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

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

June 18th, 2008: Poopenaut Valley Gorge

Compared to the most popular class V run in California (Cherry Creek Run of the Tuolumne), the upstream reaches of the Poopenaut Valley is one of the least known yet most accessible stretches of river in California. A quick detour from the Early Intake shuttle rout to the put-in below Hetch Hetchy Reservoir will provide inticing glimpses of classic Granite bedrock spilling forth from an imposing vertically walled black rock gorge. This gorge in conjunction with erratic flows from Hetch Hetchy make running the Poopenaut with adquate water a dicey proposition. The flows can drop from being too high to scout or portage to un-boatable fish-flows overnight.

When Chris Korbulic, Darin McQuoid, and I set shuttle for the Grand Grand Canyon run, the outflow from Hetch Hetchy equaled the inflow at about 1200 cfs. 3 days later it had dropped precepitously to 300 cfs. Our luck had been impeccable throughout the Grand Canyon but this took the cake. We would now be able to exit HH dam via river avoiding Yosemite checkout point on the road above.

Steady and predictable weather from late spring to early summer had allowed the Hetch Hetchy Authority to create a spill over event perfectly so as to lose minimal flow and let the reservoir come gently to full Pool as the last of the major snow patches to melt. The 300 cfs in the last 13 miles to the Holm Powerhouse would be the perfect low side of good flow. Increases in flow would increase the level of exposure dramatically, but also clean up otherwise sieved out sections of the river.

Put In: 1/2 mile below the Dam (3550 feet)
Take Out: Bridge at Early Intake (2150 feet)
Run Length: 14 miles
Avg. Gradient: 100 feet per mile (includes long stretches of flat water)
Shuttle Length: 45 minutes (one way)
Put-In Flow : 300 cfs
Take-Out Flow: 1000 cfs (Plus 700 from early Intake Powerhouse)
Our Portages: Cruise Ship* and several subterranean rapids*.
Special Notes: Worth doing once... or in combination with the GCT.
*Still Unrun


shannamar said...

I love this song too...

penemue said...

I can't wait to get off work so i can watch the videos (corporate policy doesnt allow streaming)... I have been reading Darin's write-ups... can't wait to see some videos to accompany...

About Me

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