Friday, November 20, 2009

Seltzer Boating :: Chilean Creeking

Matt Smink on the first drop of the Siete Tazas

I find myself in the city of Talca, in Central Chile, with only one night in a bright and loud hotel to record the past week of creeking excursions on the Rio Claro. I will keep the descriptions minimal, not only because of my dirth of time but because I am really proud of these photos- definitely the best I've ever taken.It's incredible how many faces and expressions that water can adopt. The Maipo was sultry and fast and wide, the color of darkened leather. The Maipo's salted waves turned from glassy green to aqua to navy, mirroring the weather.
But paddling on the the Rio Claro was like pushing your boat through pools and chutes full of seltzer water. The water sparkled, bubbled and glinted as if the creek were gem-lined. The waterfalls were glossy and smooth at the entrance, and then they carreened forward as if some really big person filled their mouth with a ton of water, cheeks distended, and then spit it out with all his of force.Eric Bartl dropping in

The first day was an expedition through the middle canyon, a section known as the Entres Saltos. While hiking and scouting that morning, we had spotted five smaller clean waterfalls we were eater to run. We put in directly under the bridge near our camp site and stated paddling down. It was a canyon, but for the most part you could scramble out on river right and walk. The canyon was laced with class 5 rapids that were mandatory walks for anyone with a brain. The rest of the rapids were fun, tight lines full of boofs that all ended in the most beautiful, safe pools. There were a few swims- none from me- and the rescues were pretty simple (alright, most of them were. One girl swam right above a little drop that I wouldn't have wanted to swim over, but they got her right back in her boat.)Italic
Haakon Samuelson setting up to plug the 6th drop

We ended up taking out before we reached the five drops we had been aiming for. A tricky double drop and waning sunlight stood in our way. It didn't bother me- I'm always the happiest one to reach the take out, even after such a blissful day of clear water creeking. That night I drank hot chocolate and read my book and fell asleep in my tent. And I woke up the next day ready to paddle the seven teacups.Zoe Ross in the seltzer. You can see her boat underwater in this photo

The seven teacups (siete tazas) is a run of seven beautiful waterfalls ranging in height from 3 feet to 2o, running through the black basalt chamber of the Rio Claro canyon. Once you drop in, the only way out is to run it. The walls curve out and then in, as if you were in the bottom of a light bulb. And speaking of common household imagery, it's as cold as a fridge in there.
Zoe Ross commits to the right side
We flew like a flock of angels down the falls, paddles and faces pressed up against sterns. The hole at the bottom of the slide tried to digest me but I survival surfed the out of it. I went over-vertical (aka ass over teakettle) off the the 17 footer. On the 20 footer I was so mesmirized by the fast approaching foam that I didn't tuck in time and Bam! Next thing I know my head sprang back and I bubbled around a while beneath the curtain before catching my roll. Tino said I looked as stiff as a toy soldier.

Halfway through the run....Experimenting with shutter speed

But whatever! I ran the Siete Tazas, and despite those small confessions I ran them pretty well, with no swims and limited misery!
Eric Bartl about to go deep on the 6th drop

The next day, we divided into two groups to run the sieta tazas again. While group number two set up to take photos and document every drop, group number one dropped into the river at a new, higher put in. I was in group one, and I sailed off the first clean drop at the new put in and followed gamely along behind the other technicolored ducklings. But we never made it to the siete tazas, and the photographers were waiting all day for a string of little bright boats that never came. It's a story for another day, but it's one HELL of a story. Melina Coogan dropping in to the disasterous upper "put in." Photo by Matt Smink

Finally, all the photos on this post (and on this blog, generally) are mine. (With the exception of the one above.) The final day at the Rio Claro, I shot from the wooden vantage points on the edge of the canyon to get these shots. Which means, of course, there aren't many of me. But I ran this shit! Alex Anderson on one of the middle drops


Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

cindy said...

template comment: sometimes i pick up an older story you wrote years ago, and i wanna be able to read the next one. but there's no next button and it sucks. this river is SHOCKINGLY BEAUTIFUL...and i wanna see what happens next, without needing to sift it out the hard way.