Pyranha Logo
facebook twitter vimeo




Chile! Escaping Winter in South America: Part 1

Chile! I have been wanting to take a kayaking trip to Chile since the first time I saw the Demshitz movie my senior year of highschool in 2009. I have been planning this trip in my head ever since then and this year, after graduating from college and having a full winter season at my disposal, I made it happen. So stoked! Shortly after the Green Race, I flew into Santiago, Chile with my trusty travel companion/girlfriend, Hayley. After checking out the big city, we hopped on an overnight bus and arrived in Pucon the next morning.

Boof to Swim - Screen grab from Colin Hunt

Boof to Swim – Screen grab from Colin Hunt

Pucon is prime for straight up lifestyling Chile.  There are loads of great rivers close by, big waterfalls you can fall off everyday, awesome parties and discotecas, ridiculous scenery of snowcapped volcanoes, and loads of international kayakers running around. Highlights for me were definitely the Demshitz drop which I had been thinking about for years, of course the middle palguin 70 footer, and Salto Marrimon on the Trancurra which is a really cool rapid.

Palguin Medio! - Photo Kris Belozer

Palguin Medio! – Photo Kris Belozer

After a few weeks of living it up in Pucon, it was time to move on. Pucon may be close to paradise but Chile has a lot more to offer and you have to get away! Colin, Amy, Kris and Russell had just rolled into town and along with our German buddy Thomas, we rented a few cars and hit the road for 10 days traveling all over the lakes and rivers districts. It is one of my favorite things to be on the road, running new rivers everyday, with a sick group of friends, camping in amazing places, living the dream!

On days one and two, we warmed up on the Llancahue and the Fuy, two classic runs full of good rapids and nice waterfalls.

Llancahue put in drop - Screengrab from Colin Hunt

Llancahue put in drop – Screengrab from Colin Hunt


Salto Leones on the Fuy - Screengrab from Kris Belozer

Salto Leones on the Fuy – Screengrab from Kris Belozer

Day 3 was one of the best ever. We had camped at the lip of Salto Nilahue, a really cool 60 footer. We woke up and fired off that beast, then rallied straight to the Rio Gol Gol, another great piece of whitewater, culminating in a stout 50 footer called Salto del Indio which resulted in a few interesting lines! One huge crash, a broken paddle, a skirt implosion/swim, and one pretty good line! It aint everyday you get to run a 50 footer and a 60 footer with a whole lot of other good whitewater as well!

Salto del Indio - Screengrab from Kris Belozer

Salto de Nilahue – Screengrab from Kris Belozer

Firing off Salto del Indio on the Rio Gol Gol - Photo Colin Hunt

Firing off Salto del Indio on the Rio Gol Gol – Photo Colin Hunt


All the boys stoked after an awesome day!

All the boys stoked after an awesome day!

The next day we continued south to the Rio Petrohue, a nice class IV bigger water run with some of the most beautiful water color and scenery I have ever seen on a river. It is nestled right in between 2 massive snowcapped volcanoes with striking blue water. Truly spectacular! Then we proceeded on to the Rio Cochamo, which is set in a very remote part of Chile, with a gorge flowing into a fjord close to the Patagonia zone. This one is kind of a mission, and takes a full day of hiking and then a full day of paddling through a sieved out and steep remote gorge. We were there early in the season and worried it may be too high, which apparently you don’t want. The guidebook we had said to run the river “as low as it gets” and “the river should look completely empty at the takeout”.  With that in mind, we decided that it looked pretty low and we would give it a shot. So the next morning we woke up and started the 7 mile slog through mud and rutted out horse trail to the top. We couldn’t see much of the river and got to the top in high spirits. The Cochamo Valley is an incredibly scenic place (isn’t all of chile??) and referred to as the “Yosemite of Chile”. It has huge granite domes, and waterfalls cascading off the sides into the steep rugged canyon. Up at the top we cooled off from the hike on the sweet natural water slide on a side creek and slept under the stars looking up at the huge mountains surrounding us. The girls graciously hiked out our sleeping bags and we put on. It was immediately clear that the river was WAY TOO LOW. We ran about 6 actual drops, portaging almost the entire river due to it being so low that all of the existing water was under rocks. Well it was kind of a bust, but the scenery was amazing the whole way down and it was cool just to descend the gorge.


Hiking into the Cochamo

Hiking into the Cochamo

We eventually made our way back to Pucon, and after a few more Palguin, Fuy, and Trancurra laps, we headed to Patagonia for the famous Rio Futaleufu. It was quite a journey to get there involving 2 busses, an overnight ferry and some hitchhiking, but we finally made it to Nate Mack’s Hostel in town and our basecamp for sessioning this big water playground.

On the ferry approaching Chaiten, Patagonia

On the ferry approaching Chaiten, Patagonia

One of my favorite days on the Futaleufu was on Christmas day. We woke up and cooked a huge Christmas breakfast, something of a tradition for me back home. Then at about noon we put on the rio Espolon, right in Nates front yard. Paddling a few miles to the Futa, we were spit out right above inferno canyon, the top section of the river. We paddled through inferno, through throne room and zeta, miracle mile, terminator section, bridge to bridge, and casa de piedra, all 28 miles of river! Wonderful way to spend Christmas.

Seal Launch below Zeta

Seal Launch below Zeta

We spent 10 days at the Futa, a week backpacking around Patagonia, then another few days at the Futa before it was time to start heading back North. Some friends were heading back to Pucon by way of Argentina, hitting up the Manso gorge on the way home, something I had been hoping to get to run but had not yet had a chance. I was stoked for the opportunity! Salto Alerces is the drop at the put in, a super cool waterfall with a blind step down move, you boof off one side and transition to the other, getting your bow down and tucking up! Super fun. The rest of the gorge was full of high quality whitewater as well, then a 5 mile lake paddle. Thankfully we had a tailwind!

Salto Alerces! One of my favorite waterfalls

Salto Alerces! One of my favorite waterfalls! Photo – Hayley Spear

After a sweet day on the Manso Gorge, Hayley and I kicked around in Bariloche, Argentina for a few more days, loving all the good Argentinian food and different culture before heading back to Pucon. I had a few more great days of boating, my last being a Todo Fuy, top to bottom! I had not previously paddled the secret section or middle as they were too high, but those 2 sections ended up being some of my favorites. Stoked to get a sick last day paddling in Chile! We then began the journey back to Santiago, where we had a flight to Quito, Ecuador, where the adventure continues! Stay tuned for part 2 to hear about the jungle rivers and adventure in tropical Ecuador!