May 26, 2007

South Silver

This little beauty is always a favourite amongst paddlers looking for paddling of a slightly different nature. Granite slides, teacups and plenty of gradient make for a committing and exciting day out.

South Silver sits high in the Sierras at around the 5000-foot mark. At this elevation the surrounding landscape differs a lot from the lower Sierra runs. Trees start to thin giving way to granite slabs and towering granite domes. It is usually run later in the season when the water levels are more 'manageable'. However, due to the low snow year the goodness has come in early.

Pretty much what kayakers do on land.. look awkward

We knew the levels were going to be high but we had word that things were all good up there.

After driving the maze of back roads we made it to the put in, dropped the boats at the top and drove the car to the bottom. This meant we could scout the river as we walked the mile (1.6km) back to the top.

South Silver starts with a rush and a roar on the 'autobahn' rapid. This rapid is a slide about 200m long and is effectively a giant granite hydro slide that sends you careering into the pool at the bottom at top speed. From here things simmer down (only slightly) with a series of fantastic drops a smaller slides (30 footers). This leads you on down to the infamous teacups. The river falls away spectacularly through a series of four teacups. Here we caught up with another team from Oregon as they checked the lines.

watch for the kick at the bottom of number two...

Paddling the teacups will leave you grinning from ear to ear and sees paddlers coming from far and wide to paddle these fantastic drops even if they don’t paddle many of the other rapids on the run.

We took our time thru this section stopping and shooting both stills and HD video of the boys having good times.

See the line, be on it. Zak Shaw dialing it in on Plastic Surgery

As impressive as the teacups are, they run into, or rather the river falls away in the very next rapid – Skyscraper and Off ramp.

Skyscraper definitely rates as an intimidating section of white water. In this section the river drops at an amazing 700ft per mile. For the non-kayakers out there this is incredibly steep. Once you commit there is no opting out until you scream into the eddy at the bottom of Off Ramp rapid – a 60ft long slide into cave to finish. Awesome.

After manhandling the boats around the mandatory portage its off ‘nose job’ down even more slides, avoid the nasty hole on the lead in to plastic surgery and you’re pretty much home.

Plastic Surgery, good times

We stopped to shoot some images at always spectacular plastic surgery with a good friend David running safety for the lead in. Piece of mind in knowing aye.

After running four super cool slides to finish we shoulder the boats for five minutes back to the car to avoid all the ‘manky’ paddling that leads down to the lake. Good times near Tahoe.

May 23, 2007

Golden Gate

Phoar… my season in the U.S. was starting with a rush and a roar. Initially we were worried about there not being enough water around for kayaking. Admittedly this is going to be the case later on in the season so we have been trying to make the most of the paddling while it was around.

Tanya and Dider, ready for action

The next adventure on our list was back up on the South Fork of the American. The flow wasn’t optimal but we headed up for what was going to be a great flow on a section called ‘Golden Gate’.

The Golden Gate Section is situated further down stream from the Lovers Leap section we had paddled a few days previously.

Tanya Faux - you reckon she's stoked...

After a few calls on our new $50 cell phones we had team organised and stoked to be heading out paddling. The plan, meet Dider, Nikki Kelly, Tanya Faux, Joe Bousquin, Zak and of course, me… meeting at Starbucks on Broadway 9:45 – no wuckers.

who is that guy?

From here it was up freeway 50 to the river. Sort the vehicles, food, sunscreen (a free bottle of good wine from ‘Ken’) and we were set.

At about 15km in length and a heap of gradient lost makes for a big day of paddling. Joe and Zak were pretty familiar with the run so they were up the front blazing a trail making for some fantastic, continuous kayaking.

Me trying the menu at the always delicious Taco Bell
photo: Nikki Kelly

Golden Gate is one of the most continuous and consistent sections of river I have paddled. We only portaged twice in 15km, which is bloody good. Tucked in amongst all this paddling are a numerous stand out rapids a step above most of the other paddling on the run.

Some of the stand out rapids being Taco Bell, Straight Shot, Entrance Exam, F1-11 and all fucked up.

The paddling was so good that we made the call and headed back there the next day for more adventure. Joe had to work so we tagged Graham Charles into the team and we were off.

Zak Shaw doing his best to keep on top of things

Having paddled the run the day before meant that we were pretty quick down the run. We were looking at taking an hour off our run time from the day previous and doing it in three hours. This was all going well until the very last 'big' rapid, F1-11. The team decided to portage while Zak and I ran it. Zak had a clean line through, I however, was not so fortunate.

A little less speed and a boof a little too early saw me stuck in the river wide hole at the bottom. After the biggest beating off my paddling career we managed to get things back together and headed down to the take out pretty happy, well mostly.

May 21, 2007

Bald Rock

With a successful trip on Lovers Leap to get us back into paddling mode we made a few phone calls that night and organised a team to go and to a run called 'Bald Rock' the next day. Bald Rock is a two day run on the Middle fork of the Feather river, about 2hours north of our base in Coloma.

We met the esteemed Graham Charles and headed north to meet the rest of team at a place called Lake Oriville (horrible). Here we would organise to be picked up at the river mouth of the Feather where it flows into the lake. This would save us a 20km paddle out across the lake back to the car.

This is where we meet Dider (our token american) and what was meant to be the fifth member of the team Rodd. Some how Rodd didn't realise that we were doing a two day trip???? and when he finally realised he trew his toys completly. Instead of trying to sort something out he stormed out of the the truck down the road 20m and into the bush and vanished. This was all before we even got to meet him. Five minutes later he re-emerged from the bush 100m down the road and then wlaked off around the corner, never to be seen again. That was odd Rodd.

With our new team of four we headed off up the road to meet an equally weird fulla called Steve. Steve lives in the middle of now where with his wife, mosquito catcher and gaming computer (with seven fans). Its always and interesting experience when Steve runs your shuttle for you. Steve part in the trip was dropping us off at the river (put-in) and then driving the car back out to his place where we would pick it up later on. This saves an extra hours driving on shitty roads at the end of the trip.

With gear on and boats packed with over night supplies we headed off down stream.

Intially we were worried that things were going to be a little on the low side.... but this soon changed. It turned out that we actually had a bunch more water than expected. This made for 'juicy' paddling and kept the boys pretty focused in the big rapids.

The Bald Rock run is only about 12-14km in length but the paddling is definately packed in amking for a much nicer two day trip than the one day option. However, the main reason to spend the night in there is because of the amazing scenery. Bald Rock gets its name from the giant granite dome that towers above the river completley dominating the landscape.

After two hours of fantastic paddling we pulled into camp at 'Atom Bomb falls' and set up for the night. With 2kg of chicken and pasta between us for dinner we tucked into bed pretty happy with life that night.

Things get going on day two with a rush and a roar. About 10 minutes into the days paddling you reach Curtain Falls, a river wide 35 foot waterfall. After checking the line Zak was first off and landed sweet. Next was Dider representing the 50+ chraging paddlers int he group doing it well for the camera. Not wanting to miss out on the fun I just had to follow. Pretty good stuff really.

Me dropping curtain falls - image Zak Shaw

From there it was another 3 hours of fantastic class 5 (thats hard paddling) to the take out where we got to realx in the sun until out boat turned up (with a dozen cold beers) to whisk us back to reality. Nick, our captain, gave us the extended tour on the way home showing us thru the 100+ house boats moored on the lake... all in a days... holiday

May 17, 2007

Back in the land of excess

Its seems an age has past since I posted my last blog but thats all about to change.

The season in New Zealand finished up as busy as it started with all the courses full right up until we closed for the season. Since our trip on the Kokatahi I had been taking things easy due to a shoulder 'niggle'. Having had a great season of paddling I backed off for a while to let things settle back down and rest for a while.

But now that has all changed...

I am back in California as of seven days ago and the last week has proved to be a busy one.

Zak and I flew from to Auckland to L.A and then caught a connecting flight to Sacramento (california's state capital) where the lovely Ashley picked us up and delivered us to Coloma.

After a day running around getting life in the U.S. up and running again it was time to dust of the cob webs and get back out on the water.

We teamed up with a few mates and headed up to a run called Lovers Leap. This section is found on the South fork of the American river. Its about an hours drive from Coloma and starts pretty close to the south end of Lake Tahoe.

With the put in above 5000 feet it meant that I was kayaking as high as some of the mountaineering I have done back in NZ which seems a little weird as you wind your way up stae highway 50.

Lovers Leap is a smaller volume run meaning that there is less water than your typical river making for more technical paddling.

It felt great getting back into the boat after a long break (for me) and get out on the water. We didn't really get long to warm up because about 15 seconds into the trip you run the first 10 foot drop and its all on. The boys were pretty happy to be out on the river and were loving the paddling.

The run winds its way through tall stands of pine and furs so the river had plenty of wood in it making for some interesting moves to steer clear of trouble.

About three k into the run things start to gorge up (becomes significantly narrower) and the gradient stepped it up a notch also make for some more challangind paddling.

The team was working well, so we made short work of the 8km of paddling and with no dramas the boys were happy.