Several Argentinian kayakers descended the ~30 km section betwen La Pasarela (P) and El Zampal (class V). There are no reported descents of the rest of the long remote Wilderness Grande or Upper Grande sections. Rocky Contos and Tomás Binimelis paddled much of the section in Oct2015. In Dec2016 the first full raft expedition group descended the first three sections of the river (SierraRios). The Lower Colorado has been descended by numerous individuals at times due to its easy nature and frequent access/proximity to Rincón de los Sauces and Veinticinco de Mayo.
Participants need no prior rafting experience as a raft passenger/paddler but everyone on the trip should be comfortable camping and have an easygoing attitude in order to get along with a diverse group on a multi-day trip for an extended period. All participants should be in good physical condition. We welcome competent boaters to paddle or row this river, but you need to have adequate and recent experience on comparably difficult rivers. If you are in charge of your own kayak or raft, you are responsible for what happens to you on the water and for the equipment you use. Every participant must sign a liability waiver.
Everyone joining SierraRios trips should have an interest in river conservation and help us on our mission to document the river further, talk to residents, and publicize the planned dams. You should plan to help facilitate the trip in any way possible, including transport of some gear down to the destination if necessary. You don't need to be bilingual but it is helpful and more fulfilling to communicate with local residents when we meet them.
The trip leader will have main authority when it comes to decisions for the group regarding river progress, camp, and other decisions affecting the group. If a participant has overestimated their ability to row or kayak, he/she may be mandated to ride on a raft, sit out days, and/or be assessed other penalties and in severely incompetent situations, not allowed on the multi-day part of the trip. Trip leader decisions can be vetoed by a majority vote of the group. Any participant always has the right to leave the trip if they so desire but refunds are at the discretion of the board.
DAMS and PETITION:
We encourage everyone to sign a PETITION stating that you do not support construction of a series of 5 dams called the "Portezuelo del Viento" project. The project is already contentious, and government leaders need to hear that there is growing support to keep the river free-flowing for recreational and environmental use. There is strong opposition from the people of the province of La Pampa, mainly because the project is located in the province of Mendoza and they are planning to diver t ~35 m3/s out of the river and into the neighboring Río Atuel drainage (flowing down to San Rafael). There has been a lot of publicity about the project starting late 2015 through now. Below you'll find some links to more information on the dams.
MENDOZA/SAN RAFAEL: Our main rendezvous will be San Rafael, located in Mendoza province. San Rafael is a 3hr drive to the southeast of the city of Mendoza and also in the main wine country. San Rafael has ~200,000 people, whileMendoza has roughly 1.1 million people in its metro area. The city of Mendoza is the capital of the eponymous province, known for its robust red wine often made from Malbec varietal grapes. Tourists to Mendoza or San Rafael often spend at least one day visiting wineries or other sites in the area (the Río Atuel is a popular day excursion close to San Rafael). Mendoza has an airport with service to Buenos Aires and Santiago, while San Rafael has service to Buenos Aires only.
Air travel: You might try booking your flight all the way through to Mendoza (MDZ) or San Rafael (AFA) - see www.kayak.com. But in general, international flights will generally land you in Santiago Chile (SCL) or Buenos Aires (BUE or EZE) and you might find better deals booking separately to one of these cities and then another local flight or bus. The Santiago-Mendoza flight is often very inexpensive (see SkyAirlines). The domestic flights from BUE-AFA or BUE-MDZ are more costly (see AerolineasArgentinas). Alternatively, a less costly but longer option is to take a bus from Santiago to Mendoza (7-8 hr; ~$25USD) or from Buenos Aires to Mendoza or San Rafael (14hr-16hr).
Grande-Colorado; 14 days
Day0 rendezvous in SanRafael; shopping; meet participants; Hotel Complejo Mi Sueño
Day1 to Grande put-in (270km paved + 70km dirt; 5hr); start rigging; car camp
Day2 Upper Grande: hike in Valle Hermoso; rig and launch; into Cajón Grande; km 0-15; 15 km class III-IV
Day3 Upper Grande: through Cajón's toughest rapids (IV); km 30-55; 25 km class IV
Day4 Upper Grande: gorgeous scenery and continuous II-III; camp Portazuelo del Viento; km 55-85; 30 km class III-IV
Day5 Upper Grande: hike to cerro PDV; to Bardas Blancas km 85-121; 36 km class III
Day6 Bardas Valley: optional excursion to Cueva La Bruja or paddle Bardas Valley section; km 101-161; 60 km class II
Day7 Wilderness Grande: portage LaPasarela(P); camp in gorge section; hike; (km 162-172); 10 km class III(P)
Day8 Wilderness Grande; hike and enjoy volcanic gorge; km 172-191; 20 km class III-IV
Day9 Wilderness Grande; arrive to and walk passengers around Zampal (V); km 191-211; 20 km class III-IV(V)
Day10 Wilderness Grande; narrows hike at camp; km 211-241; 30 km class III;
Day11 Wilderness Grande; to near Barrancas confluence; km 241-281; 40 km class II-III
Day12 Colorado; km 281-330; waterfall canyon hike; 49 km class II
Day13 Colorado; km 330-380; into more open terrain; possible take-out; 50 km class II
Day14 Colorado; km 380-410; Volcán Los Loros crater; to Rincón de los Sauces; dinosaurs; return San Rafael; 30 km class II
Some trips may be converted to Río Neuquén depending on flow and group.
We will generally paddle from ~9 am to 4 pm with some stops for side excursions. At normal higher spring season flows (Oct-Dec) the river is very fast so it is usually quite easy to cover 10 km/hr of class III water even in rafts as long as we are on the water focusing on downstream progress. Stops for hikes, scouts, flips, and water collection do cause signficant delays, but we should still easily cover the full distance in the allotted time if flows are average and we do not have unplanned delays. With average flows there should be plenty of time in camp. If flows are abnormally low, there may be less time for such activities. With extra time, we may arrange additional excursions.
If you have provided a deposit for the trip, you can access printable maps of the river with appropriate pass codes. Topo maps span the entire river with roads, rapids, features and potential beach camps marked. Otherwise, if you would like access to the maps, you can sign up as a member of SierraRios specifying you're interest in Argentina.
This trip is being run because it is one of the most incredible in the world and more paddler visitation is needed to help raise awareness. More ecotourism income to the region and appreciation of the natural resource will help stop the river's destruction with dams. Our general pricing guidelines are found at the following link: Contribution guidelines: General
Once you get the go-ahead from Rocky, you will need to provide a deposit to reserve your place on the trip ($500). Full contribution must be received before the trip. See PAYMENTS for payment options and cancellation policy. Trips may be cancelled 3 months before launch if there is not enough interest (6-8 paying participants will assure a trip occurs).
TRIP LEADER AND TEAM MEMBERS:
(1) Rocky Contos (scheduled trip leader), kayaked the Upper Neuquén and Grande-Colorado in Oct 2015 and led the first group rafting trips on these rivers in Dec2016. He also kayaked the first descents of Ríos Pilcomayo and Grande in 2015 and 2016 (Bolivia), and has also paddled most rivers in Peru and Mexico. In Peru this includes Ríos Cotahuasi, Colca, Cañete, as well as all of the upper Amazon headwater streams (Mantaro, Apurímac, Urubamba, and Marañon) as part of his Headwaters of the Amazon expedition. He discovered the most distant source of the Amazon [see articles C&K, Outside, Nat.Geo, FoxNews, LaRepublica]. He has explored nearly every river in Mexico including >100 first descents covering ~8,000 km of river and ~55,000 m of drop. Rocky is fluent in Spanish and has organized and guided many Grand Canyon length trips. Several articles have featured Rocky (American Whitewater; Kayak Session; Canoe & Kayak). While attaining his Ph.D. in neuroscience (see CV), Rocky worked as a kayak instructor and guide for UCSD's Outback adventures from 1993-1996 and gained valuable trip planning skills for large groups. Although primarily a kayaker, Rocky started rafting in the mid-1990s in order to introduce more people to the wonders of river travel. Since then and throughout his years as a postdoctoral research associate, he organized and led numerous large group raft and kayak expeditions, including five through Grand Canyon (18-22 days), three on the Salmon River (4-10 days each), two on Río Mulatos-Aros (8-11 days), eight on Río Usumacinta (7-8 days each), eight on Río Marañon (14-30 days each), dozens to destinations such as the Salt, Kern, Rogue, Deschutes, John Day, Thompson, Similkameen, and Baja California (2-6 days each). Rocky founded SierraRios with the goal of conserving the rivers of Latin America, and hopes that increased awareness and enjoyment of the resource will lead to protection. He is organizing all aspects of the trip. He likely will be kayaking but may row a raft.
(2) Other guides/trip leaders are to be decided, but likely will be selected from other SierraRios and Argentinian/Peruvian guides: Ariel Diaz, Tomás Binimelis, Lorenzo Bergamin, Luciano Lázaro, Gigo Castillo, Antonella Urbina, Pedro Peña, and Julio Baca.
(3) All oarsmen will be experienced river runners and raft captains guides with extensive experience. Non-experienced and less-experienced participants are welcome to inquire about joining as raft paddlers/passengers.
CHORES, TOILET AND BATHING
WHAT TO PACK
A major aspect of safety on this trip is prevention of sickness and accidents. It is of utmost importance that you take all precautions necessary to avert sickness and complications while on the trip. For example, it is a good idea to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Tetanus [however, no vaccines are required].
All participants must assume responsibility for themselves and sign a liability waiver before the trip. We cannot guarantee against accidents. If you're an inexperienced boater, the trip leader and guides will advise you on saftey issues. If you are an experienced boater in control of your craft, you must accept the responsibility for what happens to you on the river. It is the experienced boater's responsibility to make appropriate decisions whether to run the rapid or not and to stay close to someone who can watch and oversee you. A certain level of freedom will be provided, but each such person must abide by trip leader requests, which may mandate not paddling certain rapids. If an accident occurs, we will do all in our power to help you, see that proper care is rendered, or evacuate you if need be.
We will have an Inmarsat satellite phone ($1.50/min for calls) and possibly a SPOT device. Anyone can see the latest SPOT position of the SierraRios trip if we utilize it.
BUGS / UV / SILT: UV rays from the sun can be intense so it is recommended that you use sunblock liberally. While few biting insects were encountered on the first reconnaissance trip, this aspect has not been determined so it is best to prepare with some repellent. However, due to the cooler evenings and covering up with clothing, you probably will have little skin area exposed. The main tough circumstance to deal with is the wind, which can often be strong in Patagonia. However, we will attempt to select camps with protection.