Monday, June 4, 2007

High Sierra Multi Day Portage Fest

One of the objectives of the trip was to undertake some of the classic multi day class 5 high sierra runs. The LVM Seven Rivers expedition DVD was very useful in selecting some good candidates. Water levels are also key in selecting the right runs. This year, the low snowpack meant that the classic multiday runs were running early, and each is only in condition for two weeks. By the time the guys arrived, Dinkey Creek and the Royal gorge of the American had already been and gone. We chose Fantasy falls for our first multi day run.

Word from locals was that the levels were low but should just hold out for us. Day one would be boney, but everything else would be ok. The guidebook warned of some long portages around unrunnable gorges, but we felt three days would be enough.

We left a car at the takeout, Salt Springs reservoir, and with the locals guidance in mind, we bough maps for the backroads, which would vastly reduce the shuttle to the put in. After several hours of navigating back roads, and only a mile or two from the main highway, we were blocked by fallen trees. The only other backroad we found to be blocked by snow.

So we reverted to plan B – the main road route. 7 hrs in total for the Shuttle (the river is only 26 miles long).

We finally arrived at the put in, after a fortunate prime rib dinner at the snowshoe brew pub - good to stock up on meat prior to a wilderness run. The level at the put in looked good, not boney at all, things were looking up. Marc and Emma Musgrove joined us at Midnight, and we set off early in the morning.

Just round the corner the river steepened, and became too boney to run, and our portages began. A mile or so downriver, enough sidestreams converged, and we could really begin the run. What followed was three days of very mixed boating. Great slides and drops, interspersed with grueling long portages round either unrunnable gorges or falls.

A couple of times we got too far into gorges before we discovered they were not advisable, and had to rope our way out, then portage. Both nights we camped above large rapids. By the last day, we had not covered nearly enough distance, so an early start was necessary.

A gorge portage for breakfast was a great way to start the day. Mid afternoon on the third day, we came across Fantasy falls, an incredible double drop that made all the hard work worthwhile.

Some good downtime was had by all on the first drop. Several miles of continuous boulder gardens, with some excellent big drops thrown in brought us to the lake. None of us were looking forward to 4 miles of flat-water, but it came as a welcome warmdown after this fantastic but grueling trip.

A quick burger, a couple of rest days and a few hours drive took us back to Groveland, and the Tuolumne / Cherry Creek watershed. We’d hoped to get the granite slides and falls of Upper Cherry Creek in before the guys had to head home. Fortunately we ran into some locals who had been in the area, Upper Cherry was still too high, but West Cherry was in prime condition. Chris was ecstatic. No 12 mile hike in….. West Cherry had only a 2 mile hike in, and could be run in a day. A plan was set. We would shuttle and hike in one day, then camp back at the car, and do the river with empty boats. This was a great decision. Whilst camping we found some LVM footage of West Cherry…. Big Big falls…….. So with light boats we pushed off the next morning, and found a clean slides, mini teacup sections, and trademark West Cherry drops – 20 foot boofs onto shallow ledges, before the main meat of the drop….. Needless to say we weren’t too keen on these, but Max and McDoom fired these up impressively. – Spines of steel required.

Before too long we were in sight of the Upper Cherry Confluence, and the West Cherry steepened. More portaging. We hit Upper Cherry, and the combined flow of the West and Upper cherry made things more interesting.

We ran and portaged out way down to the lake. Some great rapids, which we look forward to returning to… preferably with less water. Another lake paddle back to the car and we were done!

We were planning on dashing down to the Kaweah drainage to catch the last remnants of flow there, but fatigue and a late night burger stop halted out progress. A level check persuaded us that the Kaweah may have dropped out, and we stayed at the Tuolumne and ran the Lower T and Cherry Creek sections and warm down trips for the guys leaving.
Cherry Creek surprised and impressed us, despite most having paddled it before, the intensity and large number of holes led to more trashings than any river on the trip to date. No swims though. We couldn’t persuade McDoom to tackle Lumsdens, a huge cascading rapid which crashes into the river right cliff, despite his West Cherry heroics.

Thanks to Andy Mcdoom, Chris Knees Wheeler, The Legendary Kevin Francis, Young Max, Marc Mus, Baker and Parker for the company on these trips, Probing duties were accomplished expertly by Max, McDoom and Marc- Many thanks.


So relegated to shuttle duties, Emma and I went on our own adventure while the guys slogged it out with Fantasy falls.

Our first call was Grover a small hot springs town. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon in the hot springs...tanned our weary bodies and went in search of a pretty campsite. Memorial hustle soon put a stop to our dreams and we ended up at a fairly pretty riverside layby next to route 88.

Our next stop on our 3 day shuttle run was bear lake, a beautiful reservoir high in the Sierra Mountain Range. We camped amongst some hardcore ATVers who seemed non plussed that two ladies had decided to camp in between their sites. Emma and I decided our day would be best spent bush whacking our way along a potential runnable creek called Bear Creek. It started off beautiful pool drop in to a deadly siphoned waterfall and boulder chocked gorge with no portage route. I almost could believe Emma and I were in the middle of nowhere, hiking where no person had been before. Leaving our own little cairns at the top of a ridge..we eventually found a trail out.

An early start on day 3 in the expectation the guys would be off early we arrived at the takeout to no kayakers in sight.

Instead of waiting around, Emma and I hiked up to a point on the Salt Springs Reservoir in the hope to meet our boys in their way out. The heat of the day I think reached around the 100's and so we cooled off swimming in the artic cold reservoir. At 5pm still no sign we hiked back to the cars.

we patiently waited and waited some more and around 7pm with the use of Binoculars the boys eventually came into sight.. By 8pm the guys were off...again in caveman state. Hungry, dirrrty and sleep depraved we heady to the nearest city for some real food and a proper bed.

A selection of California Pictures is now available on our webshots page.

1 comment:

Adam, Jayne and Safi said...

AWESOME!! Though I fear I'm going into mother mode... be careful out there you guys ;)

Jayne XX