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First Ascent Kayaker Chris Korbulic First to Run Royal Gorge Falls
Posted on June 29, 2010

Chris Korbulic is the newest and youngest adventurer on the First Ascent kayak team. Chris was featured in some of the biggest runs in the expedition kayak film Hotel Charley V.5: First Descent, and he has built up a résumé of first descents. He describes his latest achievement below.

By Chris Korbulic

I stand in the intense sun at the edge of the biggest rapid I have ever wanted to run. Mist from water crashing onto rock cools my sunburnt face, but does little to ease my nerves. I’ve seen this cataract before and walked away, knowing that the time would come for me to see the line and solve the crazy puzzle falling in front of me. I know it’s right at the edge of what I can handle, but this is why I kayak—for these moments of clarity when commitment to the line is all you know.

The rapid is named “Scott’s Drop” after the first paddler to run it, and I’m mesmerized by the first 45-foot falls slamming onto a rock shelf, the sun in the mist, and the next 50-foot falls guarding the pool below. I could watch for hours, but today the line is there, beckoning. I’m ready to stretch myself and put the pieces together.

I take the most delicate but intense paddle strokes of my life, pulling myself along the thread of a line, weaving down the rapid with the snowmelt thundering all around me. I’m right on the line I had seen, and led by the sense of assurance I had at the top, I fly into the pool at the bottom, upright and breathless.

This three-day wilderness stretch includes many more falls and rapids, with Ben Stookesberry having a notable first descent of Wabena Falls nine years ago. This trip he returns for another descent with Darin McQuoid and me.

Scott’s Drop was the last falls for me to run in the Royal Gorge, and this descent makes me the first to have run all the falls in the Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American River.

Author: - Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

  1. Jonathan Angstadt

    Great Blog, you are a good writer. I am 15 and have recently taken up kayaking and kayak in my hometown of Grants Pass Oregon. My friend and I kayak at least once a week. I have kayaked through most of the upper Rogue River and hope to kayak the Lower Rogue soon. That is some crazy kayaking, I would not be able to survive that.

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