08 Dec 08 Chilean Summer Whitewater Adventure
Working as a whitewater raft guide on Maine’s Kennebec, Penobscot and Dead rivers, I take great pride in guiding adventures from around the world down the best whitewater the northeast has to offer. Over the course of a day the questions can range from routine to bizarre. A question I hear as often as “how deep is the river?” is “what do you do for vacation?” and my standard answer is “Visit other rivers of course!”
Since my first year working in the adventure tourism industry I’ve heard rumors of a river comparable in volume to the Grand Canyon with the color of the Caribbean Ocean, framed by the snow capped Andes mountains. I’ve finally made the trip to visit this magnificent river the locals know as Futaleufu and it is everything I’d heard and more.
I’m here for a relatively short period of time – just over a month to train with Earth River Expeditions as a safety cataraft guide accompanying commercial trips to pick up any rafters who should fall overboard in the big rapids and would otherwise be swept away down stream. My multiple week training although never truly over was formally just finished after running Inferno Canyon, a two mile stretch of river with five class-five rapids, several of which need to be run back-to-back without scouting. I was especially on edge knowing our group would be the first to run the canyon this season and that like all the rapids on the Futaleufu the winter flooding has a tendency to change the rapids from year to year, sometimes for the better …sometimes for the worse. All this was running through my mind as the head trainer explained last years lines to multiple class-five rapids I wouldn’t see until I was dropping into them. I ran second, behind the guide with the most experience among us, trying to focus on his angle, position and speed as we rowed steadily into the misty entrance of the rapids. Being positioned on a metal frame between two large tubes allows the massive waves to crash through the frame and threatened to rip me from the cat, pulling hard on the oars to keep from being tossed into the water, huge boulders slide past our small cats and waves seem to crash everywhere as I tried not to stare too long at some of the biggest holes I’d ever seen. As we emerged from the dark canyon into welcome sunlight I smiled as I looked ahead to the coming trips on this amazing river – a trip that has already been one of the best vacations I’ve ever had and I’ll surely never forget the mighty Futaleufu.
Submitted by Nick Atwood
Northern Outdoors Adventure Program Director