Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 26 - Day 40 'Reno & California - Creeking, Freestyle and Squirt Boating'

So as one adventure ends the next begins. As I said goodbye too some great friends and officially finished my canyon experience, I head north to meet Stephen and begin life training in Reno. 

Reno home for the next 4 weeks
Reno is known as 'mini Vegas' as its another gambling city but it is also an adventure sport paradise. Set amidst the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 4,600 ft and only 15 miles from the California boarders it is the home to some world class climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking and whitewater kayaking including five great freestyle kayaking features at the Reno whitewater park. The perfect place for an adventure addict. This is going to be my home for the next month. 

Reno the massive adult adventure playground
I arrived in Reno about 4.30pm and it wasn't long until we were hitting the water at the whitewater course for a cheeky freestyle session. Stephen quickly showed me the ropes as he tore up the park making it all look effortless and super smooth. I took to it with much more of a bang jumping into my shiny new red rockstar and crashing, bashing, flipping and rolling my way down the course. Loving every moment of being back in a small boat that I really know. It wasn't long before we were both shattered and playtime came to an end. Then it was a quick Burrito and then bed.
Feeling good back in a playboat on the Reno WW Park
The next morning we were up early and straight back on the river. This time we started with a mystery squirt boat session on swallow falls on the Truckee River. With almost 6 months passing since my last real sessions on the Ottawa last September it was a bit of an ankle aching squeeze getting into them but man when I was back on the water it felt amazing. 

Squirt Boating on the Truckee

The spot was a super gentle squeeze on a seam behind a small island where two flows rejoin at the perfect angle to make a super smooth, super deep mystery seam. Being at almost 6,000 ft altitude set deep in the mountains the water was freezing and the altitude made breathing hard. But that said with the sun out and kitted up in gloves and wetsuit masks/hoods it's on a great spot to play. Stephen had it dialed in already so within no time was hitting 20 second rides. I was a lot more shaky, taking time to reengage my squirt specifics abs and retrain my lungs and mind to trying to stay clam and full of air for the longer rides. I paddled Stephens KOR for the start of the session then had chance to jump in his super tiny - like ridiculously small Slip - what a boat. Floating about 3 - 4 inches below the water it was tiny but super cool. By the end of the session I was hitting 6 - 8 second rides.

The drive upto the Truckee

Then it was back to the play park for another freestyle session. The next few weeks followed a very similar format squirt boating in the mornings and playboat in the afternoons. I got to meet up with loads of old friends and also make loads of new friends.

Another great meal out with friends this time hosted by Chrales Albright in his incredible home

With so much to do in Reno resting was really hard so we intermixed our freestyle and squirt boating sessions with some world class creeking 'rest days'.

Life in Reno
Here's a few outakes from my diary of some of the main days out on the Californian creeks.

Day 30 - 'Wahooooooo......'

Today started as many other boating sessions do. Roll out of bed, head to a bakery/cafe, eat, chat about amazing runs, drive to said run, paddle, have fun, finish, relax, chat and bed. However this one is one that will stand out in my mind for the rest of my life. Today at the point at which we went paddling we went creeking... and I mean we really went creeking!!!

Californian Creeking

We started the day on the North Fork of the Kaweah a lovely class 4 relatively steep but not super pushy run. Smaller in feel to the Dart except way steeper and totally continuous. In fact take all the best bits of the Upper Dart put them together and keep repeating them, but only better, for maybe 5-6 miles and throw in a super sweet 20 foot bedrock rapid and you have the North Kaweah. It was beautiful. 

Chris Tulley on the Kaweah

After this amazing warm up the plan was to head to the South Kaweah. Amanda and Nathan both said they were going to sit this one out as they weren't feeling it which got my adrenaline pumping as it meant it could be a potentially full on run. We got to the bridge to check it out only to find the levels a little low so instead we decided to head to another local gem of a river the East Fork of the Kaweah. We arrived at the put in about 3.30pm and started the 45 min hike down the steep newly cut trail to the base of the valley. As everyone was now back in the group and getting onto the water my adrenaline had settled as I thought we were heading into another super cruisy run. Little did I or most of the group know what we were putting ourselves in for.
20 mins in to the 45 min hike!!!

So we jumped on the water excited to have completed the hike and set off to the first fall. We jumped out to scout the incredibly large looking horizon line and found a sweet 20 foot fall into a feisty looking hole next to a wall! Amanda and Nathan set off on the portage and Chris and Macy set off and ran the line. I went next punching hard to avoid the hole. Last up was Stephen who hit the perfect line but in his river running boat resurfaced pointing across the river and quickly got recirculated in the hole. A good 20 seconds later having utilized most of his freestyle and squirt boating skills he pulled himself clear and joined us in the eddy below. Now in the UK if we ever found a really sweet massive runnable fall like this it would inevitably be followed by several miles of flat or grade 2 water, but no not here. This was only the start of a 4 mile class 5 gorge!

Claire O dropping the first 20 footer on the East Fork
Having survived the first fall it quickly became apparent that the water levels in the canyon were pretty high. We headed on further and came across the 2nd big drop this one not so clean. We all opted to portage and Amanda and Nathan decided it was time for them to call it a day. Unsure of what lay in store I toiled with the idea of hiking out, but being on the water with such a strong team who were all making similar decisions on the rapids so far and feeling in a really good boating zone I decide this was it, I wanted to give it a go. I also really didn't like the idea of the hike back out to the car! 
Checking out one of many massive horizon lines

What lay in store and what we experienced over the next 3.5 hours was some of the best whitewater I have paddled in my entire 20 years boating so far. Absolutely amazing full on, heart pumping drops, boulder gardens and slides. With the exception of Stephens surf and Macy's pothole eddy breakout session - 10 mins spinning (upright) trapped in a pothole eddy at the right hand side in the base of a fall, pulled on a line to safety by Chris - we nailed all the lines. Everyone paddling amazingly strong and well. 
Stephen watches as Chris pulls Macy to safety
I didn't allow myself to think about the class 5 grade of the run at any stage, instead of thinking of it as a class 4++ allowing me to stay super focused and calm. So much of creeking for me right now is a head game! We reached the end just as it started to turn dark, absolutely shattered but also overwhelmed with emotions from what we had just experienced, paddled and seen. I have never looked back upstream having paddled a run and seen such incredible steep whitewater - insane!!! Turns out the water that day was pretty high, 1,800cfs instead of the usual 1,000-1,100cfs, and we had possibly just completed the highest ever water descent of this run. Full on class 5+!
What an incredible gorge!