributes of the pro pioneer and radical in that green thing you're marketing as a skinny hybrid. I guess some things about the PP and radical are worthy of your attention, but the obvious attributes of performance are not.

    dude, if you don't pinch a mini-cobra (or any small diameter oar lock) before using it in the field and you'll look like a fool trying to recapture your oar base while wrapping your rig around a stone the size of your ego.

    slow down, man, think about your advice and try to separate your ego from the equation.

    pro pioneer, traveller, or your skinny rip off will be doomed without common sense on the water. Remember, you have experience, many guys don't.

    i'll prepare a you-tube video soon for you to critique online, that shows the atigun at high stage, with two guys using a Pro Pioneer the right way...with moderate loads, common sense, prior experience, and pinched oar locks.

    relax man, no one is challenging your expertise, just that you don't have all the answers, brian.

    lb

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Gentlemen, let's please tone down the rhetoric, thanks.

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    Member Spanman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    A multitude of these all stem from the not so good choices people made running the Atigun River into Sag vs. incidental accidents on a well planned adventure.

    Not to say by being all the wise, practiced, and geared up that you will not incur challenges, possibilities of breaking stuff, and still landing in the drink... only a far less likelihood if following some of what I've related.
    ??? Just so we are clear, my incidents were the latter. Mine was a geared up, informed, and well executed plan with confident oarsmen. Just don't want you to think/imply that my trips were "bad choices". That is why I relayed my experience to OP, so he would know it was no joke.
    Yesterday I ran into an Old Girlfriend and I thought I missed her...
    So I backed up and hit her again, ya know sometimes I really do miss her!!

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    kingfisher, agreed. i suppose not all sporting events view trash talk as friendly fire.

    fishnmagician, keep in mind that stats on the north slope rivers are interestingly tied to deaths along the Sag and not the Atigun. although the Atigun has some pucker to it, the Sag has killed roughly 8 people that I'm aware of since i arrived in the 90s. Don't underestimate this river, especially between the Atigun confluence and the DOT station. At high stage this stretch has numerous Class III rapids with peaks and troughs ranging from 4-6 feet high...at least when i've done it...with powerful eddies and whirlpools with unpredictable currents and cold water temps. Everything about this river commands experience and attention to the smallest of details. Your personal game should be wired tight. Your watercraft should be loaded as low as possible and will be maximized if you stay under 70% of a watercraft's stated max weight capacity. If it's a Traveller, try to keep loads under 500 lbs (max cap. 750 lbs) and loaded low in the floor. If it's a Pro Pioneer, stay under 1000 lbs. (max cap. 1500 lbs) you get the idea...

    line anything that you aren't immediately comfortably with, period. The lighter your rig (and gear), the easier to line or portage.

    Pack everything in water tight drybags and secure each item (and game bags) to the raft, regardless of your situation or water conditions.

    try to gain more knowledge than you think you'll need for average river character, then even more before trying this trip.

    If you're like most float hunters, you'd feel better about judging character after you've seen some good examples.

    Tomorrow morning i'll post a 6-min video here for ya to check out regarding high-stage Atigun / Sag conditions of some of the concerning sections.

    larry

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Nothing more needs to be address with one exception. Last year someone was kind enough to leave two parts Sport Boat along the river one part in the Boulders in the Atigun the other at the end of the run and in the Sag. I would assume orginally it was two boats versus one and I hope and trust all came out safe.

    Can't speak on the Big Rig Larry has not let me Steel one for the weekend! Hint! hint!

    I am with Larry and Brain and I have spent more than my fair amount of time in the AIRE Trav with the frame set up you would find on line or in the store not my 1st, 2nd and or 3rd option for that river and as everyone knows I am all about AIRE and their products.

    Last note the AIRE Outfitter II is well suited for the application if you are a min. person i.e. 50 lbs of gear for your trip but as many have stated level of knowledge an stick time need to be spot on. Best of luck with your choice of craft an best wishes concerning your hunt and trip.

    BMR

  16. #16

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    Folks, thanks for your comments/opinions. I appreciate the advise (and the spirited debate). I am glad that Blue Moose brought up the Outfitter II. I have not ruled out taking my Traveler back and exchanging for the Outfitter (it's still in the box). I opted for the Traveler because of the weight capacity and the fact that it was designed for hunters, albeit that the Traveler is not a white-water boat per se, but will do whitewater. The fellow at the raft store seemed to think it would be a good choice for me. I already have a 16 foot cat that I have been rowing for 10 years and feel confident with my rowing skills, which is why I thought the rowing frame on the traveler would be the best set up for my skills.

    If I opt for a kayak then I basically have to learn to kayak this summer. Eagle River is close by so I plan to practice much in Eagle River of the next few months. I initially considered just taking my cat up to the Haul road, but after seeing pictures of the van-sized boulders, peppered throughout, the cat just looked too big to maneuver around them all. In any event I have a dry suit and never get on the water without it.

  17. #17

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    Here's the youtube link to a float my partner did in late august 2010 in a Pro Pioneer.

    One suggestion when traveling with a partner and your rig is setup for rowing: I usually prefer to have my partner "assist" maneuvers with a canoe paddle. This does two things: 1) offers additional power for difficult sections; but, 2) it engages your partner to keep them warmer and also it forces them to think out each section so that balance and maneuverability is safeguarded. If a passenger just sits onboard, he or she might not think to shift to high side or engage a challenging section, but if they have a paddle it keeps them in the right state of mind (avoiding complacency and possible upset).

    Anyway, enjoy the video. Note that sometime high flow cushions rapids and covers otherwise dangerous rock gardens. Pay attention to the muddy water sections and note the wave height with big currents and challenging peaks and troughs.

    let me know if you have any questions:



    larry

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    Larry , that vid is blocked in the us of a because of copyright deal !

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    plays fine for me and others. interesting. i'll see what's up. Can everyone else view it...it plays fine on this end.

    are you overseas, elkhunter?

    larry

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    plays fine for me and others. interesting. i'll see what's up.
    I think it may be a mobile thing. I can watch it on my Mac, but the Iphone says user has blocked access to mobile devices. I have ran into this myself with copyrighted music.

    Great video Larry, you guys can have that stretch all to yourself.

    Steve
    "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"
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