Thursday, January 26, 2012

First Descent of Toaroha Canyon

This misson started like most missions do when living in Murchison: through Skype. After a couple of chats to Jordy during the week, Jess and I decided to head down to the West Coast to paddle the two day Perth. We had completed most of our drive down to Hokitika when we got a text from Jordy saying "We are saving the two day Perth for another day and heading into the Toaroha Canyon". 

We headed to Zak's house to find out more. JV and Zak were in the process of cooking an amazing BBQ meal when we showed up. Over dinner we asked them for some more information about the trip... "Mostly grade 4 with about two hours walking to get there". We were keen.

The next morning was a bit of a slow start because of a few gins the night before. We met at the normal take out for the Toaroha run. The first hour of walking took us along a well formed track in the bush then up along the river bed. Before the track went away from the river again we had a bit of a break, making the most of the readily accessible water and getting ready for the next part of the walk.  


The nice gentle river bed before the uphill
Photo: Jordy Searle

From the river bed the track disappeared into the bush, climbing steeply. At this stage I was wishing for my carry system, which I had left at home (because we were going flying). I think we had also well passed the "two hours of walking" mark.

Jordy doing it the hard way
Photo: Zak Shaw

 Zak getting close to the end of the uphill
Photo: Jordy Searle

Once we were finished with the uphill, the hard bit started. Access back to the river was down a big slip; loose rocks on top of loose rocks making it very slippery. A few sections were very steep and needed the use of throw bags to lower the boats closer to the river. At the end of the downhill we were greeted with the roar of the waterfall, nice cool water for drinking and the committing gorge downstream. We spent a while contemplating the 50 footer at the put in, but no one was keen to go first.
 
The 50 footer and the put in
Photo: Zak Shaw

Once we were on the water the rapids just kept on coming. They were all very clean with one portage and funky seal launch. 

Keith Riley on the first rapid of the day
Photo: Zak Shaw

Kev England on the first clean boof of the day
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Zak Shaw following into the tight gorge
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Zak riding the wall of water into a tight slot
Photo: Jordy Searle

Tight and steep... The rapids stacked up around me
Photo: Zak Shaw

Riding the wall, trying to stay high and dry
Photo: Barny Young

Jordy and I with not that much space around us
Photo: Zak Shaw

Charging into the cauldron... A late boof will get you through
Photo: Zak Shaw

Keith clearing the cauldron
Photo: Jordy Searle

JV keeping his speed
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Barny, post seal launch around the portage
Photo: Zak Shaw

Keith Riley, with all cameras focused on him
Photo: Daan Jimmink

JV boofing like a champion
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Zak hitting a clean centre boof
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Enjoying some boogie water
Photo: Jordy Searle

Just another big hole
Photo: Jordy Searle

The rapids kept coming in pretty quick succession, all of them being scoutable (some with a bit of imagination). There was a high commitment factor with this trip because of the number of must-runs with sketchy places to run safety. We got to the big rapid of the day which dropped into a very tight gorge at the end (just for something different). At the entrance to the big rapid by back band broke leaving me a little looser in my boat than I would have liked.

Me probing the big one
Photo: Barny Young 

Barny on the big one, JV running safety
Photo: Zak Shaw

JV stonking the big one
Photo: Daan Jimmink

Me on the last drop of the trip, a funky lead in to a cleanish 20 footer
Photo: Jordy Searle

The Toaroha Canyon is an awesome addition to the kayaking of New Zealands' West Coast. The down sides: you have to walk for it, you have to commit from the start and that if you have a swimmer in there it might be difficult to deal with. The plus sides: it is a low water run, you don't need to fly, you can call it tramping as well as kayaking, the scenery is outstanding and the quality of the rapids is high.

I think it is a classic and can't wait to get back in there.

Cheers for everyone who canyoned the run earlier - very helpful to know that it was good to go. Thanks to Zak Shaw, Justin Venable, Kev England, Barny Young, Jordy Searle, Keith Riley and Jess Matheson for a great day out.

1 comment:

  1. Daan, beautiful canyon, great pics.

    ReplyDelete