Sunday, December 11, 2011

NZKS Staff Trip on the Mokihinui

Each summer the staff of the New Zealand Kayak School get on a team mission and undertake some kind of adventure together – this year we had plans in motion for a two day caving trip at Harwood’s Hole in Abel Tasman. In typical New Zealand fashion, the weather changed and we could see (courtesy of a huge weather system with a lot of precipitation, slowly approaching the country. We soon abandoned the caving trip as the team wasn’t really into the prospect of cave diving.

Sure enough it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Someone came up with the idea of getting into the Mokihinui for a two-day trip, which was likely to be fantastic on the back of all this rain. We put the plan together and headed off a day early to paddle something on the way to Seddonville. Having left Murchison, we were turned back at Inangahua as all the main roads were closed because of flooding and slips. All was not lost as we got stellar high water trips on both the Mangles and the Matiri that afternoon.

In a second attempt, the team left early on Tuesday morning for Seddonville: Mick Hopkinson, Soph Mulder, Shannon Mast, Matt Coles, Jared Mulligan, Daan Jimmink and Jess Matheson. The rain had stopped and the roads had reopened. We left a vehicle at the Seddonville pub and drove further north towards the Little Wanganui and start of the Wangapeka track. This made our heli shuttle a lot shorter.

Shannon and Soph waiting for the chopper 

We flew into Johnson Hut in Johnson Creek, which is a tributary of the North Fork of the Mokihinui. Four hours or so on the North Fork saw us at the confluence with the South Fork, which then becomes the Mokihinui proper. We took our overnight gear to stay at the Mokihinui Forks hut.

Stuck in the wilderness, ready for an adventure

Mick leading the way: Johnson Creek was just a trickle at the put-in

From our put in we had a kilometre or two of fun boulder gardens on Johnson Creek down the to the North Fork. Johnson Creek was a little low (it clears up first after rain) which cost the team a bit of skin in places. 

Once in the North Fork, we had a fantastic flow. The weather had cleared up too so not only was the water good but the weather as well. The character of the North Fork is bigger volume boulder gardens with some cool rapids and some sticky holes. The paddling is super fun with a bunch of great boofs and fun moves. The scenery is beautiful. 

Daan on the portage

Jess getting a great line on one of the many clean boofs

Matt getting ready for the boof to meltdown

Jess finding a great line, the bleeding has stopped on the knuckles

Jess keeping it together during a giant surf

Bit of a rest after some entertainment

Five hours later, some good entertainment and a stack of rapids and we were at the Earthquake “Lake”. The 1929 Inangahua Earthquake sent an enormous slip into the river just below the confluence, which blocked the whole river off and created a huge lake as the river back up behind the earthquake slip. The slip has worn down over time and so the river runs through it these days. Above the slip there are huge tree trunks towering out of the middle of rapids, and clusters of tree stumps to navigate through. The river is slowly claiming it’s way back through the debris.

The Forks Hut sits on a second-tier terrace above the river looking out over the confluence. We made ourselves at home and settled in for pots of tea, a yummy dinner (thanks Jared) and a few games of Hearts (Black Bitch, Mariah). The hut toilet sits on the next terrace below and had been victim of recent flood. The river had gotten at least half way up the toilet structure and had left a thick mat of silty goodness over everything. Mick, well educated through his years of international kayak travel and exploration, told us how to get around the silty-problem Asia-style.

 Mick still charging at 63

Bit of a boat scout

Nearing the end of the North Fork of the Mokihinui

We were on the river about 8am and made quick work of the Mokihinui down to Seddonville. The Mokihinui valley is absolutely stunning and even more so as it was shrouded in mist. It was forecast to rain on day two and true it did. As we came out of the last gorge part, the weather really started to pack it in just in time for us to battle it out on the open flats in pissing rain and strong winds.

After an awesome feed at the Seddonville pub, Soph and Shan took off to the do the shuttle while the weather got worse and worse. We sat in front of the fire playing cards until their return. By that stage the river had risen to full flood stage and we were happy to be finished.

The Mokihinui is currently under threat from a hydro scheme that would see an 80m high dam built just upstream of Seddonville that would back up the Mokihinui River to the Forks. This wouldn’t dramatically affect the North Fork but would mean that the section would finish in a lake at the Forks and a long flat paddle out to the dam. The Mokihinui from the Forks down would be completely flooded and lost forever. The area is super rich in flora and fauna including the endangered Whio (Blue Duck) and long-finned eel. It would be a tragedy to see such a special place be drowned. If you get the opportunity to get into the Mokihinui then do, because who knows how long it will last for. 

Jess Matheson

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Upper Cherry Creek

With some time off we made tracks for Cherry Lake to see what the flow was doing. There were a lot of people in the car park who looked like they had been there a while. One of the down sides of kayaking is that the sport involves a lot of speculations: will the weather be good, what are the levels and who has been in there already. These factors sometimes blur judgements. People were saying that the flow was still too high and that it would be at a good flow in three or four days. I wasn't keen to wait and hear from the first crew down as to what the flow was like, so decided to paddle West Cherry Creek (which flows into Upper Cherry Creek) and find out what the flow was for myself. I easily convinced Matt Coles and Shannon Mast to check it out with me. 

Shannon Mast on West Cherry Creek

The flow in West Cherry was low but as soon as we joined Upper Cherry it had a lot more flow. It was quite a bit higher than when I did Upper Cherry last year. We made good time through the lower gorges, I remembered most of the rapids. I thought that we needed to be going into Upper Cherry Creek the next day or the day after. When we got off the river we tried to rally a few other people.

Cherry Lake in the back ground

The next day was spent with Shannon, Jess and Matt shopping in Groveland, picking up some shirts and doing a bit of emailing. We went back to the lake to do a bit of swimming, packing and carbo loading while we waited for more people to arrive. At 9.30pm Lou Urwin, Tyler Fox and Josh Neilson turned up. We drove up to the put in to wait for Tera Muir and Dave Maurier who were turning up late. 

Early the next morning, six people started walking while three of us did the shuttle. The plan was to start walking at 5.30am but we managed to lose one of the vehicles during the shuttle which cost us an hour. The walk took around five hours this time, which I was happy with. This time the differences were walking fast, eating lots of energy gels and only taking my boat off my back when I needed more water. 

When we arrived at the put-in most people were shattered so we spent a good couple of hours in the sun. At the put we found Taylor Cavin and Tom. The first day was going well, lots of fun whitewater and great boogie water. We camped a bit earlier than we thought, but fading light and a few cold people meant that it was the best thing to do. We camped just above Cherry Bomb Gorge.

Jess on Breakfast slide

Tera on the same rapid with a different line

Matt draining the "Pitonicon"

Looking at our camp site

Boats and gear everywhere

Tyler Fox on Cherry Bomb

Me on Cherry Bomb

After paddling Cherry Bomb Gorge, we decided to stay at the camp just below. Flintstones camp is one of my favorite places in the world, quiet, scenic and it has rapids right there. There happened to be a group of Italian nudists who were camping there as well. When they noticed us heading their way, they did manage to put some clothes on quickly. Lou, Tyler, Josh and David had to get back to work so they kept on going so they could finish that afternoon. We spent the rest of the day doing laps on the Jedi Slides. 

On the morning of the third day Shan and I went back up to run Cherry Bomb Gorge again. We managed to team up for a world class rescue below Cherry Bomb Falls. Someone managed to drop into the weir sideways and have their sprayskirt ripped off. We did a live bait rescue of the swimmer, got him to the side then jumped back in and grabbed his kayak.

Me on the Tea Cups, bottom of the Jedi Slides.

Back at Flintstones, we grabbed the rest of the team and our overnight gear and set off to do the rest of the trip. There is still a lot of white water below Flintstones. 

Matt Coles styling Double Pot Hole

Me on Waterfall Alley (Photo: Kristof Stursa)

Almost at the end of Waterfall Alley (Photo: Kristof Stursa)

Already looking forward to getting back in there next year. Thanks to everyone who I paddled with down there. We were pleased to get out safely.