Scored a find!….we uploaded this 4 years ago only to be forgotten about and unreleased. This is a nice little edit from an exploratory descent into Duncan Creek, CA, the classic Big Kimshew, CA and roudy flows on the seldom seen South Fork Kaweah, CA. (also a little South Yuba and South Branch sprinkled in) It’s always fun finding what you’ve forgot about online and on harddrives. Enjoy!
We know, we know, it’s been a while. Injuries, life, yada yada…. But, we dug up some un-released HAYMAKER footage of Dipper Creek. It’s about that time of year for the sick, little, rowdy creek named Dipper to start dropping into runnable levels….and it’s on the mind. So with that said, and being a year (or two) since we’ve posted jack shit around here, here’s the video. Enjoy.
SIDE NOTE: This Dipper Creek footage came from a week long mission inside the creek, connecting the dots and dropping all of the biggies. If it wasn’t for The Range Life boys 1’st D’ing and unraveling Dipper Creek, this obscure gem would probably still be off kayaking radar. For the trip report accompanying this video footage, click here.
GNARLFEST raged hard for the 3rd year in a row! There was ONE more brave competitor than ever before, bringing up the total number of epic racers to 9…and I think there may even been “a” safety boater somewhere out there! Talk about blowing up. As usual, California’s finest came out to charge their A-Game off a sick course on the South Fork Feather. The race, scene, OG 4 Lokos and the jangled-up party at Gnarlfest is always…..gnar. Here is Gnarlfest 2012’s video and results:
1. Justin Patt – 2:59
2. Will Pruett – 3:06
3. Nick Murphy – 3:12
4. Ben Stookesberry – 3:14
5. Chris Korbulic – 3:15
6. Darin McQuoid – 3:56
7. Thomas Moore – 3:58
8. Dirk Bradford – 4:10
9. Jason Hale – 5:10
Ah yeah, an ode to carnage and triumphs! Here are a few shots from over the years. You may have seen them in our features, The Risen Sun and Haymaker. If you haven’t watched them yet, you can check them out here online! “If you’re gunna paddle ya gotta be tough”
Special thanks to CRG Productions and Shane Conrad for the additional raft footage. Enjoy!
Some low snowpack blues and Google scouting led us to this beauty of a canyon. Deadwood Creek wouldn’t even register to boaters floating by if it wasn’t for the 2 megawatt powerhouse on it. A real bummer because otherwise, this “BC looking” creek would have good flows for a local hike-n-huck. Our day started out with some serious 4×4’ing into Racetrack Flat on the North Yuba river. From there it is a .3 mile float down to the confluence with Deadwood Creek. A 5 minute hike upstream and you’re sitting in a deep pool with Deadwood Creek Falls pouring in. Despite the low flow, Austin Nickell fired it and got bucked off by the kicker. A couple celebratory beers and more 4×4’ing rounded out the exploratory day! Check the short video from the day….
Lack of updates = JANGLED UP! With piles and piles of footage, there was no other option than to sort it out, drink some beers and do a “scrapbook” slap together of some unseen footy. Edited over a year ago by Cody Howard and Will Pruett, entered in the OPP Film Fest, and now airing worldwide online…here is the Drunken Cali Scrapbook.
Welp, 2011 was one of the most stacked years yet for HH Films. After wrapping up our TV show, we then launched kayaking’s 1st – Click. Pay. View! – an online whitewater movie library available On Demand. Dizzy after staring at miles of code, we broke out the hard drives, edited a few videos and then flew across the Pacific to Japan for a trip of a lifetime (movie coming soon!). Looking back on some of our favorites, here are your most viewed HH videos of 2011!
#3 UPPER UPPER NF KAWEAH: 1st D
Featuring: Video within another Kaweah overnighter.
#2 NEW ONES
Featuring: 1st descents during one of California’s biggest winters.
#1 SUP SOUTH SILVER
Featuring: Fletcher Burton SUP’ing California’s S. Silver Creek.
Well here she finally is….and just shy of a year and a half late! The first descent of the Upper Upper North Fork Kaweah. By now, you should have heard of the Kaweah drainage in Southern California. It’s main stem, the Middle Fork, and it’s FOUR branches of epic whitewater are a one-stop-shop for steep creekers worldwide.
Having personally done all Upper stretches of the other Kaweah forks (Middle, Marble, East and South) one was left, the North Fork. Popular for it’s hike-in “Upper” stretch, this fork (like the others) have seen very little exploration in it’s “Upper Upper” headwaters. Not that it didn’t ever have water, but because it was rumored as “just a steep canyoneering stretch”. Interest in it’s exploration somewhat died, until Kevin Smith gave a call stating he was definitely game to check it out! Kernville’s, Geno Hacker was in as well. So it was set, our three-pack would drive 2.5 hours out of Three Rivers, into the North Fork headwaters for a 2 day mission. Nothing other than a “steep section of bedrock” was known from a quick Google Earth scout.
The perfect start the the mission! Put in teacups. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Outside of Badger, CA at the end of a bouncy dirt road, we started our bushwhack from a small turn-a-round called Cherry Flat. After trampling passed a pissed off rattlesnake, we arrived to the scoured granite bedrock of the Upper Upper North Fork Kaweah. It was obvious that flows were high for it’s riverbed….but what a sick riverbed!! What should have been calm pools were dangerous re-circulating potholes. In front of us, tea-cupping 5 footers into a perfectly clean 20 footer. Still….high flows. After some deliberation if we would be able to make it through the slick granite gorges below (rumored to be a technical canyoneering route), we decided it was worth the risk and “we would figure it out.”
This unique slide had a sweet kicker at the bottom. Photo by Kevin Smith.
After a mile or so of “classic quality” granite falls and slides, we arrived to The Gorge. Scrambling up on the river left wall, we could see teacups for a while. Imagine Dry Meadow Creek, but instead of 10 footers, these where 20-30 footers. Epic! Mist in the distance signaled the final 50’er waterfall out of the gorge (we could clearly see on Google Earth pre-scout). The high flow had us out of the river and shouldering past runnable drops. Thankfully, the portage route was clear and wasn’t too exposed. The danger was it is COMPLETELY littered with rattlesnakes! (Later the team agreed, this was the most congested population of ratters we had ever seen…that’s saying a lot from a pair of Southern Cali boaters, and a desert rat from Arizona….there were a TON!)
Wondering what these clean drops would look like with lower flows, we scouted the entire gorge with hopes of a future, lower water descent. Portaging the final 50 foot falls, we put back on and river started it’s transition from granite to marble sections of bedrock. A couple of good drops brought us to a nice campsite next to a slick rapid we dubbed “Breakfast Boogie”…for the morning wake-up paddle we would have.
Halfway through the portage and looking at the epic set! Photo by Kevin Smith.
The oh-so-tempting 50′ final falls of The Gorge. We’ve got a date… Photo by Kevin Smith.
Morning came and we routed through the fun, but sievey – Breakfast Boogie. After a nice bedrock section a wide horizon line marked another scout. This double set falls started with a 20’er landing on a ledge into another stout drop. The view downstream had another dark mist-sprayed wall in the distance….time to get through this thing! Working our way around the double drop we then rappelled ANOTHER clean(ish) slide-to-falls. The problem with this waterfall was a curler at the lip that sent a large chunk of water into a wall 40 feet below. A fine line, in the middle of nowhere, had us opting for the rappel.
Breakfast Boogie. Gnar sieves on the right get the blood goin’ in the morning. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Making our way downstream with the double drop the background (the upper falls is what Mike would eventually run). Photo by Kevin Smith.
Oh yeah, I love this part! Lean back and trust your setup. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Mid rappel and swing on the line as the waterfall sends mist spraying.
Geno on the smear drop. Rappel falls in the background.
A fun move is required to style this one. Photo by Kevin Smith.
Below, we had a nice wall smear drop combo’ed into rowdy slot exit. Various other slides and boulder boogie brought us the familiar section of the “Upper NF Kaweah”. We pulled over, ate lunch and made plans for a return trip the following weekend (with lower water).
Fast forward two weeks. The gauge is now reading 2 feet lower and Mike Fisher is on-board for a 2nd descent and attempt #2 on “The Gorge”. A long drive from Phoenix, AZ put us in Badger and starting the hike just before sundown. Planning on camping just above The Gorge, we eddy out and it’s near dark. Paddling the class five rapids in the near dark was fun, but here’s where the REAL excitement began. As I stepped out of my boat and up into the forest to lay out gear to dry, I hear Mike yell, “Stop!” I freeze in place. My foot is inches away from a deadfall pit that has been camouflaged by a blanket of leaves. Holy crap! That way close. We then realize we are smack-dab in the middle of someone’s booby-trapped camp! Covert grow operations in the far corners of the Sequoia National Park have become a big issue. Flying in over the border of Mexico, the drug cartels are plopping down an armed kid, some plants and some irrigation piping, along the side of the Kaweah. It appears we’ve discovered one and standing in amongst his fortified camp. So back to the boats we go! Paddling in complete darkness now, we drop one more rapid just above the entrance to The Gorge. Thankfully Kevin and I know where to get out on the slick rock and we start out trek into the night, portaging our boats to safety. After a long, rattlesnake dodging event, we set up an amazing camp at the lip of The Gorge’s final falls.
We we go again! This time lower and near dark…put in drop(s). Photo by Kevin Smith.
Another morning in the canyon arrives and we recount last night’s fiasco. A quick glance over the final falls reveals a less then desirable landing….again! The low flows didn’t help out the stacked drops at all. The big entrance falls still was tricky and still had an ugly corner pocket. It appeared that even low, this stack-up of drops will always have it’s problems. The drops are absolutely gorgeous and definitely “next level”….but not too far “next level”…more like someone who just really wants to give ’em. None of us had it in us. Kevin portaged back upstream and picked off the clean 30’er at the bottom of the stack up. A clean line, a nice shot and we where off! Down to see if the bigger falls could be “more runnable” with this lower flow.
One of my favorite photos in a long time. Kevin Smith dropping the last of the epic stack-up. Photo by Mike Fisher.
Arriving to the next big one, the double drop. Mikey liked the upper falls and decided to give it a go. With very little water going over the preferred line, he dropped off the lip and dug deep with his paddle, getting zero purchase on the thin veil. Ricocheting off the ledge in the landing with his elbow and flying into the pool. It was obvious he was hurt and we raced down to help him. He had busted his elbow (without elbow pads) so hard that it ripped through his dry top and was squirting out blood every time he would bend his elbow. Not much we could do with such a big cut out there, but we knew it wasn’t too far down to the takeout. Being the trooper that Mike is, he didn’t miss a beat and quickly portaged and paddle his way downstream to the takeout.
Kevin on the beautifully colored, slot drop as we ping pong our way down to the takeout.
We loaded up, it was off to the hospital to get Mike stitched up. But not before some glorious In-N-Out! So after two descents of the Upper Upper NF Kaweah, at low and high, I would say that this one needs water to give the biggies. The Gorge will always be very enticing, but has some issues (sieve just below the big stack-up) and it’s just plain BIG! The final falls of The Gorge is good to go….it’ll need some flow to cover the ledge halfway down. And then there is the slide-to-fall “in the wall” drop…well that one is one of those drops too. BUT, the whole canyon is definitely a worthy trip. It could be done easily in a day, but with the proper safety and running the bigger ones, it’s best to pack for a sick overnight. Just stay away from the deadfalls and AK-47 toting dudes!
Whispers of a big mission into the Grand Canyon of the Toulumne had been circling around crews in California for a few years now. A year ago, I got the invite from good paddling buddies – Cully Thomas and Macy Burnham. That year, they hoofed in and scouted out the canyon, returning with a solid report of some “next level whitewater”. Fast forward to this spring, conditions and crew were spot on and we pulled the trigger. Starting late at night, we promptly took off in the wrong direction for an hour. Fun times. After figuring out we were definitely not on the right trail, we re-cooped and took off over Mule Pass. Passing out in the middle of the trail, we awoke to the beautiful East slope of the Sierras and daunting peaks full of snow.
False summit after false summit, we finally arrived to the base of the Mule Pass. The post-holing and vertical climbing wasn’t for the faint of heart. Then off in the distance was a figure of man scaling down the pass with obvious and impressive skill. He walked over to us and introduced himself as a member of the ground support for the 1st descent of the Middle Kings. He then proceeded to say that it was going to be tough, but we could make it over the pass and into the canyon. Revitalized after that ironic brush with destiny and motivating beta, we then dredged up the steep incline for the remainder of the day. With the sun setting, the mosquitos hatched and we were running into camp trying to escaping their brutal wrath. Everyone was exhausted and knew that tomorrow’s Slide Canyon would not let us through easily.
Sore and worn down, the team arose to the first large portage of many. This happened to be the most unique portage I have ever done though. It was a massive landslide that careened down into Piute Creek and up the other side of the canyon! After some technical walking we finally got around the slide and into river where we could start our “boating” part of the mission.
Day 1 of paddling (day two of the trip) started off promising with small bedrock slides, but turned into a pile of boulders for miles. Many many portages later, the paddlers and ground team all arrived at our milestone, Benson Lake. Hustling out of sight and across the lake, we camped near the outflow of the lake and settled down for the first good sleep of the trip.
Morning trout fishing and a beautiful lake paddle, we exited the lake into granite wonderland. Everyone was giddy as we were finally on some quality Cali whitewater. Just what we were looking for! The whole day was really quality and our high flow proved to be just right in the open granite sections. Dodging rangers and other campers, we pulled into Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley was a snaking meadow of beautiful, crystal clear waters full of mother mosquitos. We climbed high out the canyon, to yet again, escape the swarms. After 4 full days of brutal “expedition boating” we had a long group talk about continuing downstream into Piute’s final plunges or hiking out of the trial that ran through camp.
After some contemplation, we decided that regardless of the high flow or steep gradient, we still wanted to check out the final canyons. Day five started out just like we knew it would…with our boats on our shoulders. But we all didn’t expect to portage for the entire day! That’s exactly what ended up happening as we rappelled and bashed through manzanita for a solid 12 hours. Thankfully there were small water breaks and plenty of food to go around, re-charging some very beaten souls. All of our hard work payed off in the form of more sick camping and scenery (theme of the trip). We camped, perched on the side of Piute Creek Cascades, with a view of the Grand Canyon of the Toulumne downstream…our goal for the following day.
The final morning, we literally rolled out of sleeping bags and slid into the water sliding down about 100 feet of gradient. A nice wake up for sure! But the slip-n-slide was short lived, and we found ourselves hiking yet again, past boulder choke. After the confluence with the GC of the T, we hustled through a couple miles of really nice whitewater and chilled out for a few hours while waiting for the sun to set. Special thanks to the ground support team and the crew for making this one happen. Quite the epic adventure!
Things have gotten a little behind here, as the long season is winding down. The last of the crews are in the Postpile and Kings while they still have water. So I’m going to keep it short and start playing catch up! Below is a compiled list of all the Japan team member’s photos, journals and videos. Quite the talented bunch that has produced a ton of eye candy and entertaining reading! HH Films will be producing a TV short and a Click.Pay.View! movie of the amazing trip!
Canoe & Kayak Exclusive Vid Update:
Darin McQuoid’s Japan Dairies:
Ryan Knight’s Photo Updates:
Shasta Boyz Productions Updates:
C&K’s Postcards from the Edge
Photos courtesy of Darin McQuoid and Ryan Knight.