Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Zealand 2003: The Arahura

*** clip at the bottom.***

Continuing on with my procrastinatory efforts to remember beautiful lines while I tug repetitively on the Therabands tied to random objects around my house...

The crown jewel...the Arahura River.

I have no idea what kind of shape this river is in now, some five years later, but when we were there, it truly was a remarkable run. All told, there are some 9-12 miles of class IV-V, with gradients somewhere between 200-400 fpm. Lots of read and run boogie water, some stout drops, tons of boofs, water the color of the Bombay Gin bottle, and giant boulders of jade lining the banks.

The run starts with a heli trip up the three main canyons, to a small gravel bar immediately above some class IV drops.

Owen Callahan, about two rapids into the Arahura.

Andy Hinton from Tennessee (?), crushing the same ledge.

Ned from Colorado, Arahura River.

These great early ledges eventually settle down above the classic drop Curtain Call, which looks much cooler from the other side of the river, where you can actually see the curtain formed by the drop.

Zach Miller, the classic Curtain Call, Arahura River.

Shortly after Curtain Call the horizon drops away and you get to Dent Falls, named, I presume for the bedrock ledge hidden in the landing zone, and not some paddler named Dent. An Australian fellow we bumped into down there basically broke his ankles on this ledge a few weeks prior to our trip. The lip can be a bit tricky at low water, when a curling pillow wants to grab bows and direct them straight down toward the ledge...

I only ran this drop at medium flows. I still remember very clearly standing at the bank scouting, and hearing Dave tell me that "If you run it first, you know you'll feel like you sacked up." So I walked back up and nervously ran the drop, two small ledges into this 10-12 footer, and did feel pretty damn good. Peer pressure at its best. I gotta say, it does not often happen when you are boating with someone with superior skill that they purposefully stand down so you can stand up and push yourself that much more. A good lesson there.

Owen Callahan, Dent Falls, Arahura River. Sacking up.

Zach Miller, low water Dent Falls. Note that curler just upstream of the lip, enough to really screw you up.

Zach Miller, Dent Falls.

Dave Scavullo, Dent Falls, pulling it off with half a paddle...

Dave Scavullo, boogie water.

Dave Scavullo, more boogie water.

Somewhere later in the run, you get to one of the meatiest drops, Billiards. I'm not sure if this drop is named for the giant stack of boulders that you thread, or the sensation of a bad line. I never ran it, because what I saw was not always pretty.
The entrance consists of two ledges, the second of which you can see in the photo below. Both will screw with you. After the second ledge, a quick sluice leads you toward the boulder I was standing on when I took the video. To viewers right is an 8' slot/drop, and a long run out. To viewers left, was a large tree wedged in a sieve.

I think there is a shot of me with throw bag ready at Billiards in some old LVM.

Ivan (?) half-way through Billiards, Arahura River.

A less successful run on Billiards. Still one more ~8' ledge just out of view below the lower right corner of this shot...better get straightened out...

I saw one of the sketchier messes just above Billiards on my first run down the Arahura. We had a big group, including 4 fellows from the UK that, we found out later, were running the hardest thing they had ever been on that day...Before we got to Billiards there was a broken paddle (first drop of the day), a severly injured shoulder, and multiple swims. One swim resulted in a boater on river left above Billiards, and a boat on river right. One of the pommies decided he would clip into his buddies boat, and ferry it across the river. He instead ferried into a ledge hole, executed approximately 35 power roles, and swam out of his boat, with a boat attached to his PFD, about 30 feet above the entrance ledge on Billiards. When we got to him he was literally hanging on to the wall/boulder with his fingernails, with the boat straining in the current at the lip of the first ledge...

More boogie water and you get to the Cess Pit, which you can run, or easily portage, which most of us did. I only ever saw John Grace run the ledge. The portage includes a fifteen foot seal launch into the top of this canyon...

Dave Scavullo, dropping into the Final Gorge, Arahura River.

Final Gorge, Arahura River.

...which has no obvious way out, and lots of busy water. But it does end in a great high speed boof that, if lucky, launches you over a small pile of rocks.

It is a long day, but utterly amazing. Our first time, with the bunch of UK paddlers, took 8 or 9 hours. The second time took some 4 hours, following John Grace, who had not yet run the Arahura. We told him we'd show him the way down. Yeah, right. We shelled out the bucks to run it three times while I was there.

Zach and Andy.

It's That Good. Dave.

Not to mention, and I'll keep this short, when the run is a bit too high, there is this thing called a "playspot" just downstream, that seemed to keep people entertained.

Dave Scavullo, Arahura play wave.

Zach, blue water.

Zach, Arahura wave.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A bony Nooksack fix

Some pictures from last weekend's bony trip done the Horseshoe Bend section of the Nooksack River. I was not in the water, but I dispensed plenty of beta from the banks. Everybody got out and looked anyway...must have been the sight of Erik's line through bench drop...

Forgive the fuzziness.

300 cfs looks like a lot less than 2ooo...

Eric, Bench.

Melting the middle line on bench...

Bounce, or boof, you decide.

The entrance to SAT, slightly re-arranged.

Mid-SAT, about the same...

Lower SAT, about the same.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Zealand 2003: South Island

Well, my recovery is still slow, and since neither TRL or Bellingham Whitewater seem to be updating their posts that frequently, I've decided to entertain myself by remembering better days. My last post was a hacked introduction to an international boating trip to New Zealand, but I saved the South Island for this one.

Geologically speaking, the North Island and South Island are quite different places. The North Island is dominated by volcanic activity and hence deep smooth canyons through tuff, floating rocks and hot springs. South Island rivers actually remind me of northern WA and BC rivers: polished granite, schist, phyllite and landslides, jade and giant seives. Steep, ever changing creeks and big storms blowing in off the oceans. Generally scary and beautiful places.

Zach Miller, Hokitika River

Zach and I made the journal south of Rotorua, to Wellington and the ferry, on to Murchison and the west coast of the South Island in our seemingly undestructable van, with two 99 cent tapes in the boom box we bought as a sound system. I don't know why we never improved the musical selection. Meanwhile, fellow Hampshire alum Dave Scavullo slowly made his way south, meeting up with us a few weeks later since he had to avoid high spots in the road on the way down...

Dave Scavullo's rig. Super sketchy, super low.

Our destination, and the destination of just about every other boater, was Lake Mahinapua, south of Hokitika on the wet West Coast. The field west of the lake was a defacto paddling community, where international paddlers took advantage of the unwatched facilities, camped for free, planned and logistisized every evening at the Mahinapua Tavern (can you say tool?) or over breakfast at the cafe in Hokitika. We met Mickey Abbot and Allan Ellard (and I told them they could not join us on our heli trip...we were full and I didn't know who they were, then.). We ran the Arahura with John Grace, and I'm featured prominently holding a throw bag in LVM issue 11(?) Yes, times were good.

Lake Mahinapua, home base for a few weeks on the South Island.

One of the big draws to the West Coast are, of course, the heli runs. Bruce Dando flew relatively cheap (~US$50) shuttles up otherwise poorly accessible runs like the Hokitika, Whitcombe, Arahura... And usually all of your stuff made it to the put in too.

Helicopter shuttle courtesy Bruce Dando. Insurance sold separately.

Steve a.k.a. Captain America, and Zach Miller, lower Hokitika put-in.

Eventually your money runs out, or the weather sucks, or the helicopter has crashed, and you get to start hiking in to runs. But the gem of the Kakapotahi is still relatively easy, and even driveable...

Hiking into the Styx, which was too low to paddle anyway.

Owen Callahan, Airmail, Kakapotahi River.

Stef, Kakapotahi River.

Zach Miller, Postman's Falls, Kakapotahi River.

We ran the Kakapotahi a few days after I got out of the hospital, after experiencing my first of several gall stones attacks on the trip.

Owen Callahan on drugs, after one-too-many meat pies, which were really cheap, but not that good.

Eventually our van began a steady and inevitable decline, prompting an even more inevitable and much slower retreat back to the North Island. The black flies also prompted our decision to tuck tail. Along the way we stopped at Mauria Falls outside of Murchison, and I somehow mustered the courage to drop my first 30 foot falls. Since we had stopped by this drop on the way south, and since we knew we were going to stop there on the way back, I was literally kept awake with the thought of the falls weeks before hand.

Zach Miller, with bug net.

Dave Scavullo and Zach Miller discussing how not to boof Mauria Falls.

Dave Scavullo stepping up first, Mauria Falls.

Owen Callahan, moments before learning the importance of paddle placement on bigger waterfalls

Zach Miller stomping Mauria falls.

Next post, stills from the stunning Arahura River...

New Zealand 2003: North Island

I recently had breakfast with a friend who recently landed a job doing geology in New Zealand. After suppressing my extreme jealousy, I decided to take action. Seeing as how I'm currently laid up with a slowly recovering right shoulder, I've got lots of time to daydream and reminisce about better boating days. And often I'm brought back to my trip to New Zealand in 2003. So, instead of leaving the same blog post up about my little accident, I thought I'd post some photos and stills from better days, a little trip down memory lane.

This is the first installment of my nostalgic/inspirational (for me) journey (yes, I did once have a functioning right arm...).

New Zealand:

I finished my undergrad degree in December, 2002. Two summers prior, I met Zach Miller on a geology project in Colorado, and somehow we stayed in touch enough to realize 1: we were both graduating at the same time and 2: we had no immediate job prospects (imagine that). So we "planned" a trip to New Zealand. All told we spent over two months traveling around the islands and boating.

I drove cross country to meet up with Zach in LA, and after a mad dash to the airport that involved packing on the sidewalk outside of the car storage facility in south central LA, we began an incredibly long flight, that included an even longer layover in Fiji, which we both hated.

Within 24 hours of landing in Aukland we had purchased a van. It was beautiful, to us, and relatively cheap. The lack of back seats translated into optimum gear storage, even after we built bunk beds. We learned later that the key would not open the doors, so we always had to leave the van doors ajar to avoid getting locked out. Surprisingly, we never had anything stolen. Except for one of my sandals. Which disappeared while we were sleeping. Actually, I think Zach jettisoned one of them so I'd have to get better smelling shoes.

The apartment that I shared with Zach for two months in New Zealand...

Zach Miller building the bunk bed in the back of our van.

We cruised down to Rotarua, where we met up with kayaker extraordinaire and fellow Hampshire College alum Douglas McCormick, who unfortunately was recovering from a badly broken ankle acquired while on a steep first descent.

Rotarua, or more precisely, Douglas's front yard, was our base camp for a few weeks while we built the bunk beds and got settled in (I don't think his girlfriend approved...). Not a bad place to stay, considering we had incredibly easy access to the Kaituna River, a famed North Island run with a great play hole, and a play-boatable 18 foot falls. A flat water paddle from Douglas's front yard brought us to the put in, and we could walk the shuttle in under ten minutes.

Zach Miller waiting for the late lefty boof as he drops over Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River.

Zach Miller, same as above, from below.

Owen Callahan, dropping onto the pillow below Tutea Falls, Kaituna River.

Zach Miller, bottom hole, Kaituna River. Photo by Owen Callahan.

To tell you the truth, the Kaituna kind of weirded me out. The walls are super smooth and slimy volcanic tuff that rise straight out of the water, and you couldn't scout anything. The still of Zach running Tutea from above was shot while I sat in my boat in the staging eddy above the drop, holding onto the wall with one hand, waiting for a whistle once he was clear. Plus, there are freshwater eels.

On a few weekends we made it up to the Wairoa River, a great Class IV+ run with easy shuttle access and fun, technical rapids.

Owen Callahan, early on the Wairoa River.

Roller Coaster, Wairoa River. Photo provided by Douglas McCormick, unknown source.

Owen Callahan, the bottom of Roller Coaster, Wairoa River.

Zach Miller, bedroom stroke, Roller Coaster, Wairoa River.

Zach Miller, flying off the last ledge, Wairoa River.

After a while in Rotarua, we started south. On the way we made the typical stops at Huka Falls (too much water for me) and Full James wave, paddling a few rivers along the way with peculiar floating rocks. Eventually we wound our way to Wellington and the ferry to the South Island, where lots of steep creeks and (relatively) cheap helicopter shuttles awaited.

Which I'll get to next post.

Zach Miller, Full James wave

New Zealand, where the rocks float. This Basque fellow, who we think was named "Juice" constantly referred to Zach as "Sack," which in fact was a pretty good nickname.