Here’s another image from Chile, the Futaleufu River. This rapid is called ‘Casa de Piedra’, which translates in English as ‘House of Rock’. See that big huge boulder smack in the middle of the river? The one with 4 small trees growing on top of it. THAT’S the rock. It’s huge – I’ll try to dig up an image that might give a sense of scale here – the rock is easily bigger than a regular house – a huge boulder that crashed down to the valley floor centuries ago, and now resides in the Futaleufu River.
Casa de Piedra is a Class V rapid, and a really technical run. Guides would often not let some guests run the river, if they weren’t strong enough paddlers – once you enter the rapid, from just upstream and to the left of the rock (which would be ‘river right’, facing downstream), it’s a non-stop run for over 200 yards of holes and waves and pour-overs. Usually we’d stop a few miles upstream, and decide who wanted to go on, and if they were up to it. If we cold round up a boat full of people, they’d consolidate into one or 2 rafts, and head off downstream. The last few miles were pretty sweet whitewater, with Más o Menos (‘More or Less), a huge wave train of Class IV and V water, some smaller rapids, and then Casa – the wickedest rapid on the lower Futaleufu. The guide really has to know his way through – ‘stop’, ‘back’, ‘all forward’, ‘left back’, ‘get down’, ‘hold on’, ‘all forward’, … the calls from the guide don’t let up until your boat comes out at the bottom of the run – it’s pretty full-on. This shot was taken late in the season when water levels were down, and you don’t really get a sense of how intense this rapid is – even standing on the shoreline it wouldn’t look so bad – in the middle of it, with nothing but walls of white, foamy water, immense boulders and thunderous falls all around, the perspective is a bit different. One of the guides, Manu, the Swiss Giant, broke 2 oars in 2 consecutive runs through Casa (I don’t think anyone else broke an oar anywhere on the river all season). I was shooting one of the times from this side of the river, and over the roar of the rapids, I could hear the oar ‘CRACK’ from his boat all the way across the river – amazing sound.
I miss Futa, and hope things aren’t too bad down there right now with the volcano eruption. I’ll post an update as soon as I hear something further.