Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Upper Cherry Double

I've heard a lot about Upper Cherry Creek near Yosemite National Park, but none of the hype could possibly have prepared me for just how incredible this granite playground is.

The 11 mile hike in through a lunarscape...

*All photos by John Warner*

Dylan and I drove straight through the night from Crested Butte, Colorado with beta from my buddies Max Kniewasser and Chris Harjes that Upper Cherry was super high, but would come in to a perfect level with a big cold front rolling into the area. Unfortunately, Max and Chris did not know just how cold it was going to get, and about halfway through the brutal hike it started snowing on us. We then recieved the news from some hikers that the high for the next day was 40 degrees, and lows for the next two nights would be in the teens! Needless to say, after 4 non-stop days of paddling in Colorado, a 27 hour drive straight through a night and a half to get to Upper Creek, and only 4 hours of sleeping in the dust before starting the hike, we were freaking demoralized! I had a 40 degree sleeping bag, a couple of good IR thick skin layers(thank God), and another crucial, lifesaving piece of gear, my tent fly. That night was brutal, nothing short of a blizzard hit us at the put-in, and we all hunkered down and shivered it out next to a dying fire. Harjes got the worst of it with no shelter, and the group was feeling rough in the morning.

It got sunny just long enough to coax us into not hiking out, and putting on to paddle down to Cherry Bomb...

Rapid #1, right below camp.

Filming Sam...

As soon as we put on and ran the first couple of the rapids, the snow started falling again, and the temperature plummeted. There was a lot of blowing into hands that day, and praying that we wouldn't swim as we worked our way through the Class IV Gorge, and the Gorilla Gorge.

Upon reaching the top of Cherry Bomb Gorge, the last place to exit before you drop into the 8 or so entrance drops, Cherry Bomb Falls and the next 5 walled in holes, I was feeling super pumped to drop in without the standard walk around and scout the gorge from the top, and Nick Wimsett, an incredible Kiwi paddler who had run Cherry Bomb the previous year, was also in. After a couple of minutes of deliberation, Sam and Dylan decided they were feeling fired up as well, and the four of us left Harjes, John, and Peacher and started paddling into that chasm.

Leaving the point of no return...

Amazing what glaciers can do.

Climbing up to the rock at the lip of Cherry Bomb was pretty incredible, just because that rapid is so legendary and I've always been so impressed with the way it looks in video and photos... and there I was, finally!

Our lines went well through Cherry Bomb and the next series of walled-in holes, and needless to say I was repeating the 7 Rivers Expedition famous line... "left, left, middle, right, right, middle, left". My dorky kayaking video obsession finally paid off!

Dylan givin' er.

Paddling the beautiful teacups coming out of Cherry Bomb Gorge.

Needless to say, in spite of the two nights of blizzards and a couple of big swims, Upper Cherry is one of the most incredible places a kayaker can find him or herself in. We got two runs with a total of 7 days out there on the granite, and I can't wait to go back. I'll let the video do the rest of the talking...

**Thanks to John Warner for use of his images**

Chris Gragtmans

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