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

Thursday, August 7, 2008

June 16th, 2008: Grand Canyon Tuolumne

If there is a universal truth in the California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, it's that every major river drainage has a big, remote, class V canyon. From north to south expedition kayaker's choose from the most spetacular class V expeditions in the world: Bald Rock Canyon, Yuba Gap, The Royal Gorge, Fantasy Falls, Hells Kitchen, The Grand Canyon, Devils PostPile, The Middle Kings, and the Headwaters of The Kern. Of these 9 fabled whitewater descents, only one is prohibited by law.

Unlike the section of the same name
on the Colorado River, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne has been set aside not for river runners, but instead for backpackers, horse packers, and the water consumption needs of over 2 million Bay area residents. Also unlike the more famous Grand Canyon of the Colorado that drops 2200 feet in 277 miles, the Grand T drops a whopping 4500 feet in just 18 miles. From here one should only make comparisons with the other California classics.

I found the overall portaging to be slightly easier than the Devil's Postpile. The whitewater is a mix of the classic section Downstream of Cherry Creek, the Devil's Postpile, and high end V+ more demanding than anything else in the Sierr's. But trumping both the arduous portaging and adrenaline of the GCT is a Scenery that is unmatched and must be scene to be believed.

Despite miles of quallity whitewater set in the Sierr's most spectacular chasm, the GCT is usually the last river on everyone's list. The Grand Canyon itself is patrolled by gun toting Yosemite Park Rangers and paddling across Hetch Hetchy to get to the take out is a federal offence. These issues implies a additional layer of logestical complication. Try entering the river in the middle of the night and sleeping for only a few hours till day brake in order to race through the Glen Aulin Ranger Station area before 7 am. Even still we lucked into a window between multi-day ranger patrols, leaving and entering the park in complete incognito.

Big thumbs up to Chris Korbulic and Darin McQuoid for shrugging off alot of bad beta and challenging logistics to make only the 3rd or 4th complete descent of the Grand Canyon T and first known descent in conjunction with the downstream canyons of the Poopenaut Valley.

Put-In: Hwy 120 Bridge in Tuolumne Meadows (8600 feet)
Take Out: Hetch Hetchy Res (3700 feet)
Run Length: 24 miles
Avg Gradient: 245 feet per mile
Shuttle Length (one way): 2.5 hours
Put-In Flow: 700 cfs
Take Out Flow: 1200 cfs
Our portages (4 miles): Cold Morning slide*, Tuolumne Falls*, White Cascade*, California Falls*, Brunch Slides, LeConte Falls*, Waterwheel Falls*, Freight train area*, Muir Gorge, (1/2) Hot Pockets*.
Special Notes: Needs water... Runnable before Upper Cherry is in. Don't Get caught above Glen Aulin.
*Still unrunn

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