Saturday, December 12, 2009

First Kokatahi of the Summer Season

Fresh after the mission on the Whitcombe and a quite night in Franz Joseph... well quite for those young bucks that left Barny and I at the bar before 1am! Barny and I decided that we should hit up the Kokatahi after our Sunday of rest. Little did we know while we were hanging out at the batch and then B-Rains house there was enough rain in the hills to bring the Totara in at 5pm that evening, for those who don't know the Totara is a low elevation 'flood' run that requires a lot of rain. Even without this knowledge while we were waiting for the helicopter Barny mentioned he thought it was "up a bit", I wasn't so sure and even flying in we thought it was just going to be another day on the Kokatahi... we were wrong. At Crawford Junction we put onto the Kokatahi Branch for the 100m down to the confluence and there was definitely more water than either of us had ever had in there. As we ran the first couple of things we really felt the power of the Kokatahi and both our thoughts went to a trip a group of our friends had in there at a high flow. Barny decided to fire a really staunch drop early in the day (photo below) and got big beat down. In true fashion he took it like a pro, got in a stable position and I was able to get him to safety... I portaged.

Barny charging but to no avail

After this our paddling rhythm changed somewhat to a more, but not entirely, survival mode. where we inspected some things we would normally bomb into, though there were some long periods where we knew what was coming and figured it was 'all good'. After we portaged the big drop it began to rain, Barny and I had a moment where we looked at each other and could tell we were both thinking the same thing. Fortunately this rain never really set in and after getting through Carnage Gorge unscathed (its still clear for anyone going in there) we were in good form and both fired some amazing white-water. Barny forgot his camera and due to bad light many of my photos were rubbish, but here are some of the better shots I got of Barny in what is becoming our home run.

Barny running the lead into the mushroom drop below Carnage Gorge

... and over the barely recognizable mushroom rock

Barny playing on the Skate-Park

The new boof below the 'Twin Towers'

This was an awesome trip, and afterwards became my favourite trip down this river yet! Just a small word of caution, the Kokatahi is an amazing river and a relatively long day usually. Extra was in this river really spices it up and it was really good that both Barny and I knew the run well. That said, pretty much everything is scoutable/portageable (pretty much, not all :-D) and could be broken down by a solid crew. Kokatahi is value for money... remote, scenic and stout white-water.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Whitcombe from Prices - A first for many.

After 9 days straight on the farm I was more than due for some sort of paddling blowout. With Barny on logistics, an ever interesting phenomenon, I was rallying to hoki after a 4am start milking the cows, with Simon Davidson and his friend Gerard close behind. This would be a split trip with Gerard and B-Rain (Brian Urmson) flying to the Cropp put in and Barny, Simon, Kev, PC and myself flying to Prices flat, we wanted to go into Prices River but high winds foiled that plan. With great water levels most things on the river went and the upper section was as Barny put it, "Pretty fucking sweet, way better than I remember... a portage-fest". This was my first trip from Prices Flat, Simon and B-Rain's First trip in the Whitcombe and Gerard's first heli altogether. Here are some photos from the beautiful upper section.

PC running the lead out of a pretty serious bit of white-water

Kev trying to sneak a look

Barny boofing so hard he broke his seat

PC "run(ing) it like it looks".

Big boof, soft landing... Exactly what we love (p. Kev)

Blue boat, paddle and helmet. Simon is dressed to impress... and does so (p. Kev)

Si and PC deciding the lead it lead straight to a beatdown of some description

After paddling the boogie water below Prices, and the bit before Colliers Gorge on the Cropp section, we found B-Rain and Gerard chilling out on some rocks. Little did we know Gerard had just had a swim, lost his paddle and had to wait for us to arrive with a split paddle. Regrouped we routed Colliers Gorge pretty quickly giving B-Rain and Gerard the lines and making sure they had a great time. Fortunately a group ahead of us came across Gerard's paddle and he got it back!

B-Rain charging on his first Whitcombe (from Cropp)

Such a beautiful river

Gerard's boat... someone say "nice parking"

Kev England - doing how he does

Shooting the boot... keep things balanced with the river gods

The Whitcombe is a great river with now four alternative put in's. Its more of a river compared to the rest of the coast so be prepared for a bit more water, push and a whole lot of fun, enjoy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

East Waikaia - Blood, Life and Steep White-Water

Big news in the New Zealand White-Water scene has been dominated by the story of the East Branch of the Waikaia, something that has been previously described as a waste of time as it is "too steep". After hearing reviews of super steep continuous white-water, big drops and amazing scenery, Justin Venable, Barny Young and Myself decided to check it out. With beta from the boys on the first descent, the forecast of an anticyclone and JV's motivation we headed South to try bag the new big thing. Andrew Gumson (High Country Helicopters - 03 202 7783) would be driving shuttle in his flash red helicopter, offering us a sat-phone and ensuring us if he had not heard from us by the end of day three he would buzz over to see if we were okay. Fortunately we would comfortably finish both days with plenty of daylight to spare, this does not mean the days on the river were easy as it was quite the contrary with stacked rapids, hard portaging and all the other elements of a fantastic and testing white-water run.

The flight in was very intimidating with the lower section of the East Branch concealed by deep pseudo gorges and Beech forests and the upper reaches being a pretty much continuous section of stacked white-water. After Andrew dropped us off there was a period of nervous dialogue about the flight, the amount of white-water and how long it would take us. Before long we were en route and making our way down some fantastic rapids.

Continuous class IV+ - V in a tussock setting (p.JV)

The landing zone, you wont miss it as it one of only a few flat river side areas.

Once on the water there was about 800m of relatively chilled out class II before the action began, and didn't really stop until the end of the day. There were a couple of sections you can break down but most of the rapids required long scouts.

Me boofing one of the numerous drops

Barny entering a stacked section

Portaging high - it might go down there... maybe

We ran the one in the background - we took the line along the left bank.
Me running the lead out

Barny boofing out of a steep section

After a class IV rapid, about 1km below the tussock line, at small pebble beach on river left we stopped for the day, climbing up onto an old 4wd road and hiked two hours back to our camp at canton gate.

Starting early on day two we were back at the boats and on the water at 9am, something we might have rethought if we knew how much the flows diurnal variation was. Either way, after 300m we were faced with a similar river character but in a drastically different setting. The river was now carving through Beech forests and intermittently through small gorges. Still steep and full on, it would turn out to be about a 7 hour day.

Justin firing early on day two

Me flying early on day two

Barny styling the entrance before the big hole

Justin about to test his luck with the big hole

Amazing scenery

The last couple of kilometres of the run packed the biggest punch with some big drop, one on which that had a sieve right beside the line of a 30 footer. They all went and made for some amazing photos.

JV styling the end drop of a continuous section - Beautiful

Barny firing the 30 footer - check the sieve with the stick in it to the left!

The enormously talented Justin Venable running the big boy

JV running in blind - "I remember this one from the photos... I think"

JV gave us the thumbs up - last big drop of the east... Oh Yeah!!

This is one of the most testing river trips any of us have been a apart of, but also one of the most rewarding. Next spring when this is running again I am definitely going to be getting back on it and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a class V test piece in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

The crew spent after two long testing days.

Beautiful scenery

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Nevis

Exams over and done with, should have a degree on the way... where to go?! Silly question really, guranteed flows on the Nevis River, Kawarau always there and many more prospects if the rain comes. 13 hours after I finished my exams I had packed up my life and flew to Queenstown to meet up with Willzy and Simon D. After some celebratory nights I figured it about time to get down to business, Nevis was at 21cumec so it was all on. The crew was Willz, Simon D, Ben Robson and myself, here some of the pictures...

Myself throwing the dice at the double drop, the second hole got me good!

Simon Davidson on the 3rd hole of freight train

Not stiched, just Blue Angels... young bucks getting it done

Probably my favourite drop on the river!

Simon following suit

Last but not least... Willzy

Ben and Willz discussing lines at lunch counter... Yeah Right

Simon D, home run?

Scouting Little Brother

Ben in the middle of Little Brother

Willz and Si scouting the stout

Gradient and Water!

Ben firing the lead in to Big Brother

Ben styling it

... and towards big brother

Scouting Big Brother

Simon..."Next time bro".

Another trip down this amazing river, making it three for the spring. Hopefully we can get it one more time before moving up to the West Coast to get one some on my favourite home runs. Watch this space.