Futaleufú

We arrived in Futaleufú late that night. After knocking on a few doors that still had lights on, we were able to find a cabaña to share for the night.

The next morning we met with the third couple of our group, Justin and Eva. Unfortunately, this crew had a short time together since Orion, Kelcie, and Beth would start the trip back to Coyhaique the following day (far too short of time in such a place). Because of this and the fact that we had come all this way to paddle the Futaleufú, we made quick work of getting on the river. Having no personal gear of our own, we wandered around town asking where we could rent boats, pfds, paddles, … the works. Orion, Justin and I managed to piece together sets from multiple companies. Being that the Futa was beyond their skill levels, Beth and Kelcie arranged a raft trip with Expediciones Chile or ‘ExChile’ for short.

With that we were off. The three boys paddled the Bridge-to-Bridge section, a non-stop stretch of class IV water full of large waves. Due to the hectic schedule for the day, there was no time for photos until the end.

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Orion, Justin and the author taking an obligatory we-were-here shot at the end of Bridge-to-Bridge

The next day Justin, Eva, and I said our goodbyes to Beth, Orion and Kelcie. We remaining began to make plans for the coming week in Futaleufú. I intended to spend as much time on the water as possible, and to ensure this, I began talking to Chris Spelius, the owner of ExChile, to see if I would be able to get on the river with his company. Normally my ego would preclude me from hiring a guide to take me down a river but seeing that 1. I had no gear of my own, 2. I was in a foreign country where I did not speak the language, 3. neither myself nor Justin had the experience to run such a river ‘blind’, and 4. we had very little time in the region, I quickly overcame my pride and made plans to paddle with Chris for as many of the coming days as possible.

I wanted to give a bit of back story on Chris Spelius but I’m afraid it would come off as gushing over a celebrity. Instead I’ll let the link to his bio do the talking. Suffice it to say that I had never paddled with someone who has had such a long and influential career in whitewater and I was appropriately excited for the opportunity (even if I was paying for it).

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The hypnotizing blue of Futaleufú

In the week that followed I honor of paddling some of the most legendary whitewater with a legendary kayaker. We covered most of the river spending a day on The Wild Mile, Terminator Section, and Inferno Canyon stretches of the river. Words are inadequate so I leave most of the story to the handful of photos I took.

The Wild Mile

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Justin taking in the views before putting on the Wild Mile

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Chris Spelius above the infamous Zeta rapid. This was the one rapid on the river that was an unambiguous portage for my skill level. Immediately downstream out of frame is a 90 degree bend that feeds very unfriendly features on both sides of the river. The risk/reward equation is very unbalanced for this one.

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Chris completing the portage of Zeta.

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The author receiving some sage wisdom before pushing off for a classic seal launch to complete the Zeta portage.

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The ferry to access ExChile’s Eco Camp in the heart of the Futa

Terminator Section

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Yehosh, our paddling companion for the Terminator Section
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Chris giving Yehosh and I beta on Terminator
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Chris showing us the line on Terminator’s creeky left side

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Siting the line
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Finishing Terminator
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Yehosh at the crux of our line down Terminator. Unfortunately this one ended in a swim

Inferno Canyon

Inferno Canyon is the most continuously class V section on the Futaleufú. I had considered this section above my skill level. After paddling for a few days with Chris he was confident in my abilities and recommended this stretch. How could I say no?

While this was the most intense and rewarding section I had the opportunity to paddle, the continuous nature and my nerves kept us in our boats for most of the time and prevent me from taking pictures.

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Looking down into Inferno Canyon from the road that was blasted to form Dynamite Rapid

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Looking upstream from Wall Shot. Unfortunately I was too gripped at the entrance of the canyon to get a picture of Gates of the Inferno

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Dynamite, a rapid that formed within the last decade due to blasting for the road that is perched 100ft above the river at this spot. Even though the road may be close here, the vertical walls ensure that you are still committed to the canyon until the end.

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My trusty Liquid Logic Remix 79 that I had the pleasure of paddling during my time in Futaleufú. Photo at the take-out of Inferno Canyon / put-in for the Wild Mile