Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Land of Giants - McKenzie River, Oregon

Well I am glad to say that I have managed to make my annual pilgrimage to North America, and although I knew it, I was gutted to arrive in the COMPLETELY melted state of California. Traditionally a June 17th arrival would mean I would at least get the back end of the high sierra season, and therefore I would catch my 'unicorn', which is the Middle Kings. But this wasn't to be and I would once again miss the ultra classic high sierra season ender. Nonetheless, I had arrived and would be linking up with the ever charging Nick Murphy for our search for Truth. Our path is unknown, but the direction would be North. I managed to get in a few runs of Tobin's on the North Feather and Cherry Creek (Proper) on the Tuolumne before Nick's charge wagon was ready to go. 

Charge Wagon ready to go (p. Pruett)

Our first point of business was the Giants of Oregon, two 80 foot waterfalls that lay waiting between Eugene and Bend. This was a personal goal of Nicks who was fresh of a Chile season and a hurried Cali season. I was not really interested in the beasts as I am pretty much terrified of tall drops, but figured at the least I could provide good safety and get some good snaps. Just as we were leaving Cali we got some great news, Snarley Charley (Charles King) was going to break the shackles of working life and get off the couch! Our plan was to meet up with Jake who had been hanging out near the falls and also link up with Dave Fusilli, Darin McQuoid, Mike & Craig so we had good numbers for safety and media. 

We woke in the morning to find the grey and dismal weather had cleared and we would have blue skies and sunshine. We spent a fair amount of time scouting out Sahalie, the first of the two falls, trying to established how to run the entry, where you want to be going over the falls, how the bottom would go and most importantly, how would we best set safety. I personally wasn't sold on the falls but thought I would help with safety and photos and see how I felt after some boys had fired. Nick and Jake were both stoked on it and made their way to the top of the falls and proceeded with the obligatory ro-sham-bo... which Jake won. Winner Goes!!! In true style Jake stomped the falls and paddled away clear and unscathed. Nick was next to go, and although he was a bit further right than expected he came through okay. Next to go to the top were Dave and Mike, and much to my surprise King Charles. After a short moment of looking I could see in Charles' eyes the 'Fuck-it' look as he quickly moved to his boat and the fired the beast. Another clean line and I was suddenly much more attracted to the idea of running the falls, but this would be short lived. Dave was next to fire and had what I thought was a perfect line, entering at the perfect angle in the middle of the falls. Unfortunately his deck imploded and he knew to ditch his gear and look for the bag as a very serious rapid was immediately downstream. Jake hit him with a bag and dragged him to safety but unfortunately there was a mix up on river right safety and his boat washed down into the rapid and was damaged. I was quickly brought back to reality, and after sorting out Dave's boat etc we decided to finish for the day and come back tomorrow with clear heads. 

Dave contemplating Sahalie (p. Jordy) 

Mike also looking (p. Jordy) 

 Nick about to realise his dream (p. Jordy)

 Safety set (p. Jordy)

 Ro-Sham-Bo (p. Jordy)

 Nick charging Sahalie (p. Jordy)

 Charles off the couch (p. Jordy)

 Dave about to go deep (p. Jordy)

That night I put the falls out of my head, enjoying a few drinks and good food. Come morning time, however, Nick brought me back to reality... "it's your turn today bro". It was the longest one hour drive I had ever had, but I had set my mind on getting into my gear and going to the lip of the falls. When we arrived at the falls things changed dramatically. Everyone had moved down to Koosah, Mike, Craig and Darin had lost their desire for Sahalie and todays goal would be Koosah. This curve ball was good for me, instead of over thinking things as I am guilty of doing I was starting with a fresh slate... and I was keen. Mike, Jake and Nick were keen to go first so they rocked off, Jake won and would be going first, then Mike, Nick, Me and then whoever. Jake, AGAIN, styled it, mike got the instant eject - to - yard sale (gear all over the place), Nick styled it and then it was my turn. I dont think I have ever been so focused above a drop, I was almost in a trance looking down towards the lip. I came in hot, not going to the eddy people were using to set up, going through the confused entrance without a stoke and then grabbing the all important rudder to control my angle over the lip. I sat as proud as I could but still couldn't avoid an early tuck after ditching my paddle. I hit pretty much vertical and hand-rolled into a fit of celebration. In scouting the drop I had talked myself out of the height of the drop but after feeling the prolonged free-fall I was stoked, styling what I think will be the biggest falls of my life. 

Dave was next and came soon after me, plunging in on a perfect angle as I charged out to toss him a paddle and celebrate with him. Although he hand-rolled immediately, when my paddled landed beside him he was unable to use it. I quickly grabbed his paddle and ushered him to the side of the river. He was grasping at his shoulder, indicating to us that it was dislocated. I was a quick attempt to put it back in, knowing it only gets harder with time. I then drove Dave immediately to the Emergency Clinic, but before I left Nick ran up with fire in his eyes and said, "We're going to finish our business here, then meet you at the clinic". I knew what that meant. Everyone else ended up running it, making it 8 for the day... probably one of the biggest single days for kayaking. 

Mike about to take the leap (p. Jordy)

Nick stomping Koosah, and bagging the double (p. Charles)

Me about to drop the beast (p. Darin McQuoid)

After a medical examination, x-ray and a long time it was established Dave has actually broken his Cromium in his shoulder. It wasn't a complete break so hopefully it doesn't need surgery. I guess that it's a reminder to all of use there that day, and those who are reading this... is one moment of glory and adrenaline worth the pain of not only the injury but more so knowing other people are still paddling while you are recovering. I am stoked to have run the falls but wont be rushing to run another drop this size, well... I don't think so. 

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