Friday, December 26, 2008

Río Fuy: IV+ with waterfalls

The third stop on our Christmas road trip was the Río Fuy, a river well-known for its collection of consecutive waterfalls. We found easy camping at the take-out for the upper run, but woke up to rain and cold weather. After the first few rapids, I took a deep swim out of a ledge hole and ultimately hiked out halfway through the waterfall section on well-developed trails courtesy of the Huilo-Huilo lodge up on the highway. Clearly, I had to return for a sense of completion. So on Christmas Day, we awoke at the same campsite to beautiful clear skies and the promise of a hot afternoon.

From the put-in in Puerto Fuy, the river flows out of a large lake and gradually builds up steam to a collection of class III and IV rapids. With our flows, everything was boat-scoutable and pool-drop.

Mike running the ledge I swam out of


Joe having himself a great Christmas

After a dozen good rapids, the Río Fuy pools up, then drops off the edge of the Earth. The waterfall section kicks off with a clean 30-footer, followed closely by four more smaller drops. This may be the best 500 meters of whitewater I´ve ever run.

Mike 30 feet in the air with some serious gradient yet to come

Drop 1 - Salto La Leona: 30ft

The water was dead-calm approaching the lip, giving us plenty of time to line up exactly where we wanted. From the right bank, we could easily scout the line, which started off with a 5-foot slide into a flake that launched us out into a soft landing. At our flow, the drop was very flushy and most of the water we were landing in went right into an eddy on river right. Between the two days, we all had a variety of lines. I demonstrated my inability to boof out straight, both times turning sideways in the air and landing on edge. Still, I didn´t flip either time, which I attribute entirely to my boat. For a drop of this height, I can´t imagine it getting any easier or more forgiving.

Me at the top of La Leona with the second drop in the foreground

Joe resurfacing after a perfect line off the big one




Drop 2: 8ft

The river was still partially aerated from the first drop as it flowed over an 8-10 foot ledge. The second drop has a sticky-looking hole in the middle, with sneak lines on either side. Both times, Joe, Mike, and I took the scrapier boof on the right side while Zak and Alan had good runs with the left line. The ledge is immediately followed by a class III rapid leading into the next set of drops.


Mike in the runnout of the second drop


Drop 3: 10ft?
The third drop is really a low-angle slide that picks up plenty of speed before crashing through two big holes. It´s easily scoutable, and much steeper than it looks. Fortunately, with the speed you get coming down the tongue, the two holes aren´t a big deal. Still, this slide intimidated me into hiking out on the first run, mostly because it leads directly into drop 4. Alan and Zak still fired it up with a little chaos, but good runs.

Blue angels dropping in


Things get a little wild.....


But they keep it alive to the lip of drop 4


Drop 4: 10ft
This one isn´t easily scoutable or portageable, which is a shame considering the hole at the base of it. The lip is a uniform horseshoe shape and forms a massive hydraulic that I want nothing to do with. The line is to drive off the left corner and boof into the eddy, which isn´t too hard if you´re in the right spot.

The waterfalls from below, with the sticky fourth drop in the foreground


Drop 5: 15ft
The last waterfall offers up a great finale. An easy lead-in with an obvious marker hole lets you get plenty of speed before soaring off a boof flake that´s impossible to miss into a clean, forgiving landing. What more can you ask for? Below the perfect 15-footer is about a kilometer of class II-III to the take-out.

Zak approaches the lip


Joe with another great run


On our Christmas run I was nervous, but excited for the third and fourth drops (which we all ran as one rapid without eddying out). But when I arrived in the eddy above the the slide, there was runaway gear downstream and I was the only one in my boat. I had to go. I took a moment to catch my breath and try to recall what everything looked like from the scout several days before. The gear kept going and I made chase, driving left down the slide. I bounced through the holes without incident and set my eyes on the weir downstream.

Me at the lip of the slide (drop 3)


I came up to the lip with plenty of speed, but my timing was off. I was forced to boof with the wrong blade, but everything still worked out and I paddled away hooting. I continued to chase the runaway boat through a hundred yards of boogey water when I suddenly found myself at another horizon line. I hopped out to give the last drop a quick scout, ran the obvious and easy line, and pushed the boat into an eddy shortly thereafter. In the rush, I wasn´t able to get many pictures myself, but the other guys came down behind me with cameras.

On the same run, Zak waited until we had all gone through so he could run the first four drops in sequence without stopping. He took a perfect line off the 30-footer that lined him up to finish off the next three without getting his head wet. This is truly an outstanding section of whitewater.

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