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.
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.
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.
You can see below him how things just keep on going on this run.
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!
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.
More typical boulders and whitewater that make the Upper Oyacachi oh so wonderful and oh so challenging at the same time.
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!”
For you west coasters, it’s kind of remniscint of the portage on the Mine run of the Ashlu River in B.C.
Hilary exiting one big ol’ long rapid
Don probing the exit of a rapid via door #1, a nice looking 10 foot waterfall.