Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The South Branch of the Middle Feather

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get on one of California’s best day runs, the South Branch of the Middle Feather. Anticipating a snowy and log filled road, we headed up a day early with a shovel and chain saw in hand to clear the way. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the forest service had brought in machinery and cleared the road for us. So instead, we drank cocktails riverside at one of the best camping spots I’ve ever had.

Camping at the put-in

Throughout the night, more and more people started showing up, and by the time I woke the next morning, our group had grown from four people to ten people, included in which were those who I will simply refer to as the Chattanooga Chargers. The level was also on the rise, but we decided to charge on anyways.

The run starts off mellow and slowly gets steeper and steeper. It goes from class 2, to class 3, to a 10 footer, to 15 footers, to 20 footers, to a 40 footer and finishes off with a beautiful 50 footer. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Darin McQuoid running the 10 footer which signals the beginning of the goods

Tim Collins stomping the first 20 footer

Meat the lip of the second 20 footer (Photo taken by Darin McQuoid)

Me at the first of the back to back 15's (Photo taken by Jonas Gruenewald)

Darin McQuoid at the second 15

Lunch time

I will say though that while each of the individual rapids on this run may not be super hard (but still class 5), the consequences to making a mistake are very much there and should not be taken lightly. There is one section in particular that starts off with a 20 footer that flows pretty directly into a marginal 40 footer (named 99 problems), which flows directly into a 15-20 foot drop that flows directly into a mandatory portage around a 100-foot waterfall. A mistake at any of these rapids could very quickly escalate into a fatal mistake (which one unnamed member of our group almost showed us when he ran 99 problems backwards, pitoned, got stuck in a hole, ran the next drop backwards and eddied out just before the portage).

Jakub Nemec soaring off the 20 footer just above 99 Problems

Will Pruett showing us how its done at 99 Problems

Me running the China drop, which is just below 99 Problems and just above the portage (Photo taken by Jonas Gruenewald)

After a not so quick portage around the large unrunnable waterfall, we did a sketchy seal launch and were on our way toward the 50 footer (it might be more like 40-45 but everyone else calls it 50 so I’m gonna go with that). Besides a few imploded skirts we all had good lines and celebrated our successful day relaxing at the lip of another big waterfall before beginning our steep and not so fun hike out.

Me approaching the lip of the 50 footer (Photo taken by Darn McQuoid)

Tim Collins on the charge!

Taking time to enjoy the scenery

Check out this video of the trip put together by Jakub Nemec
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