Altay Kayak Expediton 2008 - Part One

Just found an old vid from our Russia Trip 2008...

Altay Kayak Expedition, Part 1 from GBP Productions on Vimeo.

California Part 2 - Upper Cherry Creek

Preparing to hike on the next day - Photo: Daniel Egger

Upper Cherry Creek might be one of the most famous runs in the world. It's featured in countless videos, websites, blogs and photographs. Since the window for a good flow is quite short, it is very hard for kayakers from overseas to be lucky enough to get on this run. Only when almost all of the snow in the mountains of its headwaters has melted, the level drops into a runnable zone. Depending on the weather and temperatures, the creek will dry out shortly after. Some people say, the window lasts about a week. Getting the timing right for the hike in is a guess. There are good descriptions on Daniel's and Darin's sites how to make it more likely to have a good guess.

Our plan was to hike in on Tuesday since I had a flight to catch on Saturday. This would allow for one day of waiting above Cherry Bomb for the flow to drop in. A week before, during our decent of West Cherry, UCC had still been ridiculously high. But the weather had changed. It had cooled down significantly and the gage at the Toulomne, Hetchy inflow, had dropped to 650cfs.

We started our hike at 6 o'clock in the morning. The weather had cooled down again and we had an overcast sky. This looked very promising for the flow so everybody was in a good mood at the start. This changed quickly. Hiking with a loaded boat on your shoulders just sucks. It's not too bad for the legs, but everybody's shoulders started to hurt after minutes. You start counting your steps (doesn't help), or you you start a dialog going in your head: "This can't be worth it - YES IT IS - YOU KNOW THE PICTURES! - The flow will be too high - NO, IT WILL BE PERFECT! - I can't go on, my shoulders hurt so bad - SHUT UP AND WALK, PUNK!!"  Just don't listen to your inner voice that tells you to quit walking and wait for the right rhythm to kick in...

One of many breaks on the hike - Photo: Reiner Glanz

First view of Cherry Bomb Gorge

Reiner and Robert enjoy a nap at the spring.

We took a lot of breaks. After one third of the distance there's a nice view of Cherry Bomb Gorge, after three quarters there's a spring (good place for a long break). After the spring the hardest part is almost done. The remaining part of the hike goes downhill. Once the river comes into sight there's a last downhill climb that really sucks (watch your step or you might fall onto your nose).

Photo: Daniel Egger

Diane Gaydos on the very last part of the hike - Photo: Reiner Glanz

That's how your feet look like after not washing them before putting on socks. - Photo Reiner Glanz

It's a great feeling to let the boat fall down to the ground and you know that you won't have to carry it any further. It's even a better feeling if you are at the put-in of one of the best runs in the world and the waterlevel seems to be perfect! After a little break we put on our gear and started our decent of Upper Cherry Creek. We wanted to get away from the mosquitoes so we ran the first couple of slides and set up camp one.

Matthi enjoys the first set of slides.

Matthi finishes up the slide.

camp one.

We spend a cold night on the granite slabs and were waken up by the warmth of the sun the next day. The level had dropped a little over night. We had some breakfast and put on. The first part consists of endless low angle slides. Gliding through a beautiful granite valley, we now knew that the flow was perfect. If you run those slides without contact you probably have too much water. If you have to push a lot to get through you have low water. We where somewhere in between for a good medium flow.

Enjoying the evening - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Breakfast! - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Robert and Reiner enjoy the amazing setting. The first part of Upper Cherry features many easy low angle slides.

Matthias Zeiner runs one of many fun slides above "Class 4 Gorge"

We quickly made our way to the first steeper section. Up to the Island Camp right before Cherry Bomb, the creek offers high quality whitewater with only a few manky rapids. (An ugly slot and West Coast Gorilla). Arriving at the point of (almost) no return above Cherry Bomb we decided to continue going without scouting the gorge. We did portage on drop right above entry gorge, and as it turned out - portaging there without 5.10s might be much more dangerous than running it. (Take care of slippery slabs!!!)

Entry gorge went well and we soon found us crossing the big pool right above Cherry Bomb Falls. Cherry Bomb is an intimidating place. For those kind of people who get confused with left and right all the time it's even worse. Left - left - middle - right - middle - left. Don't forget that, because scouting is impossible. Cherry Bomb Falls went well for all of us and nobody had problems to get through the weir, a little drop right below that looks like a low head dam. Scary. Going down the following drops it's easy to forget where you are. Left - left - middle - right - damn, where am I!? A part of the group had some little affairs in the gorge but luckily nothing too bad.

Diane Gaydos stomps Cherry Bomb - Photo: Daniel Egger

Myself following Diane into the perfect gorge - Photo: Daniel Egger

After Cherry Bomb you slide down Jedi Slide and drop into the beautiful Teacups. Some of the group did a second lap and after some time we continued on.

Enjoying Teacups - Photo: Daniel Egger

Nice! - Photo: Daniel Egger

Reiner doing laps on Teacups - Photo: Daniel Egger

Never forget to set safety. ;) - Photo: Daniel Egger

The group is floating by flintstone camp - Photo: Reiner Glanz 

At this point some of us were physically and emotionally drained and decided to portage Double Pothole falls. Only Diane and Reiner ran this beautiful two teared waterfall that drops right into our camp two. (river right, 20 meters up the shore)

Reiner on "Perfect 20" (with "Groove Tube" in the background) - Photo: Daniel Egger

Diane on the same drop - Photo: Daniel Egger
Diane shows us how it's done on Double Pothole - Photo: Daniel Egger

Reiner finishing up Douple Pothole falls - Photo: Daniel Egger

 Camp two. This is a really nice campspot just below Double Pothole. Photo: Reiner Glanz
Photo: Reiner Glanz

The third day on Upper Cherry starts with a bang. Waterfall Ally consists of multiple drops with not much room for error. The fourth drop has a nasty pothole on the right (Fatal accident some time ago, so take care!). Shortly later you arrive at Kiwi in a Pocket. We decided to portage Kiwi in a Pocket and once you portage this one, most people also portage the next waterfall - Dead Bear.

Diane and Reiner in Waterfall Alley - Photo: Daniel Egger

Photo: Daniel Egger

Photo: Daniel Egger

From this point on it's not very far to the confluence with West Cherry. There are some nice slides on the way, two or three manky ones too. At the confluence we realized how much more water UCC had a week earlier when we did West Cherry. At the lower level, Redrock gorge offered some really nice slides. We continued on, portaged one more rapid in the last gorge and finally made it into Cherry lake.

Daniel Egger Photo: Reiner Glanz

Paddling out over the lake, we realized how lucky we had been. Catching Upper Cherry at a perfect flow was a dream coming true for us.

After talking to other people we realized that Upper Cherry had an even shorter flow window this year than usual. Darin, Rok and Yoshi, who had hiked in two days before us had to walk long sections because they had too much water. The people who hiked in two days after us already had really low water. Three days after us it was done.

For the last week decisions had to be made. After another night at Daniels and Dianes house we drove to San Franciso to do some shopping, sightseeing and dropping Harald of at the airport. The rest of the group hit the road up north.

Little White Salmon was waiting. To be continued...

Harald had to leave after Upper Cherry, so we decided to go to San Francisco for some shopping and dropping him of at the airport.

We were looking for the steepest road in San Francisco. This might be the one.

And its a dead end!

Streets of San Francisco

Somewhere close to England on Harrys way home.

Thanks to Alpin Action and Stohlquist for the support.

California Part 1

Getting the timing right for a kayaking trip to California is never easy. It's even harder or close to impossible if you have only 17days off work to go. When we booked the flights for our trip to California it actually seemed to be the wrong year to go. The snow-pack was minimal and many drainages had already been dry by April or, like the Royal gorge, never had come in. Of all the high sierra classics only two still had the chance to come in: Upper Cherry Creek and the Middle Kings (and Devil`s Pospile on the San Joaquin, which wasn`t on our list though). Flow windows for those creeks are usually quite short (especially at UCC) so at the time we booked our flights we didn't know if we would paddle any of those runs. We knew we would head north to Oregon/Washington if none of the Californian creeks would be in. Our group consisted of Daniel Egger, Matthias Zeiner, Robert Machacek and the Glanz Brothers.

A month before our departure the situation looked very bad. The snow was almost gone. But all of a sudden the weather turned in our favor, it got cooler, which preserved the remaining snow much longer. A couple days before we left, we eventually got a really good message from Darin McQuoid. Upper Cherry and Middle Kings might fall right in our time window!

Nice view of Greenland on our way to Dallas

Interesting landscape somewhere near Goosneck National Park

Packing the car - Photo: Daniel Egger

Photo: Daniel Egger

Daniels house - our basecamp for a couple days - THANKS!!!! - Photo: Daniel Egger
We arrived at San Francisco airport, got our rental car and burned our first fuel tank on the way to Sacramento to get our boats the next day. The guys picked up their boats at CCK with no problems while I tried to get a hold of Darin, since he would lend me one of his boats for the trip. Here's a shout-out to Darin McQuoid - one of the nicest paddlers I've ever met! Thank you again for being so kind and lending me a boat for free and for all the beta!

After getting our custom rig at Lowe's for our boats, we met up with Darin, Tomass Marnics and Diane Gaydos at CCK and drove up to South Silver. Right there we met up with Rok Sribar and Yoshihiro Takahashi. This creek had been dry for some time it was running because of a storm a couple days before. We hit it with low water but this creek was still awesome and a highlight of the trip. Steep bedrock but somehow still low stress. Very nice.
Matthias Zeiner firing up the first rapid of the trip - Autobahn, South Silver - Photo: Daniel Egger


Skyscraper - Photo: Daniel Egger

Diane Gaydos running Skyscraper

Same girl, same rapid, another lap


Daniel Egger finishing up Skyscraper

Skyscraper again - Matthias - Photo: Reiner Glanz
After South Silver we were invited to a BBQ at Daniel Brasuell's house. (Which turned out to be our base-camp for a couple days.) Big thanks to Diane and Daniel for letting us crash at your place all those nights!

During the BBQ we figured out a plan for the next day: Cherry Proper. Rok described it as a Soca-Cateract-but-longer-steeper-and-way-cleaner like section running at higher than normal water (2000cfs,60m³).

No pictures of the run since we ran most rapids blind behind Rok and Daniel. I portaged some of the bigger ones. This section is intense if you don't know the river and run it blind. Intense in a good way though. After Cherry Proper we decided to go back to Sacramento to do a play-boat run the next day on Chili Bar run on the south fork of American river. We were invited to another BBQ after the run right at the river. Very friendly people everywhere.
Our group taking a break on Cherry Proper - Matthias Zeiner, Harald Glanz, Rok Sribar, Daniel Brasuell, Reiner Glanz, Daniel Egger, Thomas Moore and Yoshihiro Takahashi  - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Beautiful but overcrowded Yosemite Valley

El Capitan

We tried to figure out a plan for the next couple days. The options were the upper North Fork San Joaquin, Mid Cherry, or the South Fork of the Kings river. On the way to the North Fork San Joaquin we realized that we had almost no beta other than there was a 8 mile hike-in, a 3 mile hike-out, a big waterfall.... We didn't know where to hike-in, where to hike out? Hmmmm. 

We had hoped that Rok and Darin might also want to go, but they didn't, so we were on our own. We decided to drive to Yosemite to get some Wifi and find out more about the run. It turned out that we weren't able to get enough information to feel comfortable to start a 2 day mission. Instead we heard that West Cherry was in and this run seemed to be more straight forward.

Going back to Coulterville, we found a raft guide who would drive the long shuttle for some cash and started the hike-in to West Cherry the next day in the afternoon. The plan was to sleep at the put-in and finish the river to Cherry Lake the next day.
We knew that there would be a lot of portages on this creek, but it turned out to be a little worse than we all had thought. This creek does offer some nice bedrock rapids, but inbetween there are many massive drop-offs. Some are runnable, some are not. None of our group had the desire to hurt himself, so we portaged a lot. The scenery was extremely cool though. It might be a better idea to do this run in a day without sleeping at the put-in, because having a light boat would make a difference. We arrived at the confluence with Upper Cherry and found a raging river. West Cherry had about 250cms/7mm³, Upper Cherry brought at least  700cms/20m³. This turned into a portage-fest to the lake, since after a short discussion the group decided that we didn't want to enter Redrock gorge at this level.
We paddled over the lake after a long day and got to our car with the sunlight fading. West Cherry might be a great thing to do if you want to go huge. For us it was a good experience but I wouldn't do this one again.

With Upper Cherry running at over 1000cfs/30m³ at the run out into the lake we realized that it would take at least another 4-5days to take this run into serious consideration. Tuesday would be the last day for me to hike in, because I would leave on Saturday.
The group enjoys sitting down after mosquito infested hike-in to West Chery

West Cherry Camp - Damn you, mosquitos

West Cherry - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Robert Machacek running one of the few good rapids inbetween portages

Portage! (At least for us) - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Photo: Reiner Glanz

A Chevy Tahoe needs a lot of gas. 5 kayaks on the rooftop makes it even worse.

Big trees

We decided to head south to take a look at a section called Fear and Loathing on the South Kings river. This section had not been run a lot during the last couple years, because of two mandatory class 5+ rapids described in a guidebook called Fear and Loathing. A group had done the run in 2012 and found out that the two rapids had cleaned up during a flood and turned into good-to-go class 5 rapids.

After a drive through Sequoia National Park we got to the canyon of the South Kings and took out first scout of the rapids from street level. The first drop looked good to go, but the second one didn't look nice at all. It was late already, so we decided to drive up the valley and look for a place to camp. On the way up we took a look at the roadside section above Fear and Loathing that looked nice.
The next day we decided to run the upper section and that we'll take onto the canyon on the day after.

The section turned out a little pushier than thought. There were a couple of really nice drops, but also a couple of very nasty ones. After a couple hours the river turned into manky shit. We called it a day and got our car and went back to camp.
Well, the Loathing rapid didn't look any better in the morning light and we decided against entering the gorge without a local. Instead Reiner, Daniel and I put on the Garlic Falls section on the Kings River. We didn't know much about the section other than people continue running this section when they do Middle Kings. This was the hottest day during the trip and carrying down the boats at Yucca Point midday out to be a nightmare. We got to the river after a hard fight with the heat and poison oak. We quickly jumped into the goods to cool down and wash our gear. After a little break we started our decent.

The section was a really impressive, pushy run. We guessed the flow to be somewhere near 1500-2000 cfs / 40-60m³ which was a good flow. We ran into the first big drop blind and I quickly got caught in an creek-boat-freestyle session. I wasn't able to regain any control and had to exit my boat just in the moment Daniel ran into me and actually pushed me out of the hole. Anyways, I had already pulled my spraydeck and was on my way swimming down the remaining part of the rapid. I dived through 2 or 3 holes before the rapid mellowed out and Reiner pulled me to shore. Daniel got my boat, Reiner found the paddle 200 meters downstream. After 20 minutes I had collected myself and my gear. We continued the run in a little more defensive mode. The remaining section was awesome. A lot of boat scouting, eddy hopping, some lines through big rapids, some chicken lines and some quick portages. 4 hours later we arrived at the takeout, with Matthias and Robert waiting in the shadow with some cool beer. Nice!
Confluence of Middle and South Kings

This mandatory rapid can only be scouted from high above. It doesn't look nice. I'm quite sure it goes, but we decided not to enter the gorge without better beta or a local.

Nice drop on the upper South Kings - This section doesn't get run very often -it does have some nice drops but also some ugly ones...

Matthi styles the same drop - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Robert - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Yosemite again during our wait for Upper Cherry to drop in - Photo: Reiner Glanz

Photo: Reiner Glanz

Photo: Daniel Egger
We called up Daniel Brasuell and checked the situation on Upper Cherry. Looking at the gage of the Tuolumne above Hetchy Hetchy and the weather forecast witch told us that there would be a drop in temperatures we decided we would hike into Upper Cherry on Tuesday and hope that the level would have dropped enough by then. We drove up to Coulterville and a part of the group ran Cherry Proper again with Daniel and Diane.

Afterwards we had some tasty burgers, watched the NBA finals game and Diane decided that she would come along to Upper Cherry with us. We did our best to convince Daniel too, he really wanted to go I guess, but he was afraid that his bad ankle wouldn't hold up. On the last day before we started the hike in for Upper Cherry we visited Yosemite another time and drove up to Cherry Lake in the evening to start our hike early the next day. 

This was it. Upper Cherry Creek was happening. 

To be continued...

Thanks to Alpin Action and Stohlquist for the support!