The ultimate California kayaking expedition

Darin McQuoid and I crossed the proverbial finish line at Garnet Dyke Campground Friday evening capping off our nearly 6 week California Epic with the Middle Kings. Along with other West Coast Jackson Kayak expedition kayakers Devin Knight, Ryan Knight, Chris Korbulic, and Eric Seymour; and other noteworthy paddlers including Canadian phenom Corey Boux; Cali Veteran Taylor Robertson; Colorado Icons Gary Edgeworth and Forest Noble; Chris Gabrielli; extreme innertube guy Rolf Kelly; and Tim Kelton; Darin and I set a new Sierra precedent completing 12 of California's toughest runs in 39 days including 2 first Descents. After descending Fantasy Falls, West Cherry, Dinky Creek, South Fork Tuolumne, Grand Canyon Tuolumne, Poopenaut Valley of the Tuolumne, (first Descent) NF of the San Joaquin, Upper Cherry Creek, (first descent) Fish Creek, Middle Fork San Joaquin, and the Middle Kings through Kings Canyon we were exhausted to say the least.

All told the trip involved (per person):

1. 28 days of kayaking, 8 days shuttling vehicles, and 3 days of rest and feeding.
2. 73 miles of Hiking with expedition weight (70-80+)lb kayaks, climbing around 12,600 vertical feet.
3. 155 miles of class V - V+ kayaking Descending around 28,000 feet of vertical drop.
4. 20 nights spent out of our Hero and Super Hero.
5. $500 in Gas expenses and probably a few hundred more in brakes and wheel bearing work to Darin's 88' Nisan truck.
6. $200 to $300 in food of mostly overnight stalk. One of us likes generic and the other buys the organic brands so that's where the price differential comes in...

This expedition has obviously been more than a quarter century in the making as there is a plethora of information available on most of these expeditions from from the Pioneers like Lars Holbeck, Chuck Stanley, Don Banducci, Rick Fernald, Royal Robbins, Doug Tompkins, Newsome Holmes, Reg Lake, and Kenny Gould to the Driftwood and 7 rivers crews, but would not be complete without mentioning Jared Noceti and his crew for there South T first D and Rick Smith and Kevin Smith (not related) for their NFSJ recon.

With that said this trip would not have happened without ultra-motivated Darin McQuoid. Darin is now one of the, if not the, best and most able class V whitewater photographer in the business. He also saved us countless dollars while significantly reducing our carbon footprint by running many of the most daunting shuttles in California on his 1972 Yamaha dirt bike that gets 70 - 80 miles to the gallon. More importantly he provided the crucial beta that saved our asses on the hight water crucible run.

In addition to the 12 runs that I completed with Darin, he spent the 4 days before I arrived with the Knight Brothers on a high water Dinky Creek mission, a quick East Kaweah half day, and a late night speed run down the Disney Land like slides of South Silver. With just 3 or 4 years of class V expeditions under this guys belt, I can't wait to see what the future brings. Make sure to checkout and to see Darin's impressive body of work.

Also crucial to the success of our descents was the gear that Darin and I use. Jackson Kayak creek boats are the safest, most able, and most functional on the market. Werner paddles are the most durable and time tested paddle in the Universe. Kokatat PFDs and water wear are the choice of river professionals and the United States Coast Guard. Snap Dragon spray skirts were undefeated on this trip through high water descents and falls up to 75 feet tall. FNA helmets are the strongest, stiffest, and most durable helmet on the market. There is no better way to stay hydrated than with NUUN Hydration tablets. Annie's Mac and Cheese with Smoked Oysters is a river delicacy second to none.

Stay tuned to for photos and video from the the most recent contribution to the ultimate California itinerary The 8Th River Expedition.

Swelbows on the Edge

Swelbows on the Edge
Gary Edgeworth after 5 days on the Middle Kings. Eric Seymour Photo

Saturday, July 26, 2008

June 7th, 2008: West Cherry Creek

After Fantasy Falls I always start thinking about West Cherry. It just so happened that this year Devin Knight, Ryan Knight, and Darin McQuoid still had 3 days to spare of their 10 day Cali whitewater binge. We had never run the West Cherry immediately following Fantasy Falls, but it seemed like the closest and most epic option. And after consecutive runs down the East Kaweah, Dinky Creek, and Fantasy falls nothing short of a Cali top 10 could cap off Devin, Ryan, and Darin's unprecedented 10 day push. I knew that the West Cherry would still be a little high, but I also consider the W Cherry as one of those runs that would certainly still go at higher flows: ie no truly mandatory gorges, and a generally wide river bed to accommodate healthy flows. In addition to West Cherry's wide flow range, the "run out" on the lower gorges of Upper Cherry becomes a one of a kind high water bedrock master piece. Weekend warrior and Etna's most underrated boater Matt Thomas and world renown and slightly retired Dustin Knapp were also game for our high water attempt. We had only two days before Devin and Ryan had to report back to the Timberworks job site, but I had dreamed of the upper put-in from my first West Cherry Descent 4 years prior. This means that a short 45 minute lower put-in hike morphed into the proverbial 6 hour death march for the upper 2 miles of river.

Hike In: Box Springs Trail Head 5 -6 miles
Put In: Below Graceland Slide (7216 feet)
Take Out: Cherry Lake (4700 feet)
Run Length: 6 miles (4 on West Cherry and 2 on Upper Cherry)
Avg gradient: 419
Run Length: 1.5 days
Shuttle Length: 2 hours
Put In Flow: 300 cfs (est)
Take Out Flow: 1100 cfs (est)
Our Portages (9 on West Cherry) : Thread, Needle, The Impaler *, prelude to Big Splatter, Garcia in the Pocket, Beavers Launch Gorge, Bad Neighborhood, Confluence Cascades*, Confluence Portage*
Our Portages (3 on Lower Upper cherry): Drive Left*, Slippery Rock Slide, Lake Gorge
Special Notes: Highwater Death March
*Still Unrun

Produced By Devin Knight and Ben Stookesberry

1 comment:

Matt said...

Underrated is right!!

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10 year extreme whitewater kayaking verteran. First descents of Rivers and creeks in 12 countries. Leo.