Monday, December 10, 2012

Upper Crooked - West Coast, New Zealand

After several years on the West Coast you begin to tick off most the runs at various flows, from the painfully low to the ridiculously high and everything in between. And even with this variability you are still left wanting more out of the Coast. Last season our local crew started pushing further up the drainages and found some absolute gold in the Upper Wanganui, Whataroa and Perth Rivers. We had paddled most of the major tribs from their source, or close to it, but one obvious river still waited to be paddled. That was, the Upper Crooked. Eden Sinclair and a group of Power Rangers in Scud's had accessed the upper reaches of the Crooked by helicopter back in the days of super cheap flights but unfortunately those days a gone (prices are still reasonable though), so we had always shied away from the ominous 5+ hour walk up a poorly serviced track. So were never really had much motivation to walk past the put in for the normal super classic crooked run. 

Some strange astrological cycle much have be in play as one weekend both Barny and I were overly keen to load up our kayaks and devote a day to walking into Jacko Bean Flat Hut at the top of the Crooked. Our plan was to hike in there, stay the night in the hut and then paddle out the next day.  Pretty simple really. So with a light over night kit, some dehydrated meals and 30 'Oaty Slice' meusli bars, we took to the testing track with plenty of hours of daylight. 

Earning it (p. Barny)

After three and a half hours at a steady pace Barny and I entertained the idea that we might be getting close to the hut, even though the sign at the trail head said 6 hours. But knowing we had only 8.7km to cover, we figured at only 2.5km an hour we must be getting close... We were WRONG. Murphy's law got the better of us and from the exact moment of hope the trail really turned it on, getting super steep and hard to navigate. Another hour and a half of arduous walking past and we finally made it to the flat. Quite broken by this point, we seen a sign indicating 600m to the hut... longest 600m of my life. Once we reached the hut a sense of relief over whelmed us, and we were glad that we had started walking earlier rather than later. After hanging up our gear we set to the usually easy task of lighting the fire... not this time. High elevation, an open fire and extremely wet wood was a real test and it took a solid 4 hours effort to boil (only just at that) enough water for our dehydrated meals. After this rigmarole we were quick to fall asleep, resting our tired bodies for the next day of full on paddling. 

 Home sweet home (p. Jordy)
Our choking fire slowly chugging away. (p. Barny)

Waking in the morning we decided to skip the bullshit involved in boiling water for breakfast and just eat some more Oaty Slice bars... we had plenty after all. We quickly packed up our gear and decided to get an early start on the river. From the outset the river showed us its true character, steep, technical (manky) and actually pretty dangerous. Everything had something full on below it, or a sieve or something else. So we took our time to break it down and try and set safety where ever we could. We made pretty good time paddling most things, although there was definitely a portage or two. I even managed to  drop my paddle into a sieve at one stage but hawk-eye Barny spotted it below the water and were able to get it back. The water wasn't exactly classic, but it was full on for sure.

Barny coming through unscathed. (p. Jordy)

 Looking down the Gradient..... and Water..... (p. Barny)

More goods with consequence everywhere. (p. Jordy)

A relatively clean section, quite rare. (p. Barny)

 Steep and technical. (p. Barny)

 Some parts could of done with more water, but that would of 
made everything else way to full on. (p. Barny)

 Beautiful. (p. Jordy)

A surreal gorge at the end of the Upper Section (p. Barny)

We were glad to make our way down to the normal put in for the Crooked. A quick route down familiar lines put us back to the Ravager about 5 hours after we left the Hut. All in tact and stoked to have ticked off another trip and personal First Descent for Barny and myself.

Good times on familiar lines. (p. Barny)

 Straight stoked (p. the timer!)

More rain is on it way, meaning more water and more adventures. Pretty hard to beat the West Coast during Spring!