Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last week in cali

After a sick day of boating on the south branch we rushed to the hospital to get glued shut, and I'm glad I did because it has healed nicely.

After the hospital visit we parted ways with Dustin and Nate. Me and Christian hung out at Daniel's house for the day and then Christian flew home to CO to relax before his job started. My crew was quickly reduced to one but I talked Tyson into coming down to the kaweah with me for a few days, he was able to do work in the morning and then we were able to get laps on hospital rock in the afternoon, can't ask for much more?
Me boofing a sick drop called little Niagara on hospital rock ( for more pics of this run see: Spring Break)

Me and Tyson had left my car at the Sac airport for Rolf and TK who were coming in the week, they got in on thursday night and we meet them for another south merced run.

The Team: TK, Tyson, Rolf, and Me (these guys are some of my favorite people to paddle with just so much fun on and off the water)

Rolf doing pushups for the ladies

Rolf on a sick drop at the beginning of the super slide section (I walked this drop on the higher water trip but ran it this time, super sick!)

Rolf heading into the slides

Tyson on Super slide

Tyson in the gorge below super slide

We camped just downstream of the gorge (the same place we camped earlier), I had brought in beers to enjoy and was glad when we got to camp that I could kick back drink a few cold ones and get caught up with some good friends. The next day we got up to warm temps and sunny weather, getting amped up for no portages on day 2!

Rolf, Tyson and TK on a sick triple drop that we walked with the higher water trip

Tyson on a very cool drop

After the drop pictured above there are only a few more big drops and tons of fun slides, on one of these bigger drops I had the worst swim I have had in a long time. I dropped into a huge hole that backendered me into a wicked pocket after about 30 seconds of trying to roll (the pocket was pushing me hard against a cliff) I swam, I didn't come up but could tell I was getting taken back into the hole, I went with it and went deep. After about 10 seconds I kinda thought 'hey I should be coming up soon' and started swiming (I think I kick off the bottom) a few more seconds and I was to the surface. I took a huge breath as it was probably 30-45 seconds without one and began swimming hard left dropping over a 10 ish foot drop. At the bottom of the drop there was quick moving water against a slab rock that I couldn't get out on, at this point rolf caught me and it was obvious that I was about to swim the next drop, all I remember is rolf Yelling 'grab my boat, you hold onto my boat'. I was able to get a good hold of his boat as we stated down a series of slides, I was getting dunked a few times but better than swimming. Then we stopped and got surfed in a hole, we were in there for 10-15 seconds with me holding on, I knew he was gonna swim if I held on. I pushed off his boat as hard as I could and felt myself getting suck back in, and going deep again. At this point I was very tired and remember thinking fuck just let me out. I got lucky and the river spit me out onto the rocks where I was able to crawl out of the river. I am so glad that Rolf was there to give me a few seconds to recover holding onto his boat while I was swimming,a nd very glad to get out of the river with no damage to myself. My boat got pinned on a log and the boys got it unpinned while I sat and regained my strength. We put back in and I was feeling like an idiot for bombing into a huge hole, then rolf paddles up to me and says, 'Don't let that shit bother you, run the meat of every hole you see, you'll get it back!' I love paddling with that guy. We had an uneventful paddle out and thanks to scotty baker had no shuttle to run!
We headed up to the upper middle consumes to meet up with jared johnson for my last day in Cali for the trip. The level was a nice medium 425cfs and the weather was typical sunny California (not typical for this trip). We had a great run with no swims and load of fun, with it being all those guys first time down.

Tyson 'suns out guns out' and maybe suns out short-shorts out?

Tyson on a fun double drop

Rolf boofing skatepark

Me boofing skatepark, I had to hike up and run it again it is so much fun!

That was my last day in cali and I can't wait to get bcak! Colorado was going off when I got home and I have just stayed on the front range and got some fun runs in while I work and go to school. Some CO highlights have been high water north saint vrain, high water south saint vrain race in which I got 6th place (pretty good amongst the pros).
Thanks to everyone who helped me out in cali, it was an awesome trip, I'll see you all in a month or two when the kings comes in!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Week 2 in Cali

Jim could only stay out in cali for a week this trip so I dropped him off at 5 in the morning to catch his plane, it sucked to see him go because I love paddling with my brother but he also works out the logistics and I drive where he tells me and he most of the time has the beta set. I was pretty tired that day so we got a slow start and just went and did 49 to bridgeport (which is a sick run, but kinda a bomb fest so no pics), it was great to meet up with Louis who I met in BC a few years back and to get to paddle with one of my real good friends Nick Abrams (moving to Boulder this summer, sweet!).
The next day we attempted the north fork of the middle american but it looked low at the takeout so we just went to upper middle consumes at about 500cfs (a sick level!). I ended up taking the first drop way to casual and getting caught in the hole which required a quick swim (the river always lets you know who is boss). The day was super sick with the added water but we didn't end up getting done until it was dark (in a hurry no pics agian); which sucked because we ended up heading to the south merced with warm weather on the horizon we were all a bit worried about the level coming up.
Waking up early we assembled the big crew of Me, Christian, Dustin, Louis, mike, and hard charging durango boy nate klema. Nate's car got broken into the night before by a bear and all his food was gone, so he got to stop in el portal gas station to fuel up. The first day was awesome with the added water we had two swims but no lost gear so that was good, the superslide section was sweet and we decided to push thru the gorge below to get a bit farther downstream before the water came up.
A few pics from day 1:
Nate Klema firing a huge hole at the top of the superslide section

Nate, Christian, Dustin getting some pushy slide action

Dustin in the first drop in the gorge below one in a million

Louis on a rowdy slide in the gorge

Louis on the slide above camp
That night we camped next to a huge crew of guys that were super cool to share to spot with us (thanks boys!), it rained a bit that evening but dusty was nice enough to cram both of us under his tarp so I didn't get wet. I was super excited and ended up getting up at 6am because I though it was 7 (due to my watch being CO time), and had a bunch of time to lounge around camp while others got up, one thing became clear; the river had come up almost a foot overnight and the south merced was now a full on river! I wasn't to concerned until Evan garcia said the water was HIGH (the wawona gauge peaked at 1600 that night). I got a bit nervous but our crew was solid and we took our time making only one or two portages the whole day, but there were plenty of juicy holes in there. The second day was one of the best days of kayaking I have ever had, there was some classic cali sun mixed with the best rapids on the planet!
Pics from day 2:

Dustin popping up from the first hole on a big slide

Christina charging

Dustin getting western

After running the 3 hour S Merced shuttle I was stoked that Dustin and Christian got drunk while I drove shuttle, this meant I had to drive to the yuba gap all by myself which sucked. The suck level was taken to the extreme when the yuba gap didn't run, more 49 to bridgeport a great plan B. Rolf and Tyson just got in so they joined us for an evening run, always love to boat with these two. The next day rolf wanted to check kimshew but we ended up settling for the secret stash due to gate closure (which also caused us to hike 4 miles in). This run was sick it had great drops that you had to run in several gorges, we ran everything besides a huge double drop that we thought would cause at least a 50% swim ratio and we had no idea how far it was to the getout and it was getting late (lame excuse I know, expesially because the takeout was 10 minutes downstream).
Secret stash pics:

Dustin probing the 1st drop

R kelly boofing

Tyson on a pushy one

After the secret stash we heading back to the south branch to get those boys on it. A fun day was had by all except my nose and eye that suffered a punch from myself of the final 50 footer and required a ER visit to get it glued shut.
SB pics:

Dustin at the start of the goods

Nate Klema throwing down

Tyson showing great form

Mr.Marquart showing us how to boof

Rolf showing his waterfall form (he has practice: http://vimeo.com/11410599)

What happens when you don't stay tucked

Wow that turned into a huge post, more to come from week 3!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

California 2010

The plan for this year's Cali trip was a little different than last's. Tom and Christian weren't going to make it out until Monday, due to Christian's graduation, so the plan was to boat some slightly chiller stuff with my old buddy Daniel until the Colorado boys showed up and we really get into the flow.

We were split between going south for the Tule and Kaweah stuff or going north for Trinity tributaries, but in the end, the decision was made to go north. After a late night arrival into Sac, we got a little sleep before pulling many hours north to the Weaverville area.

The first day's plan was to do a quicky on Coffee creek. The first mile on one of the forks was pretty good and featured non-stop mini-gorge-ish boating. After the forks combined, the creek completely dechannelized from there to the take out. Honestly it was pretty low quality and dangerous for the difficulty due to a lack of eddies and lots of blind turns. I can't really recommend this run to anyone, but nonetheless it was great to be out on the water with my old Cali paddling buddies and a few new ones.

The next day we headed out to Lower Hayfork Creek, which while being kind of roadside, the road was 1000 ft. up and the river was way down in a deep gorge, looked enticing. So, with a crack of noon start, we put on at a flow of about 600, which was a little less than optimal. After a long warmup, the rapids started to build until we found ourselves in a pretty good stretch. Lots of class IV and maybe a little bit of class V. Then, after a short break, we were back into it, with more good rapids in a nice gorge setting. We eventually found the mandatory portage, which must have changed cause it is certainly no longer mandatory. At our flow, I wouldn't call it classic,but it might get significantly better with additional flow.

Unfortunately for our final day up north, Daniel's shoulder was feeling not up to snuff and Mike and Jonas had returned to Sac, so it was just Diane and I. After reviewing the options we settled on the New River Gorge. On the way there, the nerves definitely started as lots of heavy rain fell; however, they were somewhat relieved as we climbed to higher elevation and the snow set in, minimizing the chances for a fast rising river. We put on in the snow off the Denny road, hurrying to stay warm and ahead of the potential rising flows from the rain. After lots of warm up and one bear sighting, we arrived at the start of the gorge. There were maybe 10 big water creeky rapids before the portage, none of which were particularly locked in, but some of which featured some nasty pockets and undercuts. Somewhere in there we also had a playful encounter with a river otter. Always nice to see the real residents having fun on their home turf. The portage actually looked pretty good, but the risk, small group size, and inclement weather added up to a quick portage on the left. Once you portage, you arrive at the super walled in blind faith. It looked extremely difficult to portage and very difficult to scout, so we decided to just go for it. It turns out it's about a 15 ft. ramp down the left wall into a walled out and rowdy run out, probably the best rapid on the run. From there more walled in but more scoutable stuff took us through tombstone and final falls, and the one right above the confluence with the big hole, and down to the confluence with the Trinity, where we ran some great big water rapids on the run out of Burnt Ranch Gorge with about 8000 cfs in the river. This is definitely a regional classic, although too much paddle in detracts slightly, but the walled in scenery and rapids are top notch.

New River Gorge: Looking Into Blind Faith. Photo Diane Gaydos.

Diane Getting a little too Far Right at Tombstone. Photo JJ.

Beautiful Walls, Beautiful Whitewater. An Easy One on NRG. Photo Diane Gaydos.

From there, we said goodbye to the Trinity drainage and headed back to Sac, where Tom, Christian, and Dustin were supposed to converge that night. Unfortunately a late season snow storm closed I-80 so Tom and Christian spent the night in Truckee before arriving in Sac around noon. Options were discussed and we decided to rally to the South Branch for a quick afternoon lap.

We finally made it to the put in somewhere around 3:30 and quickly geared up so we could rally on down to the take out before dark. All I can say is that the South Branch delivers in a big way. We had just a hair of water going over the gauge rock just downstream of the put in which corresponds to a nice padded medium. From the put in, bedrock mini gorge rapids build slowly for a few miles. Even though it's super low volume and easy, the quality of the rapids are fantastic. I think the whole run has like two shitty rapids. Eventually, the verticality starts to pick up, and after bombing through one walled out mini gorge with a few big holes and some logs at the bottom, the run pretty much turns to 100% top quality waterfalls and slides. This run probably has as many clean 20ish ft. waterfalls as most people paddle in a season. It's just lots of relatively low stress fun.

Silly Waterfall Fun. Christian and Jim Paddling. All Photos TJ.

Then, as you get to the end of the run, the heat starts to pick up. A super shallow double drop which hurts when run properly and can certainly dish out injuries with unpure lines signals your arrival. From there, one double slide takes you to the lip of a autoboofing 20 fter towards a wall with one eddy between you and the ugly 40 fter known as 99 problems. Although all the lines I've seen off this beast have been smooth, I really don't have any interest in running anything with that kind of risk. Huge piton potential. A tight line. And, too top it off, a line ending in a blown skirt, broken paddle, or injury might well result in blowing the eddy below China and an inadvertent first d of the 80 fter downstream (at least it looks like you'd have a chance of surviving). For those portaging, you still end up running China, a slide right above the 80 fter with a hole that wants to take you to China. It doesn't look too bad, but on day 2 I was nonchalant and plugged, resulting in a huge back loop. I hit an immediate roll and still had to turn the burners on to catch the eddy. Definitely a high stress slide.

From there, a quick lowering of boats on river right brings you to the perfect waterfall. It weighs in there as the world's easiest 45ish ft waterfall, owing to a rolling lip and high angle reconnect just before landing. The downside is that the wide waterfall produces little aeration so hard hits and broken paddles are regular occurrences. Fortunately we had no broken paddles in our 3 laps, but we were all using Werner straight shafts. The AT crew didn't have as good of luck, with a 75% breakage rate. Still, I think next time I run the South Branch I'll probably bring hand paddles.

Below the waterfall you move to river right and catch an eddy on the edge of the world, as the river falls 500 ish ft. over many large waterfalls in the next quarter mile. Truly a breathtaking take out. From there, through the boat on your shoulder for about 30 minutes of grovelling with the mosquitoes giving the motivation to keep moving.

Now, I'm not usually one to just hang out and do the same run multiple times on a boating trip, there's just too many places I've never been, but the South Branch was good enough to warrant this treatment. So after a not so early start, we decided to bang out two laps of high quality waterfalls. We made it, with sore backs and necks and a broken ear drum from the 50 fter. It was a great day, with possibly more high quality paddling than I've ever done in a day, but I'm getting too old to hold up to the pounding of that many waterfalls.

With temperatures getting warmer, time getting limited, and the Kimshew gate still closed, we decided to limit our driving and head over to try to do the Little North Fork. We headed down the hill from the South Branch to discover lowish looking flows, but it was hard to tell with the flood blowout at the confluence. I decided to scale up the gorge a little ways to find the flows looked healthier in the more channelized riverbed. So we were on, and after a few hours of shuttling on decent roads, we made it to the bridge over the LNF. Again, flows looked low but adequate, so we put on planning on a leisurely two days back down to Milsap.

The river started off great. Beautiful water, California sun, and what turned out to be a pretty nice flow. Lots of bedrock class IV filled the first few miles, although the rock was much sharper than the South Branch. Eventually we came to the first gorge, which features a 20 fter with the narrowest of landings. Although runnable, none of us wanted anything to do with it, so we seal launched river right and immediately ferried across for another scout. Dusty was the only one who like the next double drop, although it was certainly much more reasonable than the first.

The Nasty Slot Drop... Tail Between Legs. Photo TJ.

Dustin Double Drop... Flying High. Photo TJ.

Soon after, the walls backed off and we were back into class IV boogie for a while. Probably 3 or 4 miles from the put in, we ran a 10 ft slide before eddying out above a huge horizonline at Jaroslav's Falls, a just slightly off vert 30 fter with a trick lead in and a bad pocket on the right. The problem with the lead in was that it narrowed and banked right before fanning out for the drop, where you wanted to head left to avoid the pocket. Somewhat successful lines were had by all, although I did a few inverted spins in the river left eddy. The rapid immediately following was the one thing we had been warned about in advance. At first glance it doesn't look bad, but closer inspection reveals two poorly placed sieves which have caused near disaster in the past. A small portage/sneak on the left was the easiest way to deal with the sieves.

Over the Lip at Jarislov's. Photo TJ.

Dustin Spawning at Jarislov's. Photo TJ.

Shortly after came a super sweet set of slides before the bed rock took an extended hiatus. I don't remember exact order from there, but there were lots of boulder gardens, ranging from easy to difficult and smooth to jumbled piles of shit. Somewhere we came to a lake, an odd sight on a small steep creek in the feather drainage that got us thinking one thing... landslide. Sure enough, it came, and was so close to being a sweet rapid, but the pinch was just too tight, so a 10 minute portage on landslide scree commenced. At this point, we were beginning to think about camp, both because we wanted to save some for the next day, and because the mank was beginning to wear on us.

Lead in to the slides. Photo TJ.

Last of the Stacked Slides. Photo TJ.

For about a mile below the landslide, we ran and portaged some super jumbled stuff. It was all runnable, but we were at the point where running dangerous stuff just because I can be done wasn't in the cards, so we spent a fair amount of time on the banks. Finally, we came to a more channelized looking horizon line. Tom hopped out for a quick scout and smiled sending the rest of us in. It was sweet. A couple juicy holes followed by a move to the left of a big boulder into a juicy slot boof to finish. Unfortunately, Tom ran the bottom slot backwards, breaking the backband of his Nomad. It just happened that when we pulled over to fix the backband, we were at the best camping site we had seen in miles, so a unanimous decision was made to call it a day.

The next morning we lazed around, hoping for the sun to come warm us up, but it took too long due to the narrow gorge. Once we finally got going, it was quite similar to the end of the previous day, although slightly more channelized and walled in. Everything was runnable, but we walked a few due to ill-placed sieves and severe mank. Nonetheless, the run was still pretty fun and the scenery was great with many sections of cliff walls, although nothing truly gorged in.

Somewhere in there, we ran a rapid that started wide and manky before narrowing and charging left through two juicy holes. The walls tightened up a bit and Tom got out to scout quickly, sending Dustin with limited hand signals besides two drops. Soon thereafter, he sent Christian, which is when things got interesting. After Tom started running towards the bottom of the rapid, I hopped out to see Christian throw and endless assortment of cartwheels and loops for 30 seconds without any semblance of control before swimming deep. Fortunately, this one ended in a large pool so we got most of Christian’s gear back.

After Christian stopped coughing up water and cussing at Tom for bombing him into the hole, Tom had to sack up and run it. Unfortunately, from Christian’s standpoint, Tom had a sweet line with a last second lift to plane over the hole and not get his head wet, which left only me. Since it ended in a pool and wasn’t too dangerous, I just had to give it a try. Unlike Tom, I did not get the last second lift and plopped right into the fold against the wall. I fought it for about 30 seconds with a little more control than Christian, but the same result. Best line of the trip captured on the video: Christian, “Oh I wish that was Tom!” It’ll be coming shortly.

From the swim spot on, we ran a little more of the full on boulder gardens before the bedrock started to appear again in the way of a few sweet slides and boofs. Then, all of the sudden we arrived at the horizon line we’d been waiting for: Final Falls, an slide to 25ish ft waterfall. It looked super soft although it was hard to scout the left for a pocket (it turned out to not be bad), so off we fired. Good lines ranging from huge boofs to silky plugs were had by all, truly beautiful spot as well.

Final Falls, JJ Plugging. Photo TJ.

From the falls we heard we were pretty much done, and we were. About a half mile of class IV returned us to Milsap Bar, and the disappoint that the stash of beer we had left the morning before had been raided. Overall, I would say the trip is certainly worth doing, and the large drops are sweet, although probably not every year as it’s just not as classic as a lot of the other stuff in the area. It’s a tough run, and the less than clean boulder rapids wore on us, but everything is portagable with some effort.

From there, we considered heading to the secret stash or Kimshew, but logistics were uncertain and I needed to be back in Sac the next night to make my flight home. We discussed all kinds of options, but ended up deciding on Upper Middle Cosumnes, only one problem; heavy use had shut down what had become the normal put in. So, rather than divert, we did some work on google maps and figured out a river right put in, although with only one shuttle vehicle, this was certainly a stretch. Fortunately, Christian agreed to run the 10 mile shuttle and the river right road was open far enough for us to get to an easy 4 minute walk to the river.

From the put in, we ran about a mile of progressively larger drops before arriving at a nasty sieved out slide just above the river left put in. After portaging, we ran some really sweet drops and portaged quite a bit of mank as well as the old Tony Hawk’s. It’s a shame that thing is gone, but skate park is still one of the best rapids around, burly and frothy but relatively low consequence. I’ll let the photo’s do the talking on this one.

Dustin Showing How it's Done at UMC on The Wall, Skate Park, and Brace for your Face.
Photos TJ.

Once we arrived at the take out, we decided that since Christian was running, the rest of us might as well get some exercise and hike boats up the hill so that he didn’t have to drive all the way around and come in from river left, as the river right take out road is super burly. It was about 3 miles, although the grade wasn’t too bad. We got a ride for the last half mile, although the whiplash from riding in the pick up probably wasn’t worth the walking we avoided. Eventually everyone finished up the hike, and Christian rolled back in with Tom’s truck calling the end to another great week in California.

Video to come... Someday.