Whitcombe Heli Kayak NZ

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join some awesome NZ boaters on a West coast heli mission up the Whitcombe River.
Aidan and I set off from Oamaru Friday afternoon after work and arrived late that night in Hokitika.
The next morning we all got up at 5.30 full of enthusiasm (or atleast most of us), got everything together and headed off to meet up with the helicopter.

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There was bad weather on the forecast but we were hoping to get in ahead of it. It looked to be hitting early as the first group took off in the helicopter and there was a moment of fear we would not be able to make enough flights for the whole crew to get up. Luckily we had Bruce Dando as our pilot, who probably knows these valleys better than anyone and he was more than happy to keep shuttling us up.

It was a mainly girls trip with Sophia Mulder, Sarah-Jane Luoni, Kailee Marland, Alli Bray, Rata Lovell-Smith and myself, plus Aidan Haig, Phil Palzer and Glen Murdoch trying to even things out.

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From the moment we landed we were in the weather zone but the river was still at a good level with a bit of a buffer window so everything was looking ideal.
We all hit the water together in our crew, eddy hopping our way through the boogie water and working out group dynamics before we got to the harder rapids. I took my Karma and it proved to be a perfect boat for this run. The speed, volume and stability made easy work of navigating the rapids.

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Once we got down to Colliers gorge things got steeper and we started getting out of our boats to scout and set up safety.
We stopped on one really fun rapid with a nice clean waterfall and decided to do a few laps as the walk back up was manageable.
I did 3 laps, each one better than the next. After the third lap we decided it was best we move on downstream as the river was rising with all the rain. Unfortunately right as we made this decision the guys who were still up top had quite a scenario going on.
Glenn’s boat had made its way into a siphon right next to the lip of the waterfall. Luckily he safely made his way out, but the boat was not in near as good a predicament.

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We ran back up to help with the rescue, eventually realizing the only feasible option to get the boat to budge would be to set up a z-drag right across the river. This required the whole team and about 60m of throw ropes lined together.
We eventually got it set up but were not getting much success out of it, as the boat seemed to have snagged on something in the siphon. The weather kept getting worse and the river was starting to change colour and rising, so we had to abort mission and Glenn had to hike out with two other guys in our crew that were hiking and filming.

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We pulled apart the z-drag and ventured on down river to many more fun rapids but the river was starting to get to the high side of good. We made it down with great success and waited at a side creek for our hikers so we could ferry them across as the side creeks that were now raging.

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We got to our take out happy and tired. We threw our boats on our shoulder and started the big hike back to the cars. It was hard work and caused some pain but for me every moment of it was amazing!
Beautiful country with awesome people, doing what I love!
We made it back up then dropped our boats and went back for our hikers to make sure they were ok.

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All in all it was an epic day and we recapped it all together back at the campground over beer, wine and a mean feed made by the blue angel Sarah-Jane.

Courtney Kerin

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