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!


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