Monday, August 3, 2009

Middle Kings

The Middle Kings is a trans-sierra expedition that starts on the east flanks of the Sierra Nevada range in Bishop, California. The 12.6 mile hike to the river starts at South Lake, elevation approx. 9,000 ft, and peaks in the high sierra alpine at Bishop Pass around 12,000 ft. Surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes, high country snow, and bright California sunshine the expedition kayaker is presented with a mentally and physically demanding hike that is only rewarded by the promise of world class whitewater and priceless views. Atop Bishop Pass the wind and water carved peaks truly set the tone for the expansive wilderness and vast distance from civilization that await the adventurer. The downward plunge to the Middle Kings at 8,000 ft proves to be more difficult than the climb and just as beautiful as you are now encapsulated in the majestic Kings Canyon National Park. Passing back down into the tree line one is approached with great optimism as they are provided with their first views of the river. Still a good 1500 ft to go but for the first time in the arduous hike whitewater seems very tangible. Upon reaching the river it is a mere creek of no more than 200 cfs, a humbling wave comes over you as you realize you will be taking off on more than 7 times that flow. Putting on we made our way 3 miles down to Palisade Creek were we would camp, fish, hike and huck, and inevitably spend a lay over day relaxing in the splendors of life amongst the granite peaks. The next day would be a hard one as we made our way down the steepest section of the Kings. Sweet drops and hard portages gave way to camp with another group right before sunset. Camping high and cooking on the fire led to good laughter and even better dreams. The next day we would pull out of camp earlier than our fellow group and right away found ourselves in a blind and committing gorge. Charging hard we reaped the rewards of sweet fader boofs and safe passage through the gorge. The rest of the day would be steady charging through continuous boulder gardens all the way down to Tehipeti Dome where we would once again have a lazy layover day feasting on fresh Rainbow's and getting ready for the notoriously hard bottom 9 miles of Middle Kings. I will share no more information on the Bottom 9 as to keep their lore and mystique alive(its really hard stuff). After reaching the confluence of the Middle and South Kings we celebrated in our safe arrival. Running low on food and energy our last day on the river was spent in the Garlic Falls section with high water, big boulder gardens, and giant holes giving way to a truly amazing journey across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and completing one of the hardest stretches of whitewater in the country.