Upper Nevado Log Extraction

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At low water Miguel Ruiz Covarrubias aka “Zorro” rappels, swims, slides and jumps adventurists down the Rio Nevado Canyon. The log blocking Pinch-20 aka Ecstasy is detrimental to Zorro’s livelihood business.

Chile’s Rio Nevado has become the Pucon favorite creek run. The Upper Nevado section boasts over thirty clean 6’ boofs, three clean twenty-footers, and a Cali style slide all just a short drive from Pucon.  The Lower Nevado ups the anti of skill beginning with either portaging or running the infamous Demshitzler Cascade, named by D-Pooplar founder and first-descendlar Jared Seiler. The lower falls drop off the Earth into a deep green canyon. You can feel the depths of mother earth as you enter the stair cased cascade canyon. Six quick drops and you’ve experienced a deep-canyon cascade run.

“There’s Wood in There.” -Words Kayakers Dread

Kayaking on an April after rain special Upper Nevado day Ian (Garcia) told me (David Hughes), “Zorro said there’s wood in the twenty-footer on the left wall.” Upon first inspection there was a 40’ tree bridging over the lip of the cascade to the above steep banks, “ahh… we can get around that.” Ian observed. I peered over the edge of a boulder, “Ahh shitt! Ian there’s a log in the bottom too.”

Low water eddy view: Study a log you’ll slide over committing into a funnel to the left 3' wide pinch. It's a rare crack horizon. Tuck paddle. Lock body. Wait. Righty stroke and stomp.

The log underwater was vertically pinned in the middle-landing zone, limbs sticking out as flags. The word portage need not be uttered. We studied the straight up walls. Neither of us wanting to hike, climb, and drag kayaks up a slick, dirty embankment to the road. Ian announced, “You want to throw boats or swim and catch?”  I replied, “You’ve probably got a better arm than me. I’ll go first and catch.” Then chimnied to the lowest point of a crack, jumped the remaining 15’, swam to a rock and waited on kayaks and paddles to drift to me. The perch/catching rock was immediately above a 6’ cascade followed by the known “Auto-boof” 10 footer. We understood that the log would be a problem for next season’s peak-flows and hordes of kayakers.

Portaging Would Miss Six Quality Cascades

The location is in the heart of the cascades of the Upper Nevado at what is called Ecstasy or Pinch-20. Pinch-20 cause the river pinches to 3’ wide and drops twenty feet off a horizon edge.
  • Pinch-20 or Ecstacy
  • 6-footer
  • “Autoboof” 10-footer
  • 4-footer lead into a 6-foot slide
  • 12-foot boof
  • The walls are steep enough to cause a serious portage to the road and reentrance below a series of the 6 quality drops on the Upper Nevado. Yikes!

Extracting the Log

“Zorro do you want to try and get the log out next week?” –David

“Yea Hueon (pronounced way-on meaning dude). We need to get that shit out of there.” –Zorro

“Cool Robby (Dastin) said he’s in and Ian wants to help too.” –David

Two days later Zorro would go in alone, lose two axes, break two small winches, and bust his knee on a rock during the hike out.

Three days later we returned together.

Gear: Ax, dry suits + normal river gear, harnesses, rappel gear, camera, water. Gear we should’ve brought: More fresh arms, ax file to re-sharpen.

Zorro set ropes and began rappelling. He chopped for a long time, taking breaks; fresh I was semi-eager to take my turn.

I’ve run big and difficult drops, hopped and climbed in every situation, have a strong sense of what I can and cannot do, and don’t scare easily. Let’s just say that being attached to a security line walking down a slippery cascade rock to a protruding log with ax in hand was slow moving. HELL YES! My nerves were spiked! We were 15’ high in the middle of a waterfall whacking with an ax at a giant log under water. The water was cold too. But the aerobic workout kept us warm… except our feet.

Chopping was off-balance and exhausting

The inside chopping angle proved ineffective. After chopping I’d climb up the waterfall, which too was tiring. Rest on a perch watching Zorro hacking away. He rested while standing in the middle of a waterfall. Every now and again he’d yell, “AAGGGHHH!”

I began taking 20 strong hacks. Rest. Drink water from the cascade. Rest. Take 20 strong hacks. The water would push the blade downstream like a paddle. By the end the twentieth hack I could barely lift the ax. Then we’d change.

Eventually, we realized we needed more people, more energy, more rest. Another day.

Maybe 75% of the way through a 2’ wide log the easiest angles were gone. Even trading turns we were exhausted, feet frozen. We climbed the wall, gathered gear, and began hiking, wading and busting ass up the creek bed to where we’d previously climbed down the canyon

Cutting a log out of a whitewater cascade.
One foot on a slick rock wall and the second positioned lower on a branch actually was pretty stable leaning back on the harness. You could get a good angle on the 2’ wide trunk’s side.

banks. Zorro said, “I think the floods will break it and wash it down stream.” I replied, “It’s still 6 maybe 8 inches deep and at least a foot wide. Think how strong a board that size would be. I think we have to come back and finish it.” Both of us knew that finishing the job is always more likely than organizing a return mission. Now, the log is nearing its most dangerous state with a hard to hack underside approaching its breaking point.

About Running the Cascade

Seventeen year old Hayley Stuart times the stroke riding the left wall at normal flows.

You peer past a log that you’ll have to slide your kayak over and then drop into a slope funneling to the left wall. It’s a rapid like no other… the funnel is so tight you have to tuck your paddle and ride a rudder. The left wall and giant boulder form the gap/horizon line.  Then as you fly along the left wall time a subtle right stroke and land in the pool. The effect is a small gap forming a large horizon line drop… IT’S AWESOME!

As a leader of rivers one of my favorite things to offer is, “You want to try it blind?” It might be once in a lifetime that a kayaker can run a cascade blind.

   By David Hughes

Owner Pucon Kayak Hostel

Founder/Director New River Academy

Director Patagonia Gap Year

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Artist Stacy Naden Paints Murals by Pucon Kayak Hostel

You are warmly invited to the hospitality of Pucon Kayak Hostel lodging.

Artist Stacy Naden Volunteers to Paint Murals

Stacy Naden arrived to Pucon in late January. She first met to discuss the vision of Pucon Kayak Hostel.

October 7, 2011


I am wondering if you would be interested in hosting me at your hostel in exchange for 20-30 hours of work a week. I am incredibly interested in learning rivers and would like to be in a warm place while doing this. I am very hard working and reliable. I am great with people and have 2 years of college Spanish. My background is in art and I regularly paint. I can cook as well.


Stacy paints a different animal in each room. The dog is a likeness of hostel guest, "Salto", Stacy's best friend.

The soonest I would want to get there would be November and I would be interested in staying for 3 -4 months.

This is my website: Stacy Naden Art Site

Thank you for your time. I would greatly appreciate any response or suggestions as to a potential work exchange in Chile close to any rivers that I could learn some kayaking skills on.


Stacy Naden paints a giant llama cooling Volcan Villarrica in one of the rooms at Pucon Kayak Hostel.

Thanks Again,

Stacy Naden


Pucon Kayak Hostel Response


Art in the Gypsy Wagons includes indigenous flora y fauna.

Thank you for writing.  I your enjoyed website art exhibition.

Yes. I am intrigued by your art.  In a short email you have illustrated a value/trade that is appealing to me.  Check.

Here a flower is painted on the interior wall of a Gypsy Wagon.

Financial Reality- Stacy you should realize the Pucon Kayak Hostel is a startup business/my dream.

It is important for an artist to realize the vision, the dream, the time, and the cumulative energies for a dream to manifest itself.   Understand the hostel is not yet a moneymaker; rather it works hard to break even as my personal salary funds development. Bottom line- I don’t have much money and would hate for you to come to Chile, go broke, and be upset for me not taking the time to honestly illustrate I have no funding for your work.

The Artistic Vision:

The quincho bathrooms have a different animal theme in each toilet. Try a different one each morning.

Last year I met with a local artist to create projects that would tie together a series of different style structures on the land:  a Gaudi style architecture, an old basic hosteria building, and new additions via a bunkhouse and bathhouse, and geodesic domes.  They are all different but follow an earth friendly theme.  I believe creative art and landscaping would be fantastic additions that would tie and help the property flow.

The land is environmental, we’ve preserved the indigenous plants, utilized recycled containers, and earth friendly construction, the colors are earth tones… and that would be the flow.  Yes. I believe you’re skills would be an asset.

By the end of Stacy’s stay she was rolling a kayak and running class III both in a kayak and on a Standup Paddle board.

Living Space:  This property is communal, especially the staff.  The clients take priority and often the staff migrates to communal rooms or camping. Staff provides their own food or has the option to be on the meal plan at-cost.  If you are not use to living in a communal space then you should reconsider.

Personal Space:  Since, you are an artist I realize you know how to escape, where to go to occupy yourself, and how to have your own space.  This is especially important in a space where people get a lot of time with each other.

If you are still interested then I’m open to further discuss your ideas and define roles.  Let me ask a few questions?

A.  What would be your ideal “volunteer projects?”

This is a painting of the 300 year old property tree.

B.  What would you ideally most want from the hostel’s community offerings?  To learn to kayak, to meet people, to get free shuttles…

C.  List your assets:  can you write, are you a photographer or videographer…

D.  Are you sure you are willing to volunteer under the conditions listed?

E.  What are the minimum hours you’d want to work?  Max?

Thanks again for your offer.  As you can see it is important that people are a right fit with the hostel and expectations are aligned.

Keep Kayaking.

David Hughes

Stacy arrived to Pucon in late January.  We met to discuss the vision of PKH.  Stacy in-turn began researching indigenous plants and animals and buying paint supplies.  Soon Stacy’s persona became a regular part of daily interactions around the hostel.

“Where’s Stacy?  She’s got the Farkle dice.”  Understand Stacy is the type that prefers to personally interact playing games around a fire vs. anytime on Face book.  Before we knew it Stacy had large groups wearing plastic bags on their heads, running around the building hands high above their heads chanting “I’m not crazy,” and dancing on the tables.

Stacy Naden art is as equally lovable as her persona.

Keep Kayaking.

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You are warmly invited to the hospitality of Pucon Kayak Hostel lodging.