Five Fingers Rapid
Five Fingers follows directly after Island Rapid and preceding the rapid is a big flat pool followed by a low causeway. This is your key landmark for Five Fivers. The causeway can only be paddled over in high water, otherwise it must be portaged on either the left or right bank. Race marshalls will usually be positioned here directing you over or around the causeway. Never attempt to get out onto a causeway. They have a deceptively powerful suction into the pipes on the upstream side and are extremely dangerous! If there is not enough water to paddle over it, get out well clear of it.
Five Fingers is a long rapid made up of 5 drops and knowing where to go makes a big difference, particularly for drops 1 ,2 and 3. If you are going to portage Five Fingers get out at the causeway and head downstream.
After the causeway you enter the approaches to the 1st Drop which leads into a slight dog's leg bend to the left.
The tricky part of the 1st Drop is only towards the end where it is fast and steep. Avoid going centre-left in the main channel.
You have two other options:
- Sneak on the EXTREME left - If the river is running above 35 cumecs (high) you can try the sneak. This option is not as good as it used to be as the channel has changed and it is quite tricky to avoid some prominent rocks.
- Right Hand Channel. There is a clean channel that works at any level, but there are 2 nasty rocks you have to look out for. The first one is relatively easy to see, the second one is not! Go just right of the first bad rock and stay close to it to avoid the rocky ledge on your right. Steer hard right after Bad Rock #1 to avoid "Bad Rock #2". These rocks are about a boat length apart but the current does help you to turn in the direction you need to go. (Note: You can also go left of "Bad Rock #1", but make sure your boat is angled enough to the right to avoid "Bad Rock #2". See sequence below (at 20 cumecs) for details and watch the video form the videos link on the left.
After the 1st Drop the river flows fast over a relatively easy section with small waves for about 50m. You will pass a distinct rock formation on the left bank that is your land mark for the 2nd Drop. It is important to keep left here to avoid hitting some submerged nose breakers as well as to line yourself up well for the 3rd Drop. In high water some big waves form on the right in and after the 2nd Drop which you want to avoid.
The 3rd Drop follows soon after the 2nd and you have two options. Right is easier in low or medium conditions and left is essential in very high conditions. The problems experienced in the 3rd Drop are due to a very large rock that is difficult to see except in low conditions. See how a rise in water level, in the image below, obscures this rock from upstream view:
Most paddlers, who run into trouble here, either go over the rock or broach on it trying to avoid it. Be decisive and go hard either left or right. If you find yourself going right, don't try to change your line and visa versa. Good speed will also help you avoid being spun out by the strong eddies that form on the river bank in high water. In high water you wont see this rock until the last minute.
This image below shows the approach in low water:
The image below shows the approach to Drop #3 in medium water:
[Below is a very useful contribution thanks to James, 20 Dec 2012, level approx 15 cumecs]
Hi - Paddled five fingers today, please tell people to "stay away from centre right line on 3rd drop (one above wrap rock). There is a rock there that if you hit, stops you dead in the water and breaks your nose. It is like a concrete lip of some sort.
The sequence below shows a good line through the 3rd drop and then going right of "The Rock".
In very high water big stoppers and holes develop on the centre line so staying extreme LEFT is essential to avoid the killing zone. Your biggest threat on this left line are the strong eddies against the bank, so keep your nose in the flow to avoid being spun out.
4th and 5th Drop
If you have made it through the top half of Five Fingers then the lower half shouldn't be a problem. The river flattens out and it is easy to read the lines. In very high water keep close to the left bank (ie left of the little islands) to avoid any surprises as a couple of new pour overs and holes form that you may not see in time.