Monday, February 6, 2017

First Descent of the Poerua

Driving south from Hokitika you drive across numerous rivers, all of which have world class white-water towards their source. The Hokitika/Whitcombe, Totara, Kakapotahi, Waitaha, Wanganui, Whataroa/Perth and more. There has always been one bridge, between the Wanganui and Whataroa, that many kayakers have looked up and wondered... what is up there? why has that not been done?

This year Ari and myself (Jordy) came up with a few plans before we linked up together in NZ and the Poerua was one of them. We planned to hike in and scout the bottom gorges and then find an access on an adjacent ridge, as the drainage is in the Adam's Wilderness area. Ari ended up going on a solo scouting mission, but after 4 hours of hard work and some encouraging but vague views he decided to call in a chopper. Barny drove down for the scouting flight too, and what the boys found... well lets just say it was ON!

We knew the flow we wanted and the crew formed with the "Ghost of the Alps', Justin Venable, just happeneing to turn up to Barny's two evenings before we planned to have a crack at the river. JV enlisted Masty (from Flat & Dry and the half successful Expedition Inception) and we had the usual solid as she goes coast team for the trip. The plan was to meet at the takeout at 8am, fly to the wilderness boundary, hike down a shit-chute and then a creek to the Poerua River itself. All went well apart from one small factor, JV forgot his helmet and we couldn't find a replacement in time. Well we got a standard mountain bike helmet but it wasn't quite up to the task. The team was four, and we were dropping in. 

The river itself was classic West Coast. Steep boulder gardens with stacked sections, most went but we left a few for another day. There was some massive stuff too, including a huge Norway-esque slide into an intimidating hole, but with time pressure, the unknown downstream and 3 deep gorges to deal with we decided to keep it safe. There is the option to go huge in there. After 4 hours on the river we reached the first of 3 gorges which was short and after some inspecting by Ari while I was trapped on river-right, we managed to paddle through the class IV-V and out to safety. 

The second gorge was boxed in but just before it we managed to climb to a shelf and see the whole interior, all good with one river wide hole at the end. Fortunately for us as Shannon put it, "modern boats" helped ensure we made it over the whole.

And then we got to the 3rd and final gorge, the Crux. I initially scouted it solo from river left and concluded that I didn't want to enter. The other boys went and had a look for themselves, Ari came back with a similar idea to me but Shannon and Barny were keen to drop in. We deliberated for a moment and all decided to do a staggered entry so we could escape if we needed to. Through some impressive 'slippery rock smearing' by Masty and rope we we managed to portage the crux of the gorge at river level and seal launch to a must run drop, and gain our freedom.

This was a true mission in all sense of the word and there is definitely more in there for another fired up crew to go get. We didn't take any photos from within the final gorge, except the seal launch, but if you do enter. Take your time, go slowly and take care. Enjoy the adventure and the unique place that few will ever go.