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GPT36P (Rio Baker)

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Section Log, Alerts and Suggestions

Season 2025/26

Season 2024/25

Season 2023/24

  • 2023-Dec-31 / 3 day / Packrafting / SOBO / RP + Variant G / Tom Pieper

For alternative entering of the Rio Baker via Rio Chacabuco see also Section 35

I really enjoyed the ride on the rio baker. Technically it was not difficult but indeed it’s a mighty stream and you will observe big boils from time to time. Due to the high speed its easy to make 50 km or more per day. The first rapid {36P} [41.8/77] can be run on the right side in the main current but watch out for strong whirlpools after. I portaged rapido {36P} [56.9/70] ‘gonzalez’. It might be not impossible and the line is quite obvious and straight, but the consequences if not sticking to the line could be severe. Jan is right mentioning losing your boat there is a catastrophe. There is a good camp spot in the woods at the begin of the portage. I think the third rapid Jan mentioned is at Settler {36H-03} [6.8/63]. I found that rather easy and went on the left side. El Salton must be portaged of course. Massive forces here. The portage trail has nice campsites, too. I found a nice camping spot at one of the small islands at S 47° 40.282’ W 073° 06.376’ with lot of ripe calafate berry and even some of the first strawberries. Most of the bigger islands have cattle. There is one last rapid at S 47° 46.027’ W 073° 17.559’ called rapido borquez. It can be easily run on the right side. I left the river at the airport an toked Variant G to the beautiful town of Caleta Tortel.

Season 2022/23

Season 2021/22

Season 2020/21

Season 2019/20

  • GPT36H Regular Packrafting Route / Southern End: Laguna Clara to Villa O‘Higgins

2020-Jan-08 1.5 days Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck

The Ruta de los Pioneros“ is one of the historic routes that was created and used by the first settlers in the last century. This route connected Villa O’Higgins with Cochrane long before the Carreta Austral was completed in the year 2000.

The northern and the southern terminus; approx. 50 km on each end; are now upgraded to gravel roads. Only the roughly 100 km in the middle remain a classic animal trail made and created by people on horses to drive cattle.

To bypass as much as feasible of these gravel roads we have investigated in recent years multiple alternatives on both ends of GPT36H. Especially with a packraft most of these gravel road kilometers can be bypassed on a very attractive combination of lakes and rivers with shorter portages in between.

We now investigated and verified a route that first crosses the 2 km wide Lago Claro and than connects on an excellent 2 km trail to Rio Meyer. To continue either only cross Rio Meyer (like we did) or float downstream o. this river up to 4 km (alternative river exit to be scouted first!). An perfectly maintained trail leads then to Lago Biceño (2 to 6 km depending on only crossing Rio Meyer or floating downstream up to 4 km on Rio Mayer). Here a decision needs to be made depending on wind: either paddle a part of Lago Briceño or or continue walking 8 km to Salto on an scenic very well maintained trail (Alternatively a 6 km long trail connects from Lago Briceño to Lago Salto on a different route). After traversing 4 km on Lago Salto a 1 km short animal trail leads to Lago Cines. Once you reach Lago Cisnes it’s 13 km on a combination of lakes and rivers that gets you very close to Villa O’Higgins. Only the last 3 km into the village must be walked on a gravel road.

We travelled this route in 1.5 days and really enjoyed the landscape, the excellent trails and the scenic paddling. Even in suboptimal weather this route is feasible and offers plenty of alternatives and escape routes. Therefore I will re-route the regular packrafting route of GPT36H to this route.

Between Lago Claro and Lago Salto we discovered the best maintained trails of the entire Aysen region. Bridges cross even the smallest streams and all muddy areas are crossed on wooden passages. After years of hiking in this region this came as a surprise. But we also know why. These trails were not created to serve the public but a single family: los “Luksic”, the richest clan of Chile (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrónico_Luksic_Abaroa). They buy up huge plots of land in this region to create family resorts and as investments. The land between Lago Claro and Lago Salto is owned to my knowledge by this family. And they have the money to contract a large stuff to i.e. create and maintain trails on their properties. What was nice: when a group of 3 employees passed us on a trail on quarts they did not challenge us but gave use useful recommendations how to continue. Legally, access to lakes, rivers and the coast must be given in Chile even if the private property i.e. surrounds a lake but landlords can make it difficult anyway. To my knowledge all access routes from public roads a locked but since we accessed this area on water we did not have to climb over locked gates. Therefore this route seams to me suitable for packrafters.

Multiple route variations are feasible that link in further lakes. Short bushwhacking portages might be required in this case but the landscape and vegetation seams generally more open than the Valdivian rain forrest on the Aysen coast. Someone can easily spend up to 5 days discovering other packrafting routes in this area.

  • 2019-Dec-28 / 6 days / Option 3: Lago Quetru, Rio Pascua, Lago & Glaciar Bergues, Fiordo Buzeta / Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck

This 5 to 7 day round-trip is an fascinating hidden gemstone that combines some of the finest packrafting on lakes, rivers and fjords in touching distance to the Southern Patagonian Icefield with some demanding bushwhacking and visits of remotely living settlers. It’s South-Western Patagonia in a nutshell. The entire route traverses an area that is practically never visited by tourists and this not because of lack of attraction but because it is simply off the trotted path and requires a packraft.

Its needs a window of decent weather to make it an enjoyable adventure. Thanks to the remaining two homesteads of settlers that offer food and accommodation someone can sit out unsuitable weather with comfort.

Rio Bravo to Lago Quetru: The first 14 km are an annoying road walk that might be shortened by hitchhiking the first 9 km from ferry landing point Point Rio Bravo to the crossing where the road to Rio Pascua starts. From there its 5 more km on a gravel road to the 4 km long Lago Negro that may be packrafted. If you are in a rush or want to use a window of good weather to advance faster better keep walking directly to the northern terminus of Lago Quetru. This avoids packing you packraft for the 2 km portage from Lago Negro to Lago Quetru.

Lago Quetru to Rio Pascua: Lago Quetru is a nice 6 km paddle followed by a 2 km long very calm drainage river. Just before this river flows into Rio Pascua you find the home of Don Hernan Huelet to you left. His family offers accommodation and food.

Rio Pascua: Rio Pascua is to my knowledge the 3rd largest river of Chile in volume (discharge flow rate, after Rio Bio Bio and Rio Baker). This river is the drainage of Lago O’Higgins and descents on the first 30 km from 250 m altitude to about 20 m altitude in numerous rapids and cascades. After the last rapid the river continues for 30 more km as a powerful fast flowing river before discharging his turquoise water into the Pacific. This lower part of Rio Pascua is free of rapids but powerful eddies and trees in the water require the full attention.

Homestead of Amelia: About 5 km before the discharge into the Pacific you find the homestead of Amelia and here family to you right next to the river. Amelia walked in autumn 1967 with here family including three little kids, cattle and horses in about 35 days from Rio Salto near Cochrane through the mountains to this location to take the land to settle (no maps, no compass, partly no trails, no ultra-light gear, no GPS, no satellite communication). She happily opens here home for visitors and offers accommodation and food. Being here guest and listening to here adventures was a highlight of the trip.

Lago Bergues and Campo de Hielo de Sur: This highly recommendable side trip gets you in two days from the homestead of Amelia to the edge of the Southern Patagonian Icefield and back. You can leave not needed food and gear with Amelia. Cross Rio Pascua and follow the gravel road to the bridge of Rio Borgues. Before crossing the river start walking 6 km through the wetland and glacier sediments to Lago Bergues. This rather easy bushwhacking and cross-country took us only 3 hours. Inflate you packraft and paddle the 8 km to the glacier that flows down from the Southern Patagonian Icefield. Keep the required safety distance to the glacier and the floating blocks of ice that may disintegrate anytime. You may camp one night on one of the beaches in this area but try to camp as high as possible. Return on the same route. Experienced whitewater packrafters may consider to paddle down the drainage river after a careful analysis of satellite images and scouting the river. We did not dear.

Fiordo Buzeta: On a very calm early morning float down from the homestead of Amelia the last 5 km of Rio Pascua into Pacific. While crossing the bay we observed a whale blowing fountains of water into air when breathing. Be aware that the sea in the bay Bahia Baja Pascua can be very rough if the wind enters from the north or the east. Better wait if conditions are not suitable. From the river mouth paddle 25 km to the northern terminus of Fiordo Buzeta.

Fiordo Buzeta to Rio Bravo: Walking the 5 km from the northern terminus of Fiordo Buzeta to the Carretera Austral took us 8 hours; much more than expected and described by locals. Especially the first 2.5 km to Lago Cypress halfway were demanding. We again and again lost the faint trail but the rocky terrain makes it advisable to follow the established route and not to try to bushwhack your way. This would k lead again and again to cliffs with no safe continuation. Occasional trail marks (red pieces of fabric, blue pieces of plastic and machete tree marks and cuts) were extremely helpful but the distance between these marks increased and countless animal tracks divert in all directions. We have now a full GPS record what should facilitate further traverses. I will share this GPS record only if the next hiker promises to carry a machete (to clean the established route and make fresh tree marks) and lots of material to better mark the trail (i.e. yellow fabric strips).Especially from the highest point to Lago Cypress halfway we lost several hours in search of the established route. The second half of the portage (another 2.5 km) through the wetland was a lot easier and took us only 2 hours.

Carretera Austral to Villa O’Higgins: Once you hit the Carretera Austral consider to backtrack to the refuge at the ferry landing point Rio Bravo. There you may sleep sheltered and it is the best point to hitchhike or catch a bus towards Villa O’Higgins. Diehard Thru-Hikers need to get prepared for 60 to 70 km of road walking. The regular packrafting route of this section becomes attractive again at Rio Colorado about 30 km before Villa O’Higgins.

For Rio Colorado to Villa O’Higgins see post: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1Mzg1NDI0OTMzMTgzMDg%3D

  • 2019-Dec-27 / 1 day (40km) / Regular Packrafting Route / SOBO from Tortel to Rio Bravo via Canal Montalva and Fiordo Mitchell / Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck

After packrafting Rio Baker from Cochrane to Tortel last season we verified now the continuation from Tortel to Rio Bravo in the fjords.

For Rio Baker see: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1MzM3MDUyMTcxMzUzNjk%3D

We timed our travel to Tortel to arrive just before a series of low-wind day. The yr.no page predicted wind between 1 and 3 m/s during the entire next day which is exceptionally calm for this region (we had actually gusts of wind exceeding 10 m/s). We left Tortel paddling at sunrise to use the normally calmer morning to advance as much as possible and to cross in particular the most wind exposed area called by locals “quatro viento” as early as possible. “Quatro viento” means “four winds” and refers to a 2 km wide area where 4 fjords join and where often strong wind and high waves make paddling with a small raft unsafe.

Between 6 am and noon the sea was exceptionally calm. Then the wind picked then up during some heavy showers forcing us out of the water at one of the few small beaches along the route in Fiordo Mitchell. Luckily the sea calmed down after a hour and we could continue all the way to the point where the Carretera Austral continues at ferry landing point Rio Bravo at the end of the fjord.

At this ferry port a spacious refuge was build for the people that wait for the ferry that connects two parts of the Carretera Austral (during high season the ferry runs 4 times per day). During the summer this refuge is frequently used by bikers that travel the Carretera Austral on bicycle. If you plan to sleep in the refuge (recommendable) you will therefore probably share it with bikers.

To continue towards Villa O’Higgins I recommend hitchhiking or taking a bus. Diehard Thru-Hikers need to get prepared for 60 to 70 km of road walking. The regular packrafting route of this section becomes attractive again at Rio Colorado.

For Rio Colorado to Villa O’Higgins see: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1Mzg1NDI0OTMzMTgzMDg%3D

This packrafting route should only be attempted on two consecutive calm days. Don’t plan to complete the entire fjord route in one day. This is only feasible if the afternoon remains reasonable calm.

Overcasted days with no or light rain are normally the best days for paddling fjords and lakes as the wind on sunny days normally increases in the late morning or around noon and remains strong till the late afternoon.

Tortel is a village where waiting several days for suitable weather is feasible. Alternatively you may take a bus towards Villa O’Higgins to continue paddling on Rio Colorado about 30 km before Villa O’Higgins.

This route is only recommended in southbound direction due to the predominant wind direction in Fiordo Mitchell.

When packrafting these fjords be prepared to bail out at one of the few beaches and carry enough food and sweet water for several days in case you get stuck.

We did not see any other boat in these fjords until reaching ferry. We were told about one settler that lives a bit of the route near “quatro viento”.

We paddled Fiordo Mitchell during rising tide and noticed a slight favorable tidal flow. During falling tide the tidal flow may get annoying in some parts of the fjord.

Season 2018/19

  • 2019-Jan-25 to 2019-Jan-27 / GPT36P Rio Baker Southbound / Regular Packrafting Route / Part 1 of 3: Cochrane to Tortel / Ricardo Campos, Jennifer Schmitz(Jen Ni), Markus Legner and Meylin Elisabeth Ubilla González

The Rio Baker is with approx. 900 cubic meter per second Chile's largest river in terms of volume of water. Few rivers this large in the world remain undammed and free flowing. And apart from a few settlers on some of the river beaches you see barely any signs of human intervention. This makes this 170 km long river a beautiful but giant beast.

On the first river section powerful rapids fill the wide river valley with the constant roars of crushing water. Someone can admire this show of force from the distant Carretera Austral when traveling from Lago General Carrera to Cochrane.

Only on the last 140 km this beast mostly snoozes but growls and snarls from time to time. And in one place - the “Salton” - it smashes everything with his giant fist that gets in his way.

Packrafting this lower part of Rio Baker is feasible for experienced packrafters but if you are not at least slightly scared you lack the right attitude. Powerful eddies and huge boils in the river bends require a constant careful reading of the water and foresighted, precise and forceful maneuvering. Strong wind can make the control of your packraft impossible so be prepared to sit out periods of unsuitable weather. The river flows with an average speed of about 8 km/h but exceeds this velocity in some parts substantially.

There is one mortal rapid about halfway between the put in and the outflow into the sea: the “Salton”. An well maintained trail makes the 1 km portage rather easy but don’t miss the exit (details see below). Three minor to moderate rapids should be carefully scouted or portaged. Depending on the current flow rate the difficulty and the possible rafting lines alter.

The first of the three rapids (Class 2) can be paddled generally on two lines: the relative wide open right side or a very slim “chicken line” on the far left. Expect strong eddies that require forceful paddling to stabilize the packraft in and after the rapid. A scouting and portage is also possible if stopping on the left side before the rapid.

The second moderate rapid is known as “Rapido Gonzalez” and is a rather long Class 3 rapid. The character of this rapid changes significantly with the amount of water. There is a reasonably well maintained portage trail on the right side. We portaged our packrafts about 1 km around this rapid after scouting. Paddling this rapid with an open packraft, without helmet, without a full size white-water-PFD and without plenty of white water experience seams not advisable. Losing your boat and gear in this remote area would put anyone in serious trouble even if making it back to river shore unhurt.

The third minor rapid (Class 2) can be paddled rather safely if staying in the middle between the big boulders or it can be portaged on right side after entering a small bay.

Heavy wind may make it impossible to paddle all the way to the sea. In this case you may leave Rio Baker at the airfield at Tortel or in the few spots where the road to Tortel is next to the river (only few spots on the last 30 river km).

Suitable camp sites are relatively frequent thanks to the few settlers on both sides of the river and the cattle grazing land.

I would advise against packrafting this river solo or in a single boat. Only a second packraft provides the recommended support in case one boat is flipped by one of the powerful eddies and boils. We were very fortunate with weather and wind and packrafted nearly 150 km in 2.5 days (approx. 25 h moving time including two portages). Also the fjord was unusual calm and we paddled into Tortel from the sea what makes the perfect finish.

In Tortel you can resupply and bus to Cochrane and Villa O‘Higgins. A good continuation for packrafters is the Rio Colorado, Lago Colorado, Lago Cisnes, Lago Ciervo and Rio Mayer southbound on the way to Villa O‘Higgins

  • 2019-Jan-29 / GPT36P Rio Baker / Packrafting Route / Part 2 of 3: Tortel to Rio Colorado / With Jennifer Schmitz (Jen Ni) , Markus Legner and Meylin Elisabeth Ubilla González

The Carretera Austral connects since 2003 Tortel with Villa O’Higgins and several buses per week connect both villages.

Since there are no trails left taking the bus is to my opinion the most practical option to connect from the Rio Baker with the next packrafting part.

“Connecting footsteps disciples” have three options:

1. Roadwalk 115 km and packraft 9 km (from Puerto Yungay to Puerto Rio Bravo in a rather wind exposed fjord)

2. Roadwalk 67 km and packraft 40 km from Tortel to Puerto Rio Bravo in wind explosed fjords with few good exit and camp options. This 40 packraft kilometers are an serious challenge and might result in substantial waiting time for low-wind periods. See the attached image.

3. Follow GPT36H instead of GPT36P.

  • 2019-Jan-30 / GPT36P Rio Baker / Regular Packrafting Route / Part 3 of 3: Rio Colorado to Villa O’Higgins or Puerto Bahmondez / With Jennifer Schmitz (Jen Ni), Markus Legner and Meylin Elisabeth Ubilla González

This packrafting combination of 4 river sections and 3 or 4 lakes (depending on finish point) makes up a senic and quite diverse packrafting day (30 to 35 km). You can remain continuously on the water till either leaving at the suspension bridge over Rio Mayer (to resupply in Villa O’Higgins) or paddle all the way to Puerto Bahmondez (if you already have a ticket for the crossing to Candelario Mancilla and all your supplies for GPT38).

The rather small rivers are mostly framed by dense low forest and swampland what limits the entry and exit options. But the small rivers contain surprisingly few fallen trees if entering at El Parrillal as we did. While driving by bus to our put in at Parrillal we had a glimpse of some upstream parts of Rio Colorado that are currently published as an exploration packrafting route. This upstream river section seams in parts too shallow and completely blocked by trees and I will delete the first 14 km of it.

When hiking on land someone can open overgrown parts by machete but when packrafting I don’t want to rely on a machete to smash a passage into an overgrown mini-river. So better skip the 22 km of Exploration Packrafting Route completely (EXP-RP-RI-1@36P-257.6) or investigate only the last 8 km of this Exploration Packrafting Route that seams open on satellite images. For this investigation seak your way from about Las Turbas at the Carretera Austral to Rio Colorado (see images with updated exploration suggestion).

Season 2017/18

Season 2016/17

Resupply and Accommodation

Resupply and Accommodation in nearby Towns

Resupply and Accommodation along the Route

Transport to and from Route

Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues

Links to other Resources

Retired Section Article GPT36P - Río Baker‎