Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Hilary Neevel boofing her way down the Upper Oyacachi.

So I figured I had to put a whitewater shot in first to get your attention, but now here is a little background.

It was Chris and Hilary's last few days in Ecuador and they wanted to do "something different." So, we set off for the Upper Oyacachi--the 2 day trip from the town of Oyacachi up at 10,367 feet in elevation down to the town of El Chaco at 4,724 feet.

Shuttle Driver of the Year!

Here is Wilo, our driver, posing in front of the Volcano Antisana on our morning drive to the put in. We couldn't have done it without him, as he helped us arrange permission to drive through the National Park/Quito's main water source to get to our river.

Don Beveridge holds the world record number of descents down the Upper Oyacachi with 4 now, and I'm a close 2nd with 3 descents. When Chris and Hilary mentioned that they wanted to do this trip, I'll admit, we hemmed a hawed a while. We just knew there would be a lot of what's going on in the above photo (portaging).

But, we eventually remembered that there would also be a lot of what's going on in this photo, so ultimately we decided to go for it.

This run has always been a bit of a dilemma for me. On the one hand, it's a hell of a lot of work paddling stuff like what you see in this photo for 2 days straight; but on the other hand, it's a hell of a lot of fun paddling this stuff for 2 days straight. Here, Chris is sitting above a fairly typical scene on the Oyacachi (although this series is somewhat less steep than many). But, you get the idea, it's never ending boat scouting, land scouting, and running steep drops with some portages thrown in the mix. The longest we ever went on this trip without having to get out and scout was 15 minutes (out of a total of 13 hours of paddling over 2 days to get to the "normal" Oyacachi put in where we know all the lines).

The Volcano Cayembe. We had great weather on our drive to the put in!

Still, the memory of my first trip down the river (Don's 2nd trip) was weighing heavily on my mind as we made trip preparations. In 2004, we put in and had a great first day of paddling on maybe 300-400 CFS (an ideal flow for this river which, for much of the upper run drops between 300 and 400 feet per mile). But then, as we slept that night it rained, and rained, and rained really F-ing hard. We woke up to, no exaggeration, around 5,000 CFS of river rushing by our camp. And, 5,000 CFS just ain't cool when you are talking 300-400 feet per mile. Needless to say, it was hellish getting out of there. Carrying a fully loaded boat of camping gear from sun up to sun down tends to dampen the spirits.

But, as Don reminded me, if flows are good, as they were on my 2nd trip (his 3rd), you are treated to literally hundreds of boofs over the 2 days of paddling. Here I am on "just one of the many."

So, we packed our boats, got our permission, and set off. To our delight, we had perfectly clear skies on the drive to the put in. Here is the crew assembled and ready to paddle.

Me, working my way through the first hour or so of "mank"

The first part of the first day, there really isn't quite enough water for proper paddling. But, that's how you want it to be. If there was enough water, up high, you'd be pretty screwed down below. After groveling our way down through the first hour or so, more and more sizable tributaries started to join the river giving us a good flow.

Chris getting in the grove as we started to get a better flow on day 1.

Here is Don in one of the many, many rapids.

You can see below him how things just keep on going on this run.

And Hilary on another one of the uncountable boofs.

And me, doing the same. My boofing muscles sure were sore after this.

Ah, rest at last

Relaxing around the fire after paddling for 6.5 hours the first day. We are enjoying some hummus, lentils and rice, and of course, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

6:30am the next day, trying to rally ourselves to put on the wet gear and keep going. I guessed we still had 5 hours of paddling to get to the "normal" Oyacachi put in. Deep down I was hoping it might be less than that, but I was wrong! It ended up taking us 6 hours to the regular put in. Then we blazed the last 10 kilometers of the "day run" in 1.5 hours--we were motivated to get to the take out!

Here is Don running "wake up call," the rapid we camped next to.

This was an exhilarating way to wake up--especially since we didn't bring any coffee with us! It doesn't look so bad here, but considering it went on for about 200 meters it took some concentration.

Here I am on another scene from the morning warm up.

More typical boulders and whitewater that make the Upper Oyacachi oh so wonderful and oh so challenging at the same time.

Pensive Chris

Day 2 had some big rapids, as well as some big portages. I can't remember where exactly this photo was taken, so I'm not sure what Chris is thinking here, but it's probably 1 of the 3: "Damn, why didn't I bring coffee on this trip." "damn! Not another portage!" Or, "hot damn, another killer boof!"

This rapid here, which we call "The Tunnel," was indeed a portage.

For you west coasters, it's kind of remniscint of the portage on the Mine run of the Ashlu River in B.C.

More beautiful boofing between boulder gardens

We were rewarded with this great series just below "The Tunnel." This one consisted of a 10 foot boof, into a fast S-turn move which spit you out right above the 6 foot ledge you see in this photo. All that was followed by a 20 foot long reprieve before the series ended in 2 more scouts (they were runnable though).

This was the last long series before we reached the land that we recognized.

If you look closely at some of these photos you can really get a feel for how "never ending" the run is. The gradient really is amazing, and it's even more incredible that so much of it is runnable. Oh ya, and check out the great rainforest in the background.

Hilary exiting one big ol' long rapid

Enjoy the rest of the photos, and take my advice--get in good shape before you do this run because it's a real ass kicker!

Chris flying over a rather munchy hole.

Don probing the exit of a rapid via door #1, a nice looking 10 foot waterfall.

Hilary in a massive boulder garden--very typical of this run.

Chris boofing his way out of "Tierra Incognito."


Tired and happy at the take-out

I have to take full responsibility for the crappy photography in the photo, but it's hard doing group self portraits with a straight and steady hand after 7 hours of paddling and a shot of tequila! Anyhow, you get the idea.

UK paddlers in Ecuador

In mid December 6 kayakers from the UK joined SWA for 9 days of paddling. Besides not understanding most of what they said between their accent and slang, it was a great time on and off the rivers. By the end of their time here they had not only done nine different runs but learned to enjoy big water, OK maybe more like handle big water. Now they are off to the Galapagos to swim with the sea lions.

Josh in Panel of Bozos

Larry in Serpentine

Clair remote on the Hollin

A little boatercross?
Josh getting his boof on.

Clair on the Cosanga

Conrad feeling the power.

Parting shot
Chris instructing on the zen of no the water!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ecuador, more than just a kayaker's dream

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, Ecuador does offer quite a lot to the visitor besides kayaking.

My parents are here right now so they are "forcing" me to take time off the rivers and do a little dry land exploring, and you know, there are some damn cool things to see!

(Don't worry, I know we are all kayakers here, so I've included some good whitewater shots as well. So, please, read on...).

Above is a photo of the volcano Antisana, 5,704 meters (about 18,253 feet), and the headwaters of the Quijos River (the really kick ass river that our lodge is based on

This here is the Quijos River, born from the snows of Antisana (the volcano above).

mmmmm....good whitewater!

Veggie market in Gualaceo near Cuenca in the southern highlands. If only we had a "farmers market" like this in my town back in the US, I would eat very well.

Yep, in case you were wondering what exactly you were looking at, those ARE guinea pigs on a stick. A delicacy here in Ecuador. I think those are bigger than the ones I had as pets when I was a kid.

Ah, more kayaking. Rio Papallacta.

Ladies selling grain and beans in a local market.

One of the many, many, many nice churches in Cuenca.

Oh, and besides nice churches, Ecuador has some great geology as well. This band of rock extends all the way across the river. The river has cut most of it away (if I had to guess, this river probably flows at an average of 4,000 cfs--sometimes it's 1,000, sometimes it 40,000--but either way, it's powerful. And, it's makes for a nice stern squirting and bow stalling area.

The volcano Chimborazo as seen from the air. This is the tallest mountain in Ecuador at 6,310 meters (roughly 20, 140 feet), and is the furthest point from the center of the earth due to the earth's equatorial bulge.

More kayaking, cause it's fun!

And more

Check in next week for a trip report from our new Rios Escondidos.