Pillow Rock Rapids – Class V

After our last white water rafting trip to the New River, we decided to plan a trip to do the Upper Gauley that is more intense with more rapids and less float time. It is one of the best places to raft in the U.S.

The Upper Gauley season lasts for six weeks beginning around Labor Day weekend. Summersville Lake gets drained for the winter, which allows the Gauley to get better rapids than on its off season. They decided to let out more water this year after consulting the tour companies. It usually has 2800 cubic feet per second, but the additional water flow from the lake put the river at 3200 cubic feet per second.

We all drove down on Friday night. I left from Cleveland after work and got to Pittsburgh to pick up Andy. We got to the campground around 10pm. Chad and Ed were the only ones there. The campground we stayed at was called Chestnut Creek. Andy had warned everyone how strict the campground owner was, but we did not think it would be as bad as it was.

We all went to bed around 1am and had to wake up early for rafting.

A Day of Rafting the Gauley

We woke up around 7am and had breakfast at the campsite. We then left around 8 to go to the Class VI location to check in for rafting, pick up our wetsuits and gear. The forecast was roughly 80 degrees with 55-60 degree water. Andy and I had already decided to wear wetsuits. They looked kind of like overalls. We wore our rain jackets over top of them.

At Class VI, most of the group ate breakfast because we got there extremely early. Our reservation was at 9:05, so we decided to get there early to check in. We definitely did not need to get there as early as we did. However, we did get to enjoy a good view of the New River Gorge filled with fog rolling through. Andy and I enjoyed the view on some chairs overlooking the gorge.

People: Small Boat: Ed, Chad, Kristen, RJ Large Boat: Tina, Heidi, Chris, Dave, Chris, Andy, and Link (our raft guide)

Last time we had a smaller raft, but Andy and I decided not to pay the extra $50 to upgrade to a smaller raft of four people plus a guide. Fortunately, some of Andy’s outdoor friends joined us on the trip, so we were able to have 7 people plus a guide in our raft.

Our groups then were able to check in with Doug. He was our raft guide and the speaker/comedian on the bus. He had longer hair than me and LONG pig tail braids. I have to admit; I was a little jealous. We left on the bus with the other rafting groups that would be going down the river with us around 9:30 or 10 a.m. We already had our helmets and life jackets. We got to the starting point (the dam at Summersville Lake) and met up with our raft guides and gear. We went through a little instruction of the commands we would hear on the river. I was getting excited to see if the hype was accurate.

Now time for some more details of the fun that we had. We got to go through five Class V rapids. They were really fun. We only had a few casualties during the rapids. Heidi, Tina, and I jumped out and swam for a little in the river when it was slow. Our boat members also asked our guide to do some surfing, which I think made him want to try harder areas of the river with us. We were able to do some surfing that the other groups did not get to enjoy. Chris, Chris, and Heidi fell out on Lost Paddle rapid. This was kind of scary because the boat went over Chris’ head when he was in the water. We also go to do the “Box” because Andy fell out after Iron Ring. I didn’t even realize he fell out because Tina saw him surface and pulled him back into the boat. We all took turns rotating throughout the boat. The front seats definitely got hit the most with the water coming into the raft as we hit the rapids. We had a great time. It was very different than the New River Gorge rafting because we did not swim as much, there were higher class rapids, and we were on a larger boat. The picture below shows both the Upper and Lower Gauley. We only did the Upper portion, so the dotted line is where we stopped.

Andy also has a good map of what we did on his blog.

After we hit all the Class V rapids, we had a hot lunch that was prepared for us. I was impressed with the lunch. There were many options of hamburgers, hot dogs, cookies, etc. This took a little while and by the time we were ready to get into the boat, no one really wanted to get wet again. However, we still had some lower class rapids to go through before being done. The trip took about 6 to 7 hours. We handed in out paddles and raft at the end of the trip and picked some “Bud Heavies” for the 40 minute bus ride back.

We got back to Class VI and changed into dry clothes while we waited to watch the video of our rafting trip at Chetty’s Pub. We hung out for awhile after as well. Chris (from Michigan) and I pitched in to buy the photos and CD of the pictures from Pillow Rock Class V rapid. They were really funny. We ended up having them mail the CD to us because it was still not ready when we tried to pick it up after the video or the next morning.

The video was decent. I liked the part when Tina pulled Andy back into the raft right after he fell out and surfaced. She did it really fast, and I was impressed because I didn’t even realize he fell out until later down the river.

After the video and hanging out at Chetty’s, we headed back to the campsite for a little before heading to dinner at Pies and Pints. We were waiting to hear back from another member of the ECP that was climbing at the New River Gorge and had a camping spot next to us. We didn’t hear from him by 7, and I was getting hungry. Chad, Ed, Andy, and I headed on our way to Pies and Pints for some pizza and beer. We called ahead for reservations, which was good because there was a 1.25 hour wait! The others went to DiOGi’s. After dinner, we went back to the campsite. Chad and Ed decided to leave to head back to Pittsburgh because everyone went to bed early, so Andy and I walked over to Jim’s campsite to hang out by their fire. I met some more ECP members.

A Day of Climbing

Andy decided that he wanted to try to climb with Jim at Rehab Crag instead of where Tina wanted to go. However, after everyone woke up and discussed our climbing plans, we all decided to head to Rehab Crag. Andy and I ate oatmeal at the campsite and broke down our campsite.

We left around 9:30 or 10 to head to the climbing area. We did not realize that it was going to be a long drive. It was a nice drive because the tree leaves were bright fall colors. We drove on a back road, where I got to drive over a waterfall. All the other cars were made for the road that we were driving, so my Impala had to try to keep up the best it could. We bush wacked a little to try to see if we could find the right climbing area. Jim found some routes that he wanted to try. Tina and I headed down to the Meadow River, where I got to take some pictures.

We had a hard time finding the area that Jim wanted to climb. We thought we had found it with a few routes that were not marked. Jim led a trad route and then set up a top rope on another route as well. Andy walked up to the top of another wall and set up another top rope, so we had three routes to climb. I only was able to climb the one that Andy set up since I do not climb too frequently. I did not get up the first time, but I got to the top on my second attempt.

We all left around 3 to head back to Pittsburgh. Andy and I stopped to eat on our way home.

Have you ever been white water rafting?