With a bit of time off and a bit of money in our pocket it was time to head to the West Coast. With Dando out of the air this year it has meant more time flying with Danny Reedy. The downside to flying with Reedy is that he parks his helicopter in Hokitika which adds to the both the flight time and cost of flying. Dando parks his helicopter 20 kms closer to the mountains thus closer to a bunch of kayaking runs. To keep costs down we have been joining with other groups to share the cost of flying - and then doing our own thing once on the river.
The weather looked good and the Waitaha was a run that I hadn't done before. In my team was Pete Lodge, Toni George and Mike Verberne. I also managed to find a team of five who were keen to share the chopper to the put in.
The Waitaha started off with lots of awesome boofs and picking lines through boulder gardens. As a team we were able to stay in our boats most of the time and boat scout most of the rapids.
Pete Lodge riding the wall
Toni giving it some style
Toni letting her hair down
Me on a clean sliding boof
After about half an hour of paddling we got the "Big Drop" or "Nikki Kelly's Drop". This rapid seems to have changed a lot, which I wasn't complaining about. It was a very nice ramp to a clean boof, a very fun rapid.
Scouting the Big Drop. Toni thinking about how much Si would have loved this run
Pete Lodge showing us how it's done
Toni showing me the line
Halfway down the slide
Getting into the clean rapids and leading up to the Cave Drop
Lining up the hole before the Cave
Entering the Cave
Toni have a casual surf in the hole after the Cave
Mike clearing the hole
A nice slot rapid
More classy drops
Coming up to the second portage of the day
From the put in we made great time to Morgan's Gorge. At the entrance to the Gorge we spent a while looking in to see if we could find a way through. With the our team not wanting to commit and not having any information on what the Gorge currently has in store, we decided to walk around it. The guide book says it should take an hour to walk around but it took our team closer to two hours. We liked the look of the last rapid of Morgan's George so seal launched into the river for the last part.
I probed the first hole with a below-average line and ended up geting a solid beating which was close to a minute. I was stable a couple of times but it wasn't letting me out. After about 30 rolls I put my knee through my skirt, went deep and flushed downstream. Swimming/falling off the next three ledges got me to the flat pool at the bottom. My boat stayed in the hole for another five minutes before flushing down to me and my rescue team. Probing means you go first, which is all good until it isn't. In this case the only way to have been rescued from the hole would have been from downstream side, but everyone else was still upstream - it's not usually a good idea to paddle something while someone is getting thrashed in there.
From the bottom of Morgan's Gorge there was still an number of awesome rapids down to the take out.
Me doing what needed to be done... The whisky went down well
Later that night we started getting phone calls from friends of the other team that flew up the Waitaha after us. They weren't back yet (well past darkness) and people were getting worried. It turns out that they got lost on the portage around Morgan's Gorge and ended up spending an impromptu night out. They paddled out safely the next day.
The Waitaha is an awesome day out and next time I will be asking what Morgan's Gorge holds in store.
Cheers to the Rotorua crew for turning left at Taihape and ending up on the Coast!