Saturday, December 18, 2004

Rio Futaleufu - Chile

Tyler Brandt and other World Class Academy students spend the afternoon studying the airblunt. Futaleufu's best access playspot, La Pistola - February 2004. Posted by Hello

When is the time to kayak the Futa? - usually a phrase pondered by anyone who has heard of and may want to visit the legendary Futaluefu river found in Patagonian Chile. The Futaleufu is found in a region of Chile where the sea is less than 100km away from the country's border with Argentina. Up in the valley the Futaleufu receives heavy precipitation coming in from the coast most of the year, making the river often exceed flows of 30,000 cfs. However in the months of December through March, the summer heat and shifting winds keep the clouds away long enough for summer to prosper as water levels drop and the radiant blue colors of the Futaleufu appear.

Lush riverbanks and jagged peaks surround the Futaleufu valley, Chile. Posted by Hello

It is finally this far south on the South American continent where the Andes are low enough that it allows for a river to drain from the opposite side of the mountains in Argentina. Starting from many lakes and small creeks near Esquel, Argentina, the Futaleufu meanders along the dry arid pampa, but soon it turns back to the West. As the Futaleufu crosses into Chile, it enters a magnificent valley surrounded by towering peaks and begins a quick yet thunderous flow down to Lago Yelcho, where the town of Chaiten and the Pacific Ocean are only 50km away. The 3 main sections of river that most paddlers hope to experience include Infierno Canyon to Rio Azul, Rio Azul down to Puente Colgante (which includes Terminator and the Himalayas) and the most non-stop wave action found on the bridge (Peunte Colgante) to next road bridge or further downstream to the Casa de Peidra rapid.

Tom Faucher finds a wave on the Bridge to Bridge section of the Rio Futaleufu, Chile. Posted by Hello

Those looking to package the most of Chile into the shortest of paddling vacations can often make a visit to Futaleufu in as little as 10 days thanks to easy flights and routine shuttlebus service up to the town of Futaleufu from the inner coastal town of Chaiten. From other kayaking spots farther north like Pucon, getting to Futa presents a couple of choices. The popular option if you can afford it is to rent a 4 door pick-up in Chile and drive it across the border and head directly south along the scenic eastern slopes of Argentina. There are no connecting roads through Chile unless you use the ferry system and having your own shuttle vehicle in the Futa valley gives you the freedom to paddle and camp whenever, wherever. The only negative is that the car rental price will have an added charge for authorization to cross the borders. Taking the ferry or flying from Puerto Montt to Chaiten is probably the more direct route to Futaleufu if you are alone or without a car.

Summer in the town of Futaleufu, Chile. Posted by Hello

If you arrive without a place to stay an excellent choice is to pitch a tent at Campo del Indio, which is one of the few settlements located along the lower bridge to bridge (III-IV) run. Luis Mundaca has farmed here with his family for many generations. From a few meters from your camp near the water's edge, you can put in directly above one of Futaleufu's largest crashing wave, paddle 5km of great rapids, and at the very worst have a quiet walk along the road back up to your tent. Throughout the months of January and February the area usually has a group of paddlers around to run into. On the upper stretches of the Rio Futaleufu you will find larger camps belonging to Bio Bio, Earth River, and Expediciones Chile. Before long the road passes through the quiet village also with the name of Futaleufu, where you can purchase food, other services and accommodation. Click here for a simple map of the Rio Futaleufu's named rapids and features.

Scott Fiendel. Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Rio Yeso - Chile

2 hours from the Santiago airport and already in a Chilean whitewater dream. Posted by Hello

Those looking for some excellent creeking won't have to travel far once they arrive in Chile. The Yeso, which means Gypsum in Spanish, is one of the 3 main tributaries making up the Maipo river system coming out of the high central Nevado mountains immediately South of metropolitan Santiago. From the big city, it takes less than 45 minutes of paved travel before you come to the quaint town of San Jose del Maipo. From San Jose, continue upstream along the Maipo river about 20km until you cross the Rio Yeso bridge, marking the take-out for the Yeso and the put-in for the upper (IV-V) Rio Maipo run. The Yeso pounds down this steep valley when the snow begins to melt in November and December, but normally the creek settles down to a manageable flow throughout the summer months. Just upstream from the take-out is the Yeso's crux section, a long (V) maze of boulders and steep endless whitewater. It is worth walking upstream to check this stretch out because at higher flows it has been known to ruin the days of kayakers who enjoy eddy hopping.

The last section of the Rio Yeso at lower flows. Posted by Hello

Although the road turns to dirt at this point, the logistics from here are still very simple. Take your first left once you continue on from the Yeso bridge and you will immediately want to scout the canyon below. Upsream of the canyon, the valley opens up and the Yeso turns into a low volume bouncy (IV) run until you can observe the gradient going off the scale about 6km up the road. At this point you will need to find a good route scrambling on foot down the open banks of the Yeso until you reach the creek. For more information about the Yeso, Rio Volcan and Maipo drainages stop by HOT RIVER rafting expeditions (4km upstream of San Jose del Maipo) and say hello to Alexi and his Belgian raft guide David Joos. David has been living and working in the Maipo valley since 2002 and can be found playboating on the Maipo throughout the year.

David Joos on the upper reaches of the Rio Yeso, Chile. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Rio Cai - Brazil.

The sun drops behind the horizon in the Pantanal, Brazil.

Canadians and Americans familair with their country's size and diversity will be impressed with the similarities found in Brazil. Although we commonly associate Brazil with beaches, bikinis and soccer fanatics, there are also many low mountain ranges with excellent river drainages stretching from the far south all the way until the great Amazon Basin thousands of kilometers to the north. While in Argentina a friend spoke about the town of Tres Coroas and some rivers nearby, so Michelle and I decided to make this the first stop on our road trip through Brazil.

Paddling the waterways of Brazil could mean paddling with 100 pound Capybara rodents.

Our adventure in Brazil began the day after we came up through Uruguay and entered the province of Rio Grande do Sul. After many hours driving past Capybaras and drunk cyclists, Tres Coroas was finally loacated and soon after we were welcomed by Marcos Paredes, founder of Canoe which is a national brand of kayaking gear made locally. Marcos was a former Brazilian national slalom team paddler and he was excited to see some foreign paddlers in his country. He explained that although slalom is very competitive and supported in Brazil, playboating and river running is still developing. Kayaking gear is limited and getting things from other countries requires paying a ridiculous import tax of 100%. Just recently a Brazilian kayak manufacturer started making boats, but besides the annual kayak rodeo organized by Marcus in Tres Coroas, whitewater kayaking is developing gradually in Brazil. What Tres Coroas did provide was an interesting dam controlled class II-III run with a good playspot that we spent a few days at. It was also the Rio Cai (Kai-yee) nearby however that Marcos was hoping we could get down after some more rain.

Good times on the Rio Cai in Southern Brazil.

The Rio Cai turned out to be a medium volume class III+ river in a remote subtropical setting. There is also a nice waterfall and a couple of more difficult rapids in the middle of the section make this 20km stretch interesting. It was a great feeling to be running rapids in an environment so unfamiliar and exotic. The upper reaches of the Rio Cai have even more gradient and according to Marcus this section has yet to see a team of kayakers. Paddling around Tres Coroas was only the beginning to our 6 week 7000km ramble across the Brazilian backroads. Facing the uncertainty of big cities, dangerous roads and a different language, Brazil was a country filled with amazing hospitality, helpful citizens and some quality paddling.

For most kayakers trying to check out Brazilian paddling without a car, they will probably find that the rivers are rather distant from each other compared to places such as Chile or Ecuador. But assuming you are flying into the two major Brazilian cities, there are a couple of good places to check out. If you find yourself in Sao Paulo looking to paddle, you might want to venture north up to Brotas. Brotas has only one river but there are some local Brazilian paddlers who will be stoked to show you some fun whitewater while monkey's climb above in the trees. Paulo is a kayaker from Brotas who has a rafting company called 'Tribu di Agua'. If you fly into Rio de Janeiro, head east along the coastal highway until Casimiro de Abreu. There you will find Adventuras Canoar. Breno who owns Canoar is an avid kayaker, and the Rio Macae is an unknown classic that flows by his camp.

The Rio Jacare located in Brotas, Brazil.

Thanks to our Brazilian friends who showed us a river or two, and expect a lot more whitewater discovery in Brazil to happen in the near future. You can read about some other experiences we had in Brazil along with the rest of our adventure by checking out Michelle's travel blog.

Some other rivers to paddle in Brazil include:

Rio Itajai do Sul (III-V) - Ibirama, Santa Catarina province.
Rio Iapo (II-V) - Tibagi, Parana province.
Rio Bonito (II-III) - Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul province.

Another river in Brazil known to have some good whitewater is located north in the Tocantins province - Rio Jalapao. There is also some good creeking to be had in the south just inland from Florianopolis.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Rio Apurimac - Peru

The Rio Apurimac is the source of the world's longest river, the great Rio Amazonas. Flowing North from a ridge of high andean peaks which separate its headwaters with the Rio Colca drainage, the Apurimac penetrates deep into the high Altiplano creating another amazing abyss twice as a deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA.

An Andean Condor soars high above the rivers which create the deep canyons of Peru. Posted by Hello

From Cusco, the commercially rafted section of the Apurimac is a convenient 3-4hr ride by bus and although the rafting trips take 3-4 days to complete, the length of the run is less than 40km and can be kayaked in two days. Basically the paddling season begins when the rains come to a stop in June (navigable high water), and ends in October (low water). Even if you haven't come to Peru with the main purpose of paddling, upon reaching Cusco, you will be amazed to discover that next to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trial, rafting the Apurimac is the next place of interest among thrill seekers from abroad. Although low safety standards do exist on a river with numerous class IV hazards and rock sieves, you can experience a 3-4 day raft trip down one of the deepest canyons in the world for less than 175.oo Cdn. As a recommendation, stay safe by NOT paddling "Dolore de Muela", a sketchy and long class V that for some reason Peruvians take their guests down until somebody dies!

Another salad tossing about to happen in the Baticueva hole on the Rio Apurimac, Peru. Posted by Hello

When Michelle and I drove into Cusco in August 2003 with kayaks on our van, we were quickly confronted by Peruvian raft guides who were very informative and genuinley nice. Before the night was through I had been asked by Willy from Southern Rivers if I would like to safety kayak on his next Apurimac trip. After some negotiation (which included getting Michelle on the raft trip), I agreed and two days later we set out on another great adventure. This ended up being a 2 month job for me and by the end Michelle had also descended the Apurimac 3 times in raft and once in her kayak.

Willy from Southern Rivers guiding Michelle (red helmet) and the rest of the crew down the Rio Apurimac, Peruvian style! Posted by Hello

Before the Apurimac reaches the lowlands of the Amazon basin, it plummets down through the high Vilcabamba plateau and into the Abismo Gorge. The Abismo Gorge section begins directly after the commercial takeout at the town of Curahuasi where a new bridge was installed in the early 90's on the Abancay-Cuzco road. Still considered one of the most intimidating sections of river that one could find in South America, the Abismo gorge's window of opportunity comes in October when the water is at its lowest, yet only days before the start of the heavy rains and Peru's "wet" season. The late Russell Kelly of Ophir Colorado, having no fears solo kayaking inescapable canyons worldwide, ran the Abismo both in 2002 and 2003 with little time to spare before the rapids became unavigable.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Rio Cotahuasi - Peru

Three of the world's deepest canyons in Peru as observed by satellite. The rivers that created them are: Colca (top canyon), Cotahuasi (middle canyon) and the Rio Maran. The bottom right corner is the Pacific Ocean (white). Posted by Hello

Almost the same time a year ago, Michelle and I finished up working and playing in Cusco Peru, and began our long journey back down to Southern Chile. However before we left Peru for good, I was fortunate to be invited on a trip down the Rio Cotahuasi by Peruvian kayaker Gian Marco Velutino and Americans Matt Wilson, Damon Miller and the great Russell Kelly. While still debated against Tibet's Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge, the Cotahuasi Canyon at 11,550ft deep makes it one of the deepest canyons in the world. Only recently was the Cotahuasi accurately measured to be 500 ft deeper than the nearby Colca Canyon. Together along with the equal abyss of the Rio Maran which joins the Cotahuasi as the Andes come down to the sea, these three river canyons present incredible and committing paddling adventures to those who are willing to enter them.

The view of Cotahuasi from near the canyon rim. Posted by Hello

Our crew began our 11hr, 300km dirt road journey from the city of Arequipa, where the road climbs gently from the fertile Ocona valley up into the high Altiplano to well above 14,000 ft. As we passed between the white capped peaks of Nevado Coropuna and Nevado Solimana, the beauty and expanse of the Peruvian high desert gives one an awesome feeling. Yet just beyond these two mountains the road drops away to reveal an even more astonishing sight. The Cotahuasi canyon is so deep that even after two solid hours of descent by car or bus, we could still observe the road weaving back and forth far below us.

Once you arrive in the town of Cotahuasi, the river is still below but the Peruvian culture of the past and present surrounds you. Here you must make the necessary arrangements to find the rest of your basic foods, get another 5km down to the river, and have mules transport your boat and gear another 7km further downstream around the impressive Sipia waterfall. Below the falls, your long hike will get you back along the shore of the Cotahuasi. Once here, you can finally begin your 3 day, 65km class IV+ wind through the heart of an arid canyon still containing many Inca artifacts, graves and simple structures along the banks.

Peruvian children enjoy some new sights as Damon, Russell and the rest of us prepare for another mission on the Cotahuasi. Posted by Hello

The first decent of the Rio Cotahuasi was completed by Dave Black, Jon Barker, Jose Luis Lopez, Fico Gallese, Kurt Casey, Greg Moore, John Foss, Franz Helfenstein, Duilio Velutino and Gian Marco Velutino on June 4, 1994. Together as partners in expedition kayaking, Americans John Foss and Kurt Casey first descended a majority of rivers in Chile and Peru. Kurt Casey still spends his winters living in Chile and has created an incredible Peruvian paddling resource dedicated in memory of the late John Foss who pinned and drowned July 5th 1998 during the first descent of the Rio Huallabamba in Central Peru. For a complete description of the Cotahuasi and many more incredible rivers in the majestic country of Peru, check out

Cotahuasi 2003: Russell Kelly, Michelle Basso, Mark Basso, Matt Wilson, Gian Marco Vellutino and Damon Miller. Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

Slave River, NWT - Canada

Molly's Nipple rapid at the Slave River. Posted by Hello

August 18th - 24th 2004, Michelle and I drove the ultra long (14 + 3 hrs) stretch of road between our home in Calgary and Ft Smith. This was my second trip to the Slave and water levels were about the same as in early August 2002. However on this later trip the days were becoming shorter the nights were a lot more chilly, which also meant no bugs! Although the Slave comes in as early as June, the bugs are beyond the comprehension of most people who haven't experienced life in the North. Beware in June and July!

We left Calgary and pit stopped at our parents overnight in Edmonton. We then left from Edmonton at 4am the next morning and rallied direct, stopping for a brief reunion at Alexandra Falls on the AB/NWT border with Almut Sohn and her two other German paddling friends. Germans were probably the most represented paddlers this year at the Slave. Despite it's reputation of having some of the most concentrated playspots anywhere, the Slave remained mostly free of camera toting big wave dwellers. Our other German friends included filmmaker Olaf Obsommer and Jens Klatt. Back after his source-to-sea Stikine River descent in 2002/03, Olaf is now documenting a broader range of western Canadian river and lake systems in his forthcoming film.

We were fortunate to also meet up with Jesse Stone, John Fullbright and Yellowbird from New Mexico. A group of friendly Americans who always deserve a bout of regard for the monster road trip one needs to put together for coming to this place from the South.

Outrageous Posted by Hello

Anyways here is a shot of me on Roller Coaster at 3900 cms on the Ft. Fitzgerald gauge. The Slave is a majestical place that will scare you and inspire you. For detailed information on the Slave's rapids, check out Keith Morrison's amazing website with interactive satellite photos. Keith is the best guide you can ever have on the mighty Slave.

RollerCoaster Air Posted by Hello

Flows: 3000 - 4000+ cms Flow Gauge:
Slave River Gauge at Ft. Fitzgerald.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

North Fork Dore, BC - Canada

Dore Valley Posted by Hello

The North Fork of the Dore is a challenging technical class IV-V creek that will keep you busy all the way to the end. We rolled up the Dore Valley (about 20 km off of Hwy. 16 and 25 km from McBride B.C.) to the confluence of the South and North Fork runs in the evening. Camping is good at the confluence but watch out for the cows in the morning if you don't hear them rolling through in the night. Next morning we set off another 13 km or so up the North Fork road until once again there is a bridge crossing the river. If you are charging this one beware of the Gnasher, a lengthy technical line that sends you into a powerful maelstrom of white. Jordie and I looked at a possible entry above the river right pour over and then decided to go for it.........

Jordie M. boofin' the Gnasher river right Posted by Hello

The rest of the run maintains a constant gradient until the final 3 km which is even steeper. Overall the North Fork of the Dore is worth checking out on one of those hot summer days if you are in the area. 2hrs from Jasper AB, 3hrs from Clearwater B.C.

For more logistical information on the Dore, check out Spencer Cox's Kayakwest website.

Vis N. Dore River (V) i et større kart

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Toby Creek, BC - Canada

Toby Creek's infamous seven canyon run is one of the best runs in Southeastern B.C. Draining the Toby and Jumbo glaciers, this run explodes into unrunnable levels many times throughout the summer. It is predictably high when heavy snow pack and extreme heat collide so know your levels or prepare for a hike-out that is a story in-itself. A good time is in August and even into September.

Although I'm sure there actually are seven canyons you paddle through, I like to think of the river containing: #1. Class III-IV technical whitewater up until, #2. "Juniors", a class IV-IV+ pinch with a revealing undercut ledge river-right.

Heather Armitage and the undercut before "juniors" Posted by Hello

After "juniors", the river picks up until the class V crux canyon containing #3. "Smitty's" and a NEW slide drop rapid (spring 2004) which leads up to "picket fences." If you are on the Toby at high flows this section will either be heaven or hell.

Looking upstream to the new slide drop and the entrance of "picket fences" Posted by Hello

Jordie's sparkly helmet amidst the "Picket Fences" Posted by Hello

Just before you think it is over, #4 the seventh and final canyon has NOW CHANGED (spring 2004). This section is still long and constricted. Instead of the traditional river left scout, eddy out on the river right where a new gravel bar has formed to check this rapid out. Once you're through this the river flattens out.

Location: Invermere B.C. (road to Panorama Resort is put-in and take-out)