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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

July 1st, 2008: First Descent Fish Creek into the Middle Fork San Joaquin

Darin McQuoid and I were on the verge of California's equivalent of Baseball's complete game. Darin and I would only need two more descents to finish off the California expedition season having completed more first descents and high end classics in a single season than anyone before us. From Darin's previous year's descent of the Upper Middle San Joaquin, he new that the flow window was now open with the quickly dwindling flows on Upper Cherry Creek.

As it turned out, Chris Korbulic and Chris Gabrelli emerged from Upper Cherry mere hours after we blazed out our two day descent. The Chrises had spent 5 days enjoying U-cherry to it's fullest. Chris K made no fewer than 1/2 dozen descents of Cherry Bomb Gorge in attempt to live those 5 days to there fullest. Unfortunately, this would have dire consequences for the remaining 2 weeks of the California expedition season. No more than 1.5 miles into our Fish Creek hike his lower back was spasming. Another mile on and Chris pleaded no joy on the hike and the remaining 4 days that would prove to be the most arduous to that point.

Although Chris agreed to run our shuttle after hiking out (which would save us another full day of hiking and dealing), it was a significant blow to my confidence. Darin and I had just made a two day, two man descent of the Upper North Fork of the SJ and done fine, but this was the crucible, and every piece of the safety net that you could assemble would sooth a troubled mind. We had just lost a major piece of that safety net going into an unknown first descent that would culuminate in the hardest run in California: the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin.

Hike In: Fish Creek Trail (10 miles through Devils Postile Nat. Monument)
Put In: 6 miles up Fish Creek (6560)
Take Out: Mamoth Pool Reservoir (3318)
Run Length: 33 miles = 5 miles on Fish Creek + 20 miles on the Middle Fork + 8 miles on Mammoth Pool
Avg Gradient: 130 fpm
Shuttle Length: 6 hours (one-way)
Put-In Flow: 300 cfs
Take out Flow: 800 cfs
Portages: 16 (fish creek, 15 middle Fork)
Special note: Only a couple of the 15 portages we made on the middle fork took under 15 minutes, several pushed the one hour thresh hold.

1 comment:

Flex said...

I love to hear from other people about their wonderful adventures when it comes to White water rafting trip. Thank you for posting.

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