Monday, February 08, 2010

Lifestyle Technicians Unite in Pucon, Chile

Considering the evolution of Facebook and its photo albums and the blogging habits of the homies (EG, Rodrigo and Demshitz), I'm not too surprised by my own absence from this blog. These other outlets for information combined with work and parties and shit-running in my freetime have left me with a lot photos and memories that may not be published. But, today I'm chilling in Pucon's best breakfast spot, the Ecole Cafe, with cloudy skies keeping the tourists away from the doorstep of Kayak Pucon, and I have no excuses. Some stories need to be told, photos need to be uploaded.

I flew into Santiago, bought a truck, hung out with the family of my good friend Israel, and boated the Mapocho with Nico and Sergio - a whilrwind of "hola" and "adios" before heading south. When I rolled into Pucon in November, a rowdy crew of the world's best partiers, I mean kayakers, had already established themselves in the sleepy, springtime vibe of the town. They were lapping 60 footers and building record-breaking bar tabs. Record holder, Tyler Bradt was bringing smiles to the local fans both day and night. A fresh crew of Spanish crazy kayakers had already been robbed. Rush Sturges and Anton Immler had already set the standard for extremes by jumping off of a giant cliff. Steve Fisher ran the world's best eddyturn, the Middle Palguin, something like 20 times in 7 days right after I moved into my house with Demshitz brownstar, Jared Seiler. Jared set the standard for his own self-abuse by first descenting one of the last great unrun stouts of the area, The Car Wreck of the Rio Carhuello - see previous blogpost for more info.

December began with a grave incident on the Cascada de Rio Bonito in Villa Angostura, Argentina, when Rush hurt his back on a brave descent of the falls. I was not there, but I have run this drop twice before, and considering the steeze and experience of this talented rapper, I feel pretty lucky to not be broken.

Around that same time, the Rio Nevado dropped into the "Demshitz Zone" on the local kayaker gossip guage, and the drama continued. It was actually kind of high according to its keepers, Jared, Rodrigo and EG, but "that shit was good to go." The Demshitz Drop and the Lower Nevado is something that had intrigued many before, but most considered it to be too stout. I remember looking at it back in 2005 and thinking that it was runnable, but only by crazy bastards like Tao. Since 2005 standards have changed, kayakers are more comfortable being crazy, and Pucon can get kind of boring if you sit around Mamas and Tapas for too many nights in a row.

The Lower Nevado begins with a fast entry into a technical eddy catch, followed by one of those "I guess I'm doing this now" kind of peel-outs into a dreamy but mandatory 5-foot boof, which runs immediately into the Demshitz, a 40 foot falls with limited control. The falls drops into a granite punchbowl with ampitheatre seating at its upper rim for spectators and scouters. The exit from the pool is The Diablito, named after Jared Seiler, who claimed the First D in November of 2008. This drop actually claimed Jared on his first run, and just one year later, he was claimed again.

The Diablito is a 10 foot curtain falls into a boily pool that banks off the canyon walls and spills into a slot not much more than a boat width wide. The canyon makes nearly a 90 degree right turn into this slot, so keeping your kayak straight through it's opening is definitely a concern. The higher water and rowdier boils pushed Jared's boat sideways at the entrance to its slot and he got pinned badly. Thanks to Rodrigo's monkey-ninja-wet rock-climbing skills, Jared was able to get his boat safely connected to a rope and he was able to escape unscathed. Since that day, Jared has run The Diablito three more times and cleaned it every time. Victory! The rest of the lower canyon is mythical, magical and awaits your visit.

Ok, back to the general wrap-up of the last few months...

Also sometime in december, we had the good fortune of making a trip the "Magic Valley" in the Kayak Pucon van. EG, Candace, Diablito, Todd Richey Rodrigo and I motivated to make a First Descent of the Rio Blanco above it's hot springs. The Blanco is beautiful and well worth a trip, even if just for the camping.

By the way, there were many many many kayakers running around Pucon and Chile at this time. There was a race on the Upper Palguin, won by Keegan Grady. He and his friends were also getting their laps on the big drops and steep creeks of the area. Todd, Jared and I were living toegether and doing our best to get our waterfalling on when not working - Kayak Pucon keeps me BUSY - thanks Rodrigo and Ema!!!! The Humboldt county boys were out there running the shit as well. The Spaniards and the Garcias were and still are traveling like the true gypsies we all want to be. The Desague and Puesco, arguably some of the best rivers in the world, were running daily. And, yes, we were all have way too much fun at the bars.

Christmas in Pucon for kayakers is usually defined by hangovers and the Rio Palguin. On the morning of the 25th, a massive group rallied to do a "Todo Palguin." On this day, we did the whole thing, Salto Palguin included. Steve Fisher ran the beast for the first time just a week or two before. (Steve and Anton also did the first "double descent" in a Jackson Duo over the Middle. Yes, he is a super hero.) I ran the Salto first and Jared followed. No one else wanted any of that one, on that day, but I think 7 more people have run it since??? Did I mention Pucon can make kayakers a little loose? I was lucky enough to make it through that one with a clean line, rolled up at the bottom and paddle in tact, no injury - woohoo! There is a really good Todo Palguin update on Evan's blog, but we all ran the portage and Jared and I also ran the entrance to the Middle Palguin stout falls, which had never been done before since the falls transfomed into 65-70 footer. Big props to Adam Bixby, Brian Kirk, Chris Baer and Nate Garcia who all ran the Middle for their first time that day. Yes, we like it.

New Year's was a huge party, everywhere in the world I'm sure. Thanks to Zorro and Villa for getting it started at their house. Thanks to Mamas and Tapas for tolerating us!

January is a blur. I think I did around 50 trips down the Liucura River, paddled the Nevado and its Lower Canyon a few times. One of those times I got ejected on The Demshitz and I was glad that we set a rope a the bottom, because I went first. Jordi, a wild Spanish man, also ran the Demshitz that day and it was his first time - way to go, bud! Young buck, Steve from Canada, ran the Todo Palguin (Salto, portage and Stout 10 entrance to the middle). I think he is 18?? Good work.

Also of note in January - Macy and Amanda came down from Reno and had a reallly good time. The Run Shit trip from Montana and Oregon kept Rodrigo, Ema and I busy but also helped with our sanity! Rodrigo, Todd, Jared, Ian, Jake and I went to the Rio Negro de Hornopiren for a little vacation from Kayak Pucon work. We wanted to hit up the Coachamo, but we just didn't have the time. The Negro is a classic, and one of the most beautiful areas of Chile. Go there if you can.

Well, I started with good intentions of sharing a lot of detail, but this will have to do for now. I hope the world is happy. I definitely feel like I've been trapped in a little bubble down here. I'm stoked to see the World Class family here now, and I can't give enough thanks to all of those who have come to paddle with Kayak Pucon. Mauricio, Ema, Jared and Rodrigo and I are all loving all of the work, even if it means a little less freetime.

Phones are ringing and it looks like some people are going to go do a lap on the Nevado, or maybe the Puesco or probably the Palguin. It's Zorro's birthday today and he wants to run the Middle.

photos by me, rodrigo, todd richey, adam bixby and candace sanders