Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WCKA in Chile: The Maipo

Choosing to take the last semester of my senior year through World Class Kayak Academy is turning out to be one of the better decisions I’ve made. The crew of ten students, four teachers, two cooks and a driver has turned out to be a pretty cool group of people, and I’m stoked to be spending two months with them here in Chile. We’ve spent our first week about two hours north of Santiago enjoying the high volume and big waves of the Rio Maipo. We split our time on the Maipo equally between the steeper and more turbulent Upper Section and the more play friendly Lower Section. Both the Upper and Lower provided good times for everyone and for me, a devout creek boater, the Maipo was some of the highest volume whitewater I’d ever paddled in a hard shell kayak. For the Upper Section we put-in on a small tributary to the Maipo, the Yeso River, and quickly bounced our way down to the much higher volume Maipo. Once on the class III+ main run, we boofed our way through countless holes, rode some frothy waves, and even chased down a few swimmers. On the lower section we took it a little slower making sure to catch as many waves as possible. Here we were able have some sweet rides and throw wave wheels, kick flips, macho moves, loops, and blunts on a regular basis.

Eric Parker awaiting his surf

Myself surfing a wave on the Lower Maipo

An additional highlight off the river was during outdoor leadership class when we rode horses up an old mining road. Along the ride we were able to look up at the rugged Andes that divide Chile and Argentina then down at the deep Maipo river valley. On a day off from school we kept ourselves busy with a beautiful hike to the bottom of a glacial bowl and cooled ourselves off with a refreshing swim in a spring-fed lake. The eerie mineral deposits, abundant crystal clear springs, and assortment of wildlife at the glacial bowl made for an amazing hike. For any confident class III paddler traveling to Chile, I’d highly recommend a trip to the Maipo and to spend time on both the Upper and Lower sections of the river.

Eric Parker, Olin Winberg, and Risto Beatty- The Cowboys of Chile

The rewarding spring-fed lake after our long hike

Photos by Ben Kinsella, Hanna Kertez, and Jason Cohen

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