Sunday, January 4, 2009

Upper Palguin: IV

Mike approaches the end of drop 1


The upper section of the Palguin River near Pucon is one of the best backyard runs imaginable. And it truly is in the backyard of Ben May, owner of Kayak Chile on the main drag in Pucon. We spent a couple days camping out at his place, working on the trail, and running laps on this waterfall playground.

I only ever ran the first half of the run, which is reported to be the best part. It can be easily run in 15 minutes and includes three great drops that are clean and fairly easy.
Photobucket Putting in below the natural bridge

The run starts with a 12-foot seal launch into a pool, which flushes immediately into the first rapid, a confused double-drop. After a short lead-in, the river drops four feet through a slot into a boily little room. Then the rapid ends with an 8-foot drop into a clean, calm pool below.


Zak on the lead-in to the first drop


And stomping his way into the pool below;



My first time down I backendered in the slot, rolled up in the room, and had just enough time to catch a breath before flipping again off the wall as I drifted backwards over the lip of the 8-footer. Not a stylish line at all. Luckily, the channel is deep, the drop forgiving. Plenty of people have run this one upside-down with very little consequence.

As you continue downstream, the drops get taller and easier. The pool below the first drop drains into a short rapid leading to the lip of the second drop, a 15-footer. This one isn´t really scoutable, but you can eddy out within view of the horizon line to plan your approach. Go right boofing right. The left side has a retentive pocket that swims many people, but the right side has a boof flake that gives some great air-time.


Allen catching air on the second drop


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That`s me!



Zak with a perfect flat landing


After another 50 yards of calm water comes the third drop, a 20-footer with two options. The right channel is easier to boof, but has a slightly off-angle approach. The left channel has a rolling lip and can easily be plugged, but also gives great practice for late boofs. Both are very non-consequential, class III drops.

Me not exactly boofing the right side



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Orion running it blind

The next horizon line is the crack drop, with a very narrow slide that people run, trying not to catch paddles on rocks. We always took out on the right at the lip of this one, and hiked back up along the good trail for another lap.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Years Reflection

I don´t know who created the calendar we used, or why they chose to break things up the way they did. Not that I care, but placing the turnover to a new year where it is seems a little odd. Why isn´t it scheduled with a solstice or equinox somewhere along the line? Or perhaps the day Pangea finally split apart? That was certainly the dawning of a new era, eh? We could celebrate that annually with parades, fireworks, and belligerence. But most importantly, why is the new year scheduled so inconveniently that I have to take the time right now to do this? Reflect.

Ok, so what to reflect on. Well, guess. What am I completely obsessed with such that it consumes most of my time, money, creativity, and all my time to think freely? Boating, of course. As I hang out down here in Chile and the new year encroaches, I´ve taken a chance to look back at the year I´ve had. 2008 was by far my best season of whitewater yet. In fact, it´s quite possible that I´ll never again live up to the season I´ve had. At least statistically speaking.

The following post is really more for myself than anyone else. But if you´re interested in my quick little recap of a great season, join on in.






Saddle Creek, Grand Canyon

The year started out for me waking up somewhere around mile 238 in the Grand Canyon. We made mamosas. Not because we were hungover, just alcoholics. But the important thing was being down there for three and a half weeks with 15 other great people.




It really is a very grand canyon

After the trip, I returned to Corvallis for the winter. Boating there didn´t happen for me, but I made plenty of trips south to Ashland or north to Portland to visit friends and explore the local rain-fed runs. By the time the term ended at OSU, I was done. I left Corvallis with my car and savings from the winter, with my eyes on very little beyond new rivers.



Ready for some All-Tracking



Oregon Hole Gorge, MF Smith




Overnighting the lower McCloud

I spent much of my time in Northern California, but also paddled about some in Oregon and Washington, with trips on the Illinois, Rogue, Canyon Creek, Mollala and White Salmon.




Peter Gandesberry, NF Cal-Salmon




Big Kahuna on Canyon Creek, WA




Ryan Morgan, NF Molalla hike-in



Oregon Rafting Team in the Cal-Salmon Race


Darin on one of many, many Box Canyon laps






My favorite move on my favorite run: Upper Clear Creek




Green Wall Rapid, Illinois River




Green Wall Rapid, Illinois River


As May ground onward, I found myself enjoying hot, sunny days from the Cal-Salmon to Pauley Creek.




Darin McQuoid, Kidder Creek




Disneyland rapid, SF Cal-Salmon

But after an unfortunate swim in Federal Falls at flood, I decided to take a little break from boating. Afterall, it was only a couple weeks before the commercial season started for me in Idaho. And it started with a bang.

I was a little thrown off by the colder weather and water when I put in on Marsh Creek in late May without pogies. But a couple days later, I was no longer risking frostbite and was happy to be kayaking on the Middle Fork at 6 feet with the OARS training trip. Over the course of those 13 days, I strung together the entire Salmon sequence, from Marsh Creek above 6,000 feet to Heller Bar on the Snake below 1,000. Altogether, the trip was over 300 miles long. As the Salmon was where I got my start with whitewater, it has always been a dream of mine to run do all three popular wilderness runs as one trip. As an extra bonus, I got to see Devil´s Slide at 40,000 cfs and have a first-hand account of the rapid that keeps people off the river at half that flow!




Dropping into the Slide at high water

It was a busy work season for me with leading several trips and spending a little too much time on the Lower Salmon instead of the Main and Middle Fork. Luckily, I was able to maintain sanity on days off with trips on the South Fork Salmon, Lochsa, and Kootenai rivers.


At the beginning of Summer, very few of us had concrete plans for the fall. Throughout the season, we would discuss options over cocktails at the guide house and ultimately, Mike, Zak and I agreed on Peru after our work was done. So just before I launched on another Grand Canyon trip, we bought tickets.

Mike and I ran a couple laps on the Green Truss on our way to LAX to meet with Zak and fly out. Getting our boats on the plane was a bit of a struggle, but everything worked out in the end and by October 7th, we were happily moved into a hostal in Cusco looking for the next river. Over the course of the next two months, we found our way down ten different runs including five overnighters. We topped off our stint in Peru with the classic Colca-Cotahuasi circuit and made tracks for Chile.

Toothache rapid, Apurimac River



Beers under banana trees at the takeout


Black Canyon, Apurimac River



Peruvian children loved our boats



Locked in to the Lucumayo



Portaging through Ollantaytambo



Figuring out the Mapacho



One of countless good rapids on the best river anywhere: the Mapacho

Mike and Zak had been in Chile four years ago, so they had a good idea of where to go. The day after arriving in town, I met up with some locals for a morning run on the local classic, the upper Palguin. It´s a short-and-sweet run with three clean drops, and I ran my first 20-footer that day. It was the perfect place to get used to running waterfalls, which have been the focus of most of our travels around Pucon. After a couple weeks hanging out in town with more runs on the Palguin, we took off for our Christmas road trip.



Falling on the Fuy



Allen on the Llancahue


Zak, Upper Palguin, Drop 2

Blue Angels on the Fuy



Zak finishing off the best rapid I´ve ever run. Río Gol Gol


Christmas day was my last day on the water for the season, with a great warm day on the Fuy. In the week leading up to it, we also ran the Llancahue, Gol-Gol, and the Negro. I ran the first rapid on the Lizan, but don´t quite count that as a full day of boating. So here´s the count:

Total days on the water: 174
Unique runs: 52
Personal first descents: 36
Gear lost/broken: 1 paddle, 1 helmet, 1 mosquito net, 1 cotton sock, some foam blocks, a door on Tupper´s Subaru.
Degrees of lattitude covered: 93
Runs missed out on that I´ll get next time: MF Feather, Clear Creek Headwaters, Bridge Creek, Wooley Creek, NF Feather, SF Yuba

At any rate, it´s been a hell of a year. I´ve had the time of my life in such beautiful places with wonderful people. Thank you to everyone who has joined me on the water this year or otherwise encouraged my little escapades. I love you all and wish you the best for 2009.
Thanks for reading!






I just love this picture too much to not post it again!