Winter to Fall and back again

By:  Ben
October 20, 2010

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Even a little after noon there was still plenty of snow (albeit slushy) to ski all the way back to the car. Owen and I got down, grabbed a quick lunch, then drove west to Rutland, then south on Route 7. It was surreal to be able to so casually drive between seasons, trading the snow-covered pine trees of Killington for the spectacular foliage in the lowlands. Near Danby, VT a deep canyon cuts up into the high plateau in the Green Mountain National Forest. At the bottom of this steep canyon flows the Big Branch river, one of the best class V creeks in the northeast. With all the precipitation over the past few days, the Big Branch was a raging torrent, high above the level it is usually run at. Owen and I met up with a crew of whitewater kayakers and decided with all the water conditions were perfect to explore the upper reaches of the river and try to run it from up in the mountains high above the usual put-in. Some of the crew would then go on and run the harder, lower section at the insanely high level while the mere mortals in the crew would hike out at the usual put-in.

We pulled out the gazetteer and found a lonely dirt forest road leading high up on one of the tributaries that combine to form the Big Branch. Once again we left fall behind in a blaze of color (some of the best foliage I’ve seen anywhere this season!) and found ourselves back in winter. The put-in was a lonely dead-end at around 2000′ where we stood around in patches of snow in 35 degree air while others set shuttle. It was hard not to wonder if it was a bad idea, but the allure of exploring a perhaps never-before-run stretch of river was too much to pass up.

Shivering at the put-in

Soon we were floating down the river. The upper section was mostly class III, with shallow rapids and snow flurries all around as we floated through the Vermont woods. The rapids built up as we descended lower though. Just as the river seemed to be getting more interesting and big, my boat hit an especially sharp rock the wrong way and cracked. Honestly I’m still pretty surprised it cracked, since it wasn’t a hard hit, but bad luck happens sometimes. Lacking the proper materials to fix it on the river, I had to hike out (fortunately the long trail was nearby, allowing an easy escape route!) while the others continued down river. Next time!

About half the group opted to hike out at the regular put-in, as the rapids began tipping toward the big Class V end of the scale. The other half ran the lower gorge, and emerged with tales of huge, pushy features between great moves. There was one swim (and given the crew that was paddling, this is a testament to the level of the river!), but all the gear was recovered. I snapped a few pictures of the last rapid from the take-out…

Ted in the last eddy

Alan launching off a bump in the middle. I love the contrast between the water and the foliage!


Justin boofing into the drop

And styling the finish!

Even though the whitewater portion of my day was cut short by my boat cracking, I had an amazing double day out in the Vermont mountains! I love flirting with the line between winter and fall in these shoulder season storms, as we played with the mountains, gravity, and the precipitation in its many forms, following its journey from mountaintop to valley.

Thanks for looking! Keep posting to FISWX and stay tuned for more snowliage skiing!

Anson schussing seasons

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Read about the author:   Ben
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  1. christian
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 12:04 am  

    ben…sick! does that guy have a tie on!?

    • Ben
      wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 8:22 am  

      haha yes. rob was one of our friends who we ran into up there, never figured out exactly why he had a tie on…

  2. Brian
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 9:28 am  

    Great writeup and good shots! I still can’t believe how much snow Killington got out of that storm.

    • Ben
      wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 10:06 am  

      thanks Brian! Ya, Killington was pretty insane, I couldn’t believe how much snow there was either!

  3. Harvey44
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 9:37 am  

    Great stuff. Reminds me of flick I saw once (Warren Miller?) where these guys were kayaking on a ski hill … using paddles to rudder themselves all around … and at the end the go flying of a huge cliff, into a raging stream and just continue to paddle in their merry way. This report is a classic.

    • Ben
      wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 10:11 am  


      (from last fall… one day we were looking to run some rivers in the whites, but everything was lower than expected. we drove by bretton woods and they were blowing snow…)

  4. Lionel Hutz
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 10:01 am  

    Great job ben…personally with the mixed sysyems I see this winter and the temp profile I think you should be able to squeeze quite a few double days out of the the early winter!

  5. stuckinjersey
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 10:50 am  

    Freaking outstandingly grand. Got to stare at this goodness while I sat in traffic on my 2 hour commute this morning and it made everything so much better. Got me thinking that its time to visit my couches connections in Vermont.

    • Ben
      wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 11:28 am  


      There’s still snow up there! It’ll be interesting to see what’s left after today (it’s raining here now), but the upper elevations could see a few inches of new snow to freshen things up…

  6. lil' brotha
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 12:12 pm  

    Well done fellas. Seriously jealous that I headed to the ocean for waves instead of the mountain for snow. great stuff

  7. natron
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 1:22 pm  

    Big snow and big rips, now that’s a daily double!! snowyaking on fresh manmade?? how hairy was that? looks like fun in a few inches of fresh pow, I’ll try this year on a hill down the road..

  8. Paul
    wrote on October 21st, 2010 at 1:38 pm  

    From a few hundred miles south on long island these pictures are a godsend!

  9. Sweet trip
    wrote on October 22nd, 2010 at 3:42 pm  

    Everyone is getting the goods. Whiteface Slide 1 was awesome yesterday! Lots of pillows and heavy snow in the upper reaches of the mountain. I only have film photos otherwise I would attempt to post.

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