Sunday, September 19, 2010

Big. Water.

Over the last few seasons the crew from up here have slowly been ticking off the creeks which run off the eastern side of the Kaimai ranges in Tauranga. The established classics like the Tuakopai and the Mangakarengorengo have turned into after work/school bomb runs and people have been looking further north for adventures into seldom or unrun drainages.
These runs are characterised by big slides, lots of vert and then usually a big beast of a drop down the bottom where a hard band of rock must run the length of the Kaimais, creating for the most part, a big portage.
After a wet winter, the boys had ticked off lots of runs, some new, some old and some revisited. The Rataroa, Te Puna and Aongatete (try saying those fast) all got checked out along with the Waipapa which is turning into the 'go to' when it's raining hard. I got back to the falls just in time for some horrid weather which fully soaked the ground to the point where the water was just running straight into the creeks - ideal.
A day off on Sunday and a Northerly front cemented the plan on Saturday night - get to one of the reputedly 'best creeks in the Kaimais'. With only one descent a few years back, we were keen to check it out after hearing the stories and seeing the odd photo of super cool drops and slides, not to mention 'the big one' a suppposedly clean, unrun 90 footer....
B and Ryan (along with Wills who got lucky having another week of uni because of some earthquake) were the instigators of said plan and we woke up early on Sunday to some doubt about the conditions (not quite as much rain as hoped) but decided to go anyway.
After all the usual stops (bakery, navigation, scouting, farmer, other farmer, toilet etc) we finally made it to the put in super fired up about what we were going to find downstream...

And what a find it was! Horizon line after horizon line, all big, all clean, no manky boulder gardens just big drop/slide combos which kept coming. Constant rain stopped most chances of pics etc but we got a few...

B running the second part of a rapid - a similar sized drop above into a slide into this. Sick!

A wee way in we came to a drop we had been waiting for. Scouting missions along with a tiny little thumbnail in kayak session from the first trip in here had us frothing about it. The drop had a tricky little entrance into a beautiful 25 foot drop. Right about now the rain stopped so we got cameras out and after some deliberation ("Bro what do reckon the line is?" "Well I dunno about you but I'm gonna boof the shit out of it!") young fulla sent it first. Everyone had sweet lines and the smiles got even bigger.

Bayly getting it done again - mean

Below the drop we carried on down for a little bit, off a sweet little eight footer and then eddied out above one of those horizon lines that looks like it's dropping off the face of the earth. Yup, the biggy - supposedly 90 feet but undoubtedly a monster.
Getting out on the deck on the left we got to the lip and found ourselves looking a long way down at a narrow spout which looked to be throwing pretty far out. Not 90 but still a big drop - dubious glances were exchanged as we tried to talk ourselves into the line.
Ryan was pretty keen but wanted to check it from the other side so more to keep him company than anything else I went over to check it with him. B and Wills were portaging by this stage not liking the view from the left. We spent a while discussing lines etc and then I think the conversation went something along the lines of; "Bro worst case scenario is landing flat and that's not going to happen - and that portage looks savage", "Yeah shall we just send it?"
So the scene was set. Ryan was fired up to go first so once B and Wills got there to set safety it was game on.
He pulled out of the eddy, took a stroke off the lip and then tucked, where I lost sight of him it looked like he had a perfect line. Turned out that he had gone pretty sideways and separated his paddle on impact. Then it was my turn. I gave the old whistle then drifted down the eddy line, I pulled out into the current and as the lip went under me I felt just a tiny touch of rock on my hull - not ideal. Luckily I was already pulling on my right blade which straightened me and lifted my nose just a little. As I tucked I saw the landing and was pretty sure I had it sorted. It ended up being a super soft hit and I rolled up to the ubiquitous Ryan Lucas scream.

Ryan sending it on the first D - 60 to 65 we reckon

My turn, getting ready for the hit.

After the big one we asssumed the river would have run out of gradient and we just had some boogie to the takeout. We were ever so mistaken. Big rapids just kept coming at us, all super cool and surprisingly clean. Including the biggest slide of the day..

"How deep do you reckon the bottom is"?

Wills probing

Ryan at the bottom giving some scale to it.

More rapids led us to still more horizon lines where we came across this gem.

Happy times

Me about to fly

Some low angle slides and fun boogie (not the usual Kaimai boulder gardens) finally got us to the take out tired, sore and super stoked at the sick day we just had. Definitely one of the best runs in the Kaimais for sure. Cant wait to go back!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HB Gem

After a very cold stint in Wanaka/Christchurch I made it back to the Hawkes Bay on the back of a storm (and in front of an earthquake) so all of the rivers were up nice and high. I'd already recruited my little sis Harry to paddle with as she was on uni holidays. We scavenged a couple of boats and made our way up our road (the Napier/Taihape) to check out a section on the Tutaekuri river (unfortunate name that, means dog shit...) The Tutaekuri is one of the bigger rivers emptying into the Bay and for most of it's length is super shallow and braided. However right up the top it's got a bit of gradient where it drops off the Kaweka ranges.

The reason this section hadn't been run was because of two waterfalls marked on the topo map - an 8m and a 5m, which given the nature of the gorge they're in would be pretty full on to just bomb into. We'd already scouted the section prior to our Cali trip though and we were surprised to find no big drops, either the topo map was wrong (gasp) or they had been filled in with shingle from a big flood.

Anyway, Harry and I set the shuttle and walked the 15 knee destroying minutes down the Mackintosh track to the put in.

This is the first view you get of the run and the put in - pretty choice!!

As soon as we got on we found ourselves committed in a super deep and pretty inescapable gorge. The rapids alternate between little bouldery 3/4 numbers and some super fun little slides and bedrock sections.

Harry on her first creeking outing on a cool little slide with a bit of an undercut to keep the heart going

The bedrock section in the middle is super fun and waterslidey and will be sick when we get in there when she's pumping. There's a cool six foot sloper...

The point and shoot not quite up to the old 'hold the button down and get more than one shot deal'

and not coping very well with moving kayaks and lack of light. Harry testing the depth - it's deep.

The end of the bedrock section is the crux of the run with a boulder garden enticing you down and then swinging left and tightening up into a very Waihohonu-ish box hole complete with a recirculating eddy. This alone will be the deciding factor for super high water runs - not sure if it will get worse or wash out. You can't really scout or portage it either so it will be interesting...

Harry about to discover the joys of paddling upstream out the back of an eddy. It's steeper than it looks in the photo and the right hand side had a bit of a cavey pockety thing.

After this rapid there were lots more boulder gardens and another cool grade 2/3 gorge where a big side creek comes in from the right.

Harry soaking it all in in the super cool gorges.

This run was super fun and ideal for someone just getting into creeking with nothing too hard and minimal sieves/wood to deal with. Any less water than we had would make the boulder gardens pretty average. It's a mean run for us to have on the back doorstep and adds that little bit more to the area.
Not really sure who reads this stuff but if you're from the HB canoe club it would be a mean run for you to use. I've got a more guidebook type write up I can send you.

As for now I've moved back to the falls and straight back into epic spring conditions for the Kaimais. The boys have been going hard with Tuakopai, Waipapa and even a Whatakau run. To top it off we jumped on the Wainui the other day and had one of the sickest days boating I've done in NZ. Can anyone say 60 footer...