Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gradient & Water Calendar 2016

We're back again and stoked to be sharing the past years experiences through another picture calendar! And it has been an EPIC year all around, starting with an expedition to Brazil, spring in the Pacific North-West, Summer in Norway and other bits and pieces thrown into the mix. Contributing photographers are Ari Walker, Barny Young, Blair Trotman, Jordy Searle and Shea Kitchin. We're lucky to have the support of Liquid Logic Kayaks, Kokatat, Werner Paddles, Snapdragon, Earth Sea Sky, Watershed and the NZ based Performance Paddling, thanks team! We appreciate the support over the last 6 years while producing this calendar and thank you again for you support in 2016! 



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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Norway 2015 - High Water and Big Lines.

Norway has always been that destination for me, the one I have always wanted and the one I was always nervous of. Its reputation of pushy, stout, 'high-volume' creeks was always alluring, and 2015 would be all that and more. With a near record snow pack in Western Norway, everything was going to be high... but we didn't realise exactly the extent of what we are about to drop in to. Ari Walker and Sam Grafton were also keen to escape the drought of the Western USA, so we booked tickets and gave ourselves 26 days in country. This would turn out to be more than long enough. 

Ari Walker - Myrkdalselva

Sam Grafton - Lake to Lake

 Ari Walker - Eskingdalen

 Dag Sandvik - Branseth

Jordy Searle - Money Drop

Jordy Searle - Tyselva

Adrian Kiernan - Tiegdal

Ari Walker - Teigdal "Double-Drop"

Jordy Searle - First D of Upper Hildalselvi

Jordy Searle - Bottom Tora Slide

 Ari Walker - Matze's

 Anton Immler - Gaula #3

And these are just some of the highlights. High water made things scary and somethings impossible. We didn't even manage to get on the Rauma or Raundelselva, but there is always next time, right?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Seattle Area

If you’re in the Seattle Area and want to charge, you will quickly meet Sam Grafton. I met Sam last year up at the Stikine but unfortunately it didn’t line up to paddle together. But once he knew I was planning on spending the last part of winter and spring in the Seattle area he/we began hatching plans. Initially my back injury was holding me back but it wasn't long before Sam and I were charging hard. The water didn’t really give us everything we wanted, but we definitely got some juicy flows on most the classics in the area, and there are plenty of those! Robe Canyon, Deer Creek, Ernies Canyon, Icicle Creek, Tumwater Canyon, Top Tye and more. All within 2 hours of Seattle. Here is what we got up to...

Icicle Creek

Dawn Patrol on Robe Canyon

Sam Chesley and myself during the team Robe Race

Sam at home in high-water Robe, 'Hole in the Wall'

More Robe

Over 7ft, and I am out taking photos. 'Face-Plant'.

Tumwater's first challenge, 'The Wall'

The Brits, scared, coming through low water Chaos

Sam Chesley with a good flow on Chaos

 Todd Wells following Aniols lead down Exit.

Sam trespassing on Sean Lee's territory, Ernies Canyon.

 Nate showing everyone. 'Jacuzzi', Ernies Canyon.

 Sam Ellis smiling, you cant see it but you know he is!

This would be the extent of my paddling in the Northwest, just going between these runs as they came in and out. There were a couple of LW weekends are lower flows but it seems people don't really take photos down there nowadays. As flows began to drop, Ari arrived back to the US and the NF Payette came in, it seemed the stars were aligning to head to Idaho. But one quick trip to the Northern Cascades would keep us in Washington for another few days. Will post about that soon.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Back in the USA - Recovery and Charging

Once I made my way back to the Seattle area I was forced to rest for another 3 straight weeks before my next examination. So I was restricted to walking and cooking, that was about it. But once I had my progress x-rays, to my surprise, I was given the all clear to paddle again with the caution of 'avoiding trauma.' My plans to recover on Lake Union quickly were wiped away and I set out to paddle the Skykomish. With the exception of lost flexibility, I was feeling pretty good after 45+ minutes of paddling. 

 Stoked to be back!

The next day I would paddle Tumwater with Ari, and again felt great. Which was incredible as my initial consultation said I would be out for 9 months or more. From then it didnt take long before I was convinced to head down to the quickly dropping LW to catch its last days. No laps of spirit but that doesn't matter, I was paddling the LW at 3.3 only 6 weeks after severely breaking my back.

It feels good to be back

The LW, Nick Murphy's playground.

Cuzza rounding off an afternoon lap

 Chris Topher really laying it out

After a solid working week in White Salmon, it was time to head back to Seattle for Ari to fly off to work in Mongolia and time for me to get my body back in proper working order while taking advantage of the short spring Washington was about to have.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Expedition Brazil - Santa Catarina stouts, a broken back and the boys finishing it up.

After we made the grueling 25+ hour drive south from Espirito Santo to Santa Catarina we made a b-line for the Rio Benedito to blow out the cobwebs. It felt good to be back on the water, but we came for bigger and better things. We got the call from Marcelo Galizio and Jake Greenbaum, who were in interior SC, and had just begun to breakdown a waterfalls section of the Rio Chepeco. So we charged our batteries that night, and the next morning ripped over to meet up with the boys. By the time we had got there the boys had First Descended several of the channels and the rowdy put-in 50+ foot falls, so the next day we wanted to try and put the whole section together and that we did. 

 Jordy on the entrance 50+ft falls.

Ari on the First Descent of 'Waterpark Falls'.

 Barny on 'Waterpark Falls'.

After paddling another falls below Waterpark, that we just routed behind Marcelo and Jake, we had linked together the crux section of the Rio Chepeco. The drive had been worth it, we'd finally managed to paddle something since the Rio Preto. That afternoon we began to scour the surrounding area on google earth because we never had imagined we'd have been in this area of Brazil. Surprisingly, we managed to find several worthy options for the following days. One of which, was another big falls about 15km downstream on the same river. We went to check it out that night and to our surprise it looked to be another epic First Descent to be had. That was our plan for the next day.

Barny and Jordy scouting the Falls.

After another quick scout the next morning, Barny and I decided on taking the 'safest' line near the centre of the falls, not keen to paddle the big-water right line or the huge boof on the left. When paddling the falls, Barny ended up ahead of me on the lead in so ended up going first. He styled the line, indicated to Ari it was all good and I paddled it just after him, but with one small difference. I landed about 2ft to the left of where Barny did and landed on a hidden rock outcrop instantly knowing I had hurt my back. After hand-paddling the big water paddle out Barny got me to the side and the boys helped me to the vehicle and we drove 7 hours to the hospital in Santa Catarina. That was my trip over, 3 cracked vertebrae, a hernia and a cracked disc.

My view pitching off the lip of Salto Saudades.

 Salto Saudades - EPIC

After 24 hours, I was discharged and able to head to Marcelo Ludvichak's house to begin my recovery and wait to fly home. Barny and Ari hung around for a few days to make sure I was all sorted but the show had to go on, so they hatched a plan to take advantage of some rain around Florianopolis and try for the first descent of the Rio Chicao. They teamed up with Marcelo, Jake and the Pagnoncelli brothers for this mission. Unfortunately, the boys initially hiked an hour or so in the wrong direction, but eventually made it to the lower Chicao and got another First Descent.

Maybe on the right track now

Barny stoked to finally be at the put-in

After this, the rains never really came to the state of Santa Cantarina again, but somehow the Itajai-Acu stayed at stomping flows, giving the boys some rowdy days of whitewater. Barny and Ari even went so far to drive even further south to the state of Rio Grande do Sul to check out some whitewater potential. Ari decided to paddle a super clean 30, but with low water, meaning a heavy hit, bagging himself a solo First Descent. After that the boys came back to SC to paddle some more laps of the Itajai-Acu, got a lap down the classic overnight trip on the Cubatao do Parana.

 Ari routing the Itajai-Acu at highwater, the saving grace on the rains
stopped in SC.

Ari getting another First Descent

 The waterfall on the Cubatao do Parana

All in all our trip was a success, we managed to get our 6 First Descents but we left a whole lot more unpaddled than we would have liked to. But that is the nature of adventure recreation. You cannot guarantee anything, you cannot control the weather, you can only put in as much effort as possible, and stay positive. That we did, and we got a result. That said, I am sure we will be trying to get back there to finish what we have started.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Expedition Brazil - Drought, Stout and Heading South

Ari and Barny arrived to Sao Paulo December 27th and once we got through the bureaucracy of hiring a car, thanks Marcelo Ludvicah, we started on our way north towards Espirito Santo. This mean't driving up the Dutra and pretty much going directly past the Rio Preto (MG), one of the stand out runs from Ari and my trip in Feb 2014.  So we figured this would be a good way to warm up for the rest of the trip. 

Jordy running the first big slide

Low water but still spicy

 Barny enjoying his first river in Brazil

After this we made the charge to Espirito Santo and scout out numerous First Descents that Ari had identified with google earth. And it was all GOLD! All we needed was rain, but sadly it wouldn't come.

 All we needed was water!

Barny wishing

Granite river-beds are always exciting to look at. 

Another sick drop, just not enough water.

We spent two weeks drooling over class V granite goods, but paddled nothing. Eventually we decided to flip our plans and drive towards some rain. The next phase of the expedition would be 28 hours south, back in Santa Catarina where they were getting mad rain.