Since Lars and Chuck started making speed descents in the Sierra Nevada of California in the 80’s, they have been one of the most controversial and exciting topics in the sport. Here is my attempt at the top ten California speed descents with associated top times. Only runs completed in a single day are considered here.
Please note that this is an open ended discussion to compile a reference sheet for California speed descents. I can only imagine that what I put out as this first draft for my peers to review will change as new information comes to light. Thanks in advance for all comments, suggestions, and Feed Back.
1. Middle Kings – Up to 7000 vertical feet of kayaking with a 12 mile hike in. There may be nothing in the world that can come close to this in a single day.
a). John Grace and Tommy Hilke (2007?) – South Lake Trail Head to Yucca Point Trail Head – 19hrs
b). Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic (2010) – South Lake Trail Head to Garnet Dyke Camp Ground – 17hrs 30mins
2. Fantasy Falls - With 3200 vertical feet and 20 miles of some of the best kayaking on the planet hands down Fantasy get’s my nod for number 2 on the list. It may not be the most strenuous on the list because there is no hike in, but it is definitely the most fun!
a.) Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic (2011) – Hw4 to Salt Springs Damn – 6hrs 30mins
3. Upper Cherry Creek - With a relatively easy 9 mile hike in and 2400 vertical feet of the smoothest creeking on the Planet with just two short portages, upper Cherry is the best way that I know of to be your own personal kayaking super hero. It is also a good warm up for a Middle Kings one day.
a). Tommy Hilke, John Grand, and others? (2007) – Putin 1.5 miles downstream from lords meadow and take out on Cherry Reservoir – 9hrs?
b). Forrest Noble, Chris Korbulic, and Jared Johnson (2011) – Putin at Lord meadow and take out on Cherry Reservoir – 10hrs?
4. Royal Gorge - With all these big waterfalls it’s a monster to attempt in a single day whether you are walking or running. And as far as I know it’s only been done once.
a.) Ben Coleman and Jonny Kentucky (2010?) – The Cedars to Generation Gap Trail Head – 10hrs?
5.) South Branch of the Middle Feather – Put this in your noodle and try not to let it fry your brain. The South Branch of the Feather drops 3100 feet in 6 miles and can probably be done in under 3 hours.
a.) Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesberry (2009) – Top to bottom – 6hr
6.) Dinky Creek – It’s a long drive from where most of us live, but as much as it pains me to say, it is worth it. How sweet would it be to make three Dinky one days over a long weekend? Answer: If your back holds up it would be really sweet!
a.) I have done it in a group led by CK and it took us 6 hours. I know there are faster times out there. Maybe 3hrs?
7.) South Merced - I’ve never done the South Merced probably do to my Feather River bias. From all I have heard it’s an amazing run with little or no portaging that drop 2600 vertical feet in 23 miles. A blazing time for put up by Lars and Chuck from the Mid 80’s set the standard for California speed runs.
a). Lars Holbek and Chuck Stanley (1986??) – Standard Run – 4hrs 15mins
b). Jared Johnson and Nate Ballenger (2007) – Standard Run* – 4hrs 16 mins (*Worth noting that this was part of Nate’s Historic one day of both the South Merced by kayak and trad climbing the nose in a single day)
8. Upper North Fork San Joaquin – With a 10-mile hike in and 6 miles down and a brutal 3 mile hike back out this one seems to brutal to be considered a real classic one day. That’s probably why Chris Korbulic is the only one to have done it.
a). Chris Korbulic (solo)(2010) – 7.5hrs
9. Big Kimshew and Secret Stash – 2500 vertical feet and Zero portages is something no other run on this list can booste. Don’t believe it’s this good? Try it!
a.) Taylor Robertson and Jason Hale (2010) – 3hrs 15mins
10. Golden Gate – In the mid 80’s Lars along with Chuck(?) reportedly blazed down this stout 9-mile run in 90 minutes. My question is has it ever been done faster?
a.) Lars Holbek and Chuck Stanley(1985?) – Standard Run – 1.5 hours