Whitewater rafting, Mundaca, Futaleufu River, Chile

A Whitewater rafting trip on the Futaleufu River hits a Class IV rapid, Mundaca, and goes vertical. Futaleufu River, Patagonia, Chile

Hey Folks,

Ahhh – the days feel longer already. It’s like Boxing Day for Solstice.

I told you I’d show a couple of photos of how big Mundaca is. This is my friend KC, from New Zealand, guiding a 16′ raft through the entrance wave of Mundaca. One guide plus 6 people in a heavy raft and the wave stands it up almost totally vertical. Some awesome power in the water here. KC’s a killer guide, he’s worked on rivers all over the world, including the Zambezi and the White Nile in Africa. Not too bad for a Kiwi!

Shooting whitewater rafting photos is kinda hard – I found the hardest thing was to not fill the buffer – mostly because the rapids were so big, I could shoot the whole series and still miss stuff. The D2x has a buffer of 17 shots when shooting raw files, and it’s amazing how quickly they go by when you shoot 5 frames per second. I missed a few good flips, etc, because I’d shoot too much early, and the buffer would fill before the rafts hit the main hole. Of course, you can’t stand there and not shoot action like this, hoping they might flip when they hit the main hole. It really helped when we got a good system down, with signals saying who was going big, who was running which side, etc. Also I’d switch to jpeg for some stuff, though I really hated to do that – it was necessary sometimes if I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the shot.

If you look at yesterday’s photo, this particular wave is the really whitewater almost in the middle of the frame from yesterday’s photo. The main hole that gets REALLY big is just out of the frame on yesterday’s shot, downstream about 20 yards from this one. Running middle at this water level means big water, more big water, and then really big water. Most folks that flipped ran this line, hit this wave OK, then flipped on the main hole, Mundaca. Probably the biggest line of the season was towards the end of the year, me and my friend Manu, from Switzerland took a boat of clients straight down the centerline, hit Mundaca slightly off-square, and called a HIGH-SIDE left. A high-side means everyone on the boat dives to a particular side, left or right depending on the call. The momentum and weight helps keep the boat from flipping. You’ll always dive towards the downstream side of the boat – it kinda works similar to diving under a wave at the beach on a surfboard or body surfing. So rather than hit the wave square on, Manu veered slightly towards the right, so the left edge of the boat caught the wave first. I called “High-Side Left”, and everyone dove on to the left side of the raft, grabbed the OS line (the OS line means “Outer Safety”, a rope that runs around the outside of the raft – you can see a few people n the front of this raft holding on to the rope – it also is called the OS line because it stands for “Oh Sh**”!!! :)), and held on tight. We were submerged for what seemed like forever, but eventually we came out from the wave, upright, and grabbed paddles again. Lotsa High Fives and cheers and Manu got a bunch of beer that night – Manu’s a great rafting guide.

Mundaca, an awesome rapid. Hopefully it’ll remain, and the river won’t be dammed. Go to FreeFlowingRivers.org and watch the documentary my friend Rudolpho produced to see how the community of Futaleufu is set on resisting the proposed dams (you might also see not one, but TWO cameos by yours truly!!!).

More from Mundaca and the Futa tomorrow, as the days grow longer here in Alaska, and I’m thinking my days on the Futa last summer, where the days have just started growing shorter.



4 thoughts on “Whitewater rafting, Mundaca, Futaleufu River, Chile

  1. Carl Donohue

    Hey Ron,

    Yeah, I told KC this particular morning I wanted to see him go vertical – he didn’t go totally vertical, but he went pretty big.

    Everyone on the trips would wear a wetsuit, booties, helmet and a PFD (Personal Flotation Device, what used to be called a ‘life-vest’, but now they’re not, due to insurance reasons). The water’s too chilly to go in without a wetsuit – not Alaska Chilly, but chilly enough. On warm or hot days it’s fine for swimming, but there are also pretty strong winds that run up the valley – so for the few sections where folks aren’t paddling, it can get cold mighty fast, sitting all wet in a boat.



  2. sofia

    Hey Carl! The picture you have there looks like my brother’s toy raft being almost flipped vertically due to the strong gush of water. It looks nice. Its amazing how the waves really put the raft and a bunch of people in that position and sometimes totally flip it over. Oh well, I just can’t get over my experience of almost drowning while on our whitewater rafting adventure! It was way cooler down there than the splashes of water I got as the raft was in motion. Haha… I just laugh myself out after that. Cagayan de Oro is getting to be a favorite adventure resort destination. I’m glad I had the chance to book myself for the challenge at http://cdokay.com/. I hope that thrill-seekers would find it a place worth the while to visit as I did.

  3. Carl Donohue

    Hey Sofia

    Thanks for your comment. Rafting is a ton of fun, for sure, though can be dangerous in whitewater. A good guide is critical. KC, the guide in this boat above, is one of the best.



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