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Japan 2012

The Kiytotsugawa is the only river that we've heard a lot about. It flows through kind of the Grand Canyon of Japan. It also gets a low of snow slides in the canyon, and snow bridges are common. Not all are guaranteed to be runnable or portagable. Talk about an element of the unknown. While mostly a class IV run, the Kiytotsu Canyon also has one mandatory class V rapid with a nasty eddy hole, and a half hour portage around a big siphon. If that's not enough to get any kayaker excited, I don't know what is.

The river started of meandering through some beautiful easy whitewater and slowly dropped into the canyon.  Just as the walls rose above the river, the scale of whitewater increased and we were running some high quality, pushy, walled out rapids. We scramble into an eddy with vertical walls on both sides. Lincoln and I ferry across to scout the infamous rapid. It's tough to get out and scout in this canyon, we have to climb out of our kayaks in a crack and keep them on rope while scouting. Thankfully all looks good, even at this fairly high flow.

Yoshihiro Takahashi enters the crux rapid.

Each team member successfully battles through the rapid, a few getting solid cycles in the eddy but paddle out. It's a good thing because there is nowhere to get out downstream and swimming is very dangerous. A few more mandatory but clean rapids follow, one a big, blind melting move. Go fast and hope for the best.

Heath Weir and Lincoln Taylor below the toughest Kiyotsu section.

No way out down here, Diane Gaydos goes right of a ledge hole.

Briefly things open up and the whitewater takes a step back. Open up is a relative term, hiking out might be possible down here but it certainly would not be easy.

Daniel Brasuell in the open section.

We've been waiting for a snow bridge all day with mixed emotions. The first one doesn't look too good. The river goes through a rapid and around a corner, all while under a snow bridge. The only safe thing to do is portage. It takes some creative work to get back in the river.

Soon we drop into the second section of rapids that verge on class V. A long class IV rapid leads into a couple soft holes.


Now it's time to portage. It's not a simple stroll, and we are covered in sweat by the end.

Lincon in the middle of it.

Downstream we rejoice seeing a nice friendly snow bridge. Always wanted to do this!

Lincon in the one of a kind Kiyotsu Canyon.

Laura Farrell heading into an ominous snow bridge.

Intimidating. No light can be seen under the snow bridge from above. Portage options are suspect to say the least. With a little eddy hopping the team spreads out and probes into the darkness. All is good, a hundred yards later there is light. The roof of the bridge is just high enough to pass through, I can reach up and touch the ceiling.
Diane Gaydos

Shannamar Dewey makes friends and take-out and learns about kimono weaving.

As a reward we take in a traditional dinner.

Team Onsen after a memorable day.

Daniel Brasuell's video from the Kiyotsugawa

On to the Shimagawa

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