Friday, April 20, 2012

Sanded and blown silly on the Yampa

By Kyle McCutchen

March is a rough month for kayakers in Colorado. The snow is beginning to fade away (especially this year), the temperatures are almost warm, and the rivers trickle away in a tease. Fortunately that tease can occasionally deliver a nice early season melt for a river that you know you want to run, yet won’t make time for once the season hits. For us, the free-flowing Yampa River through Dinosaur National Park was exactly that run, and early season flows (largely contributed by the Little Snake River) gave us an ample 2500cfs to make a quick 3-day self-support kayak descent over the weekend of March 16th.

Mike Pagel exploring.

Stretching the legs with a side hike.

Having recently completed a 13-day self-support, packing for two nights was almost too easy, and my Pyranha Fusion delivered again. I pulled an unopened 12 pack out of the hatch on night two, prompting Dave to look over and say, “Nice work.”

Paul, Kevin, Mike, Dave, John and I maximizing river time at Big Joe.

Day one started out a bit breezy, and the winds sandblasted our camp at Big Joe. Three friendly river otters made the days highlight reel, along with a quick side hike.

Walls and flatwater.

Paul Marusak, John Baker, and Mike Pagel try to find the current.

Day two started out nice until the afternoon gusts and grey-bird sky dropped the temperature and increased the paddling. By the time we reached the wide-open Green River the beaches were engulfed in miniature sandstorms… a magnificent experience, and one that unintentionally kept my camera in its bag. Whirlpool Canyon gave us a spectacular display of weather, which is good since the whitewater is unimpressive.

Dave Frank trying the Jackson touring boat.

Stealth drysuit ninja Tina.

Elk crossing the river near Harding Hole.

Paddling 75 miles of flatwater in three days was not easy, but it was a nice way to warm-up for the season. The wind kicked into hurricane gust mode, complete with sandstorms for our day 3 paddle out through Split Mountain. I’ve experienced some crazy windstorms on the river before, though nothing as heinous as the gusts that pounded us on Sunday afternoon. It would have been a layover day in a raft… but the precipitation was coming, and a little wind doesn’t stop kayakers. Despite the long flat miles, paddling uphill both ways, into the wind, we were all smiles at the takeout.

Getting some much needed tiger blood energy from the Tiger Wall.

A week later I asked a friend if he had any big trips planned.

“Ah, man, we are doing the Yampa!”


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Training and Traveling

The past few weeks have been full on training time. Mike and I have been living in friends drive ways, Outfitter shops, and Walmart parking lots that are conveniently located to awesome river features. Since our trailer has been covered with logos we are not incognito anymore.

My training over the last few weeks has consisted of wor

king on my weakest tricks and spending time repeatedly practicing them. Another aspect of my training has been running sprints and down river sprints. The Nantahala river has been a great location for me to train on the 8 mile class 2+ river for my down river sprints. Most of my freestyle kayak training has been at Rock Island TN, Ocoee River, TN, and Eternity hole, NC. The weather has been great for traveling and training.

This weekend is our first major competitive event. With a ton of competitors coming this weekend to the Nantahala Shootout in NC. At the moment they are working on the river feature with heavy machinery in the river rearranging rocks to make a world class feature. This is the location for the 2012 World Cup Event and 2013 World’s Event. They are clearing the river of all the machinery and we get to test it out for a few hours today and hope that it is a great feature. The of what I will be competing on this weekend has got me pumped. During our tour I have paddled almost all the features a few times so this should be interesting to see how the week unfolds.

The Nantahala Shootout this weekend will be full of fun with Freestyle Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding events and free demos.

Check back next week for a full report of all the excitement from this weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Time in the Northern Sierra's!

Well winter seemed to be over and with a little melting snow mixed with rain we had some really good flows. Now it seems we will be having ever better flows as there is 6'' of snow outside my door. Winter loves to creep up on the Sierra's. Andrew Mathews a good friend and fellow boater returned from Africa and stopped by my house on his way up further North. We ended up running the Bear River Falls in a raft. It was fun and way we ate some good ol' fashioned wild turkey sh!t at the bottom. So you cant say that we did not style that line and just as well we cant say we slayed the dragon in the raft. However we did both return to have fun in the kayaks. Its really great having a feature like that just out your back door. We also ventured to the South Yuba, which also happens to be right out the back door, and has some really great class IV-V on 49 to Bridgeport. The South Yuba offers everything from class super gnar to flat water, from a creeky feel to a more river feel. Its great, if its running and your in the area make sure to check it out. We also managed to make our way over to the Upper Middle Cosumnes. A really great class V run with a few hairy areas, a couple portages and some insanely stellar rapids. We ran through clean with only one skirt implosion from Andrew Mathews at the Lars Holbeck drop ( a 15'+ drop landing on a very shallow shelf demanding a solid boof ) Mathews hit his boof stroke but was still absorbed and the pressure imploded his skirt. He had really solid boat angle ( nose left ) and avoided the more shelf like area. I have seen one other person go "deep" there and come out unscathed and one other pretty serious piton resulting with an injured ankle. Anyway enough about that and on to the video, I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday Surf Sessions!

While other people are hunting for colorful eggs and stuffing their faces with candy, myself and a handful of other local paddlers found ourselves slipping into the New River for another amazing day of freestyle and big water. When the levels are right (this weekend was +/-11,000 cfs) the New River Gorge has more quality play spots than most rivers have rapids. Each feature has it's own vibe and feel. Upper Railroad and Ender Waves have potential for HUGE tricks but the eddy service is a workout to say the least. Greyhound is a breeze to get into but can get rowdy once you're in it. Lower Railroad is friendly and a great training feature to perfect just about every move. Other catch-on-the-fly features such as Brain Wave, WMD (wave of mass destruction), Seldom Seen, Frog Rock hole and Harman's cartwheel hole are all in their prime as well.

Ender Waves has some of the most exhausting eddy service on the river

Tom G. reaping the rewards after battling through the stout eddy

Shane G. blunting for world peace

Dan R. feeling the love in Upper Railroad

Shane G. cleaning it up in Upper Railroad

Tom G. getting a face full of foampile

Shane G. Upper Railroad airscrew

Lower Railroad on a beautiful Easter Sunday

All photos by Casey Cunningham

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Pacific NW Spring Break 2012

I was talking to Leif Anderson one day on the phone when he told me the greatest thing in the world. Southwest Airlines will check your boat and paddle for $50. This blew my mind and that same day I bought a plane ticket to Portland. I didn't even talk to anyone about going, it was an impulse buy. It's 10:00 PM the night before my flight and I still don't have anyone picking me up from the airport. I'm pretty sure I secured a couch to crash on at Niko Peha's house but he's out of town. I start to make calls down the list of guys in Portland that Niko gave me. Second name from the bottom is Jure and I give him a call. He answers a little flustered and I explain that I'm a dirt bag and need a ride from the airport. To my surprise he answers yeah man I can pick you up, text me your flight info I'm in the ER. Pumped to have a ride I say thanks man see ya in the morning. In the back of my mind I'm associating the ER with boating because the last time I was in the ER was due to boating. Now I'm thinking what kind of crew am I meeting up with. Everything is going well on the plane and they even announced over the speaker, "The passenger who checked a large kayak, your boat is in the belly of the plane." Everyone kind of laughed.

The plane lands and I meet up with Jure and talk to some other guys in Portland and they were actually waiting on me to go run Opal Creek. To my surprise I had actually run this one. Also to my surprise I was the only one who had run it out of the three of us going. The other two guys usually just stick to the Little White but wanted to do something else. After making a pit stop to grab beer we were headed to the creek. We got less than a mile of the put in and there was a BMW stuck in the snow completely high centered. Like the good Samaritans we are we drank some beer and helped dig them out which consumed almost all the daylight left. We figured we got hosed trying to kayak that day and let them buy us drinks and dinner. The morning we had no plan so I called another contact in Portland, Logan, and he said lets just do East Fork of the Lewis since Green Truss is F'ed and Little White is at 4ft and has wood. We went to do that which was super mellow and I had a real cool suicide line on horseshoe falls which got my blood pumping. After partying that night we decided on Eagle creek the next day there were 4 guys wanting to run Metlako that never had so once again I was the only one who had run this drop. Six guys hiked up to punch bowl falls and we put on. After good lines on punchbowl, we talked about the monster waiting down stream. After the other 3 guys I was with decided they were in, I led them down the river which was real strange since I was the one visiting. They had all decided I was running it first which I was cool with, but that did make me a little nervous. A little background on this drop, 15 foot slide to 82 foot free fall, and the last time I ran this Eagle creek was raging and I got completely wrecked. I was real excited to go back at a more reasonable level and hopefully stick the drop. As I come over the lip the huge amphitheater waits 100 feet below me and I realize I'm at the point of no return. I flick my paddle and tuck up. This drop is perfect because the landing is soft and the pool is relatively calm. Last time I was there Leif could barely ferry across the pool. Once I sub up from the darkness I realize my skirt is still on and I'm in my boat. I attempt 8 hand rolls which are normally bomber but I missed every one. I pull my skirt and swim to a rocky beach. I watch everyone above come down 1 by 1 and Jeremy Bisson completely stuck it. After a booty beer and some partying we crash.

When we woke up the next morning everything was spiking, the rain had hit everywhere really hard. That day we went to Canyon creek which had risen that morning from 600 to 1400 when we put on. It was around 15 or 16 hundo by the time we got off. Great creek gets pretty awesome with more water. The next day we went to check out McDowell creek at flood stage which had a 40 footer but looked pretty sketchy so we all bailed. My last day of paddling we went to Hagen creek but were trying to to Stebbins creek. Stebbins was at a good flow but we didn't bring enough cars to do the 45 minute shuttle. Hagen was at a lower level than the last time I did it, which was nice and that run is always sick. My new buddy Chris Leach gave me a ride to the airport stoked to have a sick spring break. I put together an edit of the trip, enjoy!