Thursday, June 24, 2004

Report from the Trailhead of the Middle Kings

While in Bishop today some of the boys headed up to the trailhead to the Bishop Pass. While the flow is right at 1800 (just about ready) the temps were "very cold" and there was "ample" snow.

Here are some pics from the trailhead

the trail itself

And here is some video of the pass

Click Here

Update and Some Bonus shots and vid

We have postponed our putin for the Devil's Postpile till tommorrow AM.

Access is only allowed to the river during the hours of 830pm -730am for vehicular travel other than the designated shuttle bus.

The flow, which have once again asertained from myseterious sources, reads 850 inflow to Mammoth Pool. Willie Kern reports an ideal flow of 550-650 and we are looking at a drop of about 50 cfs a day. We are putting in tommorrow morning with an extra day's supplies in case our water does not drop according to plan.

Some news, Tommy has got a hold of Johnie Kern's new creek boat "El Jefe Grande" and will be taking the second protoype for a four day jaunt down the San Juaquin to figure out a few final adjustments to the design.

Buffy Bailey is reportedly in route via LA for our planned trip down the Middle Kings next week. Buffy was on the 1997 expedition with Scott, Johnnie, Willie, Chuck, Mark, BJ, Dustin and Brandon. Needless to say we are fired up to have her along.

We have Jed Weingarten also potentially in route, with he and Buffy we will be looking at crew of 9, with 4 people having previously run the 42 mile, 6400 foot gradient river.

But first the San Juaquin.

Here are a few bonus pictures and video from earlier in the trip

Fanatsy Falls Random
Click Here

Royal Gorge Random
Click Here

Some pics

Toby digging into his closet

Tommy running the "Grove Tube" rapid on Upper Cherry Creek

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Here and Now

The Team, minus one, is now gathered in the eastern Sierra mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, eagerly awaitng a dropping flow on the Devil's Postpile of the Middle Fork of the San Juaquin. We visited the falls and inspected the flow, what we found was slightly above the recomended level.

The Devil's Postpile is the supposed hardest run in California and was first run by Royal Robbins a long time ago.

Scott Lindgren and crew have been in the river 3-4 times, but all before the 1997 flood. Rick Smith and crew paddled the river last year in 7 days.

The river flows through the "Crucible" gorge past the Ballon Dome Batholith. The granite rises right out of the river, forcing 5 big rock piles in between a hell of a butt crack gorge, more on that later.

The river is the only one of the 7 rivers that cuts through the heart of the Sierra, starting in the volcanic Basalt of the Minaretes and flowing into the fine Granite we love so much to paddle.

There are many rock pile portages to be found in the river, and a bunch of great trout fishing.

This is the headwaters of the river.

photo by Nikki Kelly

We managed to assertain the flow into the Mammoth Pool to be 1000 cfs on Wens and are looking for 550 inflow, we are trying to kill time, but Tommy already has his lifejacket and helmet on, so it seems to be a losing battle.

We are going to inspect the flow again this evening and are planning on putting on Thursday or Friday afternoon.

Here is a shot of John Grace and Nikki Kelly with the Rainbow Falls in the background.

photo by Tommy Hilleke
Heading into town after our touristing trip to the Devil's Postpile National Monument we cruised the grocery store in town, stocked up and headed out into the desert to find the supposed hot springs.

Here is a shot of the sun setting east over the desert and on a thunderstorm.

photo by Nikki Kelly

photo by Nikki Kelly

Upper Cherry Creek Trip Two

“The one day descent turned mandatory 5 day overnighter”

With temps and flows on the rise, we found ourselves facing a long stretch till our next river would drop into a runnable level. Tommy had concepted the goal of running the entire Upper Cherry Creek in one day (10.5 mile hike/ 12 mile paddle + 3000 feet of gradient). We had nothing else to do so set off for the river and a mid day rendezvous with Lindgren, Little Dave, Shannon, Bennie, Matze, Jason Hale and on and on.

Al G, our trip leader, had stayed within the gorge when we paddled out the first time and was awaiting a food re-supply from us and was on radio contact for our intended Monday rendezvous.

Feeling the spirit of the alpine start I (Daniel) headed out at 330 am from the Kibbie Ridge trailhead. Armed with a headlamp I began the 10-11 mile schlep up the hill and through the impenetrable forces of mosquitoes.

photo by Nikki Kelly

I got lost about 4:15 am in a burnt out section of the trail. It was still utterly dark out and I was in a deep dark place in the woods. Reluctantly I put my boat down and began to walk in concentric circles. The fire was so intense that the trail was obliterated in sections with burnt out ash lines looking like the trail.

Frustrated as hell I wandered farther into the darkness in search of my trail, the LED lamp hardly doing much justice in the ash-out of the forest floor. All of a sudden a heavy big noise came from the woods near my wandering path. At that moment the reality of the deadly mountain lion came to me in a shocking start. With my trusty paddle I was determined to defend the death leap of the lion if it should come. Just two years earlier we saw a huge mountain lion at Kibbie Ridge. The bears and rattlers I can take, but the lion scares the hell out of me.

Fortunately, the “chipmunk” inflicted no harm I found the trail and drug myself into the putin at 832 am to some high ass water. Happy with my decision to bring my 1 pound sleeping bag I dropped out for a bit of shut eye after my 5 hour/ 10.5 mile slug up the hill, and awoke to Tommy dropping into camp at 11 am.

Good news was he also had a sleeping bag and a bit of food, bad news was the rest of the crew bailed out 2 hours in after talking with Al at base camp and getting the highwater report from within the gorge.

With the clothes we had on, a sleeping bag and 1 and half worth of food, Hilleke and myself set off for base camp, just below the Cherry Bomb gorge.

The two of us essentially bombed the very high water upper down to the top of the Big Gorges, understanding the way too high nature of the flow, we schlepped our boats the 40 minutes down to the top of the Money Potholes Gorge. It was there we boomed through some huge holes and slid into camp (after a lap on the potholes of course).

John Grace running the gorrilla rapid during the first trip

photo by Nikki Kelly

In Base Camp we found over 25 people, most were happy to portage and get out, but a few were there on an HDTV assignment and really wanted to drop the gorge.

A day later our crew invaded base camp from all sides.

After a couple of days of deliberation the big game hunters dropped in and pulled off one of the highest descents of the Gorge to date (Alex Nicks, Toby MacDermott and Gary Edgeworth also have high water runs from 2003).

The next day we watched the SLP crew paddle out and run ALL of the big drops and gorges below. Of note were Shannon Carroll’s money line at “Kiwi in a Pocket” and Little Dave’s determination to not land in green water going off the left side of DeadBear Falls.

After the SLP crew bailed we stayed in the gorge for 2 more days.
During that time the water level remained very stout. Tommy (who ran the gorge with the SLP crew) dropped in for a solo, unprotected run through the gorge. He came around the corner and into camp telling stories of big surfs and an epic fight to escape the gorge. He was berated by the rest of the crew for not waiting for Nikki and John who were behind him.

Nikki and John ran through later that day and had stellar lines through all of the holes. Nikki fought proud, becoming the first woman to run the gorge at high water (and the only woman as far as we know).

The next morning Tommy headed up the hill for his 6th trip down the gorge this year (John Grace in tow).

Here is a 16:9 format video of that run.

Click Here

After their run the whole team paddled out to the lake. Of note was the vertical extraction of Mr. Hilleke from the “Kiwi in a Pocket” pocket (named for the previously mentioned Nikki Kelly named during the first descent of the falls 2 years ago.

We set up a Z-drag and Tommy clipped into his Astral “Grab That Bitch” loop and up and away he went. The rescue team was a bit overzealous and drug a good bit of skin off Tommy’s knuckles.

Tommy running dead bear falls after said extraction

photo by Nikki Kelly

Upper Cherry Creek Trip One “aka The Greatest Sneak of the Year”
(Main River)

Days 3
Miles 12 river, 10.5 hiking on Kibbie Ridge Trail
Vertical Drop 2800
Level Perfect
Portages 2-4
Peeps Nikki Kelly, Toby MacDermott, John Grace, Fred Coriell, Daniel DeLaVergne, Nate Helms, Tommy Hileke, Drew Refsauge, Caleb Copeland, Polk Deters, Reiley Cathcart, Josh Bruckner

Fun Facts: When we took off the West Cherry Creek and had just barely managed to survive the lower section of the Main Upper Cherry, we gave it almost 8 days before the level would be right for paddling through all of the upper gorges on the river.

Upoun inspection of the approaching cold weather, talk of a sneak into the river during a short piece of potentially low water sprang up. The gamble was huge, if we hiked our loaded boats the 10.5 miles to the putin and the level was high we would have to portage the main gorges.

Feeling that our prediction of a major level change was accurate we took off for the putin.

Fred, the forerunner, made the hike with loaded boat in just 5 and a half hours. Others spent time lost in the huge fire pit of the recently burned forest along the ridge, some dragging in 7 hours after starting out. The physical exhaustion of schlepping our 100 pound loads up and over the ridge was apparent on everyone’s face.

A view of the upper reaches of the river, a gloomy cast just before a bit of precip. The low temps made the hike ideal.

photo by Nikki Kelly

The speculation of the flow at the put was varied, but the general feeling was that we were gonna be paddling through the heart of the gorges, one of the most special places a river runner could go.

We awoke in the morning to an even lower flow and set off with beaming smiles. The first 3 miles are some of the most spectacular granite settings one could hope to paddle through. As we began to drop into the upper gorges some of the group began to predict that we would be able to paddle through the Cherry Bomb Gorge with our loaded kayaks. When our group made the first descent of this pit of gorge 2 years ago, all of the overnighter gear was walked around the falls and a comprehensive scout was made from the bottom.

This time we chose to drop right into the Cherry Bomb, locked and loaded. After some stellar lines and some hairy surfs the crew cleared the other side of the gorge and dropped into the “Money Potholes” gorge and right into camp. The sense of big accomplishment was evident on everyone’s face.

Amped by the shear committed and mystical feeling of being so deep in a granite buttcrack, Tommy Hileke and Daniel DeLaVergne made the hour long trek back up and over the big dome and ran the entire set of Cherry Bomb gorges again.

Here is a sequence of the second run that day, sans gear.

photo by Nikki Kelly

photo by Nikki Kelly

That day the level began to rise and the crew was faced with a bit of action when they hiked up to run the Bomb again in the morning.
The following morning Reiley Cathcart became the first man to swim within the inhospitable Cherry Bomb Gorge, with his boat pinning in the horrible looking rock rapid at the bottom of the gorge. With assistance from Fred, the Salto was removed from the sieve (looking more like a Kendo than a Salto) and Reiley paddled out of the gorge, successfully completing the first CBG swim.

John Grace preparing to film tghe gorge, high on the "Media Ledge"

photo by Nikki Kelly

The remainder of the big gorges treated the crew well and the various 20-40 foot falls and pothole gorges were enjoyed to the utmost.

Toby MacDermott in the Double Pothole drop

photo by Nikki Kelly

We headed out to the border town of Groveland where residence was taken in the M2 mobile home rental unit. There we ran into Scott Lindgren and crew who were headed into the gorge to film a HD TV show. We offered warnings of potential rising water levels, but the warnings were not heeded.

All of our pictures were taken by Nikki Kelly, look for more great shots to come

photo by John Grace

West Cherry Creek

West Cherry Creek
(main river)

Days 3
Miles 9 (2 miles on main upper cherry creek at high ass water)
Vertical Drop 2600 ft
Level medium high
Portages many
Peeps Toby MacDermott, John Grace, Fred Coriell, Daniel DeLaVergne, Nate Helms

Fun Fact: The most scenic kayak-assisted backpacking trip in the Yosemite region.

Also a fun fact is the massive ash pit / mosquito den we walked through from Box Spring to access the Domes and eventually the river.

Camp on night three was made below the massive pothole gorge and found to be a timber rattlesnake den, we ran across 3 different fully mature snakes RIGHT in camp. Luckily no one had a wayward visitor in their bags that night.

Also of note was the flow on the Main Upper Cherry below the confluence with West Cherry. The flow was estimated about 1000 cfs with a gradient reaching the 250 fpm, and the words “Zambeziesque” was utilized to describe the raging flow within the riverbed. We portages 6 individual holes/ledges and ran “The Nozzle” in the bottom gorge. “Action” is about how we would describe the run.

here is some video from this amazing place
Click Here

Royal Gorge of The North American

Royal Gorge of the American
(Main River)

Days 2
Miles 33 miles
Vertical Drop 3800
Level Low (550 into Lake Clementine)
Portages 3
Peeps John Grace, Nate Helms, Daniel DeLaVergne, Fred Coriell, Toby MacDermott, Nikki Kelly, Tommy Hilleke, Pat Keller
Fun Fact: Got to use your southern charm to get into the putin.
Tommy and Pat drove from Asheville to run the river and turned around and drove to the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, making for 60 hours of driving for 1 river.
We saw 3 bears, a bunch of dear, a scorpion, a rattlesnake, an osprey and a black widow spider.

Tommy performed an over the handlebars flip off a 50 foot falls. The boys goal to run the entire river with no portages came up short by a few.

Also of note is the teams blistering paddle out on Day two. Over 28 miles of river lower than 600 cfs with big rapids and falls was paddled in one day.
We began our journey at the double falls Scott Lindgren ran (at 930 am) and arrived beat and tired at the takeout just after dark.

Here is the oh-so-talented Nikki Kelly greasing the first falls at Heath Springs

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Here is a funny shot of Nate Helms in a trifold celebration after surviving the same falls

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Nikki Kelly's Royal Gorge Photo Gallery

While we were on the Fantasy Falls at rocking high water, our next river of the '7 Rivers Expedition' was the lowest. We knew that in order to logistically pull it off we would be running a river or two too high and one or two too low. This was our low guy. The river flows off the backside of the Lake Tahoe area and has a relatively small watershed. The North Fork of the American River features a classic progression of harder and harder runs. The Chamberlain Falls, the Giant Gap and the Generation Gap, all runs downstream of the Royal Gorge, were run in a progression of years as skills increased.
The Royal Gorge was finally run by Scott Lindgren, Clay Wright, Knapps, etc, etc and has only been run a handful of times since. This is the river that has the multi drop thing that Scott ran in 'Thirst', this drop remains one of the most impressive cataracts ever run (IMHO). No takers on this trip, or ever again for that matter.

The putin of the gorge is on private land and a good bit of luck, skill and southern charm are neccessary to get past the agro protectors of said land. We do not advise attempting to run this river because of the legality of the situation. But the land holders are ultra rich old money railroad folks, so screw 'em.

Nikki on the first Heath Springs Falls. This is a classic shot, first seen in a slide by Jenning Steger of Scott L in a big ole pink Diablo.

phot by Pat Keller

Here is Nate Helms on the first Heath Springs Falls.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Here is pat running the notch below the second Heath Springs Falls, a 50 footer (not shown). Mark Haden ran this falls on a trip years ago, dislocated his shoulder and was arrested for tresspassing on his hike out.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Here is Fred Coriell pumping water below the 50 footer and Notch falls.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Here is Hilleke jumping off the big ass Rattlesnake falls.

Photo by Nikki Kelly

Tomy on some random drop still in the gorge.

photo by Nikki Kelly

The 3rd Bear of this trip, a big one, out of focus, but its a bear, I promise.

photo by Nikki Kelly.

John Grace on the 30ftr somewhat near the horrible falls pictured below.

photo by Nikki Kelly.

Wabina Falls, a 70 ftr that marks the end of the Royal Gorge. It is a real shitty portage, so most of use just put our spray skirts on our loaded boats and sent em off sans paddler. Young Pat Keller almost learned a tragic lesson when he did not tie on the spray skirt and it blew off. Luckily Tommy and myself were catching boats and noticed the black skirt floating away. Whew!

photo by Nikki Kelly

Bald Rock Canyon

Bald Rock Canyon
(ancillary river)

Days 2
Miles 7
Vertical Drop 540
Level 1200
Portages 1
Peeps John Grace, Nate Helms, Daniel DeLaVergne, Fred Coriell, Toby MacDermott, Alex Ransom, Ryan Bell

Fun Fact: Don’t ever run this run without a boat to pick you up on Lake Orville. 13 miles of flats for 7 of river = sucks ass.
We decided to paddle the run as an overnighter due to desire to escape the Memorial Day rush. We were greeted by upwards of 4 inches of rain that night with just a few ratty tarps to protect us. A fine family of Peruvians gave us a lift to the other end of the lake in the morning, alleviating a hell of a flatwater paddle.

Nikki Kelly's Dinkey Creek Photo Gallery

Here are some select shots from the first trip of the 7 Rivers Expedition. The Dinkey Creek waterfalls section was shrouded in mystery and proved an elusive run to hit right for many. The trip is fairly dialed at this point, but many a misadventure has occured here.

This spring Jason Hale and crew pulled a double dink (first ever double). The guidebook has a story from two somewhat random Cali paddlers with tales of mandatory walled in "jumping" portages and other fun stuff. The goal is certainly to go with one who knows the river and the access trail. Two or three years ago Ben Coleman and Shannon Carroll dropped in without exact knowledge of the trail system to the river. They entered the gorge too high and were forced to bail out after many, many hours of manzaneta hell hiking. Willie Kern blew up his knee and was helied out a couple years back as well.

The Dinkey Creek waterfalls run is, without a doubt, the finest run in the Sierras under 3000 feet.

"Poison Oak only grows below 4300 feet."
-Scott Lindgren

Howard Tidwell killing it on his first Class V overnighter.
photo by Nikki Kelly

Fred Coriell on a big one

photo by Nikki Kelly

photo by Nikki Kelly

John Grace

photo by Nikki Kelly

Toby MacDermott

photo by Nikki Kelly

Tanya Faux

photo by Nikki Kelly

West Cherry Creek Photo Gallery by Nate Helms

We are currently awaiting Nikki’s pictures from the Grand Canyon of the T.

Until then here is a photo gallery provided by Mr. Nate Helms of the West Fork of Cherry Creek. As far as we know there have only been three trips down this section of the river. The first made by Johnnie Kern, Willie Kern Jed Weingarten and Polk Deters. The second and third trips were made by our group in 2002 and this summer. The first group allegedly used the same trailhead as us, but ended up at the river much lower down than our crew.

Our first trip in ’02 was a nightmare in route finding to the river, and the flow was medium/low. This time around the level was rocking and we had a blast. Of note was the extremely high “Zambeziesque” flow we found in the main Upper Cherry Creek after the confluence.

Putin Slide

A many falls, paddler Fred Coriell

Rattlesnake #3

Toby wiping out, day 2

Fantasy Falls High Ass Water/ Cold Ass Air

Fantasy Falls
(Main River)

Days 3
Miles 25 (5 on reservoir)
Vertical Drop 3400
Level High end of High (1500 at the lake)
Portages 4
Peeps Toby MacDermott, Fred Coriell, John Grace, Nikki Kelly,
Tanya Faux, Daniel DeLaVergne, Nate Helms, Ryan Bell, Travis Richardson, Alex Ransom, Jason Parker

We were facing a long cold stretch in the High Sierra and our plans of heading straight to the Royal Gorge were somewhat stymied by a low flow on the North fork of the American.

Going out a limb, we speculated that we could sneak into the Fantasy Falls section at low enough water due to the abnormally frigid conditions above 7000 feet. We arrived at Ebbitts Pass to temperatures in the 40s and 50s and way to much snow in the headwaters of the river.

The flow in the river was higher than any of us have ever seen it, but it seemed good. We made it through the first day by the skin of our teeth; with the afternoon gush overtaking us we made camp. At about 9 pm John Grace and Daniel made an inspection of the flow and conceded that we would most likely walk the rest of the river if the flow remained at this level.

Thankfully the temps dropped into the 20’s and the level receded to a marginally runnable level.

Amazingly we ran almost everything we normally run.

Of note is Daniel’s hell-a swim out of the bottom hole at the big slide on day three (see video).

Click Here

And a bit of some other fools trying to run the big Island slide, there were no other contenders.

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Nikki Kelly's Fantasy Falls Gallery

The second main trip of the 7 Rivers Expedition was the North Fork of the Mckolomne River. Otherwise known as the 'Fantasy Falls' run it is typically paddled in 3 days. The putin is located on higway 4, East of Bear Valley ski area, and just over the hill from Markleeville, a quaint sierra town with a kick ass sandwich shop and not much else.

We gambled big time and putin real early in the season. The snowpack in the headwaters is not supposed to look like this.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Nate Helms makes an AM run down the actual Fantasy Falls. There is an amazing campsite located below the falls on river right in a huge grove of pine trees. Best part about it you can walk up and run the falls again and again.

phot by Nikki Kelly

A portage on day two, we walked around three big gorges over the top of some huge granite domes.

Here is Tanya Faux on some big rapid somewhere in the day one zone.

photo by Nikki Kelly

John Grace running the twisting cataract that we all went into blind in 2002 (big carnage).

photo by Nikki Kelly

Fred avoiding a big hole.

photo by Nikki Kelly

This is the big slide that everyone gets beat in in the bottom. To me it appeared as if the Zambezi river was flowing down the side of a granite mountain.

photo by Nikki Kelly

Grace avoiding another big hole

photo by Nikki Kelly