We woke from a damp night and got the campfire going while
lifted. Drying all our gear took a while, but once it was done we
launched into the water at ten-thirty.
Stunning scenery continued, with glaciers and ice fields
through the clouds from time to time. We hadn't made as much progress
on the fist day as we'd anticipated, and there was quite a bit of
scenic flatwater before we reached the first IV+ that marks the start
of the whitewater.
The first IV+ boulder garden was quite obvious from the
top as we boat
scouted into it. Time for some whitewater! Soon after the gradient
picked up and fun rapids were stacked quite nicely. At our water level
this section was astonishingly similar to the Bottom Nine on
California's Middle Kings.
Center in one of the entrance
rapids of the Grand Gorge.
Much like the Bottom Nine, there is not too much to say about
individual rapids in the Grand Gorge, it's full of boulder gardens
stacked on top of each other, with just enough recovery room in-between.
were some very classy moves in
the rapids, hole dodging and tough
boofs. Jonas Grunwald.
Just as the Grand Gorge got steep, a team member missed a
and washed down around a blind corner. From above all we could see was
the potential for a big hole, so we charged out of our kayaks and ran
down shore with throw ropes. They had surfed a big hole but flushed out
and ran the rest of the rapid in borderline control, but it all worked
out in the end. Which was good, because otherwise I would probably have
portaged this rapid. The top hole looked mean but the lead in was fast,
letting us gain key momentum to blast through the hydraulic.
Sturges goes next.
Jonas Grunewald powers in with a good line.
The gradient continued downstream. The entry rapids had
perfect warm up and we were all getting in the groove, boat scouting
and routing through some nice big rapids. With aggressive eddy hopping
we had no problems making quick time of the next several miles,
relishing the whitewater until the canyon opened up a bit before
pinching down to the "Birthday Gorge". The Birthday Gorge is one long
rapid, trapped in a tight mini-gorge.
The largest hazard is a boily eddy pocket with a bit of undercut on the
bottom left, just above a narrow pinch in the river.
Center and Katie Scott
Jonas Grunwald probes down first half of the Birthday Gorge.
crux move is a strong left to
right move through a hole which has
There is one mandatory portage on the Homatko. We had
gotten a good bit
of beta. The short story of what we remembered was that a tributary
comes in, and scout right and eventually portage left. We also recalled
something about having to get creative to cross a tributary. The river
opened up below the Birthday Gorge, but soon dropped into another
gorge. We also knew not to drop in too far, because it can be very
tough to get out above the portage. According to Google Earth the
portage is 26 miles into the run.
Since we had a leisurely start to the day we decided to
portaging and making downstream progress. We paddled across the major
tributary and embarked on some serious bushwhacking. Elevation gain was
minimal but it was still slow progress through the brush and over
Sturges in the woods.
An hour into the portage and we were second guessing. Had
walking too soon? Is this the right gorge? We walked to the gorge rim
and it looked like the best whitewater of the trip. It's too late to go
back so we push on. Eventually up ahead Charlie gives a hoot. We drop
our boats and probe ahead to see why we are portaging.
Center and Jonas Grunwald peer
into an amazing place.
The canyon had tightened up so much that it would have
been possible to
leap across if we were so inclined. Down below the river fell twenty to
thirty feet, and from some angles looked quite possible. Until the
right (or wrong?) angle was found which revealed that it not only
landed partially on a rock, a lot of it was going under the rock.
With a bit more scouting we ascertained that the portage
would not have
to go on much longer. We could either do some rope work down a gully a
hundred yards below the sieve, or stay high and bushwhack down when the
canyon stepped down. Tired of lugging our kayaks we decided to rope
down, which took about an hour total.
Finished at the base of the gully we soaked in the
scenery, the river
carving through the seven foot wide gorge and into the large pool. We
paddled across the pool and through a handful of IV+ rapids before
things opened up, and we immediately started looking for a campsite
because light was fading fast. We saw a beach on the left at the very
end of the bedrock and went for it. Up above the beach was a wonderful
overhanging cliff, which gave owners of dubious bivouac sacks a nice
views....Tiedemann Glacier is up there in the
Rush Sturges and Katie Scott with Tiedmann in the background.
like it's going to be a warm
one...Charlie Center dries off his
We cook dinner in the dark, exhausted by our long day on
the river yet looking forward to the third day, which reputedly has the