Sunday, January 8, 2012

Upper (Upper) Whataroa River - West Coast, NZ

The West Coast of New Zealand has numerous classic kayaking runs that are famed due to their steep, remote and continuous nature. During the early 1990s through to the mid-2000s it was the Arahura, Whitcombe (Cropp put-in) and Hokitika River's (Nogo Creek put-in) that were sort after, but the times are changing. Not to say those runs have lost their appeal, it's just that the sport has evolved in term of gear design and paddlers ability and mentality. And as a local's to the area we have been searching for more goods anywhere we can find it. Surprisingly we have hit a fair bit of gold this year, getting the First Descent of Rocky Creek, adding a few kilometres to the top of the Wanganui River and now we have taken the cake... bagging the First Descent of the Upper (Upper) Whataroa.

Our shuttle driver - Zeb Laing (p. Jordy)

Dylan looking down on the first section from
our put-in (p. Jordy)

Well for me this trip started off pretty rough. After going up in the first flight and selecting our put-in I made my way downstream to scout the first heinously steep section. After deciding that the first one 'should go' I seen the chopper coming in the distance so snapped a few shots... then much to my dismay I looked to see my dry-top be blown into the river and run the entrance to the first huge cascade before disappearing into a rock jumble.... and that was the last I seen of that. Feeling deflated due to the ominous idea of paddling a glacial feed, high-alpine multi-day trip without a dry-top... I portaged the first one (which then we all decided was a bit dodgey) and then began what was going to be a 'cool' river trip.

Dylan trying to find my dry-top... to
no avail (p. Simon Rutherford)

Although Dylan tried he best to find my dry-top, we had no luck. But there wasnt much time to dwell on it as we had about 4km of the steepest-steep that the West Coast has to offer. Our first section had some thick ledges and steep boulder gardens, and it soon became apparent that we had struck that perfect flow. Plenty of water to move around freely and grab eddies, but not too much where we were flushing straight into the next rapid.

Dylan the Villan, we left the one in the background
for the next crew in there... (p. Jordy)

This is me trying to stay dry, which was
impossible (p. Barny)

Barny running this one after our second
portage (p. Jordy)

Even firing it up didnt help me warm
up! (p. Barny)

We had good lines through the top section, portaged a few, and were relieved when we got to a 'boogie' section. Isn't it funny how class IV+ seems so insignificant when you've been working your way down full-on class V. Next up was the steepest section we seen from the helicopter, and although we didnt know it yet it would be all good to go!

This double drop was the first in the steep
boulder garden that ended in the 15foot
ledge (p. Simon)

Dylan taking charge on the
double (p. Jordy)

Barny on the lead out, the drop below
is in the next series of pictures
(p. Jordy)

Barny entering the following steep section
(p. Jordy)

This was the last hole of the steep section
between the Double and the last 15
(p. Jordy)

Eddy out, scout, SMILE and charge! (p. Simon)

Barny about to complete one of the steepest
sections of river I have paddled in NZ.
(p. Jordy)

Dyl stomping it out (p. Simon)

Having my turn (p. Barny)

After this section we had a good amount of class IV+ boulder-gardens before a portage and then another super steep section. By this stage I was super cold, and not even a clean 15 footer could warm me up... not to mention the dubious drop below it. Barny, however, was not deterred and sacked up.

Barny was first to fire the now named,
'Trent's Trench' (p. Jordy)

Simon Rutherford stoming the Trench (p. Jordy)

Trent about to enter his Trench (p. Jordy)

The photos above show the second of two drops, the first is as high as this but cleaner in the fact that there isn't a narrow exit route. Failing to stick the route mean't you would fall down into a slot and potentially get stuck in an under-cut. Rudders came close, but it was Trent that would be the one to end up in there. Hence the name, Trent Trench. From here we where hanging out to get to the hut, Trent was tired, I was freezing, Simon was under 70kg and what we needed was a feed and some goon. After some more steeps, two portages with one being quite long, we made our way down to the confluence with the Butler... but where was the hut?! Barny and I had gone past it but fortunately turned upstream to admire the view... and there is was, nestled into the bush and overlooking the river. YES!

Always the highlight, reading about all the past
adventures at the Hut (p. Simon)

No dehydrated meals on New Zealand multiday trips
(p. Jordy)

Waking up on day two, much to my delight, the weather had cleared and the sun was shining. We even managed a relatively early departure, on the river before 10am! There are some awesome boulder gardens to start off the day, it all goes if you take the time to work it out. You might even find some hot-pools (river-left) about 1km down. The character is drastically different to day one, much more water and less gradient. But still steep, don't get me wrong. We mobbed hard during the first few kms and made our way down to the 'Portal's of Doom'. There was a track around the mini-gorge on river right, but Dyl, Barny and I inspected on river left. Much like I had heard, we figured it all went except the final waterfall... but it would be hard to stop before it. Wanting to keep it safe, we portaged along river left and made our way back down to river, stoked to see Barrowman Flat (the put in for the commercial raft trip).

The start of the 'Portals of Doom'
(p. Jordy)

Track down river right, we figure lets keep it
at river level (p. Jordy)

Razza dancing and singing about Monteith's
(p. Jordy)

Stoked to see Barrowman Flat around
the corner... not long until warmth!
(p. Barny)

The Villan scouting the last drop of
Portal... (p. Jordy)

All bark and no bite... it's still un-run
(p. Barny)

... and this is why, Dyl looking into the
future? (p. Barny)

The lower went by like a flash, with Barny routing us into everything including the raft portages it was all good. Rudders even disappeared for an awkward amount of time at one stage. Then he just surfaced and paddled into the eddy, being under 70kg must be great ay (only rudders and girls would know). Anyway, we were off the river before 2pm and stoked with what we had found, the next classic Multi-Day for those looking to fire it up when things are low on the coast. We unanimously decided that we'd all go back in there, but there was only a couple more things (before the next flood anyway) that we'd like to fire in there.

The boys all stoked to be at Butler Hut (p. Guy at the Hut)


ecorafting said...

ecorafting said... drop us a line if anyone wants to go paddling and let friends sit on the raft and witness your mad kayaking skills

kerry hoglund said...

Awesome run boys, can't wait to stack that one up... but it looks f*ckin' cold Jordy!