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.


Anonymous said...

Awesome to be reminded of how fully sick that run was (is?). I was there that year too.

Anonymous said...

nice to see your blog about the Arahura. River still the same, more or less, the main rapids are still very similar ro '03. Nowadays the locals walk up to the top in 4hrs and run the river in 3...