Thursday, April 17, 2008

South for the Summer

With the university year ending and thirst increasing Dave Chambers, Alex Kilyk, Drew Classen, import old man Brinkey and myself decided it was time to head to the southern region of the South Island. We were on the hunt for white-water, good times and to experience things you just can't in your everyday life... and we got just that!!!

We got to run the Rangitata, Hooker, Kawarau, Shotover Gorge, Stair-Case Creek, Holly Ford, Tutuko, Cleddau, Arthur, Fox and Whitcombe Rivers. Here are some photos of the action on and off the river and a brief outline of how the trip went.

First stop from Christchurch was the Rangitata river, a nice short class IV with a paddle out that Drew could enjoy. The run went well and Dave even caught us a fish that we enjoyed over the fire while we camped by Lake Tekapo.

Myself on the Rangitata

Brinky on the Rangitata

From Tekapo we headed into Mount Cook Village hoping to paddle the Upper Hooker River. After a brief scout we concluded the run would be worthwhile if we wanted to wait until the afternoon for the flow to increase. None of us, other than Alex, really wanted to do that so we paddled the class III+ -IV section, visited Tasman Glacial Lake and then headed furthur south in search of white gold.

Myself on the Hooker Glacier Lake

Upon arriving to Queenstown Drew finally got a chance to get on the water, the Roaring-Meg section on the Kawarau. Being his fifth time in a kayak the big boils and confused eddy lines gave him some grief but he got through it and enjoyed himself. Next day we paddled the Gorge section of the Shotover River. Nice class IV read and run with a blind cave rapid at the end. This was a nice run but again not exactly what we were hoping for.

Dave entering the tunnel on the Shotover Gorge

Beautiful (but not entirely legal) camping spots kept us happy for a few days around Queenstown. Next thing to hit was Citeron, a rapid that was embarrasingly hard for us to initially find to scout due to our lack of beta and knowledge of the word 'promonotory' used in the guide book. Once on river level and after scouting Alex and Brinky decided the top part of the rapid was not for them at 260cumecs so opted to put in below the Crux. After tossing up the left vs right line I decided the right had the least consequence so fired it up. Alex and Brinky ran the fun wave train and it was a great start to the day. We decided the Queenstown bars had taken enought of our money so it was time to head towards Milford Sound(Fjord).

Lake Hayes

Driving along the Devils Staircase, alongside like Wakatipu, we drove over a little creek. I then remembered that a friend mentioned it was worth paddling so we stopped immediatly. After consulting with the land owner we took off up a track to scout. After two hours we had found a gem but with a twist. The path was an old stock path, damn small stock I guess, through quite thick bush. The next day we sucked it up and dragged our boats a fair way up the creek and put in where we felt the river was to tight without excess water. We paddled a nice class IV section and it could of handled much more water. We found a 25footer in there and if you somehow got to the top of the run and it had water there would almost be not chance of being able to portage, so beware.

Scouting Staircase Creek

After paddling Staircase Creek we pushed towards Milford Sound, paddling the Falls Creek section of the Hollyford in the afternoon.

Our introduction the 'Shadow Lands'

Milford Sound had plenty to offer with the rain bringing all the runs in. We were fortunate to hit the Tutuko, Cleddau and a high flow Arthur. All these runs are great read and run class IV+ with some great sections of white-water. The highlight had to be a high flow Arthur with Alex and MSSK guide Jimmy where we used a motor boat to cross the Sound (Fjord) and then walked in. The run was a lot of poke and hope but worked out really well with only Alex getting back looped and Brinky (playing photographer) narrowly missed the shot.

Tutuko walk-in

Dave Chambers on the Cleddau

Blake from MSSK

Myself on the Arthur

Alex soaking it all in on the Arthur

A bit different to heli-kayaking

With the weather clearing, food running out and a hang over we decided it was time to head back to finish our business with the Hollyford then try get Drew somewhere North so he could hitch-hike back to Christchurch to catch his flight home!

Looking back towards Milford Sound

Typical Fjordland

We paddled the Hollyford in parts, Falls Creek, Gunn Camp (for Drew) and Morraine all one afternoon and then the Marian Creek section the next day while the water held. Two great days of boating before returning to Queenstown and seeing Drew and Dave off.

Falls Creek - Hollyford

Brinky getting warmed up for Marian

Drew leading us down the Gunn Camp Section

Amongst it on the Marian Creek section of the Hollyford

Dave at the office

Class IV+ to V exactly what we were looking for

None of us wanted any of this... portage 2nd Gorge

With most of Queenstown and Milford out of the way and things drying up Alex, Brinky and Myself decided to begin our migration up towards to Hokitika. The Young was too low as well as the Turnball after we finally got access. The Gates of Haast looked insane and was too low to even consider a run so we paddled the Fox and then headed up to paddle the Whitcombe before disbanding for the summer.

Top and Bottom sections of the Gates of Haast.

This was a great trip and a good way to get over uni and into summer boating. I would like to thank Alex Kilyk for almost all the photos and video footage, making sure Dave and Myself did not get ahead of ourselves on the river and keeping Brinky warm at night. I believe Milford is extremely underrated in the guidebook and in peoples minds and with water that place has some really stout kayaking. There are rivers all over NZ worth chasing and I see Fjordland as an almost untouched (maybe untouchable when considering DOC's actions towards the Arthur) kayaking resource worthy of consideration and exploration.

Drew, Alex, Dave, Myself and Brinky - Lake Pukaki.

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