By Darin McQuoid
Who would have thought, two first descents in one week and both in the mecca of kayaking, California. It’s normal for our schedules to be dictated by weather in this wonderful sport. Be it waiting for snow to melt or rain to fall, finding water in the river and having a flexible schedule is the name of the game. But in nine years, this was a new one for me. The water level was dead on and would stay that way for the day. On the other hand, the first descent we had in mind was the same elevation as the snow level, where the forecast was calling for prolific amounts of snow. It would have to be an early mission. The weather was supposed to hold until noon, and by then we’d better be on our way out or stuck in the middle of nowhere indefinitely.
The good news was that it was just a hike and huck. Cody Howard and Will Pruett had made a foray into the waterfall earlier in the week when water was too high. They knew the route, so on arrival we quickly embarked on our half mile cross country sliding stroll to the falls—sliding because there was still plenty of big snow patches from the last storm. Looking at the falls, we all agreed that it looked good, provided the wood-choked entrance was walked. Because Will had put the most work into the falls with two prior scouting trips, the option of running it first was up to him, which he gladly took while I scrambled around to find a good angle and Cody set safety at the bottom.
With the storm coming in the light was incredibly dark, but I was in luck. Because it was so close to the road, we’d managed to talk our way into getting some ground support from fellow kayakers Austin Nickel and Justin Patt. Thanks to them I had my full camera bag, a rare exception. The photographers out there will understand I was pretty lucky; I had a 85mm 1.4 in my bag and in the available light I shot at 1/1000 F2.8 ISO 800.
By the time Cody went, it was raining. His line went well, and then it was my turn, and it had to be quick because the rain was turning to snow as I hiked to the top of the falls. The falls went well for all of us, but like most waterfalls of the 50-foot range, gave quite an impact at the bottom. Knowing we’d be sore the following day and with snow falling, we celebrated running the falls by making quick work of the hike to our vehicles, loading up in heavy snow and getting out while we could.
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