The decision to do the Cochamo never seemed to be ours. We were going, despite mixed information provided by people within somewhat hidden agendas. We had two main sources. One that said "Stout as fuck. Siphons upon Siphons with logs mixed in" and another that said "It is so good in there, you have to go". The guidebook called it one of the best steep creeks in Chile. Curiosity overwhelmed all other motivation. How could a creek have such an impact on people? What mixture of water, rock, and apparently logs could lead people to say such things?
The trip was tinged with off beat group dynamics. We had a powerful voice in our group drop out the night before because of a nagging injury. This may seem moot but the way that people interact is highly dependent upon the people present. It worried me. The group made sense with the four of us, somehow the ingredients matched and now there seemed to be an imbalance, too much spark. These things keep me up at night. It isn't the water, it is't the sieves or the hike, it is the people. It is something someone said, a sentence of worry or doubt that sticks in your head. Sometimes I wonder if it is our doubt that kills us, that sets us up for failure. Nick Murphy was on the trip with Allen Satcher, who passed away on Upper Cherry earlier this year. Nick said that Allen had expressed sentiments of doubt and homesickness while on the trip. These kinds of expression make me weary. They linger in my mind. We were going, so I tried not to dwell on my worries. We made our way to the Cochamo.
As we descended into the gorge, our past decisions caught up with us. We had little food and put on late, 11, ignoring advice to start early. We made our way through the first gorge, the steepest of the run. We sat down after the gorge for some food, then continued downstream.
We started a portage. We had to climb up and over some boulders, I pushed my boat down into a a pile of rocks. The nose glanced off and was rejected back into the current, it immediately filled with water at the bottom of the drop. I walked out to it and casually started pulling it out. It came free. The current started taking it and I realized immediately that a boat full of water weighs about 700 pounds. I had to either choose to hold onto a 700 pound object floating down a river or let go. So down the boat went on its own journey as I stood on shore.
The boat turned the corner and dread set in. "I am never going to see that boat again". As I contemplated the epic I was about to have I ran around the corner. The boat was pinned again, cockpit facing the force of the current. This time we did it right. I swam and jumped my way out the boat, we attached a pulley to the grab loop and used it as a 2 to 1 mechanical advantage to pull the boat to shore. They threw me a rope, I roped it through the pulley and threw it back to them. Then I was stuck in the middle of the river. They threw me a rope and brought me to shore through a combination of jumping and swimming, with Gordon pulling and Tango grabbing me.
I lost my throw bag in the mix. I got back to shore and was happy to have everything else. We started paddling and my boat was really heavy and I felt like I was sliding around. My confidence was gone. I started getting scared and wanted out. My boat was doing a wheelie down rapids and I felt out of control. We got to another scout and I started emptying my boat. My drybag was completely full of water, drenching my sleeping bag, pad, and down sweater. Also, my seat had been ripped from the shell, making it slide around while trying to paddle.
At this point it is a no brainer, we are getting out of here. Unfortunately Casey had already run another rapid by the time I figured out all that had happened to my boat. He was 200 yards downstream with no possibility of getting back to Gordon and I. We got ourselves out of the canyon, but Casey was walled in. Rope skills came into play again. We set up an anchor, a belay station, and Casey made himself a harness. First we roped out his boat on a 2 to 1 and then set him up on a munter hitch and got him out.
90 minutes later we were at the takeout.
I let go of my boat, I should have had a flip line
Not enough food, take enough food, it is a big stresser, an extra meal at least, two if you can.
I did not have my throw bag tied in because it is hard to access and we were scouting a lot, so I lost it.
I used a rafting dry bag(Bill's Bag) and I took out my center pillar to get it in there. This left my seat vulnerable to shifting and my stuff vulnerable to getting wet.
Split the group without consulting, harder to get Casey out
What we did right:
Hiked out at the right spot, right when we figured out I was screwed.
Proper training, knew how to use a 2 to 1, how to make a harness, munter hitch, make an anchor
Knew where a trail was and how to get there.