A small percentage of the world will ever get to see the Rio Futaleufu in southern Chile. Of them, far less will feel the energy, emotions, and empowerment held within the walls of Inferno Canyon, a short section featuring four class-V rapids and 2 un-runnable steep, rocky torrents that must be portaged. Most commercial river companies don't enter Inferno Canyon at all - and those that do have a narrow window of acceptable water levels and paddler types that they'll consider sharing this magical place with.
When considering taking kids to the Futaleufu, I was certain that Inferno would not be included in the itinerary.
Our guides changed my mindset. Throughout the first few days, we carefully assessed the levels of skill, confidence, and comfort of each paddler. As rains came and subsided, we monitored water levels intently. We weighed the pro's and con's. When every variable was inputted into the "decision making machine" that's ultimately a delicate combination of risk assessment, environmental conditions, the gut feelings held by some of the best river guides on our planet, and a scale which balances what might be gained by paddling into Inferno's gates vs. lost by avoiding them, we decided to make a run at it. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
On Inferno morning, we gathered our group and asked them to listen to their own intuition. While some anxiety is healthy and nerves can be motivating, those paralyzed by fear or overcome by the sense that this isn't for them were encouraged to bow out. None did. The breakfast discussions were quieter than they had been on previous days. The nervousness on the bus ride was palpable. In the scouting eddy above "Entrada" the communication was non-verbal - just quick eye contact with other team members on the boat and others to see if they're OK. To see if you're OK. To see if this is OK. To see if they'd seen what you'd seen - the horizontal ledge drop waiting just downstream with powerful spray reaching upward from below it, powerful racing whitewater channeled into enormous waves by the vertical granite walls squeezing the current together.
Entrada...Wall Shot...Dynamite...Dances with Angels...one by one we safely and proudly navigated our boat through enormous crashing waves, over tall ledges, and past holes that would have meant certain flips. Exiting Inferno, the reward was greater than the risk. The sense of accomplishment and camaraderie among guides, safety boaters, and kids was extraordinary, and came through in many of the GOALS participant thank-you letters to the Futaleufu, written several days later...
I want you to feel this sense of accomplishment, pride, and camraderie.
And, while it will be my honor to help guide you through Inferno Canyon some time in 2019 or beyond, for now I want you to follow the lead of these brave and wise GOALS kids - push past imaginary boundaries, set goals then blow past them, and set your mind on making these life-changing experiences available for more kids in GOALS programs on every river we run.
I want every GOALS supporter to join the 2018 GOALS ski-a-thon team - today!
Local or not. Skier or not. There is greater power in a larger community of believers, and there is greater opportunity to shape additional lives on rivers when each of you take action. You still have time to make a difference, but there is absolutely no time to waste. With 12 days left in the campaign, this is where it really gets fun. Where the goal that seems almost unattainable gets closer and closer; where the procrastinating fundraisers and donors come out of the woodwork and create the final building blocks of this community that won't allow any obstacle to keep us from achieving it.
Please click here to create your individual or team page now. Just as an entire team was necessary in Inferno Canyon - guides in rafts, safety catarafts, and kayaks - we need an entire team of GOALS supporters to successfully navigate the final two weeks of our most vital annual fundraiser. We'll guide you through the process of recruiting donations once you've signed up - the next 2 days are devoted to completing the team. With over 1,000 supporters putting their eyes on this very sentence, the potential for an entire community to cumulatively create unprecedented opportunity for GOALS and the kids we serve is immeasurable. Take action today. Be a part of the team that pushes past, rather than builds up, those imaginary boundaries. If you just can't be that involved, please donate generously to one of the individuals or teams working to reach their fundraising goal.
Just as the saying on the wall of the late Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and champion of conservation in the Patagonia region we just explored, read, "Commit - then figure it out."