Salto y Saltos: Day 7 of Chile Adventures

by Kyle Thomas on March 4, 2015

The Rio Palguin is a must-see in Chile for paddling enthusiasts.  The site of the rapid formerly known as Stout 10 on the Middle section of the Rio Palguin is worth a visit, from experiencing a wild swinging bridge crossing the river to investigating a collapse of rock supporting the riverbed, transforming Stout 10 into a deadly hazard now being referred to as Stout Siphon.

Swinging bridge at the Middle Rio Palguin Swinging bridge at the Middle Rio Palguin

 

The notorious Stout Siphon (formerly known as Stout 10) The notorious Stout Siphon (formerly known as Stout 10)

 

Following our visit to the Middle Palguin, our group drove further upstream to the Upper Rio Palguin, a Chilean whitewater classic!  The Upper Rio Palguin is a frequent stop for paddlers traveling to Chile, as its flow is reliable, running laps is a breeze (and encouraged), and the waterfalls and rapids featured in the run are clean and exciting.  The Rio Palguin twists and turns over basaltic bedrock of Volcán Villiarrica, yielding smooth waterfall lips and fluffy landing zones.

Paddler relic found on the riverbanks of the Rio Palguin Paddler relic found on the riverbanks of the Rio Palguin

 

The Upper Palguin provided another opportunity for me to push my skills and test the quality of my gear.  While this section of whitewater was a short distance, each step required patience and precision.  The first drop of the Upper Palguin presented a rocky entrance followed by a tricky double drop.  The entrance was reminiscent of paddling in the southeast, with exposed rock scattered throughout, waiting to deflect my every move.  The double drop, on the other hand, felt different.  I paddled through the entrance, eddied out above the double drop, and scouted the line. Double drop appeared similar to ski jump at Veintidós Saltos with the timing of Zwick’s at the Green River Narrows.  I hopped back into my boat, built up some momentum, and patiently awaited the two boof strokes necessary for avoiding a hydraulic at the base of each drop.

Double Drop at the Upper Palguin Double Drop at the Upper Palguin

 

Gliding through the double drop after watching Carson and Chris grease the line fired me up!  We continued downriver to a blind drop with a completely different character from previous rapid.  I had scouted this rapid from the shore and understood the river features, but I needed to be patient at the lip and spot my landing.  A little too left and I would get some hole time.  Too far right and I would dry up on some rocks and still end up in the hydraulic.  I stepped on the gas pedal too much and ended up going a little too far right, but was able to save the line and cleanly make it over the 10’+ drop.  I needed to calm down and focus.

The last half of the Upper Palguin was a smooth ride.  My preparations at the Rio Claro helped me to sail over the 20’+ drop downstream of the blind drop.  A combination of patience and proper safety helped me to focus and zoom through a nasty box hole similar to Speed Trap on the Green River Narrows and to conclude my first experience on the Rio Palguin.  I loved it!

Video of Kyle paddling the Upper Rio Palguin

Product Spotlight for Day 7:  Astral GreenJacket (MSRP $250)

The Astral GreenJacket is often regarded as a standard for rescue personal flotation devices (PFDs) in whitewater paddling.  What makes it so great?  Why does Astral keep iterating on the design?  I have been paddling with a GreenJacket for a number of years, but this trip to Chile really helped me to get better acquainted with Astral’s rescue PFD.

In Chile, I found multiple uses for the GreenJacket, including paddler flotation, paddler protection, harness, and storage.  The Foam Tectonics allow the outer panel to move freely with my upper body for effective mobility and ease of fitting  (see more about fitting). When hiking down to the river, the GreenJacket provided a fully-integrated harness system for rappelling down steep surfaces as well as connecting to an anchor when roping the gear down to the river.  Being able to move freely while remaining comfortable and in a harness system eliminated significant distractions while working our way down to the river.

Wearing the Astral GreenJacket during the hike in Wearing the Astral GreenJacket during the hike in

 

The details of the most recent iteration of the GreenJacket design made it clear that Astral has a firm understanding of their target audience.  The introduction of the large clamshell front pocket adds more capability to the GreenJacket.  In safety situations, the storage offered is simple, organized, and predictable, leading to quick access of my river knife, pin kit, throw rope, and tow system.  During a serious rescue, I need to respond quickly instead of spending my time fumbling to find my safety gear.  My river knife slides into one of the quick-access compartments of the front pocket, with plenty of room to fit in a pin kit.  My cowtail fits in either of the zipped pockets at the rear of the PFD, and the outer panel of the GreenJacket allows for a quick access compact throw rope.  Everything I need for rescue is at my fingertips instead of tucked away in the depths of my kayak.

I trust the Astral GreenJacket to keep me safe and protected on the river, and to assist in keeping those in my group safe as well.

Video, photos, and words by Kyle Thomas, Effort Inc.

Kyle Thomas

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