Gore Fest 2015 a best bet for the adventurous
Special to the Sky-Hi News
For all those enthusiasts crazy about either Colorado, mountains, rivers, hiking, camping, barbecuing, whitewater, or any and all rolled into continuous fun, this weekend’s Gore Fest 2015 promises to deliver.
While the world-class Gore Canyon Whitewater Race has long been a favorite of whitewater extremists, the completion of the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park, dedicated in July, has organizers hoping it will not only expand the competition, but will make it more accessible to the greater outdoor community.
The classic downstream race itself, once a qualifying event for the US Rafting finals, takes place on the Colorado River in the remote and difficult to reach Gore Canyon, south of Kremmling. The canyon itself cannot be reached by vehicle, is inaccessible in some parts, even by foot, and is best seen on an Amtrak train passing high above the water.
The only other human visitors are those whitewater boaters dedicated and experienced enough to paddle a 4-mile stretch of flat water before launching down 6 miles of narrow, riotous, Class V rocks and rapids — or those brave enough to join one of the limited commercial trips that go down each year.
Out of the Canyon
Historically, spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of the race activities have been limited to hiking in on a single trail that soon dwindles to what event organizer Justin Scheible of Adventures in Whitewater calls a “goat path followed by a 45-degree scree slide and a boulder-strewn scramble.”
But this year, all that will be different. Scheible and fellow organizers Hattie Johnson of RiverRestorations.org (designers of the whitewater park); and Jessica Marson of Rapid Image Photography plan to make the most of the new park, located at Pumphouse Recreation Area, the historic take-out for participants.
Pumphouse, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is a popular boater put-in and includes rustic camping and outhouse facilities. With the addition of the river-wide whitewater park and a specially designed viewing area, it creates a perfect venue to open up event activities. And organizers are doing just that.
The weekend of celebrations will start on Friday with a late registration from 6-9 p.m. near the Pumphouse campground. A 9:30 p.m. showing of the award-winning documentary “Damnation” will follow. The screening has been donated to raise awareness of the challenges faced by rivers as consumer water needs come into greater conflict with environmental health.
Saturday will dawn busy for down-water racers who must be at a required safety and protocol meeting at the upstream put-in by 8:45 a.m. Those not present at the meeting will not be permitted to participate.
Kayakers will compete first, starting at noon and launching at 1-minute intervals. Raft teams will follow, spacing their start with 2-minute periods.
Class V spectating
For those wanting to hike in to see the down-river portion of the race, they can find a trail head at Pumphouse Launch 1 and can hike as far as Kirshbaum and Gore Rapids, both located near the bottom of the event. They will be rewarded with an amazing view of the canyon and the chance to see competitors finish.
Hikers are strongly cautioned that it is an arduous hike-turned-scramble that is not appropriate for dogs, children, or those with health concerns. They are encouraged to bring light, protein-filled snacks, water, sunscreen and little else. The area is not maintained by rangers and visitors must avoid litter and damaging activity, following all “Leave-no-Trace” practices.
“Watching Class V sports requires Class V spectating,” says Scheible, referring to the most difficult classification given to whitewater obstacles, and one used to describe many of the rapids found in Gore Canyon.
For those who would like to fill in the time with more leisurely activities, they are encouraged to enjoy Pumphouse. Licensed anglers can toss in a line, the curious can watch kayakers or stand-up paddle boarders surfing the new wave park, and private boaters are encouraged to take family-fun trips down river.
A complimentary, limited-space shuttle will be provided by Adventures in Whitewater and will leave the Radium take-out at 3 p.m., returning to the Pumphouse for more entertainment. A 4:30 p.m. start time will see a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP contest, racing down-river from Pumphouse to Radium. Easily accessible viewing can be had at Pumphouse’s Launches 2 and 3, from Radium Bridge, and along Radium Road.
The day will be rounded out at Pumphouse with local live music from 6-9 p.m., and an organized barbecue for athletes and event volunteers. Others are invited to cook at their campsites, tail-gate in the parking lot, or picnic by the river.
However, organizers again make clear that Pumphouse is governed by BLM rules and regulations and is overseen by ranger staff. This means camping must be in designated campsites, fires must be in established fire rings, quiet must be respected after 10 p.m., all trash must be taken out by attendees, and all appropriate fees must be paid.
While observing the event itself is free, the rec area has a day-use fee of $5/vehicle, and camping is available for $1/ person on a limited and first-come first-serve basis. People are invited to spend the weekend, drive out for a day, or return again and again.
Finally, Sunday will highlight the great new opportunities afforded by the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park. The water park is a $1.7 million cooperative project, funded in large part by Grand and Eagle counties, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Basin Roundtable, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Officially known as a Recreational In-Channel Diversion or RICD project, it is celebrated as achieving important water rights and protection for the Upper Colorado River.
An open Kayak Freestyle Rodeo and SUP cross race will take place on Sunday, with all interested competitors invited to a 10:30 a.m. registration event. The first heat of the kayak rodeo will start and 11 a.m. and spectators will have easy viewing from the observation platform and the banks of Pumphouse rec area. The events will be judged by WaveMonkey Scoring, and rodeo finals will take place after the SUP race.
Onlookers will witness kayakers performing flips, rolls, pin-wheels, and cartwheels in the new, specially designed waves. They will see SUP contenders navigating through up-stream and down-stream obstacles, before charging through the wave in what is sure to be a “chaotic” and fun-filled finish.
To find out more or to register for Saturday’s main event, go to AdventuresinWhitewater.com/GoreFest2015.
Event organizers are looking for additional event sponsors and volunteers. For more information on sponsorship and/or volunteer opportunities and how you can be a part of this exhilarating event, contact Adventures in Whitewater at 970-724-1122 or Rafting@AdventuresinWhitewater.com.
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