Amazon Express Update: Wild Whitewater On The Amazon

september 3 2012 huancayo 011

The Amazon Express crew is continuing their attempt to paddle the length of the Amazon River in record time. The team started their expedition on the upper slopes of Mount Mismi in the Peruvian Andes a few weeks back and have been slowly but surely making progress down the Rio Apurimac ever since. That river is one of the main tributaries of the Amazon itself and features some of the wildest whitewater on the planet, something expedition leader West Hansen and the rest of the squad found out earlier this week.

On Monday the paddlers experienced plenty of Class V and V+ rapids as they made their way down river. Some of the sections were incredibly difficult and demanding, forcing a few portages around the more hairier sections and using rafts rather than kayaks on a few others. From the sounds of things it was a very tricky part of the river and it took all the skill the team could muster to successfully complete that stretch of water safely.

The early portions of the expedition are taking longer than expected. The schedule has been thrown off due to water conditions not being as predictable as the team had expected. As a result, they actually jumped further down stream to cover the more difficult areas while West still had his full whitewater crew with him. Several of those guides now have other commitments to attend to and will be leaving the team, but with approximately 87 more miles (140km) of white water to go, another support team needs to be assembled for the final push to the Amazon itself.

While those logistics are handled, the bulk of the team is now heading back up river to complete sections that were deemed much easier to paddle. Those areas were skipped before in order to tackle the whitewater with the more experienced crew. While they wait for new whitewater guides to join them, the group will spend their time completing sections that were previously skipped.

Considering the slow going in the early stages of the journey I’m not sure how the speed record attempt is going. They may still be able to make up time once they reach the Amazon, which is mostly flat water with a bit of a current. They’re still a considerable distance from that point however so we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. Hansen has earned himself a reputation for being a fast paddler when conditions are right. He has paddled and won the Texas Water Safari on more than one occasion, which is a difficult test of endurance in its own right. I’m sure he’s looking forward to testing his skills on the Amazon once they’ve put the Apurimac behind them.

Kraig Becker