DRAFT - Thrills and spills from Chile 1998

From February 15th to March 1st 1998, nine friends met in southern Chile for two weeks of class IV and V kayaking on some of Chile's most famous rivers.

[ Fuy | Gol Gol | Manso | Futaléufu ]

Onto the Gol Gol

The paved road made the next 4 hours to Puyehue National Park bearable, although it was very late when we arrived and there no campsites left so we set our tents up on the front lawn of the main building.

The morning came and we quickly found a campsite to move our stuff into. Once we were fed and were gearing up, some boaters two campsites down the road came over for a chat. They turned out to be Dan Gavere, Brennan Guth, Clay Wright, and Jamie (didn't get his last name). Dan, Brennan, and Clay are all professional kayakers, sponsored by Wave Sport, Riot, and Pyranna respectively.  Dan and Brennan were in the PaddleQuest video, and Clay recently designed Pyranna's Blade and Razor kayaks. We wished them a good run of the upper Gol Gol, the same run we had planned for this day.

We drove up the highway for a few kilometers and put in right below a waterfall visible from the road. Many fun little drops followed until we got to the first waterfall, actually it was more like a 7 foot drop - an easy boof. The second waterfall was about looked very intimidating and we all watched Bob run it before deciding to run it or not. About half ran, the rest walked. This drop had a nasty looking hole in the bottom but all the boats managed to run it cleanly.

The third fall had two channels, the right one unrunnable, the left containing two folding waves falling into each other, obscuring what lay beneath. After much debate and stick throwing into the drop, Bob said he wasn't going to run it. Jeff at that point said he was. We all waited to see what would happen as he disappeared from view, only to see him reappear almost instantly from the froth at the bottom of the pool. Once his success was seen by Bob and Graham they too ran it with out incident.

The next waterfall was a ways downstream, preceded by a short 3+ rapid. This one was about 17 feet high, and 12 feet wide. On the right side of the bottom was a nasty hole. It was an easy choice to run river left. All runs were uneventful save Swiss Andy's and Ross'. Andy went way river left, so much so that he bounced off rocks all the way down. Ross missed his line and went off the right side, right into the hole. He swam quickly, but his boat stayed and cartwheeled for a little while.

As we scouted the next drop, we saw the other group of boaters from camp scouting from the other side of the canyon. It quickly became apparent that they weren't scouting it but were retrieving equipment from a swim in the same hole that ate Ross. Unfortunately, that boater, Jamie, suffered a dislocated shoulder in his encounter with that hole. The waterfall before us was an impressive 40 footer with no obvious clean line through it, without dropping into some deep holes at the bottom. We walked.

Some more enjoyable rapids came along for a while, with ample play spots for the rodeo boats. Right before the takeout was one final waterfall, Salto del Indio. Another 40 foot drop into a big pool. Dan, Clay, and Brennan were scouting this one as we arrived. For us it was an easy call, we were going to walk. The other guys were debating which line to take, who was to go first, and where to videotape from. They all paddle for different boat manufacturers and subsidize their trips down here by selling photos and videos of themselves running some serious drops, to their sponsors. We waited at the top for Brennan to run, almost expecting to see immense carnage at the bottom. He started off and we all held our breath as he plunged downwards and disappeared into the violent froth about half way down the fall. We heard a hollow thud, the sound of his boat smacking a rock somewhere below.

He came to the surface quite quickly, and with much enjoyment and satisfaction on his face. Upon returning to the top to relate to Dan and Clay what happened and what improvements to the line could be made, we headed down the trail to watch the next two from below. It took quite a while to get down with the boats, but we arrived in time to see Clay make a clean run down. It was truly amazing how quickly the boat appeared then disappeared into the folding, frothing water mid way down. The boats were only in sight for a tenth of a second. Last down was Dan, who came down the falls nearly flat, obviously looking for a boof landing, he also must have hit something as that resounding thud echoed out to us. He came up in the pool upside down, rolled, hooted, and did a paddle throw as he headed towards his friends with the cameras.

The next day we ran the lower Gol Gol, a shorter run between bridges on the highway. It started off with flat water flowing between huge dead trees, standing where they died, many years before. It was rather eerie, in the silence as these bone white logs reached skyward, like gravestones in a cemetery. Obviously the river had changed it's course within the last couple of decades, flowing through the then living forest.

Some small drops came and went, and the first rapid we scouted turned into a two hour scout and hike as a large waterfall and class V rapid came into view. Some more drops and flat water followed, with the takeout not too much further.

That evening it started to rain and thunder, it was quote an impressive display of nature's fireworks. Thunder that rumbled on unabated for a minute was not uncommon. Of course, we weren't too impressed in the morning when the time came to pack up the wet tents. We drove to the Chilean/Argentinean border, and spent about an hour in total going through the various red tape. According to others, this was a quick exit/entry.


Please submit comments on this DRAFT to dlaw@kayak.yk.ca.

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