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 jscreekin.blogspot.com and kayakphoto.com 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 Jacksonkayak.com 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, September 9, 2008

August 30th, 2008: First Descent South Fork San Joaquin First Descent

In the 24 years that have passed since Royal Robbins, Doug Tompkins, Newsome Holms, and Reg lake's landmark first descent of the Middle San Joaquin, its sibling river the South Fork has been in the collective conscious of California's whitewater expedition elite. To further fuel the speculation over this run, it's upper reaches were included in the Holbek/ Stanley guide as a spectacular run that only gets "harder and more fun" the further you go down stream to a point where either a Heli flight out or a massive hike out is necessary. I believe that some one would have gone for it eventually in spite of Holbek's warning , but the flow information for this dammed and diverted river is closely guarded by the power giant California Edison.

This all changed two weeks ago when the proverbial leak at Cali Edison spilled the beans to AW rep Paul Martzen about a special 4 day release of 500 cfs down Mono Creek into the South Fork terminating at the same Mammoth Pool Reservoir that serves as a takeout for the crucible section of the Middle Fork.

So with 2 days notice our challenge was simple. Put in on the Unrun and unknown lower reaches of Mono Creek and boat nearly 40 miles to the boat ramp at Mammoth Pool. The only thing that could possibly stand in our way would be a 9 hour journey to the take-out from Mount Shasta, another 4 hours of shuttling to arrive at the put-in at the Mono Creek Diversion Dam, and fabled granite gorges of the Lower South Fork. Of course we had to abandon the idea that the power company might altar the flow mid-run leaving us flooded out or high and dry in one of the most remote corners of the Sierra. That part of the bargain was simply beyond our control.

Huge shout out to my partners in crime Darin McQuoid, Matt Thompson, and the estimable Kevin Smith out of Mammoth whose intimate knowledge of the San Joaquin drainage is second to none. I'll attempt to let the video and Darin's upcoming TR at jscreekin.blogspot.com tell the rest of the story!

P.S. I'll let you guess which 2 of these cataracts were tested only by Mr. McQuoid.

Beta
Put-In: Mono Creek Diversion Dam (8100 feet)
Take-Out: Mammoth Pool Reservoir (3100 feet (low lake level))
Run Length: 40 miles (6 miles on Mono Creek, 20 miles on the South Fork, 6 miles on the Middle Fork, and 8 miles across Mammoth Pool)
Avg Gradient: 156 fpm
Shuttle Length: 4 hours (one-way)
Put-in Flow: 500 cfs
Take-out Flow: 650 cfs
Portages: 20 (all that I remember is a big one near the confluence)
Special Notes:
-Darin McQuoid went off on a first descent of the hardest run in California, Matt Thomas was reborn in the warm hole, and Kevin Smith a no-role descent.
-As you may have already noticed this descent falls well outside the specified 39 days that embodied the heart of the 8th River Expedition, but it is included none the less because of its relevance to the greater body of classic California expedition kayaking.

video

39 comments:

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