3/30/10

Rio Baker, Chile

Rio Baker, WOW!
















 


So let's start this story from the beginning. I was asked by Marcus if I wanted to go to the Rio Baker, the only real information I knew about the Baker was that it was HUGE, so my obvious reaction was, "YES!" For a week I trained on the Futaleufu, trying to get mentally prepared for the biggest white water In the Southern Hemisphere. The morning we were to leave I find out that Marcus our trip leader isn't even going to go; with this information I became immediately apprehensive. The success of our adventure seemed... very vulnerable. Marcus was the only one in the group that had been to the Baker before; this mission was getting harder, and more entertaining by the moment.

The Spider Van  Anyone who knows the old CRC (Colorado Rivers and Creeks) book knows that any of the write-ups with spiders printed on the page are special. Some of those write-ups have almost unattainable put ins, some have ill placed wood, some have scary rapids, and some have horrible hike outs, but any time you see a spider you know it is going to be a true adventure. The van that we were about to climb into to go on a 8 day 1,400 kilometer drive on Chile's international highway (which is nothing but dirt, and a lane and a half wide) had a spider sticker, smack dab in the middle of the hood, I should have known better.


beware of spiders

The group slowly convened and we piled more and more equipment in, and on, the Spider Van. In total we had five kayakers, one girlfriend, and a driver. The first day of driving was constantly interrupted by unexpected stops: a flat tire, extra fuel, boats falling off . . .  We got our selves off to a slow and very entertaining start.


There was some pretty amazing scenery at some of those unexpected stops.


That first night we camped at a beautiful lake.

Back in the van, back on the road, we headed south for half a day and stopped in Coihaiqlue to stock up on food, beer, and a new used tire. Then we found out that the night before there was an earthquake 8.8 on the Richter scale; the second biggest earth quake ever recorded, and in perspective not very far away. Everyone in the group dispersed to get on the internet and tell family and friends that they were ok, and to check on our friends that were closer to the epicenter. If that wasn't enough entertainment the transmission started sounding really bad; it was definitely necessary to fix the problem but it was getting late, so we spent the night. The next morning we were off to the mechanics for a little fabrication and welding. The Spider Van got repaired again, and we were finally moving south again.


The view just outside of Tranquilo looking across Logo Carrera

The next stop was Tranquilo for food, and an amazing view across lake Carrera. We jumped back in the van only to realize yet another tire was loosing air rapidly, we slapped on the spare (that was also low on air), drove across the street to air up the tire and the police rolled up right behind us. It took a while to get the full story, but one month earlier our driver was pulled over by the police and given a stern warning for driving without the proper vehicle paper work (at this point in the trip, it made total sense that the van was not properly licensed.) Those same police were now right behind us and eyeing us hard. We waited and waited, the police took off and this was our chance to hightail it out of the little town. We got a couple hundred yards out of town and the Spider Van lost brake pressure. I looked under the vehicle and saw brake fluid running out of the brake caliper, here we go again. We pulled the tire off and I realized that the brake pad on the inside of the caliper, had fallen off and the brake pad on the outside was paper thin. Back into town to find a mechanic, and we found a great one. The mechanic actually retrofitted an existing pad to fit on the Spider Van. This repair cost us another night, and we didn't get going again until the next midday, and actually made some good distance. Our next stop was in Bertrand for the last minute supplies. Bertrand is the city at the top of the Baker, there the water drains from the lake and heads into the canyon. We drove along the twisting flat water of the canyon for a while; then we were there, 700 plus kilometers, four days, countless unexpected stops, and we were finally at the first rapid.

The water is a beautiful green-blue, with tons of sediment from the glaciers that feed it. The first rapid is aww inspiring. The preferred line is down the left hand side, and then you can choose a small slide, or a stout 10 foot boof. What you don't want is the middle of this rapid, the middle contains a 20 plus foot tall wave-hole that drops directly into a 30 foot pour-over. We hiked back up to the Spider Van and continued the scouting. The Scouts were difficult, we hiked thru thick brush and down steep embankments. With all of this hiking our best vantage was still a few hundred feet above the water level. We looked at the second rapid, it was half a mile long, but had simple directions. (Right of that 30 foot deep hole, back to the left of that 100 foot wide lateral, then back to the middle thru that stuff that looks like the ocean in a hurricane.) All I could think was those waves are going to be a lot bigger when I am sitting in the middle of them. As we hiked in to scout the third big rapid, I noticed the group was really sprawling out, some people weren't even scouting, my trust in the group was dwindling fast. We got back in the van and discussed what we had seen. There was some talk of putting on that night, it was 5:30 pm and there was lots of light left, but I had no faith that if something went wrong that it could be cleaned up before night fall. I was quickly out voted... Zach agreed with my logic and was also very skeptical of the groups ability of good judgment. The two of us decided it would be a safer option to stay off the water. We watched the other three paddlers bomb off the first drop, the Baker quickly showed it's power; all three of the paddlers had wildly different lines, the water was pushy. As they came down thru the other two big rapids, there tiny kayaks finally put the true size of the Baker in perspective. We cruised back to camp and had a good dinner, Zach and I were happy with our decision on not paddling, but very excited for the next day.

I awoke calm and well rested, no scary big water dreams, thank god. It didn't take long for Zach and I to get fired up. We quickly ate a little food downed some water and jumped back in the Spider Van to go back up to the put in. I got to the edge of the water spotted my "land (water) marks", got in my boat and had a wonderful line on the first rapid. The rest of the boys slowly came down, with a myriad of lines. Zach ended up getting pushed way too far towards the middle and tucked under what might be the nastiest hole I have ever seen, Jacob did almost the same thing. I think the friendliness of the hole inspired Aniol to try the right line. Aniol slipped thru the upper waves and then got violently surfed in the giant hole at the bottom, a quick beating, a little down time, and he flushed.


Jacob a bit too far right

Fun Tickets Think carnival amusement ride coupons, a metaphor I use when running and or messing up big rapids. You earn fun tickets all the time, you can borrow them, lend them, and steel them, but all big rapids take at least a couple. I spent 4 or 5 running the first rapid clean, the rest of the boys were burning thru fun tickets at an alarming rate.

The group was definitely split on how to run the rapids; the group that ran it the night before wanted to scout again. Zach and I on the other hand were confident in our lines, and believed the best way to run these huge rapids was tight and fast. I looked at Zach smiled and paddled right into the second rapid. It was huge, I got to the right side of the river and looked for my first key feature the 50 foot wide 30 foot deep hole that took up the entire left side of the river. I flew down the tongue and past by the huge hole, I knew it was just getting started. The boily mess after the hole lasted 300 yards, and was full on. There was random rogue waves, and the boils off the walls were super pushy. I fought hard to get back to the left and avoid the 100 foot wide lateral that was coming off the right wall, as soon as I cleared the lateral it was back to the middle to start the brawl.


Aniol catching air off the corner of the huge lateral

There was huge laterals, and rogue waves everywhere, I got picked up on a random wave and thrown to the left. I cranked out a few more strokes, and was hit by another random wave-hole, I was rolled, and rolled back up. I did a quick look around and got rolled again. This time I snapped up super quick, looked over my shoulder and saw a huge hole. Wham bam swirl, swirl, roll up, clear the eyes and straight into another hole, and this one was violent. The water grabbed at my paddle it felt like it was going to get torn from my finger tips, and this is when I heard thunder. Ca-boom! it was loud underwater, the noise came from my right hand and I felt the paddle give way. Shit, I felt around and figured out which of the pieces of my paddle was longer, let go of the smaller end, swapped the blade to my stronger hand, re-indexed what was left of the paddle, and rolled up. There is no way I am going to be able to get anywhere with half a paddle, and the river was not thru with me yet. Again and again the waves crushed me, I rolled two more time and the O2 sensor in my head was sending the I need air NOW alarm. At this point the river does what it does best, humbles. I got tossed into another nasty hole and that was that, time for air. I stood up in my boat, rotated around, and instantly grabbed the stern grab handle, and breathed in the much needed oxygen I was looking for. I was now swimming in the biggest rapid of my life, easily one of the top 10 worst places to swim ever; flush drowning seemed very real. I held on tight to the stern of my boat, and kicked my feet ferociously, trying to keep my head near the surface of the river. The water was too strong. I was getting tossed around, and all I could really do was time breaths as not to breath in water. Then the river sucked me down, deep down in an eddy line, and all I could think was, at least this means I am close to an eddy. Resurfacing I cleared my eyes and saw the group moving towards me. They were a hundred yards away or more and I was feeling really tired already. I finally grabbed the stern of another paddlers boat, and ditched my boat, I knew it wasn't over yet. Another half mile of nasty eddy lines, a small class 4 rapid, and we were finally close to shore. I ditched the stern of the boat that was trying to pull me in, and swam the last 50 feet to shore. My throat burned my whole body was acidic, I spent a whole roll of fun tickets, but I was alive.

I had been brought to the right side of the river, the side away from the road. My boat camera and the small part of my paddle that had been rescued up stream of me had all been taken to the river's left side, the side of the river next to the road. The group was pretty unorganized people didn't know where others were. I spotted Zach upstream and immediately gave him the pat on the head letting him know that I was ok. It took a while but the guys were able to ferry my boat and a break down paddle over to me. I hopped back in my boat took a couple strokes, cleared my head, smiled at Zach, and headed straight into the third rapid. Every one has there own way of dealing with stress, mine is a calm breath and straight back in to the fire.

The third rapid is no slouch. The river makes a hard left hand turn and there is a eddy on the right that looks just shy of impossible to paddle out of, to top it off there is a huge wave-hole at the top. The right hand side of the wave-hole is a wave and the left is a nasty hole. I was right on the tail of Zach and I saw him drop down the tongue. Then I was down in the trench and he was 30 feet above me cresting the gigantic wave. The swim obviously hadn't scared me too much, as I aimed for the absolute tallest part of the wave. The wave surged while I was on it and as I reached the top I was tossed end over end right off the peak.


Aniol trying to take the corner of a huge feature


Aniol looking small in one of the pressure waves

I snapped a roll, braced against the next giant pressure hole and then slipped thru the exit slot on the left into the calm water. All of the paddlers regrouped and we paddled down thru the huge whirlpools and crazy eddy lines. There was one more good sized rapid before our camp-take out. The communication was spectacularly bad for this rapid and Zach ended up having an unnecessary, entertaining line. We paddled through another mile of whirlpools and got to camp.

The groups original plan was to continue down stream through the third gorge. Zach confronted me and said that he was rather disappointed in the teams ability to do anything safely and I couldn't agree more. Zach and I got out right then and there and called the Baker done. We had traveled 700 kilometers in a broken down dusty van and paddled four rapids, we were already out of fun tickets.

The other part of the group ate food and put back on; we met up with them down stream, and heard stories that confirmed our lack of trust. Back in the Spider Van for the long, dusty, bumpy ride back to Futaleufu.

Lessons learned or at least reaffirmed,
1 Watch out for spiders, BE AFRAID!
2 Bring an extra roll of fun tickets.
3 Don't put on too late.
4 Make sure your team is competent.

A huge shout out to Zachariah Campbell, he is a great paddling and traveling partner.


Four months of traveling in South America has been amazing, and exhausting. I am looking forward to a little down time as I travel back to the states.
Chris Baer

3/23/10

Good run for a good helmet


Jones'n for paddling in March. Needing relief from ski boots we loaded our kayaks on the Vibe and drove south into central AZ. All signs pointed toward baby Jesus creek except for the 30 mile hooch loop deep into the Mogollon Rim to inspect the snowpack. Here is what we found....

Matt Wilson one of the first boofs of the season

Matt Wilson stomping a boof off a shallow 15 footer

Getting ready to use elbow pads and face guard

That dark spec near the top is Willie in the white room
Big Lebowski falls

Below the falls

3/17/10

Spring is back...

A short clip as an introduction to the 2010 spring.

Funny 2009 from Mathieu COLDEBELLA on Vimeo.




I wish everybody a perfect new kayak season (at least northern hemisphere inhabitants) and maybe see you on the river...

Mathieu

3/14/10

Jay Panther Steamboat Nor Am

Hello,

The North American Tour is officially over and I ended fifth in the overall. Last weekend in Steamboat I got seventh and tenth in singles and duals respectively. The weekend did not go exactly as planned as a win or even a podium is still eluding me but I am very happy with my results. Again I competed my California Roll (D-Spin 1080) both days and landed them all. That in itself is a victory as the learning curve on bringing a new trick to contest is usually a full season, so I am happy having immediate success. This fact really brightens my hopes for Nationals and puts me in a great situation for next year as I will not have to focus on a new trick. I can focus on my skiing (which is 50% of the score) and consistency! I have attached video from my finals run on singles day in Steamboat. The trick I do off the first air is my California Roll. Enjoy!

Nationals is March 24th-28th and is my last chance to move up the U.S. Ski Team rankings. The winner of the singles event at Nationals gets a B Team spot and the winner of the duals event gets a C Team spot. My skiing is feeling better than it has all season and my jumping is getting more consistent. I am heading into this last event full of confidence and ready to win! Thank you for your love and support. I will let you know more details about the live webcast as the event gets closer.

Jay Panther
video

3/11/10

Futaleufu, Chile

Futaleufu,



The infamous Rio Futaleufu, turned out to be one fun wave train. There are a lot of sections to the river, allowing for some spicy lines if you are looking for them. Overall, I have to say it was just good clean fun, after months of creak boating it did feel good to be able to sink my whole paddle blade in the water. That being said, big volume river running has never really been my thing. It is fun and all but it is hard for me to see the challenge when I can be 10 feet off my line and still be ok.
What I did know was that I was heading to the Baker in a few days and it was time to do some training on this big water.


Gael charging the lateral


Look close, or double click Gael is in the depths of Thrown room


Gael on the huge tongue into TNT


Gael at the confluence


I went for a bike ride one day and was greeted with this amazing moon shot


did I mention the views are amazing


These clouds, were soo colorful and seemed to play along with me.

Well that is all for Futa, this place really is pretty.
Stay tuned in the Baker write up is coming soon and it is BIG.

Chris Baer

3/10/10

Mullberry EXTREME slalom races


yours truly rounding the turn at gate number 1

Okay, so now that I have you attention, the races are on a class II course that isn't that extreme. However, the races are a lot of fun and are a great way to kick off spring here in Alabama.



Hanging out with Bama Boys Charlie Simmons and the infamous T-Bone Pickens

This was the 29th annual Mullberry River Slalom race in a 3 part event known as the Alabama Cup. It's a really chill grass roots event friendly to all levels of kayakers. Thanks to Luke Scott and Zach Nicolas for putting it on this year. We had an excellent race coarse that kept things interesting and challenging, a downriver race, and the first ever King of the Hole Comp; a free for all style freestyle contest where anything goes to stay in the hole with 1o other people trying to knock each other out.



The only results that I can recall off the top of my head are:

championship class
1st place-Luke Scott
2nd place-Zach Nicolas
3rd place-yours truly, Charlie Mix

Down River
1st-Luke Scott
2nd-Jordan Sherman
3rd-???

full results and more info can be found here: http://www.alabamacupraces.com/



First ever King of the Hole Comp



And just like at all kayaking contests, there were hot girlfriends and hippies running amuck





Until next time,
-Charlie Mix

3/8/10

Bariloche, Mansa, Matias is a "bad influence"


Sorry for the ridiculous title but it is deserving, in this update I will show off some cool shots from Bariloche, and talk about how Matias is such a "bad influence" taking "dumb gringos" into the amazing Mansa Gorge.


just another amazing view

First off, Bariloche, I stayed at Refugio Patagonia,


a great hostel with an amazingly friendly owner.


Cheap, easy, and better food then any place in Chile


The brake wall of Bariloche


This place really is beautiful

The Manso Gorge,
First off the logistics are hard, it is a long shuttle and technically it is forbidden to paddle the river. So find yourself a local guide, I was lucky enough to know Matias Nunez from the states and he was more then happy to take me into the gorge. It starts off with a Bang, "the monster" a 40+ foot drop with a very odd hole at the lip, reminded me of a super pissed off Punch Bowl Falls. I came in hot, boofed hard and dove right into the hole, it swallowed me and I remember thinking hang on to that paddle, and then waiting and waiting and waiting for the thaploosh of entering into the landing pool.


Chris Baer at the lip of the "Monster"

The Monster, is an absolutely amazing 40footer, super dynamic and with plenty of hazards. Matias and I finished our high fives and turned are attention to the next seven hours of paddling, scouting, and portaging. It starts off with some stout ledges, intermittent with large pools


Matias Nunez at the lip of one of the first big boofs

Soon the pools turn to more continues rapids and you enter into the "gorge" once in here be careful, there is a stout hole that has dished out some beatings and a rowdy 50ish footer. We ran a chunk of the gorge and then Matias showed me the far left line. With our boats on are shoulders we slowly maneuvered through the dense jungle, trying not to accidental run a big waterfall in the middle of nowhere. After we found the 50 footer we put back in the river and routed through some more great drops.


Matias charging a HUGE hole


Matias cruising threw the triple drop


Matias in the "tricky rapid"

the "tricky rapid" had my number, I came threw a tight slot into a funny backwash, and immediately starting getting spun around. Instead of going with the spin I fought it and found myself momentarily pinned between two huge rocks in the middle of most of the current. I quickly shifted weight and did some kind of miracle paddle stroke and the boat came unpinned, I then got to run the slot in the picture above "switch".


the take out

So the river dumps right into this magnificent lake, If it is sunny out you can usually flag down a motor boat and get towed in. In our case it had been raining all day and there wasn't a sole on the lake. We paddled and paddled and an hour and a half latter we reached the truck, there leaned against the truck was the ranger. Matias looked at me and said don't worry I will confuse him. The ranger and Matias who at this point are on first name bases(Matias actually gave him a fake name and the ranger called him by it, ((supper funny)) started chatting about how it is bullshit that the river is closed, and there is better ways to protect the land. Matias also stands behind a president that the original ranger not only allowed them to paddle the river but often times would drive his motor moat to the far end of the lake and pick up the kayakers. The ranger in turn told Matias he was a bad influence bringing dumb gringos onto the river. Me being the dumb non spanish speaking gringo responded to the ranger's questions with "no Nintendo porfavor" a couple minutes later a fake name and passport number, we were on our way. Matias is truly working hard to try to resolve the access issue on Manso as well as a couple other gems in the area. Until these access issues are sore up, Matias's opinion was to continue to do the runs just be a little sneaky.

Another adventure by Chris Baer

3/2/10

Jay Panther on North American Tour

Hello,

I just got back from my third North American Tour stop in Apex, British Columbia where I got tenth place. I skied okay and jumped really well. I competed my D-Spin 1080 for the first time and had great success. I landed the trick with consistency all week and the judges rewarded it with near perfect scores. It feels really good to bring that trick to contest. My skiing, however, was a little off all week. I have been working some significant changes in my technique and as a result skied slow, especially for me. I am hoping it is a take one step back to take three steps forward, situation.

We are now in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for our fourth and final Nor Am Tour contest. The contest is Thursday and Friday, both days starting at noon, Mountain Standard Time. To watch the contest live go to www.urtur.com, and click on the LIVE link at the top right hand corner. We trained today and the course is great. I am very excited to compete and plan to finally get the winning result that has eluded me all season. Unfortunately, Micheal Kingsbury from Canada has already mathematically won the North American Tour overall, so there will be no U.S. Ski Team spots awarded this season. My next chance to move up the U.S. Ski Team rankings is Nationals at the end of March.

Thank you all for your love and support.

Jay Panther


video

Summer Paddling wrap up…A little late…

I have finally found enough time to sit down and create a short video of my paddling highlights from last summer. I have been quite busy with school the last few years; having little time for updates and videos. I finished graduate school in December, receiving two master’s degrees: Urban and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture. I can finally have more weekends and weeknight free to paddle!!!!!


Update from last season:

March=Spring Break

I headed to S.L.P Mexico to paddle in the Huasteca with my buddies. There was still a decent amount of water due to an awesome rainy season. I hit some good classic sections of river and ate as much Mexican food as I could stomach…..mmmm guacamole and naranjada natural!

Colorado Paddling:

I decided I would step it up and compete in the freestyle events around Colorado.

My first competition was the Teva Games at the End of May which was one week after school got out and I had only had one day of playboating since last August. I was also demoing the All Star for the second time ever. Considering the background information, I did very well. There were 16 girls in three different heats. I was tied for 8th after my prelim rides, making the cut for semi-finals the next day. I finished semi’s in 8th!

I also competed in the Golden Community Rodeo, winning 3 out of the 4 woman’s expert competitions and taking the overall 1st place in woman’s expert for the 2nd year in a row.

Lyons outdoor games treated me a bit better. I was very nervous; there were only 6 of us: Adriane, Emily, Elaine, Devon, Ruth and I. I was in sixth after prelims but did better during finals and placed 5th, with my highest score ever. I was very content.

I hope this year will be much more successful… Last year I only had time to compete, only playing/paddling for fun one or two days a week max. I hope this year I can get out on the water a bit earlier in the season so I am warmed up for the competitions.

December/Jan:

I headed back to Mexico for some family, friends, and paddling time. The water was a tad bit higher than it was in March but still good to go. There are a lot of river sections I hope to paddle on in the near future down there as well as a few secret play spots. Eeeek!

That’s all for now.

A special thanks to WRSI!

Safe paddling!

Christine

video

3/1/10

Winter Weather!










It has been a cold winter and it does not look over yet! Over winter break some friends and I were able to travel to Colorado to hit the slopes. Paul Butler, Rhett Gulledge and I crashed at our friend Chris Schnusr's place and snowboarded Copper Mountain. Snowboarding in Colorado was amazing, but upon returning home I was surprised to find North Carolina covered in just as much snow. Arriving back at school, I found Appalachian State blanketed in a couple feet of snow. Some friends and I built jumps around campus and had some great times. The previous weekends have provided warm weather and I was able to get back in my boat to paddle the Cheoah. This sparked my desire for summer and I cannot wait to trade in my snowboard for my kayak. I am excited about spring break, for I plan on getting in a fair amount of kayaking. Summer is nearing and it is time to dust off the ole boating gear. You stay classy San Diego, I'm Ty Caldwell?



Unusually warm weather brought a couple of early thaws to the New England area this year. In January a massive rain dump melted several feet of snow overnight. Skiers were bummed, but it was worth it to run Cannibal on the S.B. of the Baker near Mt.Mousilake (photo 1 by Jake). More recently, Richard Sealey snapped this shot of me on Downtown Hair in Lebanon, NH (photo 2). Hopefully the precipitation will keep coming in March and April, because our snow pack is thin.