Two days of paddling Siete Tazas of the Rio Claro was a great warm-up to Chilean waterfalls (see previous blog). My technical skills felt solid. My mental game felt good. I was ready to sample more of the unique rapids of the Rio Claro! Pablo, Chris of H2O Dreams, and I decided to hike further upstream the next day for the Veintidós Saltos section of the Rio Claro. Veintidós Saltos offered a much different set of logistics as well as rapids and waterfalls of a higher difficulty than experienced on Siete Tazas.
Our group did not need to load up or even use the shuttle vehicles, as a trail to the put-in was just down the road from our campsite. Convenient! I loaded up all gear for the day in my kayak and set off on foot. The hiking trail to the put-in was well maintained, but did not feature signage for accessing Veintidós Saltos. Be sure to do research before coming to this area, or at least have someone with knowledge of the area. Thankfully, our group had paddlers with experience with the area! But…our group decided to get a little bit creative and try to plan two skill level trips, one group putting in at the very top for a class IV-V day and one group putting in 3/4 of the way down for a much less intense step up from Siete Tazas. Simple enough, right?Tarantula found while hiking at the Rio Claro
On the hike to the put-in, our group found four drainage routes to the Rio Claro, with the last marking a trail to the put-in for Veintidós Saltos. We set off at the second drainage route to find access to the Rio Claro, but after a whole lot of bushwhacking, we found the path to the river to be eroded with unreliable anchor points. This pursuit of creativity proved to be exhausting, so we stopped for a quick lunch break before heading up to the last drainage.
After lunch, Chris, Pablo, and I finished up the hike to the last drainage and performed some ropework to get our gear to the gorge walls surrounding the put-in for Veintidós Saltos. At this point, the fatigue from hauling around all of my gear for the better part of a day started to set in. This section was magnificent with tall gorge walls and a beautiful rapid similar to Seven Foot Falls at the Chattooga River only a few feet from the put-in. I was struggling to soak in this picturesque landscape because of the fatigue. The fatigue led to a bit of anxiety, as I began to question my ability to navigate these waters safely at my current energy level. I felt comfortable with the first series of rapids that I could see from the gorge walls, but maintaining that energy for 20 more ‘Saltos’ would be challenging. The thought of our group departing for Pucón tomorrow hit me hard. This could potentially be my only opportunity to paddle this section of whitewater! When would I ever make it back to the Rio Claro? Would I ever be able to come back to Chile? Then I gathered my wits! I packed up my gear and started the hike back to camp. I paddle when I feel appropriately prepared to do so. If not, I would be risking my safety as well as the safety of my group. My group members supported this decision and hiked back with me.Kyle flying over the 30-footer on 22 Saltos. Photo courtesy of Chris Wing
As you can see from the photo above, I returned! Our group left the kayaks at the put-in and hiked back up early in the AM for a dawn patrol lap before leaving for Pucón. I am glad that I made the tough decision to fold my cards and only paddle Veintidós Saltos with a full tank of gas. I had the best team with me, as I felt no pressure to put-in with doubts and they were willing to hike up at an unbelievably early hour to finish what we started. It was the highlight of the trip and an incredible learning opportunity!
Video of Kyle paddling Veintidós Saltos of the Rio Claro
Product Spotlight for Day 4-5: Immersion Research Neoprene Lined Guide Short (MSRP $80)
During our stay at Radal Siete Tazas National Park, the weather was wonderful! Traveling from a snow-covered day at the Green Narrows to warm weather at the Rio Claro was a pleasant surprise. Prior to the trip, I expected to be in a drysuit everyday, as I knew the water would be quite chilly from the snowmelt and I assumed the weather would be as well. I did a quick check of the weather forecast, saw the potential for warm, sunny days and packed my trusty Immersion Research Neoprene Lined Guide Short.
I love these shorts! IR combines two designs, a neoprene short and a guide short, into one effective swimsuit for watersport enthusiasts. The inner 1.5mm neoprene layer provides effective insulation in cold water conditions, while the outer polyester layer is quick drying and protects the inner layer from abrasion. I needed both of these layers for my trip on Veintidós Saltos. The hike to the put-in and air temperature while paddling were warm enough to motivate me to wear shorts instead of a drysuit.Kyle scouting at the Rio Claro. Photo courtesy of Tracy Welch
The Immersion Research Neoprene Lined Guide Short is tough! I slid across rocks, through tree branches, dirt, and more during my hike to the put-in. The toughness of this short is a testament to IR meeting the requirements of their intended audience. The short is designed for the paddler lifestyle and constructed with materials that will endure constant punishment and dry quickly to be ready for another day of paddling. This pair of shorts has endured 100’s of days on the river and are still in fantastic condition!
Video, photo, and words by Kyle Thomas, Effort Inc.