Though no flash paddler, over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have some excellent adventures exploring a few classic kayak runs of NZ, and, mainly by virtue of growing up in a more remote corner of NZ (and the blessing an equally stupid and much more skilled friend- this means you Ewen Rodway)a number of first descents of low volume, occasionally steep, creeking runs… my favorite type of paddling. We caught a little of this stuff on “film” (come on, it was all shot on waterproof handheld point and shoots…give us a break), or even blurrier photos…
I’ve paddled lower Vonn with james Sherriff and Lockie Bellerby, a fairly well known easy run(but frightening in flood as very commiting), but this was the first time any of our generation of southland kayakers had visited the upper gorge. Taking a break from avalanche Stage 2 training, winter 2013. We don’t know of anyone specific who has paddled it, however there are murmurs that some of the slightly older southland paddlers, Bruce conways generation (though not Bruce ) maybe or probably used to paddle it. We found it a bit scrappy but where it was fun, it was really fun! And all in all, a fantastic, clear day in the beautiful, silent solitude of the southland high country. nowhere like it.
Lora Gorge, Southland. First Descent
A (future) classic flood run. I’d first seen a 100yr old photo in the paper of a picnic party by a waterfall, titled “Lora Gorge”, which of course piqued my interest! By this time I was definitely old enough to know a little about my own tendancies, and to counteract my sometimes overly-optimistic enthusiasm/stupid drive , with knowledge and sense gained from hard experience in the hills. However this was home turf, benign, rural southland, and young Dave Fenton (actually, I believe he’s older than me) was so enthusiastic, he talked me against my better judgement into starting this short (3km I remember) flood run first descent not long before the June night descended, after a day of hurry-up-and-wait, and a litany of small errors…like getting vans stuck on hills in the 15cm of fresh wet snow that covered the ground and the canopy all around; even to the get-out, a huge drive around to the downstream side of the hokonui hills. We’d done our research as well as possible, and fortunately it all worked out, as the scrub was bloody thick, cold and wet…a miserable night walk had we failed to make it. In the end, the time constraint kept us warm, alot of boat scouting and fast paddling. The following fb messages sum it up;
Ewen Rodway sounds like it went alright then??
June 20, 2013 at 8:40am · Like
Ruari Macfarlane Yeah bro! all kinds of mishaps but Dave still talked me into getting on water at 3pm, lots of running across snowy fields paddling fast and we were out in an hour 50…tight, rock slides, and one 50 degree inclined slide/drop. def need pretty high water
June 20, 2013 at 4:33pm · Like
Ruari Macfarlane though you could see by log jams that it can still be much too high! sometimes.
June 20, 2013 at 4:34pm · Like
Here are some photos, mainly from our most ludicrous trip, the First Descent of the East Branch of the Eglington river, fiordland. June 2011. This was planned as a one day walk in, tarp bivvy, second day paddle back to car. It was June and I would have been working on a ski area, had the snow arrived in time (it was cold enough). The trip turned into 2 days to walk up, one very full day to paddle back out. this of course meant hunger. In part due to rain the first night, which managed to blow under the tarp and wet our sleeping bags, and a hard frost the second night, we were also rather chilly. All in all, one of the best adventures I’ve ever had, with one of my best friends, and the only trip ever where it truly hurt to lift a beer from table to lips in the bar afterwards!
My article “HKT-The Exciting new Sport of Heavy Kayak Tramping” was published in Spring 2013,
Electric River, Fiordland. Autumn 2011.
Partial first descent. This was some entertainment…a 15hp engine doesnt cut the mustard for boat access for two tall guys, two kayaks, sets og paddling gear, paddles, rifles, tent, masses of food, beer, goon, fishing rods, firewood…you name it. Then once we were there, We couldnt get up into the gorge proper…we consider ourselves verteran Heavy Kayak Trampers, but this one will have to wait for a heli accessed descent I think! Mind you, the lower 3km was beautiful.
– this was some years ago(09/10?), and deserves to be a classic. Just check the video. Micro-creeking and needs a bit at least slightly high to make it run-able, but when it is: road-accessed top and bottom; steep, technical and perfect mini-creeking; grade 3+ to 4? It drops something like 300+m in 3.5 km, averaging a gradient of 1 in10m drop, though this is concentrated in the gorge! Tara Mulvaney and Sim paddled the second ascent is high water in less than half the time we took, I think, and were able to run everything, including the boney sections mid-run that we portaged. Ewen paddled I think all but one drop on our descent, I portaged a couple. Tara just made history bu circumnavigating NZ in winter in her sea kayak, 3/4’s of it solo. legend.
The Second descent of Percy Stream bu Tara&Sim; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_yu4ga6vDs
Hollyford River, Falls creek section in high flow, Oct 2009. I took all the shots as I was too scared to get on, after quite a while out of a boat. Edited by Ewen Rodway.
Upper grebe…a relatively obscure fiordland run, road accessed with a litle bush bash…the crux rapid is right at the take out by the road and often paddled right on dark. This wee drop is somewhere in the middle..
Our first attempt at a ‘first descent’ back in the day may have been here; Roaring Creek, a tiny tributary of the hollyford that runs over the gunns camp road. It was very contrived and naive as the whole thing is steep and rocky as heck, this drop and the next one down were the only paddle-able features when we were there… a beautiful, lush mossy ravine though. We had fun. It was our first trip to the hollyford paddling. As usual, it was June.
James Sheriff about to get nailed on a southland classic, Mataura falls.photo unknown. Now living on stewart Island…we miss paddling with James! i were a real team(useless), and James actually spurred Percy creek exploration, when we were on the delightful lower grebe(3) run and with james walked up to bash down the lower few hundred meters.
A few older movies that sum up the early years by Ewen exist somehwere, hydrophila and paddling southland style for a start… hopefully we can locate them other than on the old dvd’s we have knocking around… ah, nothing much beats summer (or winter) with your greatest friends, in your own backyard, paddling around a bend on a Fiordland river into the unknown, whether it be to any kayaker, or just to yourself. That said, Lower grebe hot laps, hooting and hollering, come pretty close…