Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

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Redpoint
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Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Redpoint » Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:37 pm

I always thought the Rockcastle River had some deep water solo potential, and I was right. Considering we can't even swim in Kentucky state park lakes, I felt the river would be the place to look as far as legality is concerned.

I went to the Rockcastle River and stayed at Bee Rock Campground this weekend. We hiked up the Narrows Trail and ran a couple of rapids in cheap blow up rafts--that was intense. The level was about 500 CFS, here is the gauge for it: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ky/nwis/uv/?s ... 0065,00060

On the way back I tried out a couple of problems but never could get out of the water. One was a handcrack but it was kind of grimy. I found one hard problem but I didn't like the landing very much (a small ledge that was underwater) so I decided to pass on it. Finally my brother spotted this thing:
Image
http://i35.tinypic.com/2irrx5g.jpg

We did a depth check all over the place and it was about 7-8 feet deep(when the river is at 500 CFS mind you). Not optimal but it would do.
WARNING: there is always a risk of logs floating down the river, and there was a decent little current next to this problem, and so be on the lookout for them. The higher the CFS level usually the higher the risk of floating logs. We never saw any logs floating down at 500 CFS, but there were some sunken ones, aka strainers.

It has a great start that isn't too hard, and you can do it without even standing on top of your boat. I used water-shoes that have some really sticky rubber even when wet, and so I just swam up to it. The right side is easy, and the left side had some 5.10 moves on it. The last part of it is overhung, and I could see plenty of holds, but I was high enough and the landing was shallow enough that I was making everyone nervous and they convinced me not to do it.

Here is directions on how to find it:

I'm not sure if the Rockcastle Narrows Trail will have good access to the spot since we didn't do it like that, we found it floating down the river. One sure way to find it though is to start at campsite 14 (here is the map: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/documents ... ockcmp.pdf) and walk along the river bank heading south east, running parallel with the Narrows Trail. It shouldn't take too long before you see it on your right about 15 feet from the river bank. The featured side will be facing you, and so you can't miss it.

The next day we saw some people doing a boulder problem that didn't involve getting your feet wet. I think it's between sites 11 - 13. It's right next to the water, and it faces the campsites not the River. It was funny, the guy who climbed it mantled on top of a thin ledge but didn't find any hand holds yet and he started to fall backwards. He ended up throwing his arms forward to restore his balance and made a full recovery and finally topped it out. Here is a picture of that boulder, you climb the left side of it:
Image
http://i33.tinypic.com/2cndoqe.jpg

So does anybody know of any other Rockcastle River deep water solos or boulder problems?

If so please post a reply about it.
Last edited by Redpoint on Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:06 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by toad857 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:43 pm

cool

DWS is the shirt

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by whatahutch » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:59 pm

I have always heard that there is a lot of great potential there for bouldering. My wife and I were planning a small day hike there, but time and the summer slipped away. Maybe this fall though.
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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Redpoint » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:24 am

The best hiking trip I ever went on was near Bee Rock Campground. Our whole trip was inspired by this trip report: http://www.kywilderness.com/forum/index.php?page=76

Here is what we did:

We parked at the Sheltowee Trace parking lot off of KY-192 (right near 1193) and took the Sheltowee Trace North, downhill, towards Vanhook Falls.

After about a mile you hear a waterfall. Go off trail and check it out, and it should look like this:
Image
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak- ... 0715_n.jpg

After that there is about 3 more waterfalls you can see from the Sheltowee Trace. The creek below you is Pounder Branch. Actually I just looked at the topo map I posted a link to below, and the first half you are walking next to a tributary of Pounder Branch, and for the second half you are walking next to Pounder Branch.

After about a mile and a half you cross a bridge that runs over Pounder Branch Creek. Then you cross a bridge over Cane Creek. After a short distance the Sheltowee Trace takes you to Vanhook Falls.

Next we turned around and went back to Cane Creek, took off our shoes and socks, and climbed up the slide style rapid of Pounder Branch, which is optional since you can avoid the climb using the bridge:
Image
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak- ... 7295_n.jpg

This is where our ultimate journey began. I recommend watershoes since there were some parts that had rocks that hurt your feet, but for the most part the creek bottom was smooth. I have been on a lot of RRG hiking trips and nothing came close to this journey. Exploring Pounder Branch felt like walking through a rain forest (which I have always wanted to do). WARNING: you are in a canyon and so flash flooding is a risk. There were plenty of great waterfalls along the way. One was super tall and earlier while hiking on the Sheltowee Trace we could see it, but only the top of it. Our journey was put to an end when we got to a big waterfall that poured in to a large pool of water, sort of like the one from the picture at the beginning of this post, but it was way better than that. It was a great place to cool off for sure:
Image
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak- ... 2664_n.jpg

We didn't have any shoes and that's why we didn't try to walk left and bushwack our way further up the creek.

Here is some other things I liked about the trip:
We never saw one other person while we did the entire hike.
We only saw two pieces of trash (a brochure and a dog collar).
I liked the rock shelters you walk through while in the creek, especially the one full of fog.

My brother and I are going to bring some ropes with us next time we go and start from the top of the creek and repel down all of the drops. There was still a lot of waterfalls we never got to see, and you know they are there because you can hear them from the Sheltowee Trace.

Here is a PDF with some topo maps and information: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/districts ... eerock.pdf The Sheltowee Trace is trail 100 and Vanhook Falls is labeled "Falls".

You better get on this hiking trip before it's too cold.

P.S. Leave no trace! This place is more pristine than any other place I have seen in KY.
"It is difficult to estimate the potential damage of solvents; therefore the middle of the rope should never be marked with a felt-tip pen or similar. Although a danger might be improbable, it should never be ignored." Mammut

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Peppermint » Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:59 pm

My friends and I were looking for some place new to go over Labor day weekend, preferably with some bouldering. I've always wanted to do some deep water soloing, and Rockcastle River seems like it might be the perfect place due to proximity. Do you have any recommendations on boulders to look for/avoid?
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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Mark W » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:48 pm

Redpoint wrote:The best hiking trip I ever went on was near Bee Rock Campground. Our whole trip was inspired by this trip report: http://www.kywilderness.com/forum/index.php?page=76

...

You better get on this hiking trip before it's too cold.

P.S. Leave no trace! This place is more pristine than any other place I have seen in KY.
Glad to hear you had a good time. I wrote that trip report and am really happy to see that it inspired at least one person to get off the trail and check that area out. It's definitely one of my favorite places in the state and has a really special feeling to it. Good to know that it's still trash free, hopefully it will stay that way.

The last time I went to that area (and I didn't make it down into the mini-gorge of Pounder Branch) was in January and there plenty of awesome things to see, so warm weather isn't necessarily a prerequisite for enjoyment. My Flickr page isn't working right, so I'll attach a few photos from that trip to give you an idea of how cool the area looks when it's frozen over. One if of the first waterfall and another is of an off-trail waterfall that's on a tributary of Cane Creek closer to the Rockcastle River; my girlfriend is in the bottom right corner of that picture to give you an idea of the size. I also attached a picture of the tall waterfall that you can see the top of from the Sheltowee Trace when it was frozen.

There are several other trails in that general area that are definitely worth taking the time to hike. My girlfriend and a friend of mine found a really fun 7-9 move boulder problem next to one of the trails. I'll attach a picture of it later.

I've posted a lot of photos from that area on my Flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvweth , so if you see anything on there that you want more info about just PM me. Most of the stuff you'd be interested in will be under the "Daniel Boone National Forest" set.
Attachments
Frozen Pounder Branch gorge falls.JPG
Frozen Pounder Branch gorge falls.JPG (113.68 KiB) Viewed 8465 times
Unnamed frozen falls.JPG
Unnamed frozen falls.JPG (120.29 KiB) Viewed 8465 times
Sheltowee Trace frozen waterfall.JPG
Sheltowee Trace frozen waterfall.JPG (121.33 KiB) Viewed 8465 times

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by endercore » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:14 pm

there are quite a few boulders that come out of the river-- I'd assume there would be loads more near bee rock campground. Careful running some of those rapids in inflatable rafts though-- there are a lot of dangerous undercuts on that river. Saw my friend get pushed under (in his kayak) for a good 10 seconds or so before flushing out.

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by marryanne » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:03 pm

The part of the Rockcastle River below the new 80 bridge is highly technical.
Even experts take a chance on serious injury or even death on this part of the river.
Its about 17 miles from this point to Lake Cumberland at the Bee Rock Campground. Good luck.

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Redpoint » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:44 pm

endercore and marryanne,

I have kayaked that section before and I was totally familiar with the rapids, and both of the ones we ran ended with plenty of flatwater.

I use a kayak paddle and I've done tons of class 2+'s in a "Walmart raft" as I like to call them (I don't think they sell the 20$ ones anymore though). I won't lie "Cry Baby" a class III, was pretty scary in the Walmart raft, especially with the undercut at the end of the rapid on river right, but I assessed the risk and I know my ability and it went great. Well we did get pummeled and filled up quick. As for my brother in the $50 Walmart sit on top kayak, well he took a swim there, but he never came close to the undercut and knows how to swim out of a rapid (feet first and as high as you can get them). "Guy's Surprise" (class III) wasn't too bad, we avoided a large wave and never got much water in the boat, and my brother did fine on it as well.

I should have realized that mentioning the 20$ raft would make me sound like a mindless tuber. My post made it look like I took all of this lightly when instead a warning would have been a much better idea WARNING: The Rockcastle river is no joke. Someone once told me that it might have more Sieves(tunnels that suck you underwater and can possible drown you because they narrow or have logs jammed in them. NOTE: Sandstone bouldered rivers/creeks are notorious for Sieves) then the Big South Fork. Do not run the class III rapids unless you are a class III paddler or near that level and have the proper equipment ie: good PFDs, helmets, and paddles. Blind turns and major rapids should be scouted, especially for logs. Drop 4 had a log strainer after it if you go river left but can be avoided if you go river right.

I think Walmart rafts have their place in the white water scene, although a large percentage of the WW community would disagree with me. The reason we used them is because they only weigh about 10 pounds, and we hiked with them all the way from Bee Rock. We were going to use them during this trip to just float around in flat water, but then we found out at the last minute that the water level was high enough to make the rapids runnable. Next time I will definitely just bring my inflatable kayak and tough out the hike, that way I would have enough confidence to run the entire narrows, heck the trail goes all the way to the class IV rapid. For more information on the Rockcastle River click this link: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... inGadget19 and just click the rapids button to see pictures and information about all of the rapids.

Peppermint,

Nope, the only good ones I know of right now are the ones I mentioned in my post. If you think you found a good one just do depth checks and check the entire landing area for underwater boulders and trees. Be careful doing that in swift water though, you don't want to get sucked in to a sieve or a log strainer.


Mark W,

Ya I'm so glad you wrote that trip report, thanks for sharing, and I can't wait to get back there to do more exploring. I want to explore the rest of Pounder Branch where it heads away from the Sheltowee Trace (if I can find that fork) and I want to do a repel trip there. We have ascenders and so getting stuck at the bottom isn't a concern.


EVERYONE,

UPDATE

Look what I found in the link above:

"In January 2007 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced an emergency drawdown of Lake Cumberland, which the Rockcastle is a tributary of. This drawdown of 30-60 feet depending on what time of the year it is ensures that the entire Lower Narrows sections will not be covered by the lake like it is most of the year. The project to repair the dam, the reason for the drawdown, is expected to take 2-7 years depending upon the sucess and progress of the project."

This means the place has way more potential than I thought for DWS. When the dam is back up, no more current, and nice deep landings all the way past the Narrows. Heck I can't wait to see what's downstream from Bee Rock. You may be saying, ya but the higher the water level the shorter the climb, well some of those boulders look like dinosaurs. But then again if the entire narrows is underwater maybe all of the boulders will be too, I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I would like to develop the place and even make a guide book over the years. So please send me some pictures and a description of the location of any boulder problems or deep water solos you find. If you don't then I will probably end up steeling your FA :twisted:

By looking at all of my pics closely, I think I figured out which boulder is the deep water solo:
Image
http://i38.tinypic.com/15fj6ah.jpg
It's on the back side of this facing the same bank that this picture was taken from. I think one of the other sides might have some climbing on it as well, but I was in a rush and forgot to check.
"It is difficult to estimate the potential damage of solvents; therefore the middle of the rope should never be marked with a felt-tip pen or similar. Although a danger might be improbable, it should never be ignored." Mammut

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by KD » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:48 pm

Sooo you havent even been on Twinkie yet have you?

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by pigsteak » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:09 pm

why am I always exhausted afterwards?
Positive vibes brah...positive vibes.

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by KD » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:56 pm

you sound like you jus got mind-fucked and need a cigarette

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by bcombs » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:10 am

Anyone care to guess how many times you would smack the boulder before the water?

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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by rastaman » Fri Aug 27, 2010 3:35 pm

If you're looking for DWS drive on down to Laurel Lake. Gather a crew, rent a pontoon and explore the rock between Grove Marina and Holly Bay. Tons of great stuff. Plus the water is currently pretty low so the climbing is even taller.
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Re: Rockcastle River Deep Water Solo

Post by Redpoint » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:34 pm

rastaman,

Do you know if it's legal to DWS in Laurel Lake?


bcombs,

Ya that's why I didn't top out, but then again you should be able to just kick off the boulder to miss the slab below. The very top is overhung which might actually clear the slab, but I'm guessing it doesn't. The overhung part might make it even more chancy to be able to kick yourself away from the wall since you wouldn't be kicking off a vertical wall but a slanted one.

The crux on the left side is low and totally vertical, and so that's always nice. After the crux you get to some giant pockets when it turns to slab, and so falling is no longer much of a risk.

There were plenty of overhung and vertical boulders in that area, and my guess is that there is going to be some great, safe lines out there.
"It is difficult to estimate the potential damage of solvents; therefore the middle of the rope should never be marked with a felt-tip pen or similar. Although a danger might be improbable, it should never be ignored." Mammut

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