Yesterday I ran the hardest river I've ever attempted.
I piled into Damian's van with Damo, Aaron, and Mike Dawson. We headed up to the Pohangina, winding up a long road and gaining altitude fast. Once we got permission to get to the put-in and found the track, we asked Damian what the hike to the put-in was like.
"Oh, it's just up a hill at the start, across a long flat bit, and then one hill at the end. It's got a nice grass track too."
The track was a bit of a death march, the beginning section steep and covered with mud, and the second section steep and narrow, with low trees and steep slopes. Damian damn near sprinted the whole thing, leaving the three of us huffing and puffing behind. At one point a slip had occured, wiping out the trail and forcing us to rope our boats around it. Finally, we made it to the river.
I was in Damian's Topolino, which I'd never paddled before. We warmed up for maybe a hundred meters until we had to get out and scout. We had a technical Grade V over a few other drops; everyone walked the top bit and Aaron and I walked the bottom. Not fifty meters later we scouted the gorge, a big triple drop hemmed in by rock walls. The top and bottom drop looked pretty flushy, but the middle hole was a huge, stomping monster. Portaging wasn't an option; it was either run the drop or seal-launch into the eddy next to the monster hole and wait for everyone else to run the drop. I wasn't too keen on dropping in between the undercut wall and the big hole, so I opted to run it. I knew the drop was within my ability, but I could only think of all the bad things that could happen if I botched the line. I was really goddamned scared. After summoning up some confidence, I dropped into the water and ferried out into the current.
The first drop was sweet, but I was pushed too far right and ended up backwards in a micro-eddy just above the monster hole. shit. I pulled out into the current and spun around, paddling hard. I dropped into the hole and pulled myself out, then flew through the rest of the drop. Woot! A few more boulder gardens lead to a fun drop, 12 feet or so. It was sweet, as was the fast slide afterwards. The rest of the river was full of fun, technical boulder gardens and excellent lines. When we got to the track leading back to the van we had Damian scurry back to the van as we towed his boat down the rest of the Grade II riffles to the bridge.
Me on the big, steep slide. Fun stuff.