Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chaiten, dolphins, and ocean surf

Chaiten, dolphins, and ocean surf

Three months in South America and I decided to stop by the Futaleufu. As soon as I reached Futa I was introduced to some soon to be friends. Marcos was the one with the game plan, he showed off pictures of dolphins, sea lions, surf waves, and a creek all to be accessed by a friend that had a sea worthy boat. So without hesitation we celebrated a friends birthday and proceeded to wake up early and a little hazy. We piled into a pickup and a van both WAY over loaded, and started the trip to Chaiten.

Loading up the rigs

Chaiten is a ghost town now days, there was a pretty big volcanic explosion that covered the town in a couple feet of ash just last year.

The Volcano looked ominous

We made are way through Chaiten, and to the boat, it looked a little smaller then I remembered it in the photos. We all piled our gear in and on the boat and headed south. We traveled for an hour or so and arrived in rainy conditions to the boat owners homestead.

Cruising back to the homestead

The homestead was pretty built up, two different houses, some out buildings and a handful of beached boats. The owner offered up his second house and we happily excepted. There was food, there was drinks, and there where a ton of stories going through the very eclectic group. The next morning we woke to parting clouds, we piled back on the boat and headed even further south. During the boat ride we saw dolphins, penguins, and sea lions, the group was stirring with excitement.

we actually surfed with these guys, they loved showing off

The Sea Lions seemed a little annoyed with us and made a lot of noise

We finally set anchor and looked in on a ugly looking ocean break flowing directly into a rock jumble. The raft got inflated, kayakers got suited up and seal launched off the boat into the ocean, and slowly almost every one migrated to the beach. There were a few of us that looked at the break and went straight in. The break was definitely a little sketchy, and the biggest waves headed toward a huge rock, sometimes you surfed right and sometimes you surfed left, but the rock was always in play. The waves were actually really good and there was more then a few times that 4 or 5 of us caught the same wave laughing, spinning , and blunting towards the rock. While paddling out one time I had three dolphins pass me, turn around and surf the wave right in front of me back toward the beach. The group was stoked the stores were coming true, and we just got done surfing good ocean waves with dolphins. We packed up and paddled out to the boat and made our way back to our borrowed house for the second night. Again we ate, and planned for the creek mission the next day.

The View from above the homestead

We awoke, repacked for the creek mission jumped in the boat and headed into a cove. Deep in the cove was the outlet of the river and the boat headed straight up the fjord. We made our way further and further up the fjord, the water depth was getting shallow, and there were submerged trees everywhere, I couldn't believe how far up the fjord we had made it. We finally set anchor, suited up, and headed to the ruff fishing trial that headed up the creek. We hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and there was no end in sight. We crossed sketchy bridges, crossed creeks, attained up the main channel, and bush whacked our way up the creek.

One of the sketchier creek crossings, that log was slick as shit

Five hours into the hike the group's moral was supper low, and the decision was made that we would not make it to the "class 5 section". We turned tail and cruised down the creek in under 45 minutes splashing through three great class 4 rapids. Back to the house for some more food, and I collapsed from exhaustion the lack of good food and the long hike had taken there toll. I woke up the next morning feeling well rested and we made our way back to Chaiten. This is where the story turns to party, we all reached "civilization" the barren ghost town of Chaiten. We bought snacks and beer and prepared to drive back to Futa, when Marcos's dad invited us in for an asado. We ate, drank heavily, went to the beach, drank more, and then Mark Anthony came on the TV. The next thing you know there is singing dancing and a lot more drinking. We woke up the next morning haggard, and finally got in the van, only four hours of bumpy roads to get us back to Futa.
There are some trips that stand out because of the white water, some about the destination, and some about the friends. This trip was all about surfing in the ocean with dolphins.

The view from the beach

Now I am back in Futa training for the Baker, one of the biggest whitewater rivers anywhere
Chris Baer life is good, and even better when you get to surf with dolphins

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bariloche, Mansa, Matias is a "bad influence"

Bariloche, Mansa, Matias is a "bad influence"

Sorry for the ridiculous title but it is deserving, in this update I will show off some cool shots from Bariloche, and talk about how Matias is such a "bad influence" taking "dumb gringos" into the amazing Mansa Gorge.

just another amazing view

First off, Bariloche, I stayed at Refugio Patagonia,

a great hostel with an amazingly friendly owner.

Cheap, easy, and better food then any place in Chile

The brake wall of Bariloche

This place really is beautiful

The Manso Gorge,
First off the logistics are hard, it is a long shuttle and technically it is forbidden to paddle the river. So find yourself a local guide, I was lucky enough to know Matias Nunez from the states and he was more then happy to take me into the gorge. It starts off with a Bang, "the monster" a 40+ foot drop with a very odd hole at the lip, reminded me of a super pissed off Punch Bowl Falls. I came in hot, boofed hard and dove right into the hole, it swallowed me and I remember thinking hang on to that paddle, and then waiting and waiting and waiting for the thaploosh of entering into the landing pool.

Chris Baer at the lip of the "Monster"

The Monster, is an absolutely amazing 40footer, super dynamic and with plenty of hazards. Matias and I finished our high fives and turned are attention to the next seven hours of paddling, scouting, and portaging. It starts off with some stout ledges, intermittent with large pools

Matias Nunez at the lip of one of the first big boofs

Soon the pools turn to more continues rapids and you enter into the "gorge" once in here be careful, there is a stout hole that has dished out some beatings and a rowdy 50ish footer. We ran a chunk of the gorge and then Matias showed me the far left line. With our boats on are shoulders we slowly maneuvered through the dense jungle, trying not to accidental run a big waterfall in the middle of nowhere. After we found the 50 footer we put back in the river and routed through some more great drops.

Matias charging a HUGE hole

Matias cruising threw the triple drop

Matias in the "tricky rapid"

the "tricky rapid" had my number, I came threw a tight slot into a funny backwash, and immediately starting getting spun around. Instead of going with the spin I fought it and found myself momentarily pinned between two huge rocks in the middle of most of the current. I quickly shifted weight and did some kind of miracle paddle stroke and the boat came unpinned, I then got to run the slot in the picture above "switch".

the take out

So the river dumps right into this magnificent lake, If it is sunny out you can usually flag down a motor boat and get towed in. In our case it had been raining all day and there wasn't a sole on the lake. We paddled and paddled and an hour and a half latter we reached the truck, there leaned against the truck was the ranger. Matias looked at me and said don't worry I will confuse him. The ranger and Matias who at this point are on first name bases(Matias actually gave him a fake name and the ranger called him by it, ((supper funny)) started chatting about how it is bullshit that the river is closed, and there is better ways to protect the land. Matias also stands behind a pressident that the original ranger not only allowed them to paddle the river but offten times would drive his motor moat to the far end of the lake and pick up the kayakers. The ranger in turn told Matias he was a bad influence bringing dumb gringos onto the river. Me being the dumb non spanish speaking gringo responded to the ranger's questions with "no Nintendo porfavor" a couple minutes later a fake name and passport number, we were on our way. Matias is truly working hard to try to resolve the access issue on Manso as well as a couple other gems in the area. Until these access issues are sore up, Matias's opinion was to continue to do the runs just be a little sneaky.

Another adventure by Chris Baer

A couple side notes, those of you that really watch this stuff will have noticed that I have been paddling a Werner Player paddle for the last month or so, I think Werner's are fine, but they don't hold a candle compared to a Blunt Family Paddle, do to a nasty hole and 3 years of abuse my orriginal BFP broke, due to operator error, I like trying to pull myself out from under 15 feet of water with a single paddle stroke. That being said, I have delt with some crazy shipping arangements and now am paddling a BFP again, I couldn't be happier. So go to the side bar and click on Kennys site, he will build you the best paddle, guide stick, oar, dorry, or one of these

check it out at Blunt Family Paddles.

Secondly I just got Lightroom from Adobe, it is rad.