Back in the Pucon siphon, my back started to improve and I began kayaking again on some of the easier runs. In the meantime, Daphnee, Ari, Greg, et al ran the Carhuello and returned with reports of one of the worst rivers they’d ever run and, unfortunately, a broken back. Greg ended up going up to the hospital in Temuco and flying home (with good prospects for a full recovery).
We spent the week from Christmas to New Year’s in Pucon, rallying lots of Todo Trancura runs, interspersed with the occasional Palguin.
The crew even got a day on the Nevados, but still recovering from my back injury, I decided not to paddle and just shot photos.
We spent the night of Dec. 30th camped up by the Palguin and woke up in time to catch some Brits going off Middle.
Then we ran the Upper and Nicole, Jakub, et al rallied another lap off Middle.
New Year’s Eve in Pucon is a nightmare. There are so many people that not only are the roads gridlocked, but so are the sidewalks. We parked at Ellie’s hostel way out of town and wandered in to a party at the Bombflow (Substantial?) rental house hoping to meet up with Nicole and Jakub, but they’d gotten their car stuck on a beach (same as we had a few days earlier). Eventually, we found them on the beach watching fireworks and drunkenly formed a plan for New Year’s day.
The next morning, I awoke to a text from Jakub saying, “Still want to rally?” I wasn’t really sure where he wanted to rally to, as I didn’t remember making a plan, but I said yes anyway, and five minutes later he and Nicole were at the hostel ready to go. Turned out we were going to the Florin, expecting it to be low side of good. Well, we got there and it was beautiful, sunny, 80 degrees, and high side of good, so we decided to camp out and hit it the next day.
The Florin is an interesting river. You park at someone’s house with hot springs and cabañas, hike 15 minutes with your boats to the putin bridge, paddle down at most four rapids, then hike up the other side of the river out of the gorge, back to the putin bridge and back down to the hot springs. Earn your turns, right? Anyway, the four drops are worth it, even if it’s too high for one of them: a funny slide to 8’er, a humongous double drop (that was too high), a 20′ slide just above a 50′(60?)er, and a 50′(60?) waterfall.
The takeout trail is on river right downstream of the waterfall, but the river drops into another gorge below that which has now been run a few times. The entrance to this gorge is a gnarly 30′ must-boof rapid, followed by a blind corner that we were unable to scout. We tried to scout for a while then decided (slash, I decided) that it was too scary to drop in there at high water without really knowing what was around the corner.
After hiking back to the cars, we drove back out of the valley and ran a short stretch called the Caunehue just off the main highway. Turned out to be really quality class IV in a beautiful gorge. Don’t listen to the online guidebook that tells you to hike out on river left. If you continue 100 yards downstream, you get to the main highway on river right. I’ve got some GoPro of it but unfortunately no photos.
From the Caunehue, we headed to the Gol Gol via Nilahue (which was unfortunately still too high) and found it to be, unsurprisingly, quite high. The next day, we ran the Lower Gol Gol, putting in at Salto del Indio with no beta beyond that it was “probably class IV” and “good when the regular run is high.” Turns out it’s a pretty serious IV/V mission. We paddled in through some quality boulder gardens that slowly transitioned into bedrock. Ari ran a humongous hole blind and backwards, but luckily flushed through; the rest of us scouted and walked, except Jakub who ran a clean line on the left. It continued to gorge up with pool-drop bedrock ledges, until it appeared to drop through a crack and off the face of the earth.
The rapid looked like Ex Portacion on the Palguin, but twice as tall and far less “runnable.” And the rapid below was big time V into a boxed in gorge with no visible exit. We looked at our options and after a healthy dose of faffing about, decided to ferry across and portage most of the rapid left before seal launching into the gorge at the end of the rapid. I was pretty nervous about dropping into the gorge without scouting what was around the corner, but it fortunately flattened out and opened up just past what we could see.
All in all — Lower Gol Gol is super cool, and I was surprised I’d never heard of it. Unfortunately, no camera or GoPro on that trip.
After that, our trip started to wind down. We ran the Petrohue, a really fun big volume run further south, then drove past the Cochamo to find it flooding (along with everything else south of Lago Ranco). We drove all the way to the Rio Negro and unfortunately found it also too high, so Ari, Daphnee, and I drove back north to Pucon the next day with a quick dinner stop in Valdivia to eat Thai food and pichanga.
Back in Pucon, I sold my boat and we headed to Santiago to catch a flight to Ecuador. I won’t regale you with our Pucon-Santiago travel saga…suffice it to say, if they tell you they can’t take a boat on the bus, tell them you’ll pay for it and everything will work out.
Next update: 3 Weeks in Ecuador, or, “In Which Nick Eats Nothing But French Fries and ‘Tequila’ While Kayaking Beautiful Class IV Every Day for Pennies.”