Monday, August 02, 2010

Middle Kings On!!!

Day 0:
There’s something about traveling around in a huge unmarked van that makes every road trip a little more interesting. At least I’m sure that’s what Oliver “Hollywood” Deshler was thinking as he ran through the reserved limousine section of the Vegas airport and leaped into our conspicuous rig; which had been repeatedly rejected from low clearance parking lots and descended upon twice by airport security. And so the Middle Kings adventure begins.

Day 1:
Waking up early we took a short trip into Bishop for last minute supplies and one last look at the gauge. We were happy to find the river had gone from the low side of too high to the high side of good and seemed to be dropping fast. It looked like our short window was going to be perfect and so with added confidence we started walking.

Matt Klema contemplating taking up lake paddling.

Ben Luck and Xavier Engle near the top of the pass.

The hike over Bishop Pass was absolutely beautiful and about 7.5 hours later we arrived at the head of La Conte canyon with sore feet and childlike excitement. A few miles of savage front-range-style mank boating later we found a beautiful camp on granite ledges where we feasted on steak and dreamed of the whitewater to come.

Matt's all business on steak night.

Day 2:

Kayaking on nothing but granite is fun. Sleeping on nothing but granite is not AS fun and after a long restless night I was more than ready to venture forth in search of the legendary California gnar I knew was to come. Name a style of rapid and chances are you will find it on day 2 of the Kings. We ran big slides, small slides, boulder gardens, waterfalls, holes etc. Roughly 93% of the pictures I have seen of the run were taken in this section.

Xavier on what I believe to be called Money Drop.

Money Drop was so fun we had to do it twice! Matt on run numero dos.

Oliver "Hole-Slayer" Deshler and Matt Klema making short work of the Waterfall Gorge.

Oliver "Gnar-Probe" Deshler working his way to the lip of the confluence slide.

Xavier on yet another sweet drop.

Yours Truly busting left on the confluence slide.

Polish ambassador to the high Sierra Bernard Sobieski running the slide in Ben Luck's boat. I'm not sure where Ben was for this.

It may look like I'm boofing in this picture. Looks can be deceiving.

Matt and Oliver "45 Degree" Deshler above the classic twenty-footer.

This was the longest day of our trip and we were all thankful when the whitewater finally eased up and we found a nice sandy camp amongst the Sequoias where we feasted on fish courtesy of Oliver "Trout-Slayer" Deshler.

Day 3:

Another great day of boating. The manky boulder gardens were nicely covered and we made good time down river. The highlight of the day came shortly before lunch. We had been leap-frogging with Jason Hale, Drew Duval, and Will Pruett the whole trip and we knew they were just ahead of us. Seeing their boats on the right shore we made for the same scouting eddy. Matt and Oliver pulled in first and just as they entered Jason peeled out in front of me with fire in his eyes. You could tell by his intensity something big was going down, and we scrambled out of our boats; running down the bank to try and get a good view of Hale firing up the Big Bad Hairy Beaver slide! That thing is massive! I considered the slide for a while but in the end decided on the conservative line (through the trees on the right) and we continued. That night was spent at my favorite camp on the run, on an island in the beautiful Tehipite valley, under what Wikipedia claims is the largest granite dome in the Sierra.

The view downstream from the Tehipite Camp.

Day 4:

I can’t remember whom, but someone once told me that the Bottom Nine on the Middle Kings was a lot like the South Merced. The joke was on me. I guess I can see the similarity if you just take all the pools out of the South Merced, turn up the gradient, tighten the canyon, and throw in some rattlesnakes and thicker poison oak for good measure! Both runs have granite boulders! That said this was one of the more memorable days of paddling I’ve ever had. This is full on expedition style boating with class V lines between portages, small eddies, endless horizon lines, and pieces of kayaks on the shore to remind you to stay on your game.

Bernard Sobieski in the Bottom Nine (still not sure what happened to Ben).

Matt and Oliver "Bottom-Nine" Deshler

A Typical Bottom Nine Scene.

A mellower section.

We had a good flow and got to run a lot of great whitewater, reaching camp at the confluence of the South Fork in good time with spirits high.

Day 5:
The Garlic Falls run provided some fun, rowdy big-water and boulder gardens. Three hours of paddling put us back at the van with cold beer and a long food-filled drive to Flagstaff to get my brother to work the next day.
Xavier on the "paddle out"

Did I mention that my dad went beyond the call of duty and ran our shuttle making our tight window possible! Three cheers for Tom Klema!! Also thanks to Rolf Kelly for the great beta, it was key. Good luck to all of the boys in there right now. Hope you have good lines and many stories to tell.


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