Learn to packraft Grade 3 rapids in 3 days

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    Tony Gazley
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    Paddler A had been on an introductory packrafting day in the Sladden Park duck pond, and then completed the intermediate day in the Grade 1 rapids at Poets Park—which also included a couple of trips through the rapids on a tube—because they were that sort of person.

    Paddler T had many years of kayaking and four years of packrafting and should have known better.

    Between the two of them they hatched a scheme to paddle 16 km down the Hutt River on a fine winter’s day from the Whakatiki Street rapids to Sladden Park— because you can. They estimated it would take them between 2½ and 3 hours.

     

    Easy Grade 1 paddling

     

    The top section was straightforward Grade 1 rapids with pleasant slow-moving pools between. But Paddler T knew that the one likely problem on the trip would be the weir just downstream of the Trentham highway bridge. Although Paddler T had kayaked over this weir a lot of times it was a good while ago and any possible difficulties had long since faded from memory. Nevertheless, Paddler T had earlier decided they would portage around the obstacle.

    As they neared the likely location of the weir the river widened and became shallow. Paddler T grounded so got out of their boat and walked, with Paddler A on a leach. As they moved downstream Paddler T decided that they were still well above the weir, or maybe it had been removed, and that it was simply just another everyday rapid ahead.

    Paddler T got back in their boat and off they went for about another 20 m, when suddenly Paddler A, who was in the lead, disappeared head-first from Paddler T’s sight. ‘Oh dear’, it must be the weir thought Paddler T—before heading over the 1.5 m drop and into the standing wave at the bottom themselves, then being propelled into the gnarly Grade 3 rapid downstream which had no clear path through.

    Both Paddler A and Paddler T skillfully(?) managed the drop but then became totally jammed between the rocks with their boats rapidly filling with water. With a great deal of jiggling and much energetic pushing with paddles both Paddler A and Paddler T eventually crashed their way through the rocks to the pool below.

    Paddler A contemplates the Grade 3 descent

    Standing on dry ground looking back they decided that they had got over the weir and through the rapid unscathed either with good luck or great paddling skills (or maybe a mixture), but whatever way chalk up a successful Grade 3 descent for Paddler A on their third day out. Easy as!

    The remainder of the river seemed very easy from there on, but dragged a bit with a head wind that had arrived suddenly, and 4 hours after starting out Paddler A and Paddler T arrived wet, cold, tired and hungry at Sladden Park— but ‘happy as’ with their day on the river. Now to Lesson 4….

     

    • This topic was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Tony Gazley.
    #45369 Reply
    colin
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    cool …

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