Perth River (Scone Hut)
|Stretch:||Scone Hut to Five Fingers drop off point|
|Distance:||2.5 miles (plus 8.4 below Five Fingers drop-off)|
|Flows:||~500 to ~1,000 cfs at put-in|
|Gradient:||246 fpm from Mi 0.9 to 2.5|
|Take-out:||Near Highway 6 bridge over the Whataroa|
|Featured in A Wet State #124|
New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 13:
I am sure I will catch a world of grief for breaking this into two runs, so I am going to start with my rational for it. I was very surprised on my trip, how many people make New Zealand a class IV destination. I always pictured it in my head as a solid class V destination and because of that was afraid to come here for years (due to the sieves of course). But little did I know that the class IV is not only plentiful but also quality. And on the Perth, we had half of our group as only class IV boaters who flew into the lower put-in and got to enjoy a few hours of classic paddling as well as the prettiest of the gorges on the Perth. So, rather than leaving these options as a footnote in the guidebook, I wanted to bring more attention to it, so that more people can enjoy these runs. OK, so with that out of the way…
The Perth is a classic. Absolutely. It is also much stouter than I think we realized. We did not have anyone that knew the run and with the build up that we all had experienced over years in the sport, with the sieves that are ever changing, we did not want to take chances. We were having someone hop out and provide verbal for the first few smaller rapids, just to be careful, but even that wasn’t enough as one in our group flipped and was rejected by their roll and was swept into the next rapid, resulting in a swim. As we gave chase, two more of us dropped into a blind hole with the recirculating boat, with one of us swimming. Another who was chasing in the water rather than the shore came in close behind and dropped into the same hole. The first swimmer got out at the lip, so that left 4 boats, one with a kayaker still in it, and two swimmers in the hole. I flushed first along with 2 paddles which I threw towards an eddy as I began swimming frantically out of the current. I managed to crack climb up a sieve to get out at the lip of the next rapid. The other swimmer went under a boulder and popped up in the eddy with the paddles. We then ran up to the boater who was still in their boat in the hole, Diane had them on a rope but was unable to extract. So Dom leaned in and grabbed his boat while I grabbed Dom’s life jacket and we yanked him straight up the boulder. Diane’s boat was then floating downstream so I took off after it hoping to get it before it pinned too bad. 100 yards and a few rapids downstream I find it in a poor over just out of reach form the shore. Luckily after no more than 2 minutes Mikel comes down and is able to attach a rope to me so I can live bait in to pull the boat out. It turns out that Jo went through a similar activity with Diane up at the top hole to get Dom and my boats out of the hole. So… somehow, despite 3 out of 5 swimming, and 1 of the non swimmers being extracted vertically out of the hole, we only lost 1 waterbottle. No other gear lost. But… we did lose some of our confidence. Two of us ran the next rapid, I did it more to get back on the horse rather than a real desire. But a few rapids later my mental game wasn’t solid, I was shakey in the boat, as were a few others, and we began to portage more often. It really is too bad. In hindsight now from the comfort of my home weeks later, I wish I had run more of it. But you gotta make the decision with all factors which are affecting you. I am sure I made the safest decision so I really shouldn’t doubt that.
As you are flying over the crux section it will look short. We were surprised at how long it felt on the water. This is probably because we turned to group scouts and full safety on every rapid. I know if you are following someone who knows the lines you can finish this section in an hour. For us, it took us over 3 hours. Our friends who had flown into the Five Fingers drop point (downstream a km from the Five Fingers Creek) had expected us in 1.5 hours or so and were happy to see us scouting the last significant rapid, but also were tired of waiting and began floating downstream rather than waiting for us to pass the final hurdle. We caught up to them downstream just prior to Nolan’s Hut where we planned to sleep that night.
The river is non-stop. Not much is class V in its own right in all honesty. But there are literally no pools once you are in the crux section. It is big rapid into big rapid. Swims tend to be long experiences where gear is lost and people get out of the river with wide eyes. So, be prepared to scout a lot, or have someone tell you the lines and make sure you get the eddies between the main rapids. I would say it is a full step harder than the Arahura though, just for perspective.
Most people if they want to overnight on the Perth go into the Upper Perth and sleep at Scone Hutt. The action up top is solid, and the scenery at Scone is awesome. But we were told this year the new helicopter pilot wasn’t yet allowed to fly that high up the canyon so we opted instead to turn just this lower section into an overnighter. As it turned out I guess it was the right call for us anyways.
Previous: New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 12 - Arahura
Next: New Zealand 2016/2017 Day 14 - Perth (Five Fingers)
- Mellow boogie fills the first bit, nice to warm-up on.
- First (IV). I remember the first one was easy but had some sieves on the right. Trying to be safe, we scouted it as it was blind from above. It was an s-turn right to left. It then calmed down, around the next corner was another blind drop that we ran far right to boof the exit.
Second (IV+). The second one we had one-person scout on the right and give verbal. There were two narrow chutes, we went down the left one and caught an eddy on the right. This is where Diane flipped and this shit show started. There was one small ledge just downstream that led to a small pool above the next rapid.
Third (IV+). There are two channels, the main channel (to the left) should be run and the hole boofed. Our shit show happened in the right channel. The hole really isn’t that big, I bet if there wasn’t a boat or three in there, it would have been find. Just below, the river drops off a small ramper with a weird nub on the left and right. The caldron you land in isn’t super chaotic but just make sure you exit right and not get pushed left into the sieves. A small s-turn then leads to an eddy on the right.
- First Big One (V). We chose to walk this one. The lead in was junky leading to a very fast ramp which flushed immediately off a rock wall, the right side of which led to a very large sieve. We weren’t certain about carrying our speed to the center and boofing the middle slot, nor were we certain about boof in front of the sieve. I am sure it goes, but we all had our confidence shaken after the shit show 1.5 rapids above.
- Long Boogie (IV). We did a long scout on this one to ensure it was clean at the bottom. A long section of boogie was best run down the left of center, punch a few holes. This then ramps off into a pinch that forms between boulders. Know that the right shore is sieves out here.
Pre-Triple Drop (IV+). We scouted this one on the right and from the island. We ran it two different ways. The first was in the main flow, down center/right at the top and working left at the bottom. Note, it is important to catch the eddy just below on the left or to really power straight and boof the next hole, it is one of the biggest and most dangerous looking on the run.
- Triple Drop (V). Scout this section on the left. The first drop is the hole mentioned above. Only one in our group ran it. Just boof the crap out of it and don’t get stuck as I doubt you would come out without a rope. Downstream the river drops off a 7 foot tall ledge, run right of center off the cleanest part of the boof. Downstream the river splits and the left is the ideal line moving right to left through the slot. Eddy out below on the left. Below, we ferried out and ran one small drop far right to avoid a meaty hole in the middle.
- Ramp #1 (IV+ to V-). On a left bend, the river starts a little junky and then picks up steam. Just above the main drop is a sticky hole that isn’t too bad to boof over down the center/left. Avoid going too far left as the rock wall sticks out and it is backed up. Just below, the river drops off a ledge that is best to be far left. The right side is clean but then pushes towards the right which has some horrible sieves in it. Entering it left ensures you stay away from those. Once in it, the left side ramps down into a hole that is backed up by rocks, be left of center pointing left to flush into the eddy below. Also note, the eddy there pulls back up under the house size rock on the left. A swim could be very dangerous here.
- Ramp #2 (IV+ to V-). This rapid was on a right turn, we scouted on the left. The rapid started with a ramp down center/left and then planed out into a cascade drop. Just don’t flip as it looks shallow!
S-Turn (IV+). Just downstream was a pushy S-turn that we ran far left.
- Portage (V+). The biggest rapid on the run, I am not sure if it is ever run, it is huge. It is also where Five Fingers Creek enters on the left. We portaged fairly easily on the left.
- Hole (IV+). Immediately downstream was a rapid that had a rather large hole down its gut. We opted instead to drive to the right (in the entry, right most channel) which was a shallower portion of the rapid and then boof around the hole on the far right.
- Double Hole (IV+ to V-). The next rapid downstream sported two stout holes. We were running late by now so rather than scouting properly and setting safety, we portaged as it was a 5 second portage on the right. It definitely went though!
- Slot (IV+). We thought that the river opened up immediately below and that we were done. It does open. You aren’t done though. This rapid had a right to left class III move or you could go through the slot that was only a boat width. Somewhere in here is an undercut that people “see Jesus or Elvis” when they go under. I am not sure if it is this one or the one downstream.
- Creek Rapid (V). One of the junkier rapids of the run comes at the endof the short valley. A creek enters on the right, and it is time to scout. The rapids starts easy enough before cascading down a folding seam left of center. There are sieves in the center and the right. Both in our group that ran it flipped. They didn’t sell it. The rest of us walked on the right.
Junky But Fun (IV+ to V-). Downstream is a long rapid that starts as class III/IV and terminates class IV+. We worked our way down the left to an eddy above the main drop. The smaller left channel cascades down to the main current on the right. We then boofed the sticky bottom ledge either far right or far left. There are sieves abound in this rapid.
- Undercut (V). We weren’t sure if this was the Jesus or Elvis rock… the river drops through a wide slot and hits a rock, there was for sure water going under it. Though the line was straight forward enough. If this isn’t the Jesus or Elvis Rock then the rapid is not class V.
- Top of the Five Fingers Island. From the drop off spot, you can walk up the island to this spot. See the write-up for this section down.
Take-out for the downriver section: The take-out is about 1 hour south on Highway 6 from Hokitika. Immediately after crossing the Whataroa River (about 1 km before the town of Whataroa) turn left onto the first road and follow for 1.6 km to the helicopter companies parking area. This is take-out.
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