Friday, October 31, 2008

Río Paucartambo (Mapacho): V - Day 1

by Zak Sears

Elevation at camp: 2740 meters

We launched on the river at 11:45 am with most of the town of Paucartambo watching us from the bridge. We estimated that we had a flow of somewhere between 500 and 800 cfs. The night before we put in, the river came up a little after a few hours of rain. We were on the water for a total of about 3 hours and covered close to 25 km. The river through this section consists of braided channels through a greater river bed of commonly sized small boulders. The water was a glacial grey color which we learned was due to road construction upstream, but the river apparently flows clear this time of year. Although the water temperature was pretty warm, the high altitude made for a chill in the air and we all decided to wear more gear than we had on for the next day.

On to day 2

Río Paucartambo (Mapacho): V - Day 2

by Zak Sears
Back to day 1
Elevation at camp: 2508 meters

We passed under three bridges after an hour of paddling out of camp. The third one was a blue foot bridge that marked the start of more technical whitewater and steeper gradient. Fun class 3 and 4 for about an hour before the river melowed for a short bit. Here we stopped for lunch at a tributary on river right. A couple miles downstream of lunch, we came to a chunky class 4+ rapid that was steeper than anything we had seen yet. In this rapid I managed to lose my paddle. Kase and Dave chased it through the class 4 whitewater that lasted for about another half mile or so. Mike, Dan and I put together a breakdown and met up with the other boys who hadn´t found the paddle, so we decided to camp early and search the boulder gardens upstream in case it had been pinned. Never found the paddle.

on to day 3

Río Paucartambo (Mapacho): V - Day 3

by Zak Sears
Back to day 2
Elevation at camp: 2240 meters

We had an early morning in anticipation of our arrival in Orange Canyon, a section we wanted a lot of daylight for after reading other write-ups about the river. The morning consisted of the same style of chunky class 3/4 whitewater for about 7 or 8 miles. At this point we entered a mini gorge with large round boulders where the nature of the whitewater started to change. A few kilometers after this we passed under Puente Chimor which crosses the river over a super-beautiful shear-walled gorge with calm water below. Shortly below this we came the the first class 5 rapid we had seen yet. It lay at a sharp left hand bend in the river and sent the river diving into another large shear-walled gorge. The whitewater held its gradient with great class 4+, 5- rapids for about an hour. We had lunch just above the portage we had heard was in Orange Canyon.

Massive orange boulders constrict the river into several small channels. The channel on the right was hard to see, but we could see it was a three meter drop we had heard about. It´s a tight line and goes but we opted to portage it with extremely heavy boats. The landing for the drop was tight and had a must-make move with a sieve on the left. Throughout the next 1 km or so, we had three mini-portages including the first one, all around steep manky drops that could have been run, but not the most quality whitewater on the run. The last portage was around a massive boulder in the middle of the river that was extremely undercut. During this portage we found a sweet camp on river left in a pocket of sand that lay in the depths of massive orange boulders. There was an unbelievable mini gorge of 2 meters width that was just above camp, and a fun looking class 5 drop just below camp for the morning. On the water for a total of 6 hours.

On to day 4

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Río Mapacho: V - Day 4

by Zak Sears
Back to day 3
Elevation at camp: 1930 meters

The rapid below camp we called Buenas Dias proved to be as fun as it looked, and the whitewater below as well. For about 2 hours we paddled great class 4/5 whitwater until we got to a gorge with a double drop at the top that we scouted from the wall on the right. Below the rapid a few hundred meters, the short lived gorge dissapears and a crumbly cement bridge barely stands above the river. The bridge looked like it was designed for vehicles, but only trails on either side leave it.

We had lunch a little ways beyond the bridge that included a bag of oranges the fisherman had given us. After lunch the whitewater included great read and run class 4/4+ for about an hour. Here we came to the most impressive rapid of the trip so far. A large pool above the drop is created by the huge boulders blocking the left side of the river. The water was mostly channelized in a slot on the right, next to a massive boulder on shore. We could see most of the drop from the top, and we were able run it without scouting. There was a three meter entry boof into a short pool then into the next ledge with a boof into an eddy on the right. Here we could see the third ledge which had a punchy hole at the bottom that we ran driving right. Below this rapid, the whitewater continued with super fun class 4/4+ for the next hour and a half.

The geological features of the river have changed drastically several times throughout the trip thus far, and the style of the rapids differ completely with each change.

By this point we had passed many small, clear flowing tributaries and a couple large drainages, but overall little volume has been added to the flow. On the water for five and a half hours.

On to day 5

Río Mapacho: V - Day 5

by Zak Sears
Back to day 4
Elevation at camp: 1605 meters

Below camp we paddled open class 4 for 45 minutes until we came to a river-wide ledge of 2 meters. None of the lines looked really good, so we walked a short distance on the left, and put in just below. Downstream was more of the same open class 4/4+ for about two hours until we stopped for lunch at a huge drainage on river right carrying little water. Dave explored the bench above the river, and came back with a bag full of oranges and three huge avocados from the orchard of a farmer who was inviting us to stay the night and eat the sheep they were cleaning in the creek. The farmer said there was a road above the river about a 1 hour walk where the local people can meet a truck that comes twice a week with supplies, and carries out the agricultural products of the valley. In this section of the river, there are a lot of people living in small thatch roofed structures and cultivating the land, growing coffee, coca, yucca, bananas, and oranges. We passed under seven rickity foot bridges throughout the day, that linked together the vast networks of trails on either side of the river.

After lunch the whitewater backed of to mostly class 3+ with the occasional class 4 for the rest of the afternoon. We passed a couple tributaries that added a little more water to the river which gave the rapids a more pushy feel than the whitewater upstream.

This was the only afternoon of the whole trip that we struggled a bit to find camp. We finally found a great one on an upper bench on river right, in what we learned the next morning was a communal center that consisted of a soccer field, a tool shed, and a secadero (a patio-like structure with short walls around the perimeter that is used for drying coffee in the sun) on which we camped. The bugs were bad at this camp. On the water for six and a half hours.

On to day 6

Río Mapacho: V - Day 6

by Zak Sears
back to day 5
Camp elevation: 1329 meters

We woke up just after sunrise to a woman and her two kids that welcomed us with fresh hot coffee, and warm manioch. They spoke little spanish and our attempts at using one liners from a Quechua dictionary were returned with smiles, and few words. Later in the morning as we let are dewy gear dry in the sun, kids walking to school came down to visit and told us about our camp being the communal center.

40 minutes downstream of camp we came to the 250 feet per mile stretch of the river we had read about. We scouted the first bit which consisted of very continuous class 5 for several hundred meters. It then turned into very continuous class 4, then class 3 for a total of 2 km of great whitewater. At this flow there was a sneak down the center of the of the river around the lower part of the class 5.

After this section, the whitewater mellowed out to class 3+ with the occasional class 4 until just above camp where we hit a mini gorge of class 4/4+ boulder gardens with one scout. Found a camp just below the gorge on river right. On the water for five and a half hours.

On to day 7