Monday, November 29, 2010

NubleFest 2010

When most people think of kayaking in Chile they think of the steep creeks of Pucon or of the big water at the Futa, but I was fortunate enough to spend the past week experiencing another gem of Chile, the Rio Nuble Valley located in the small mountain town of San Fabian. I was brought to the town because of my good friend Jon Clark, who found this place many years ago and has since been returning yearly to experience the beautiful vistas, play on the river's waters as well as to support a movement to fight the hydro electric projects that threaten the Nuble River and its tributaries.

San Fabian's town square
Five years ago Jon started organizing "NubleFest," a festival to promote the town of San Fabian and showcase the value that the river can have to not only the people of San Fabian, but to greater Chile. The festival lasted the whole weekend with its primary goal to get as many people as possible excited about the river. This involved taking hundreds of people on free rafting trips, a boatercross event, a raft race as well as a freestyle rodeo.

The raft racers plowing towards the finish line during NubleFest

The Nuble watershed has something for everyone. The Nuble River itself consists of over 25 miles of whitewater with a number of different sections including a harder class four upper section, a class three middle section and a lower class two stretch. When the water is flowing good, it has a feel similar to a cross between the Gauley and the Ocoee. If creeking is your thing, there are a number of tributaries to the Nuble that will give you what you're looking for. The week leading up to the festival, Gareth and I were fortunate enough to get to experience the magic of one of the Nuble's tributaries, Las Truchas.

I had heard about Las Truchas from Jon years ago when he went up there and got the first descent of it. He spoke of an overnight trip, with a big hike in and lots of creeky style rapids. Immediatley I knew it was right up my alley. Then a few weeks ago Jon did the second descent with some other friends from the states, and again the stories drew me there. With Jon busy preparing for the festival, Gareth and I decided to venture into the upper reaches of the Nuble Valley for a little expedition of our own.

The adventure started by hopping on a bus from San Fabian that took us as far up the watershed as you can reach by road. We were dropped off next to another tributary of the Nuble, Los Sauces and proceded to gear up and paddle ten minutes downstream to the beach where we would be meeting our cowboy in the morning to load up our boats on a horse and start the long hike to the creek.

The view from Camp One on the banks of Los Sauces
First thing in the morning our cowboy arrived and we helped get everything loaded up on the horse and started the 8 hour hike to the put in of Las Truchas. Intially, Gareth and I were skeptical about paying for a horse to carry our boats, but by the end of the hike we both conceded that Jon was probably correct to push us in that direction. The hike itself was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. We were staring at snow capped peaks and mountain waterfalls pretty much the whole journey. We spent the night camped out by the river ready for a full day of kayaking down the Truchas the next day.
Our hard working horse getting loaded down with Nomads

Preparing to cross one the first of many cold creek crossings

Our first view of Las Truchas from high above on the hike

Gareth taking a break to enjoy the view

The aftermath of our little box of wine in the food bag disaster

The shelter we made at camp two after spending the previous night soaked by dew
Las Truchas turned out to be a great class 4-5 creek, with a steep boulder garden feel and lots of moves to make and boofs to hit. The steepest miles involved a lot scouting and managed to keep us both on our toes the whole day. In the end it took us eight hours to make it down to the confluence with the main Nuble and because we wanted to shorten our final day, we pushed on another hour down river before discovering an epic campsite below the Andean peaks.

Gareth nailing the line at the waterfall rapid (I personally decided to nail a rock instead, not recommended)

Another big boof by Gareth

Enjoying an Andean sunset by the fire

Our magnificent night three campsite
Our final day consisted of a full day of paddling on the Nuble, from the top most section all the way back down to the town of San Fabian. We arrived just in time to get showered and experience a real Latin American Thanksgiving, complete with a lamb asado and to make us feel at home, they even threw in some turkey and mash potatoes.

If the proposed hydro electric projects were to happen, it would flood the Nuble valley all the way up to the confluence of Las Truchas, eliminating the Los Sauces tributary (which is known to have some steep creeking class 5+  sections) and creating a lake where the best rapids of the Nuble currently sit. The easy logistics of the Truchas, with busing up from town and paddling all the way back to town would be lost and the experience not nearly as magical.

If you come to Chile, make sure to make the beautiful town of San Fabian and the waters of the Nuble watershed a must make stop on your itinerary. The more people that come and experience this wonderful place the better chance that we will have it in its current state (without dams) for many many more years to come.

If you would like more information on the festival or the logistics of visiting San Fabian, feel free to email me or contact Paul Jimenez of Extremo Sur Expediciones at

Experiencing the Rio Claro, Chile 2010

Gareth on hour 36 of our travels to Chile

Last week Gareth and I decided to break away from the impending winter back in North Carolina and sneak away for a few weeks of kayaking in Chile. Our trip started out with getting denied at the Greenville airport with our boats, managing to change our flights to leave from Charlotte and eventually finally getting both of us and our boats on a plane South. After two full days of traveling, we finally made it to our first destination, San Fabian where we met up with my good friend Jon Clark.

Looking for a ride to San Fabian
Our first adventure took us up to the Rio Claro, most known for the Seven Teacups section. What I hadn't realized before, was that the Rio Claro also contained two other steep waterfall style sections that were exactly what I was looking for. First we did the Veintidos Saltos (22 waterfalls) section, which was aptly named as it contains 22 pretty sweet waterfalls. 

Me at one of the veintidos waterfalls (Photo by Jon Clark)

Gareth disconnecting with the water on a huge boof (Photo by Jon Clark)
After a quick snack we headed back on the water to venture into the section (and more specifically the one rapid) which we had been talking about since our arrival into Chile. The section is called the Entre Saltos which contains the infamous, Throat of the Devil rapid. The section starts off with some fun drops then quickly walls up. This is when you know you've arrived. The Throat of the Devil probably drops about 50 feet in total, with the first 20 feet dropping steeply through what I would describe as a mix between a skate park and a drain pipe following which the water falls about 30 more feet of verticle. Jon went first and I followed quickly behind him. Gareth shot video of the drop before taking the plunge himself.

Jeremy Anderson dropping into the skate park/ drain pipe on a previous trip to the river (Photo by Jon Clark)
Gareth beginning his ride (Photo by Jon Clark)
At the bottom of the drop you end up in a toilet bowl pool with a pretty sizeable exit drop to get through. What happens next is something that you really can't put into words. The river narrows down and the gorge walls fly to the sky and you find yourself paddling through the most magical place I've ever been in a kayak. Then you turn the corner to find a 30 foot tributary making the most beautiful waterfall pour down just beside you. Unfortunatley because of the nature of this, it is very difficult to take pictures, so you are just going to have to come experience it for yourself.

Finally we dropped through the "Vaginas," two very narrow slot rapids which its best to stay upright in. After a couple more drops the walls start to open up and you are transported back to the real world. That section of river is officially at the top of my list for one of the msot amazing places I've ever seen.

The next morning we dropped the classic, Seven Teacups section, which includes, you guessed it, seven waterfalls, before hopping in the truck and cruising back to San Fabian.

Gareth at the first of the seven teacups

Gareth finishing off the seven teacups section dropping the final 25 footer

Waterfall vista on the way out of town

The Hillux loaded down for the trip home
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