Friday, January 26, 2007

last post from NZ - heading home tomorrow

Above: Rob the Kiwi on the Whataroa

Above: Greg lines up the rocks on Dent Falls
Above: dent falls (photo: Rich the american)

HI everyone

I dont have time to tell you about the Whataroa or Arahura except to say that they were ace and we had good water levels!

Heading home tomorrow, will be good to see everyone

above: Amy the American on the Arahura

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

lower hoki and murchison PLUS bonus mega carnage on the Turnbull

Above: If this is where your boat gets stuck, its probably time to start looking for a new one.

Above: Pete and Laura at our Pirates and Ninjas party

Above: Jen finds her own way down the Lower Hoki

Above: Jen and Tammy (the tampon) on the Lower Hoki

Above: me, styling it up (against the wall) on the Lower Hoki

Above: Cows are a quite common and tasty addition to the NZ landscape.

Above: Jen on the Glenroy

Above: Pete ripping up the Lyell Creek wave on the Buller

Since Pete and Greg turned up we've done a bit of paddling. First up we hung around in Murch for a bit and paddled the Bulller, Matakitaki etc. Then we went to Hoki and flew in to the Lower Hokitikia. This was an exciting day for Jen and Pete. Jen because it was her first fly in and one of the harder/more committing thing's she's paddled and Pete because he paddled it in his C1 RAD... This was a largely successful venture except for a mistimed swim in the rapid above the biggest rapid. Pete got out in time, but his boat ran it without him. It took a bit of time to tidy this little mess up, then we paddled the rest of the run without any dramas. Its a nice little run and a good first fly in.

Above: Loonie surfing on the Lower Hoki

Above: Jen looking stylish on the Lower Hoki

Above: Dando couldn't find anywhere next to the river to land....Lower Hoki

Above: looking concerned at the prospect of being upright, Pete resumes his upsidedown journey

Above: Me on the Glenroy

Above: Greg doing what he does best (?fucking up cars?)

After this We went back to Murchison and paddled the buller etc. for a few more days before coming back to the Coast (seeing a pattern here?) This time we went way way south, to the Turnbull. Having obtained the key, we arrived at the put in with what seemed like flow on the chunky side of good. The first rapid was an indication of what to expect - pushy class IV, bigish holes, places where you didnt want to be. We paddled on down on this style of water for probably 500m, before a massive horizon line warranted a scout. The left channel was a huge class V+ rapid - 50m of steepness with big holes and one solitary eddy before the next bit - more of the same except with a big drop and very narrow line to make. We elected to run the lower volume/more manageable left channel.

Above: When we were in Hoki, bizzarely enough, some carnies broke in to the Caravan park and stole a whole bunch of food. Here I am matching my fingerprints to those on our cheese.

This went fine, however the next rapid provided some issues. Even though we were technically running a sneak line (a 3m drop off a midstream boulder) the hole at the bottom created issues for more than one member of the team. I got a sweet line, but the other 5 more or less plugged it, with Yan and Manfred swimming out.

Above: Manfred chose an interesting place to get out of the water.

Yan's swim was OK, but Manfred got recirculated in to a boily spot where two or three boil lines were converging. He spent a fair bit of time in there bobbing up and down, getting really tired. Eventually he flushed, and drifted in to the lead in of the the next class V rapid... Swimming down a chute at the beginning he got himself on to/pinned to a midstream rock, where we got a throwline to him.

Above: Me on the Turnbull. Peter, Greg and Stefan also avoided swimming here too.

Meanwhile his boat had run the rapid, and a bit later on one of the other guys, who had left his boat on some rocks while we rescued Manfred, found his boat had floated down the rapid too... This was a really sketchy situation and could have gone either way - lucky it all worked out OK.

Above: Shortly before Manfred's demise

After about 5hrs of frigging around on the left bank, the final tally was

2x swims
2x busted boats (including one that was/is still stuck in a rapid downstream)
3x lost paddles

Above: You don't need to use the drainage plug if you split your boat.

lucky for me and greg we had avoided loosing any boats or breaking anything or swimming, so we went back to Greymouth early the next morning to drop pete off.

Yesterday arvo we walked in to the Styx for a paddle - the level was OK - a little on the low side, but the main issue was that with the sun so low in the sky, there was heaps of glare coming off the water and i found it quite difficult to read the rapids....

Sunday, January 14, 2007

big day on the kokatahi + pete and greg arrive

Above: The big portage. The cave through the middle is a 20ft drop that has been run!

Greg and Pete turned up a few days ago, so I'm back in Hoki doing the Hoki poki with them and Jen.

After doing the Kakapotahi with robin (see previous post) I drove over Arthur's pass to ChCh.But there was still oneriver that needed to be paddled before I'd leave for ChCh and probably accounted in some small way for me being late there...
The Kokatahi. This run blew my mind. Paddling it with me were Robin, Steve from West AUstralia and Jordan the young kiwi. Jordy will be an awesome boater pretty soon - he's only been paddling for a year but is already starting to some pretty tough runs - he's also pretty sensible which is not something you necessarily always see in young'ns. Since his slightly scary swim on the kokatahi he's even more sensible!
Above: Robin

One of the interesting things about the Kokatahi is that its apparently got easier/lessdangerous over time. The guys who did the first descent almost died in one of the gorges (which they named 'Carnage Gorge')and thus the run developed a bit of a rep as the most hardcore run around. More recently people have been running it fromjust below carnage gorge, so we figured this sounded like a good idea. Dando flew us in - there were no landing spots below carnage so we got dropped above it, or so we thought.

In actual fact, he dropped us halfway between carnage and the top put in (Crawford Junction) - ie. 75% of the way up instead of 50%. this only became apparent when instead of taking 10 or 15 minto get to Carnage it took 3 hrs. The first bit down to carnage was awesome - a bit of boat scouting, a bit of read and run,the odd bit of poke and hope. One of the first larger drops we ran was a nice 10ft drop. We scouted it on the left and founda runnable but tough line. Robin scouted it on the right and found this drop. 'no need to scout, its just a drop'. This was very comforting for me when I ended up running it last and the rest of the team were a way down the river scouting the nextrapid. Luckily it went fine... After a km or two we reached 'covershot'. This amazing drop is a narrow two stage waterfall/chute between two narrow boulders. None of us had the balls to run it so we portaged on the slips on the side.

Below: Paddling in to these gorges messes with your head a bit....

A little bit later Jordan (young kiwi dude) found himself running a rapid he hadnt planned to run without a bit of a look and ended uppaddling round a blind corner and swimming out of a very narrow chute with a supper sticky hole in it. He made it to the bankbut his paddle disappeared. I was chasing him but as he disappeared around the corner i was thinking 'fuck this im not runninground a blind corner....' so I got out and had a look. The line was actually pretty simple - ride up on the boil rebounding offthe right side of the wall. So I explained to steve who was waiting upstream 'its a chute, ride up on the right to avoid the hole'unfortunately steve floated in to it sideways...Being a narrow hole in a narrow chute, sidesurfing was not really an optionand thus i witnessed the reasonably spectacular (and probably not too common) side of a Mystic (large stumpy creekboat) doingclean cartwheels...steve swam. Robin and I ran it without issues.

Above: Steve in Carnage Gorge

Above: Robin in the section above Carnage.

The Kokatahi changes very frequently - in essence every trip down you are likely to encounter changes to the rapids. This is because thetop part has slips along side it for most of the way and these regularly fall in the river! After a while we reached carnage...Not wanting to drop in to the unknown without a propper look we scrambled up on to the rocks above it for a squiz. Besidesbeing sketchy clambering around on these slipperly smooth moss covered cliffs, we couldnt see shit from above. While we werescouting some locals who had flown in to he top paddled past. they caught a sketchy micro eddy at the top of the left sideof the rapid and were able to scout from there. Thus we dropped in to carnage...Aside from a short portage around a seiveit was all good and was actually really sweet paddling.

Above: Robin in Carnage Gorge

After carnage the river opened up for a bit before we dropped in to another canyon style rapid. More fun, some hard drops,some read and run. This is where (some more) propper carnage occured! We got to a point where we could only scout on the leftside, so I got out and scouted. The right line looked like a sweet 10ft boof, but i couldnt see around the corner and thusruled out running right. This was a good decision as around behind the boulder it was massively sieved out and unpaddlable.The left line was a chute in to a steep ramp with a super sucky hole at the bottom.

Above: Robin on the 'paddle around the sketchy boulder rapid'

With no room for the others to scout Iexplained the line 'run the chute, ruide the ramp down the middle - dont fall off the side, theres a big hole at the bottom'.This satisfied steve and he ran it. Unfortunately he fell off the left side. After being surfed a bit, his roll hampered bythe overhanging cave/slab thing on the left, he swam. WIth noone downstream he was on his own, so I suggested to robyn thatit would be a good idea if he ran it... When the time was right (ie. steves boat was off to the side of the hole and notobstructing robins line) i gave him the signal to go. Robin ran it in his characteristicly precise and technical manner andeddied out behind the hole. And waited. And waited. 5 min later Steves boat was still in the hole, and Jordan and I werediscussing the fact that robin probably needed a hand. Jordy elected to run down and whilst was online, plugged the drop toosteeply and rebounded back in to the hole.

In retrospect it was quite amusing to have two boats being tossed around in the hole at the same time. Unfortunately for methe only way this situation could be resoved was by giving robin a hand. Robin gave me the signal to indicate that the boatswere clear of the line and i ran it without any dramas. And waited. around 5min later the boats decided they had had their funand flushed. With people and boats collected we continued on our merry way.

More class IV read and run with the odd harder rapid, perhaps another canyon style gorge, and we found ourselves on someeasier class II water. A huge waterfall flowed in from the side, which was nice, and in not much time we were at the massiveportage. Imagine two boulders 50m square fell in a river and you have some kind of idea of the scale of this portage... Itwas a very impressive place to be. Electing not to run the mega-sketchy 20ft waterfall between the boulders (ie. in to a cave!)- partly because the drop pool had no exit (ie. all the water went underground) we did the portage and had a look around.

Portage completed we padddled some more read and run III-IV before arriving at a gorge. The final gorge/canyon is a mandatoryportage (unpaddlable rapids) and having had a good poke around at the entrance to this gorge we were 'kind of' convinced thatthis was not the unpaddleable gorge and dropped in...i say kind of convinvced - we were not totally convinced, thus droppingin was a fair old headfuck. Luckily it was a pleasant gorge with some nice III.

The river opened up again for a bit beforeappearing to drop in to yet another canyon. Robin spotted the track and with a palpable sense of relief we shoulderd our boatsfor the 15min walk. Back on the river there was one more class IV rapid before the shingle fan rapid runnout for a couple ofkm to the car. Yay. You get pretty tired when you've been on the river for 8 hrs.
Back to hoki then over to Chch to pickup pete and greg.

Due to my mobile poon being farked I couldn't recieve any of Pete's messages asking me to pick himup early, turned out I was only a day late (based on revised pickup plan) and 6hrs late (based on on revisedrevised pickup plan). We headed to Murch and went boating. The first thing we did was the Middle Matakitaki.It was pleasant class II and a good oportunity for pete to become accustomed to paddling his C1 RAD on whitwater.He only had one swim.

The next day we drove to Maruia falls. This is a 7m waterfall that you basically just fall off -was the first waterfall I've run C1 so that was good fun. Jen stepped up (a lot) and also paddled it - good effortconsidering she's only been paddling for 9 months and is Australian. She's also the first girl I know who is silly enoughto have done this.

Above: Half the paddle, twice the man. Pete on the Toaroa

After Maruia we (Me, Pete, Greg, Jen and a kiwi called Lee) went to the Glenroy. Pete established thatthe glenroy is about as hard as he really wants to paddle in the C1 and was looking a little 'wobbly' - lucky for me a lotof the lines worked with my onside (when you paddle C1 you generally only paddle on one side of the boat - your 'onside', ifyou put strokes in on the other side its called 'offside'). Again Jen stepped up and paddled everything. Having impressed us,we decided that it would be useful to bring her along to rescue us on the coast.

Below: Carnage on the Toaroa courtesy of Jen

Above: The Toaroa walk in...

First up we went to the Kakapotahi. The level looked a little low and I couldnt be arsed carrying my boat down the stupidlysteep hill to the river, so I elected not to paddle, as did Pete and Jen. Greg and Lee and Angus did. They got on on whatwas 'lowish' water, only to have the river rise 1 foot as they were scouting the main drop (ie. it rose that much in 5min!).So they had fun.
Yesterday we all walked in to the Toaroa. The walk took about 1hr. Pete was a bit skeptical about carrying his boat in withhis delicate back, but after trying on my super delux boat carrying system he figured it would be OK.

Above: Pete

Above: Jen on the Toaroa. Click on the photo for a bigger picture and have a look at her helmet.

This was Jen's firstwalk in - everyone enjoys their first walk in! though she was still complaining about bruises today from where she wascarrying the boat on her shoulder. I've done the Toaroa 3 times. The first time we walked in and it was shit (low), the nexttime, a few weeks ago, we flew in. It was still lowish but better. This time it was a little higher again but still not highenough. Oh well. The Toaroa is fun class II-III with the odd III+ rapid. Due to it's shallow nature those in C1 had to workpretty hard to figure out clean lines but we managed OK. Towards the end of the run, on what was arguably the best rapid,Jen got pushed offline and deposited on a pile of rocks. This was quite hillarious to watch, and greg and I continued totake photos and film as the carnage unfolded! She ended up swimming but through some miraculous fluke Pete managed to collectJen's boat (C1 is not the most effective rescue platform esp when youre as crap as me and pete) and she didnt get injured, soit was all good!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

the upper kakapotahi is farking weird....

Above: Robin dropping in to "Airmail" on the upper Kakapotahi

Since the last post we've paddled a couple of things. The weather crapped out today so we didnt get to fly in to the Kokatahi - should be able to do that tomorrow hopefully.

A couple of days ago we paddled the Wanganui - i paddled this last time i was in NZ but appart from two drops i have absoultely no recollection of the run.

Below: Sammy on the wanganui. Pete W may remember this drop - last time we went down I scouted this and sent pete in to it....The flow was a lot higher and pete got nailed, swam and lost his paddle...

Below: Matty J on a fun rampy rapidy thingi on the Wanganui.

Below: Robin on another rapid on the wanganui

Overnight (a couple of nights ago) it rained a bit so we thought we should head a bit south the next day and do the kakapotahi. The level was a bit low but it was still fun! It was fun in a weird kind of way though....Kind of a weird and occasionally hillarious mix of kayaking, canyoning and stupidly sketchy (dangerous) portaging. The (sketch) highlight was definitely the portage just after airmail. It involved a dodgy ferry in to a micro eddy, hold on to the bit of wood, get out, delicately scramble around the boulder with boat and paddle and not fall in to the next rapid (which would have been certain death - most of the river goes under a big boulder at this point hence the portage). It was a nice day and it was fun!

Below: This is the reason you need to do the sketch portage. Robins boat is sitting on a rock....

Robin on the bottom part of airmail

Thursday, January 04, 2007

more fun

Above: Jules A on the Perth

Below: Christoph the German on the Styx.

Since my last post i've been a bit busy - also been on the coast so that has sort of precluded getting to the internet with the same frequency that I could in Murch.

After it rained a bit in murch we had some fun running stuff with a little more water - though initially the Glenroy (only vaguely creeky thing in murch area) was a little on the high side (big and brown...). After it dropped a bit we had fun - one day we ran it 7 times!. Greg turned up around this time and we headed to the coast for a couple of days. The first arvo we did the Styx which was good fun - generally read and run III-IV bouldergardens. Its a walk in but this only takes and hour or so. Or 2.5hrs if you dont realise the gate can be opened and you can drive the first half! The german dudes we paddled it with didnt really like the walking bit....

The next day we were going to fly in to the arahura at fairly high flow - unfortunately the visibility was crapola and Dando never turned up (the chopper pilot). They don't use instrumentation to navigate so you can see why being able to see the mountains is important... So we went back to murch. After hanging around in murch for new years, and massively hungover, me and the OEG crew drove to the coast again.

The first day wasn't so crash hot in the boating stakes - we flew in just below the Toraroa canyon, but the level was low and the river crap. Luckily its a short flight (ie. cheap). That arvo we walked in to the styx again, but the level was a bit scratchy - was still fun though.

The next day was fun tho. We did the whitcombe again - probably about the same level as the first time. I 'stepped up' and paddled the rapid that I portaged last time - its actually pretty easy, only one or two strokes required. The consequences of buggering it up are not really worth thinking about but i stayed on line and had a good run down. Sammy and Matt (OEG peoples) also stepped up (simply by getting on the river) - theres nothing in aussie like the Whitcombe and they definitely had a 'wide eyes' day....

Below: Jules on some rapid - i think its called ski ramp or something like that.

Below: Sean Mc on my nemesis rapid....i ran it this time...I dropped in from the top left chute, i think sean made it look nicer tho...

The next day was even acer. When i was thinking about what I wanted to achieve paddling-wise in NZ, my ambition was to paddle the Perth by the time I left. Its a reasonably solid run and I figured i'd be happy if i could get down it at some point. So i was a bit nervous when we actually had it organised and were waiting for the chopper!

The perth is a sweet run - way steep for the first 3 km, then it flattens out for a bit then an awesome canyon-gorgey thingi. Barry Badarse (the dodgy pilot we got) took us in- me, Sean and Jules to the Scone Hut (the top) and Sammy, Tegs and Simon to Five Finger Stream (half way down). Once we got on we had about 1km of easy stuff before the river dropped out of sight. The first bit of V was a run through a nasty hole trying to avoid getting pushed under a massive boulder - we took the sneak down the right - I figured i had a 50/50 chance of making the move and didnt want to get nailed....

Below: Sean Mc on the Perth. As you can see the scenery is pretty good too....

The river kept dropping. And dropping. And dropping. Awesome moves aroudn boulders, avoiding sieves (a sieve is where water flows under boulders - because the stream beds in NZ rivers are so mobile (ie. in floods the boulders move) you get sieves all over the shop - its a good idea to avoid them - if you go in to a sieve you dont usually come out...), drops, drops and more drops.

There were two standout rapids - one called pinballs - it used to be unpaddleable, but because a boulder moved out of the way its good to go now, and another called Knuckle Grinder. Knuckle grinder is an amazing rapid - imagine a rapid about 100m long with 6 or 7 two to three meter drops - its like paddling down a massive staircase! unfortunately my camera wasnt working properly so i didnt get any pics of it. I got a good run down it, but i almost got nailed in a suboptimal place....The second drop has a boulder on the right that the guidebook recomends avoiding people have gone under it in the past - I missed the boof and plugged the hole. However instead of sailing through the hole, i got an end or two before escaping from it's takes a big hole to do this to a creekboat and would have been a bad place to come unstuck.

Below: Sean avoiding the mank on some rapid on the perth.

Below: Sean running the entry move on Pinballs

Just after knuckle grinder we came upon the lunch drybag that the others had left at five finger stream. They were going to wait for us, but given it took us 3hrs ot paddle 3km it wasnt unreasonable that they left before us. We paddled a few km of bouldery III before dropping in to the last gorge. Whilst not that difficult, it was good fun and very pretty - massive boulders and scalloped out cavey things in the gorge walls. No real issues here, but from the end of the last gorge there is still another 10km or so of easy moving water intially on the Perth then on the Whataroa to the take out - we were pretty shagged by the end!

There is a story kicking around about one of the germans (not related to river based carnage for once!) Apparently, when they were waiting for the chopper to fly in to the Whitcombe a couple of days ago, this particular german was getting changed and misplaced his paddling gear. So hes staning in a paddock full of paddlers and cows completely starkers. He asks this aussie guy who he;s paddling with "have you seen my paddling gear?" steve responds "nah mate, but (pointing to some boaters on the other side of the paddock) they might have seen it" so said german wanders over to them (still starkers) and asks turned out it was sitting next to his boat....

today we're in Hoki havign a rest day....