Thursday, October 4, 2007

Never give in!

Life is too short! I've begun a learning process that will never end! Never give in!
Sorry, I started playing the music from the 7Rivers Expedition Middle Kings segment in my head, which I do every time I see the granite needles from that time lapse shot with the clouds whipping through. They were a welcome sight indeed coming up over Bishop Pass at 11,700 ft. with a kayak on my back loaded with lots of gear and not enough food. I am here to say that the hike in to the Middle Kings makes the Upper Cherry hike-in seem like a pleasant jaunt, one you might take on a lazy afternoon with a picnic basket. But it keeps the riff-raff out, is totally worth it, and rounds out the epicness of the overall experience. Oh yeah, and the shuttle is kind of long too. That said, the Middle Kings is the most amazing river I have run in my life. The fact that it is one of the last High Sierra runs to go meant that I felt very on it with my paddling and the multi-day aspect. The fact that an ordinary run takes five days meant that our group had time to come together as a crew. The fact that you are about as remote as you can get in a state of 50 million people meant that every view was stunning. I also had the good timing to celebrate my birthday paddling out through Kings Canyon of the Main Kings on day 5, with the notorious bottom nine miles behind us and a safe descent under our belts. Photos by Kevin Smith. Yellow boat, Jared Johnson, blue boat Taylor Cavin, green boat, Greg Spiecher. Never give in!
Palisade Creek slide
This slide goes directly into...
...this drop! (see the trail of whitewater leading into it?)
Mad ups to Jared for making this look good and inspiring me to run it.
Jared runs the Beaver! (I believe only been run 4 times so far...)
Roger's Creek cascades into the Kings near where we camped with much trepidation for the following day and the bottom nine miles.
Goodbye Tehipete! See you next year.

Putting the "Wheee!" in "Kaweah"

This is my favorite drainage for day runs in Cali (so far). They crashed a road up the main Kaweah Canyon back in the day to harvest the giant Sequoias for timber, so here is one classic Cali watershed that doesn't require you to be your own pack mule to access it. Fortunately, they soon found out that the Sequoias are crumbly and worthless for timber, so you can still go and oxygenate yourself amongst them after a day of kayaking. King's Canyon/ Sequoia is the only national park I know where you can go kayaking legally, so even though the 80$ a year for a parks card is steep, it beats 1000$+ fine for illegal runs in other parks. And the crazy thing is that we kayakers haven't f-ed anything up yet! Or needed to be rescued by rangers with their mad skills! Crazy! These pics are some East Fork, as well as some middle Kaweah above hospital rock. To do that run, turn off to the right onto a dirt road when the paved one starts heading up and away from the river at the hospital rock. Go till it dead ends, hike down the left side of the stream that flows into the Kaweah, and put in below the horrid undercut you will see there. From here down to the normal hospital rock take out at Potwisha campground, everything is runnable. Wheee! If you want to know which pics are East Fork and which are Mainstem, you should go run them both, then compare and contrast. Photos are by Eric Giddens and Kevin Smith, kayaker is myself, Taylor Cavin, paddlesports enthusiast.

Like kayaking on the moon only...

...there's still gravity. Which is fortunate, since I'm not sure how kayaking would work without it. Would you boof and then keep hurtling through space like so much astronaut ice-cream? Hmmm... When I was curled up in a crater and looking around the bare granite expanse of our put-in camp on the West Cherry Creek, kept wide awake by the full moon's bright light intensified in the amplitheater gorge, I couldn't help but draw the comparison between the celestial body up there and the earthly one on which I found myself. Next time I'll pack in a golf club and an American flag to re-enact Niel Armstrong's tomfoolery. The first whitewater pics are from West Cherry with a crew of Sean Gerlach, Sam Sutton, Brendan Bayly, and Josh Nielson of NZ, Evan Garcia who has a keen river memory once he finds the river, and Devon and Garrett from Northern California who we met at trailhead. Upper Cherry ended up as Sean, Sam, Brendan, Evan and I met by some of the craziest weather I've ever seen... read on.
Evan stomping.

Brendan charging the same rapid, shot from downstream.

Josh recovering a spin on the Charlie Beavers rapid.

There IS in fact a kayaker here, Evan Garcia buried in the flow of the 30 ft. pothole drop on West Cherry, en route to a vertical extrication... kind of a theme with this crew, but it's all good, set safety and charge hard!

Snow fall in June on Upper Cherry (Christmas at the Cherry Bomb!), but no one got the memo in time so no one had santa hats, much less adequate layers or sleeping bags.

The cleft of granite that dropped the jagged jumble of boulders that creates the portage immediately above the Cherry Bomb Gorge and juxtaposes horrid mank against oh-so-clean!

Sam Sutton kick-flipping his way to the first ever swim in the base of Cherry Bomb Falls proper! The holes in the Cherry Bomb are being claimed quickly, with Robin's hole, Riley's hole, and now Dylan's hole and Sam's hole having been named, so snap up some of this prized real estate by taking a terrifying swim while you still can!

editor's note: Getting Sam out of the pothole where he swam was one of the scarier rescues I've been a part of mainly because we couldn't SEE Sam until Brendan fished him out. He ended up in the pothole that is partly cut off by the edge of the picture. We were only guessing that he was still in there and had not flushed downstream or behind the falls. Something like three and a half minutes that Sam was chilling in there (head above water but completely out of view) while we decided that Sean should run the falls and wait downstream in case Sam flushed or had flushed, figured out how to get down to the base of the falls, and then picked our way through the spray-soaked boulder jumble to where we could rope him out. Moral of the story: SET safety in dicey spots, don't improvise it while shit goes down. There seems to be a rumor that you can't set safety on the Cherry Bomb; this is just a rumor. Then again, somebody has to be the one to run sweep...

The author drops it like it's hot while a crew of A-teamers huddled on the scout rock do the granite paparazzi thing. (thanks Josh Nielson of for the photo)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Royal Gutter of the North Fork American

These photos are a spotlight on James McLeod, dirtbag extraordinaire. He'll cut down christmas trees for weeks on end or please the idiosyncratic demands of moviestars or whatever it takes to buy a few weeks to doggedly pursue that mix of volume and gradient. He was the one on the trip who had been in the Royal Gorge before and knew of its inner recesses and wonders. The hope of getting on this trip and catching this exquisite, way too steep piece of whitewater was the reason I drove straight on through to California from Minnesota. Jared Nocetti and Brent Idaho rounded out the 4-pak. Definitely cool to do this run and check out the giant waterfalls of Heath #2, Rattlesnake, Chuck Kern Falls and Wabena, even if the vantage point I got was from the hellacious portage routes. The outlandish scale of those drops almost made the stretches of river that we did run seem like boogie water. Crazy fun boogie water. Blitzing the 30 miles of paddle out on Generation/Giant Gap in one day gave me temporary jello arms and a lasting feeling of having done something.

The bicycle shuttle to put-in was necessitated by a stretch of snow on the road that prevented vehicular passage.

Wake and huck on Heath #1.

Going "shredder style" off rattle snake falls.

Railing it out at mini-curtain.

A beam of sunshine on the split falls.

The team below our portage of Chuck Kern Falls.