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Boofing The Iron Curtain

Saturday, September 03, 2005


September 7th

We finished the Onot River and enjoyed a few days in Onot Village amongst the local culture. The people were extremely hospitable and we have very fond memories of our time there. So this part of our trip has ended. The TV show will be on RUSH HD a channel on the Voom HD Network. We are not ure of the dates yet. It will tell the story of Vadim and Nikki and Tanya, each on very different expeditions. For more information check out and . In conclusion we must say this part of te trip was a great success. It was certainly an adventure for everyone involved. We are all looking forward to the next part of the journey.
John, Fred, and Jules spent the next month in the Altais and had an awesome time paddling the rivers there. Photos taken the Doctor can be seen here-----,2

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Recent Updates- August 7, 2005

New posts are at the top of the page. Scroll down to read the full story.

Day 4 on the Onot- If it wasn't on before, it was on now.

photos by Nikki Kelly- left- looking downstream from the lip of the falls. The next morning all the rocks in the river were underwater. right- The true power of the Onot River.

Night 4 in the Onot River Valley it decided to rain. Really, really rain all night long. We awoke to a different sound from the river. It had risen 1/2 foot in the wide gravel bar area we were camping at. The Grand Canyon was certainly going to be full of water. A rough estimate that our water level had doubled seemed conservative. Still the only option was to move everybody downstream. Anticipation amongst the paddlers to see the new water level in the gorge was high. Looking at the river from camp, it was going to be full-on in the Grand Canyon.

photo by Rob Raker- After a long night of rain getting the fire going

photo by Nikki Kelly- John getting the POV camera ready for action

photo by Nikki Kelly- Maybe Tanya's expression can convey what the kayakers were feeling that morning

The 1km lead in above the canyon reassured the kayakers feelings about water level. The Onot felt like a river now, not so much like the creek it was a day ago. Standing at the lip of the falls was an impressive sight. Yesterday a green pool was at its base, but today it had turned into frothing whitewater.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Yesterday there was a green pool below the falls, not so today

The kayakers descended into the gorge on river left below the falls to look at the next series of rapids. A must make eddy above a nasty rapid feeding water underneath both walls looked very difficult to catch. They decided to head downstream on the canyon rim and look for another entrance. The next possible entrance into the gorge was about 1km downstream. Here the team was at a turning point since the hikers had to climb way high to avoid a series of deep erosion gullies. The kayakers would descend a small tributary and begin paddling the canyon from there.

photo by Rob Raker- Searching for a way back to the river

With the high water level there was concern about a walled in rapid downstream where the river pinched to 3m wide and made a 90 degree left hand corner. Hopefully that rapid was runnable or portageable. Two different and distinct adventures began. The hikers had to ascend 2,000 feet to avoid the gullies.

photo by Rob Raker- Hiking away from the river

photo- There must be some bears around here.

photo by Rob Raker- Don't step in that thing, it could hurt!!!

The kayakers began their descecnt of the canyon moving slowly, always looking for exit points around corners and after rapids. The whitewater was very good, pushy, but mostly class 4. The farther into the canyon , the less options for exit. At one point the canyon makes a sharp right then left turn. It is an amazing feature of river geomorphology, but this corner marked the beginning of the crux. The kayakers caught an eddy on river right above a series of class 5 rapids.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Tanya and Fred contemplating their next move in the canyon

photo by Nikki Kelly- At least Fred has his Astral Bouyancy vest.

Downstream they could see the right had bend and landmarks indicating the rapid in question. Portaging options from this viewpoint looked dismal.

photo by Nikki Kelly- This is greenapple, things are looking a little marginal.....

Fred radioed to John. It went something like this, "John, this is greenapple…..go ahead green apple…….we may be a bit f++ked, over……hold your position I'm going to try to make it to the river…roger, we'll sit tight….good luck."
John and the amazing Rob Raker ditched the trail and dove down the hill towards the river. Jules and Cameron stayed high and continued downstream to find a camping spot, LZ if the helicopter showed up, and start making the frame for a catamaran. Plans to lash the boats together and build a catamaran to float everyone out after the gorge was talked about the previous night.

photo by Rob Raker- John making his way back to the river

A half hour had passed the paddlers waiting and staring at the mess downstream.
"Greenapple, this is john…..copy john 1020?….Look downstream…"

photo by Rob Raker- Look closely on river right and you can see the kayaks

photo by Nikki Kelly- Looking back upstream at one of the hard sections in the canyon

John had made it to the river and could see our next series of moves downstream. He conveyed directions and was able to get to river level above the crux rapid. The kayakers ran the next series of rapids and caught an eddy on river left, happy to see John.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Fred boofing hard, trying not get stuck in the hole

photo by Nikki Kelly- Fred getting some good head cam shots

Scouting the rapid, it looked good to go, a bit marginal, but runnable. John strung a rope down into the pocket that it looked like you would end up in in case anything was going seriously wrong. Tanya went, straight into the pocket, no problem, Nikki went and didn’t even get her head wet, or end up in the pocket, Fred went, and like Tanya went straight into the pocket. A bit of bull-dogging and the two of them were out of the pocket and moving downstream. It couldn't have worked out any better. A true team effort.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Looking down towards the Onot Slot

photo by Nikki Kelly- Looking back up at the Onot Slot. It really was this chaotic looking. A rapid of the nozzle variety

Two more class 5 rapids and a portage and the kayakers were through the crux of the Grand Canyon. Then the beating sound of the chopper. It was back just in time to see all the action go down. The heli picked up Cameron and Jules and the radioed to the kayakers where the LZ was. A few more kilometers downstream and we were at camp. However the adventure for John and Rob was really just beginning at 7:30 pm. They had a hellacious hike to get downstream. Even swimming rapids to get around walled out corners. The story is a bit epic you'll have to ask them about it sometime. Just before dark they reached camp. Scott had left us a care package of oranges, chocolate, and vodka….another good day on the Onot.
photo by Nikki Kelly- Everyone reunited after a long day, enjoying the resupply from the heli

photo by Nikki Kelly- Yummy food!!

photo by Nikki Kelly- Treated to a colorful sky after the Grand Canyon

photo by Rob Raker- John heading to the chopper for a ride to the next renezvous- No more hiking

Onot River Days 2 and 3 -- Let The Fun Begin

Some places just have a mysterious air about them. The Onot is no exception.
photo by Rob Raker- Everybody at camp the night before things got interesting from left to right: Angus, Tanya, Jules, John, Nikki, Fred, Fyodor, and Scott

We awoke the next morning excited to drop into the "Long Gorge" The water level was dropping and there were several enticing rapids within its walls. We decided to leave our gear at a point in the gorge we were anticipating to portage. It would be much easier to haul lights boats up the wall then load them up and re-enter the gorge 100 meters downstream. The portage rapid was a very difficult, but runnable 10m falls with a hard entrance and committing landing zone. Still up for grabs for anyone bent on hucking their meat in the middle of nowhere.
After the put-in shot we headed downstream towards the entrance of the gorge. John got out to film Nikki, Tanya, and Fred running the first rapid in the gorge.

photo by Fred Coriell- Checking exposure while waiting for John the run the rapid......

Things were going great. Then someone yelled boat in the water. Those of us downstream were a bit confused because John was still on shore. His boat came bobbing over the entrance rapid and filled with water. The short pool it was in was pushing towards the next series of rapids that ended in a river wide sieve. No one could get the boat out of the river. John even jumped in just above the next rapid but to no avail. His boat washed through the rapids and pinned in a slot on river left. We tried to pull it off with a z-drag, but there were limited anchors in the granite gorge. It lodged further underneath the surface and was fully pancaked by the water pressure.

photo by Rob Raker- The team working with limited anchors to put a 500kg of pressure on the pinned kayak.

At that point John made the decision to leave his boat and continue downstream on foot. He cut the boat loose and we met up with the film crew to discuss what had happened. We soon found out that John's boat was not the only problem. The helicopter had no electronics working. Fyodor (the pilot), with Scott and Angus limped the machine back to Onot Village. The only radio transmission we heard was, "the helicopter is having mechanical problems… crackle, crackle,……." This as well was a problem. Now there were 7 people, 3 kayaks, and fortunately the food resupply was still at the LZ. Of course, the show must go on. We decided to spend a day at the LZ and see if the heli flew back the next morning. This is where Tanya discovered the ruarb. That night we ate the best tasting rubarb pie ever.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Tanya picking some nice and ripe rubarb.
photo by Nikki Kelly- An outdoor culinary masterpiece, by Tanya Faux

The next morning the helicopter didn't show. So the whole team head downstream. Rob Raker and John had their cameras (to keep the filming project rolling), as well as Cameron (Northface photographer), and mighty Jules was there for river support. To make up for some lost time the three remaining kayakers portaged their boats to the lowering point below the 10m falls and began the descent of the "Long Gorge."
photo by, well Fred was holding the camera- The three getting ready to drop into the gorge

photo by Nikki Kelly- Tanya guiding boats down the gully towards the river

photo by Rob Raker- Everybody ready to go in he Long Gorge

photo by Nikki Kelly- Rapid below the lowering point

photo by Rob Raker- Looking down the Long Gorge

John walked the canyon on river left and the rest of the crew on river right. There were several good rapids in the gorge. And John was able to reach the water for the more difficult sections of whitewater. It was good to still be four strong in this place.

photo by Fred Coriell- Nikki entering a fun rapid

photo by Fred Coriell- Lovin it, oh yeah, that's rad

photo by Fred Coriell- Nikki and Tanya shooting the rapids

photo by Fred Coriell- What a picturesque place.

photo by Fred Coriell- Aren't they cute, the ladies relaxing after the whitewater

photo by Rob Raker- The ladies collecting jade at lunch time

After a long, but successful day everyone had made to the top of the Grand Canyon of the Onot. Still no sign of the chopper. That evening a few people walked downstream to have their first look at the 25m falls that marked the beginning of the Grand Canyon.

photo by Nikki Kelly- John contemplates the chance of success if you decided to run it.

photo by Nikki Kelly- John filming on the lip of the big one.

So if the Onot was not an interesting trip already then it was only about to get better………

The Onot River- Beginning the Journey

Sometimes things are inconsistent in Russia.....

Our departure time was no exception. We were scheduled to leave at 9:00 AM directly after the local government's O.K. that weather conditions were acceptable for helicopter flight. Locked and loaded at 8:00 AM we met up with the film crew at the Baikal Hotel and began the hurry up and wait process.

photo by Rob Raker- Hurry up and wait, everyone prepared, but no where to go.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Fred and Tanya seeing who has the best down dog

Being that our Russian is novice at best our translator instructed the helicopter operator to call our driver and give him the undisclosed location at the undisclosed time where we were meant to meet our helicopter that would in turn fly us to the headwaters of the Onot River. Finally at 4:20PM a full seven hours and 20 minutes late the call came in and we hurried into our van. After driving in circles for about 15 minutes our driver stopped on the side of the road somewhere on the edges of Irkutsk. About 10 minutes later a Mercedes, Land Rover and mini-van with a team of large Russians showed up and we began our drive, full entourage style, rolling deep, to the undisclosed location. Let's just leave it at our helicopter owner preferred to protect his investment with men of his own brotherhood.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Being escorted to the undisclosed location

Upon arrival in a field somewhere on the outskirts of Irkutsk we were greeted by more mini-vans with more men, 10 minutes later we heard thunderous sound of our ride to the Onot River.
sorry- requested to remove MI-8 photos
photo by Nikki Kelly- Fred and John walking out to the Mi-8 Russian military helicopter

The power of the Mi-8 Russian military helicopter was incredible. With all of our kayaks, gear, food and supplies along with that of the film crew we lifted off. The helicopter simply stated put us back in our seats.

photo by Rob Raker- The crew with the owner on the way inside the Mi 8

photo by Rob Raker- Nikki and Jules enjoying the romminess of the MI-8

photo by Nikki Kelly- John peering out one of the window portals

photo by Nikki Kelly- Tanya plugging her ears hoping to dampen the noise of the Mi-8. Should have brought some ear plugs

photo by Nikki Kelly- The one, the only Rob Raker

The ride deep into the heart of the Sayan Mountains was nothing short of spectacular.

photo by Nikki Kelly- A typical stunning view of the Onot river valley

photo by Nikki Kelly- A close up view of some peaks way above the tree line

After about an hour of stunning Siberian scenery we sat down at our planned dropoff high in the headwaters of the Onot. After a brief scan of the flow we determined the water had dropped significantly from our scouting trip and a further downstream dropoff was needed. Although we would miss one very cool looking rapid hours of boat scrapping and dragging would be avoided putting in below the next tributary as well as putting us back on schedule after our late departure time.
sorry-requested to remove mi-8 photos
photo by Nikki Kelly- John explaining we gotta go about 10 k downstream, the water is too low
sorry- requested to remove MI-8 photo
photo by Nikki Kelly- Badass helicopter

We unloaded all our gear under the constant thunder of the Mi-8 turbines. Then just as suddenly as all the organized chaos and noise began, it ended. The Mi-8 took off and we were alone starring at one of the most wicked ridgeline vistas any of us had ever seen.

photo by Nikki Kelly- View from our dropoff point, pretty spectacular

Then out of nowhere the film crew dropped in. As it turned out they were some distance back documenting in full high defenition our ride to the put-in.

photo by Nikki Kelly- The film crew setting down in the EC-120

photo by Nikki Kelly- Angus Yates the director of the Voom HD Original film happy to be on the ground

We slept under clear skies in conditions that could best be described as chilly. Day one on the Onot River was tomorrow and the whole crew of kayakers, filmers, and support were pretty excited.
The next morning everyone was up early. There was a lot to get ready for the day ahead. The kayakers planned to make it all of the way to the top of the "Long Gorge" by days end. A full 18 km of paddling and a film crew being shuttled around by the heli to position for different shots is not exactly a fast-paced production. To kill time the kayakers took the traditional put-in photo and soon enough Angus yelled action and off they went down the Onot River.
photo by Cameron Lawson- The crew at the put-in

A few k's of flat water and some shallow warm-up rapids we were finally at the first substantial rapid. Bitchin' Boof proved to be truly bitchin'. We all had to run it a couple of times before heading downstream.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Bitchin' Boof, oh yeah, Tanya pulling off the lip

photo by NIkki Kelly- John in the entrance

photo by Nikki Kelly- Boofing

photo by Nikki Kelly- Still boofing

photo by Nikki Kelly- Go Tanya

What awaited us the rest of the day none of us could really have imagined. For an hour straight we paddled read and run class 4 with the occasional steeper rapid to make things interesting. Not once did we need to scout from shore and the heli hovered keeping us just out of its rotor wash for Scott to get some sweet aerial action shots.
We caught our breath at "Monolithic Rock," then continued downstream towards the gorges. The Onot makes a dramatic turn northwards above the gorges. Here the river character was beginning to change. Granite walls occasionally lined the bank. Long, clean boulder gardens reminiscent of low-elevation California boating made up the last few kilometers above the "Long Gorge." We were met by the film crew above the gorge and with much anticipation and excitement dashed downstream to have a look within its walls.

photo by Nikki Kelly- Looking into the "Long Gorge"

photo by Nikki Kelly- Jules checking out the 30-footer in the Gorge

We camped away from the river in the only LZ that Fyodor could find for his chopper. It was typical taiga swampland and tent real estate was a hot commodity. Going to bed after such a great day none of us were expecting what was about to go down over the next couple of days. The story of the Onot was just beginning…………

photo by Nikki Kelly- Looking at the incredible landscape near the bend in the Onot