50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 98

Long Drop Rapid, with its siphons and pour-overs, formed as the river forces its way over, around and under huge boulders which look as if they have been randomly deposited by a giant dump truck, warrants careful scouting before shooting, as it varies greatly depending on the water level. Conditions can also change overnight if logs, trees or man-made obstacles get stuck in the rapid. Long Drop Rapid, looking upstream (above) and downstream (below) No.5&6 Rapid is approximately 12km downstream of Hella Hella bridge. Being on a section that is often raced means that many unsuitable craft make No.5&6’s acquaintance! Long sleek and fast racing craft sweep around the bend and end up bent. Those turns are tight for 17ft, 21ft or - how long is a K3 anyway? - boats with no rocker to speak of. Some paddlers opt to carry around it regardless of water level. 5&6 (or ‘Robbie’s Special’) used to come early on the first day of the marathon and with up to 133km still to go in those old days it was a big decision whether to shoot or carry. Now that it’s on the second day with only 24km to go to the finish a different decision might be made. Often paddlers will mumble “Well, I needed to empty / stretch my legs / have a leak anyway”. Whatever. Rapids are best portaged when you’re not feeling confident about them at the time. UMKO 50 Years ©Jon Ivins No.5&6 has changed considerably over the years. In early times the river had a dependable right channel that would fill as the level rose and run to the right of the rapid proper to 100m below it, making it unnecessary to weave through the trickier main channel. Subsequent floods have scoured out and deepened the main channel and silted up the right bypass channel so the river no longer flows there. Varying water levels open up different possibilities now: Up to a medium level one can follow the main channel, keeping right; At a higher level one can paddle the first half down the left, then rejoin the main channel. Interestingly, this is the only rapid race officials have ever made a compulsory portage on an Umko marathon race. Kingfisher Falls is the only other drop almost everyone will carry their boat around. It is navigable, but few risk it. Plastic boats have shot it and Tony Scott and Malcolm Hall once successfully shot it in 98