Saturday, February 11, 2012

Upper Whitcombe, February 2012

Most kayakers aren't really known for their detailed planning or long term plans. After some fabulous days of paddling on the West Coast, Daan and I are were attempting to make plans of our own. Due to work committments we were to return to Murchison after paddling on Friday, with hope of coming back the following week. Our loose paddling plan for Friday fell apart and before we knew it, our paddling trip was looking pretty over, until...

We got a message from some North Island friends wanting to know our plans as they would be in Hokitika later that day. To cut a short story shorter Toni, Pete and Fatty had been for a one day paddling trip to the Rangitikei from Rotorua. Concluding that relative to Rotorua, Taihape was half way to Wellington and Wellington was halfway to Hokitika so they turned left at State Highway One, crossed the ferry and ended up on on the West Coast.

Suddenly grateful for the spontaneous streak that most paddlers possess, all plans changed. No work for anyone and all play for another few days! The team: Daan, Jared (NZKS Whipper Snapper), Toni, Pete, Fatty, Weka and myself. The plan: an overnight trip on the Upper Whitcombe (which is located on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand). Two other friends Chris and Jamie were coming too, flying into the upper part of the second day then leaving their boats and walking up to meet us at the hut for the night.


How to make the chopper pilot happy!
(P: Toni George)

Toni and Daan doing my favorite kind of shuttle
(P: Toni's Camera)

Not far below the put in, looking back up at the glacier
(P: Daan Jimmink)


Once on the river there was a short and easy warm up section before things got steep. If it looks steep from the helicoptor, then you know it's going to be a busy day (and it was). Between the team, everything was paddled bar Masty's Slot and the usual portage at the Whitcombe/Price confluence. Not much carnage which was good - a damaged paddle and one swim. The flow was on the lower side of good which meant that there were some creative lines in a few places but still a heap of sweet boofs and moves. 


Fatty and Toni stitching together an early rapid
(P: Toni's Camera)

Weka finding his line
(P: Toni's Camera)

One of things that Pete does best
(P: Toni's Camera)

Daan making a manky rapid look like anyone could do it
(P: Jess Matheson)

His Whitcombe Debut and third heli-trip ever... Jared Mulligan
(P: Pete Lodge)

Main line: 0/4 beatings...
Bouldery sneak line on (photo) right: 3/3 beatings
(P: Daan Jimmink)

Steep and Burly... Daan going for it
(P: Jess Matheson)

Surveying the damage
(P: Jess Matheson)

Weka on another Whitcombe boof
(P: Toni George)

A happy boof as the river paparazzi watches on
(P: Daan Jimmink)


After seven kilometres or so of reasonably steep water, things get a little steeper as the Prices River meets the Whitcombe. A mandatory portage (apparently there is a line, but it's "awful") saw us putting back in at a sweet spot... One last rapid to run with freedom (and Prices Hut) in the distance. 


Toni eyeing the last line of the day
(P: Jess Matheson)

Pete boofing to freedom, Jared watching on
(P: Jess Matheson)

We are very fortunate to have gems like this scattered 
throughout the New Zealand wilderness
Prices Hut, Whitcombe Valley
(P: Toni George)


Full bellies and a good sleep set us up for a good start on Sunday morning. Chris and Jamie having walked up the previous afternoon, set off for the their boats as we put back on the river. From the hut there is a small section of easy water before things get busy in Prices Gorge. Beautiful class four boogie leads into some bigger drops including one of New Zealand's best 20 (ish) footers... Leap of Faith. 


Jess on some early morning gold
(P: Toni George)


Fatty in the middle of Prices Gorge
(P: Daan Jimmink)

Daan checking in
(P: Jess Matheson)

Making sure it's all good, Daan doing his thing
(P: Jess Matheson)

Toni leading the charge off Leap of Faith
(P: Daan Jimmink)

Daan making the Leap of Faith
(P: Toni George)

Jared boofing like he means it
(P: Toni George)

Toni and Si, somewhere in the lower Prices Gorge
(P: Toni's Camera)


Once clear of this Prices, we settled into awesome class four boogie for pretty much the rest of the day. Not long after Prices Gorge we found Chris and Jamie chilling out in an eddy and ready to go. With a group of nine, we split in two and made our way out through the regular Whitcombe trip (from the Cropp River confluence). 

The Upper Whitcombe is a pretty special trip by New Zealand standards, in that multi-day trips are few and far between. This particular trip offers two days of stellar whitewater in a rugged and fairly remote valley. There is a walking route up the Whitcombe which is adventurous, to say the least.

An awesome trip all round... Cheers to the the North Island crew for showing up randomly and being keen to get on the mission!

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