toaroha canyon

Adventure - - Ad­ven­ture//Kayak­ing>> - Words and im­ages by David Bain

When eu­ro­pean pad­dlers think of kayak­ing in New Zealand, the first few things which come to mind are sun­shine, clean wa­ter and the most im­por­tant thing of all; the op­por­tu­nity to use he­li­copters. Oth­er­wise dif­fi­cult to ac­cess rivers, are open for two to three days of per­fect class five boul­der gar­den kayak­ing. My trip be­gan in Novem­ber, with the in­ten­tion of spend­ing as much time as pos­si­ble on the West Coast of the South Is­land, com­plet­ing days full of the pre­vi­ous three cri­te­ria! How­ever, upon ar­rival, I quickly learnt that there was far more to kayak­ing in New Zealand than I had pre­vi­ously thought. pad­dling with Jordy searle, ari Walker and barny young, i was in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of hav­ing some of the most well trav­elled and ex­pe­ri­enced ex­pe­di­tion Kiwi kayak­ers in the world. firstly, it is worth men­tion­ing that the West coast rains more than any­where I have pre­vi­ously vis­ited. This also means that most of the time he­li­copters can­not fly. This opens up a whole new chal­lenge for most Eu­ro­pean kayak­ers; hik­ing in to rivers to go kayak­ing. These hike in’s, not only make the river seem more “worth it”, when on the wa­ter. They are also where I have seen some of the most beau­ti­ful places ac­ces­si­ble by kayak in New Zealand. My favourite of all these rivers, is the Toaroha Canyon. The Toaroha is well known by both kayak­ers and hik­ers alike, with the lower sec­tion be­ing one of the most pop­u­lar grade three runs on the coast. It pro­vides the per­fect train­ing ground for any young kayak­ers wish­ing to ' up' their skills, and every other kayaker want­ing to do a fun evening run. the up­per stretches of the toaroha are pad­dled far less how­ever, and it is here where you can find some of the best steep but clean bedrock creek­ing in New Zealand. This canyon was un­ex­plored un­til 2012 when Jordy Searle and team com­pleted the first de­scent. The hike to ac­cess the canyon can eas­ily be con­sid­ered as test­ing as the river it­self. The three hour hike starts at a farm, mark­ing the be­gin­ing of the hik­ing trail. It con­tin­ues to climb steeply up­stream, walk­ing over bluffs, creeks and an end­less amount of boul­ders on the river flats, prior to the start of the canyon. Said canyon is ac­cessed by climb­ing down a treach­er­ous slip com­plet­ing the ap­prox­i­mately three hour hike, which is made far harder due to the ad­di­tional load of a 30kg kayak packed with gear. LEFT: Ari Walker (NZ) de­scend­ing T Falls, the en­try wa­ter­fall to the Canyon.

The river starts at T Falls, a chal­leng­ing 40foot wa­ter­fall that ex­plodes in to the canyon from above. It lands in a round pool, be­fore trav­el­ing down­stream in to the first rapid of the run. It was our third time ac­cess­ing the canyon when Galen Volkhausen (usa), ari Walker (nZl) and I sucked up the courage to run this drop. The wa­ter­fall re­quires any po­ten­tial pad­dlers to climb a near ver­ti­cal cliff to ac­cess the 1x2 me­ter sec­tion of flat wa­ter where one can place a kayak (be­fore get­ting on the wa­ter and run­ning off the falls). On this run we all had clean lines in to the pool be­low, mak­ing the whole team ex­cited to con­tinue down­stream to ac­cess the treats in the canyon. af­ter this wa­ter­fall, the canyon tight­ens up, with its steep sided walls clos­ing in a series of small wa­ter­falls and rapids, wind­ing their way down­stream. It is here where the place comes in to its true beauty, with beams of light de­scend­ing down through the nar­row open­ing over­head, hit­ting the blue pools of the Toaroha. One of the first drops sets the tone for the rest of the trip, with a per­fect en­try to a lovely drop which al­lows the kayak to skim out like a stone as it lands in the pool. The river con­tin­ues to hold its gra­di­ent down­stream with com­plex, un­in­ter­rupted rapids down the river. Af­ter one portage around an un-runnable cas­cade, you ar­rive at a must run rapid. Three con­sec­u­tive drops, end­ing with the ma­jor­ity of the wa­ter cas­cad­ing against the right-side canyon wall. The hard­est and long­est sec­tion of the river comes to­wards the end of the run. In this sec­tion, the river bends and twists over three rapids be­fore drop­ping in to a tight gorge. The drop be­ing a fif­teen-foot wa­ter­fall with some harsh con­se­quences as the re­sult of a poor line. The T Canyon soon opens up with the fi­nal wa­ter­fall of the sec­tion. This is a tricky twenty foot drop which lands in a large open pool; a re­lief from the lit­tle-more than five me­ter width of­fered by the canyon above. At this point, the chal­leng­ing white wa­ter has all been com­pleted and pad­dlers are able to en­joy a mo­ment of re­lax­ation whilst look­ing back up the nar­row canyon above them. The char­ac­ter­is­tic green­ery and bush of the New Zealand West Coast is the re­ceiv­ing view as the whole val­ley seems lighter with­out the con­stric­tion of the canyon. The river car­ries on for an­other three kilo­me­tres of grade 3+ white wa­ter be­fore reach­ing the reg­u­lar Lower Toaroha. The river fin­ishes by farm­land just prior to where the Styx and Toaroha meet the Kokatahi River. RIGHT: Tay­lor Western (NZ) suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing one of the trick­ier drops mid way through the run. David Bain is a 22 year old white wa­ter kayaker spe­cial­is­ing in ex­treme rac­ing and ex­pe­di­tion white­wa­ter. Orig­i­nally from the UK, David now spends most of the year trav­el­ing the world in search of new rivers and com­pet­ing on the worlds hard­est white­wa­ter. In the past year David has pad­dled first de­scents in Nor­way, Croa­tia and New Zealand, whist still find­ing time to train and take sec­ond place at the Ex­treme Kayak World Cham­pi­onships. David spent the sum­mer in New Zealand trav­el­ing with fel­low kayak­ers Jordy Searle and Ari Walker, in­tent on pad­dling as much as pos­si­ble and ex­plor­ing some lesser known NZ white­wa­ter.

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