Friday, July 2, 2010

Royal Gorge

This has to be one of the most anticipated runs in the whole of California. A sketchy put in, super remote location and some HUGE rapids make it one of the runs which gets spoken of in reverent tones in beaten up cars and dingy bars all over the state. Stories of epic trips come out of Royal every year which only serve to fuel the gossip mill.
This season, like everything else, Royal was flowing 5-6 weeks later than normal and we had been eagerly waiting for the flows to drop into the runnable window (of course this differed for some with a super early trip going in super high and walking all of the big stuff).

It was like waiting for a Christmas day which kept shifting further away and I was getting stressed that I wouldn't get it. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. With a little kiwi crew of Brad and Toni we joined up with Evan Garcia, Will Pruett and Drew Duvall. Evan wanted to wait until flows were a little lower becasue he was hatching a plan - more on that later.

Ok bear with me here because I have to set the scene a little bit.
The put in for Royal is on private land and even though it's only for 5 metres the owners/manager are known for stopping kayakers getting on and even having them arrested for tresspassing. For this reason you have to be cunning and get your boat all loaded up and your gear on before you get there. We did all of this at a pull over further up the road and it pretty much just served to make us more and more nervous about the run.

We got to the put in and it was a mad scramble getting boats off, running to the river and putting on before anyone came and tried to stop us. We had a 200m flat to warm up on, a portage around a dam/weir and then it was all on.
Royal gorge didn't muck around with any lead in rubbish - it was straight into some pretty steep, very tight, low volume creeking. With Evan and his photographic memory leading the charge we made good time through the steep, semi mank into a cleaner section (which was still steep). An hour and a half saw us at the first of the biggy's of the run.

Heath one from the lip

The heath springs gorge is the first staunch part of Royal. It starts off with a burly lead in then a 35-40 footer - Heath one. It then carries on to Heath two, a 40 - 50 footer into a pool with a slot 15 footer to exit. After this the river enters the lower Heath gorge which is a staunch set of 5+ rapids in an inescapable canyon.

Me running Heath one.

We all ran Heath one with good times except for Brad snapping his paddle. Evan and Drew were fired up for Heath two so we set safety/cameras everywhere. Evan went first and greased it (funny how he seems to do that a lot..). Drew went over the bars and his deck imploded and he only just made the eddy before the slot drop which would have been savage to run with a full boat. The boys then ran the gorge while we portaged around it.

Drew running Heath two

After the Heath gorge there were some fun rapids and slides until the rattlesnake entry gorge. This had a portage and then a rapid with a rather retentive hole in it.

Evan boofing clear

This lead us straight into our campsite for the night and possibly the sickest campsite I've stayed at on a river. Rattlesnake falls - a 50 footer is right next to it and the boys were fired up to run it as soon as we arived. They all had nice lines and we had a super chilled time at the camp that afternoon.The rattlesnake campsite - sick!

Brad on the rattler

Me sending it.

Day two kicked off with me and Toni firing the rattler up, she greased it and I went over the bars a little but it was still a pretty soft hit. Lots of choice rapids lead us slowly (or actually quite quickly) to the biggest drop in the run. Scott's drop is the stoutest thing I've seen over here so far, a 30 foot drop into a big hole into a slide into a 20 foot drop. It's unbelievably big and scary. Evan was fired up to run it so we quickly portaged around it and got out the throwbags and cameras.
Evan came in and styled the top of the drop but got kicked over the bars at the bottom hitting a rock in the landing and getting ejected. It was a super impressive line and unlucky that he didn't clean it.
Drew's line went a little diferently however.. He went over the bars on the first part but rolled up in the pool, he then had to work hard to get left and he din't quite make it. The same rock that kicked Evan threw him into the wall where he proceeded to get the equivalent of a curb stomping on the wall losing four teeth and getting a concussion just for good measure.
Drew just about to eat it.

This made things a little more serious, being so remote walking out was pretty much out of the question so Will and Drew decided to just bomb out in one day to get Drew to the dentist - no mean feat when you are concussed and juiced up on candy.
We carried on down to the last big drop on the run where Evan wanted to cap off his grand plan - run all of the big drops in Royal in one trip which hadn't been done before. Funnily enough he greased the 70 foot Wabena falls in the same freakish style he had done the rest of the run with.

Evan getting ready to take it deep on Wabena

After Wabena we cruised through some more rapids and stayed at another sick camp where we were mercilessly savaged by mosquitoes until dark.

Sweet as lazy boys even!

The last day was a bit of a slog through about 25 miles of easy rapids to the takeout where the ever reliable MUM was waiting to take us to the closest available fast food outlet.
Next up we are off to Dinky creek and the southern drainages which are coming in left right and centre. I'm fired up!!!!! (in dirty southern accent)

All pics from this run are from the esteemed Ms Toni George, chur!!!

1 comment:

  1. Bro, good work on firing up the rattler!! Keep charging!!