Saturday, August 15, 2009

MIDDLE KINGS



Group Picture at the Confluence of South Kings and Middle Kings
Just after the Bottom 9 Day 6

Around the morning of July 27th I was eating breakfast with Rok Sribar at his home in Auburn. We were discussing the summer so far and our plans for the next couple weeks. He didnt know this but it would only be a couple of days before I would head back to TN. I was low on money and my ride was leaving on the 4th of July with or without me. My goal for the summer was to run middle kings, but I had already gotten Upper Cherry, West Cherry, Fantasy, Kaweah, South Silver, and a few more so I wasn't disappointed. Rok starts coming up with these ideas of how I can stay for another couple weeks, run middle kings, and then fly home. So its thanks to Rok that I was even able to be part of this trip.  I can clearly remember walking straight from the breakfast table to the computer and buying a one way ticket from San Fransisco to Atlanta, walking back to the table and saying "looks like were running the kings."
A few weeks later and after checking gauges every 12 hours for 10 days in a row, I met Shannon Carroll, Toro Rogenmoser, Rok Sribar, Dave Levitt, and Jay Moffat in Auburn to load up the cars for our week long mission down the middle fork of the Kings river. I had heard so much about Middle Kings and there was no where in the world id of rather been then attempting to knock of this high sierra expedition. This would be with out a doubt the biggest week of my life up to this point.
It would take six days, one day to hike over the 13,000 foot bishop pass and back down the other side, 5 days of wilderness class 5 including the bottom 9 on the last day, which some call the hardest day of kayaking in California, and then one day on the Garlic Falls section of the Kings river. We had a strong group which included two people that had been down before. Being 10 years the youngest on the trip made for lots of jokes and lost votes on my part. Here is a short break down day by day.


Shannon Styling the Money Drop Day 2

Day 1. Woke up around 630 and went to meet the mules where we found out that they would not be able to take our gear all the way over the pass but only 3-4 miles to the last lake. So we carried empty boats to that point and then loaded all the gear off the mules and into the boats to make the final push to the top of the pass(13,000) and back down the other side 5,000 foot decent down to the river. I felt pretty strong on the hike, don't get me wrong I was incredibly beat down at they end, but pretty good given hiking with 13 miles with a loaded kayak on my back. I remember laying down trying not to fall asleep when I see a little white dot making switchbacks down the mountain before realizing that it was Jay who had decided to take a nap, over slept, and had to finish in the dark.


Myself Entering the Money Drop Day 2

Day 2. Got a late start, after packing up all the stuff and saying by to Karin and Kat. We had a long talk with Ranger Rick who signed our permit. I was pretty nervous, we were about to float down a river and we wouldn't be to the end of it for 5 days, I knew that was a lot of time to get hurt and then possibly take on a multi-day hike through the manzanitas, granite, rattle snakes, and bears out of this incredible drainage. The first day was pretty much pool drop, with some good slides, and a beautiful meadow. I think we were all pretty sore from the hike. Shannon told me as we all laid there looking at the most stars ive ever seen in my life that this day would be by far the easiest of them all.


Some Delicious Trout That Toro and Jay Caught Night 2

Day 3. This day brought lots of action and quality rapids. It started out with whats called the money drop a 10 foot waterfall leading instantly into a 30 foot sliding waterfall. Good lines were had by all other then bashing my nose into my implosion bar. I remember running countless big class 5 slide drops with big holes and big boofs. This was the heart of the middle kings and bad injures here would be a 2-3 day walk out in either direction. Near the end of the day was my favorite section of the whole trip, "Mini Gorge." A half mile gorge with 10 monster holes ending in a 25 foot waterfall. Swims here would be epic. Dave and I ran down and met Shannon and Toro while Jay and Rok set good safety and took pictures. These were some of the bigger holes we had run in all of California, but the reward was  completely clean 25 footer. This was the site of our first big action when Rok broke his paddle rolled up and started one blading down the gorge, he made it a couple more holes before he got re-surfed and had to swim. Luckily due to Jay's good decision making he was able to get Rok out on river right and we would spend the next 3 hours getting him and his stuff back to river left.


Shannon, Myself, Dave, and Grizzly Tin Getting Our Rest On Night 2.

Day 4. I remember this being the longest day. We knew we would have to get to Tohipite dome if we wanted to get out in 6 days, and we were way behind schedule. Plus, we got stuck in a canyon that we entered and decided we needed to retreat and try to find a way out. I remember 1-2 hour bombing sections dodging holes and eddy hoping trying to make it to tohipite. We probably covered 6-8 miles this day. We ran in to team Jib at camp and hung out with them just above Tohipite. Tomorrow would be the bottom nine and I remember Brian Knight saying "Ben I hope you ate your wheaties." 


Shannon Running the Shit Day 2.

Day 5. The Bottom Nine. By far one of the most intense days of my life. Ive never seen a river hold up such consistent class 5+ for so many miles. This section does not let up, its boulder garden high water for 12-13 hrs. Tuff scouts, tuff portages, tuff rapids, this day really test what  you have and it really test the strength of the team. We ended up running out of daylight with about 3 miles left. 

Keepin' er Flat Day 2.

Day 6. Finishing the Bottom 9 by around 2 o'clock it was pretty intimidating to still have to do 14 miles of the Garlic Falls. We took about a 20 minute break at the confluence and celebrated finishing the Middle Kings. I was totally out of food, and cliff bars, and the idea of a restaurant and a real bed sounded really good. I broke my paddle on this day and started to get really worn down mentally. Although your no longer on the Middle Kings its still very strenuous class 5 kayaking. Finally after 6 days and dropping almost 8,000 feet in elevation I saw a big UT blanket hanging from the tree, which meant they end. Kat Levitt was there with bud light, fried chicken, watermelon, and most importantly the truck.


Rok Sribar, Toro Rogenmoser Day 6.

All together this was an incredible experience. Rok had told me that on the Middle Kings you find out exactly what your made of and how much you can really take, and he was absolutely right. I left that river with a week full awesome paddling memories, 5 new close friends, a broken paddle, a broken kayak, and huge smile on my face. Id like to say thanks again to Rok Sribar for making this trip possible for me.


Lunch Break Just Before Summiting Day 1.



Coming to the Summit Beatdown and Hurting


Dave Levitt Grinding Out the 13 Miler


My Food For The Six Days

2 comments:

SouthernBoof said...

nice write up bro.

philgaston said...

dude, that was a sick report. and those golden trout looked epic