Monday, July 12, 2010

Feeling Royal on the North Fork of the American

With the California snowpack high and the weather staying cool, it seemed like it was taking forever to start off the high sierra multi-day season out here. Friends from the Southeast made their pilgrimage across the country and for the the first week they were out here I showed them around my favorite day runs in the area, including 49 to Bridgeport and Golden Gate, while we waited for the water to drop. So when we heard that the Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American was dropping into a good level, we geared up for a mission. Taylor Cavin was leading the charge as our local expert (he had just did the run the week before at a bit higher water, so it was fresh in his memory) and Gareth Tate, Ben Blake and Adam Bixby were representing team NC.

Because we were a bit worried about the level rising, we intentionally had a late start on day one so we would be able to check the level before fulling committing to doing it. Fortunately, the level showed the perfect trend and off we went to put in. Geared up and packed up we arrived at the bridge to put on and made sure we had a swift entry as not to bring any attention to ourselves from unhappy land owners.

Day one starts off with a bang, with a number or tight slot drops meandering through mini gorges. Eventually the rivers opened up a bit more and granted us with some really sweet rapids, including the awesome double drop rapid seen below.

Adam Bixby entering the double drop rapid on Day One

Adam firing off the bottom drop of the double drop

Taylor Cavin cruising through a random rapid on Day One

With dusk settling in and our energy a bit low, we finally pulled into our first camp. I've seen some pretty cool campsites before, but this one definitely topped the list. The site was located on a grassy field located up above and in between the Heath Waterfalls. Heath One is a perfect 40 footer and is followed pretty quickly by Heath Two, a slightly higher waterfall and much more consequential due to being backed up by a bad cave.  After taking time to get dried off, we spent some time staring down at Heath One and choosing our lines for the next morning.

Night One Camp

Gareth and I checking out the Heath Falls from camp one

 A view of Heath One and Heath Two Falls

There's nothing like waking up in the morning to the thrill of running a 40 footer! After getting up and making breakfast, the whole crew geared up to run Heath One. Once safety was set, Taylor and Gareth made their way up to the top of the falls to kick off the huck fest. Ben and I were next and we both nailed our lines and had big smiles at the bottom.
Me waking up to Heath One
Ben pulling the trigger on Heath One
After getting our waterfall running on, the crew portaged our boats around Heath Two and started making our way downstream. Day Two was filled was tons of excitement, including watching Taylor Cavin go big on two of the larger waterfalls on the Royal Gorge, 50 foot Rattlesnack Falls and 70 foot Wabena Falls.
Gareth stomping a perfect twenty footer on Day Two

Taylor coming through the white rock gorge

Taylor showing us how its done on Rattlesnake Falls

Taylor going big once again at the lip of 70 foot tall Wabena Falls

After firing off Wabena Taylor was a bit sore from the hit, so we decided to camp for the night pretty soon after. We spent our time at Camp Two reflecting on the day and all of the amazing rapids and spectacular scenery we experienced along the way. 

Day three was long. While days one and two involved paddling around 3-5 miles a day, day three involved paddling almost 35 miles of whitewater. It took us over 10 hours to complete the mission, which included 8 miles of whitewater before arriving at the Generation and Giant Gap section of the North Fork. While mostly class 2-4, the day still involved many class 5 rapids and pretty much took every bit of energy we had to complete it.

To reward ourselves for such a successful mission, we did the classic California thing and hit up the In and Out Burger for some double doubles animal style!
Subscribe in a reader