Miss Lilly’s Last Big Adventure

Lone Eagle Peak
Miss Lily and John


Miss Lilly was an awesome German Shepherd gal whom I enjoyed the companionship for more than a dozen years.  She was a bit wild in her teenage years, but she matured into an incredible creature who shared many of my best adventures. 

She was almost ten when I talked her into our last great one.

She was starting to feel a bit old, but I promised her lots of treats, and a previously unexplored region, and her tail responded very quickly.

The adventure started at the Long Lake trail head, in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and we enjoyed the spectra of the new dawn as we hiked briskly up a pristine valley with awesome views of the morning light on the high local peaks.

Miss Lillie’s tale was wagging at a record breaking frequency as she rushed out to sniff and mark every bush in the valley.

The crowds and smells eased as we passed Isabelle Lake and headed into the high tundra.  She had never seen a Marmot, and introduction to this new species was infatuating. It took a lot of persuasion to convince her that she shouldn’t play with them, but she was a smart gal and finally understood. But she watched them very attentively. as I continuously warned her to stay on the trail.

It was a new thrill to cross Pawnee Pass and drop into the gendarme filled slopes of the western drainage. A slight breeze cooled the summer air, and the dwindling crowds added a whole new aspect to this great adventure. She was showing a bit of fatigue at the pass, but her energy quickly revived as we approached Pawnee Lake. Miss Lily could obviously smell the cool water from a great distance and rushed ahead to cool her warm fur coat in the frigid waters of the pristine lake. 

We stopped to take a brief break and let her sniff all the local bushes, but our planned camp was still a ways away, so we plodded downward until we met the confluence of another canyon that lead us upstream again to a remote and stunning lake that was our planned camp.

One of Colorado’s many “Crater Lakes” sits near the top of another natural canyon that boasts the view of one of our most famous peaks. 

The “Lone Eagle Spire” isn’t really a mountain or a spire, but only a prominent high spot on the ridge of Iroquois Peak (12,799’). But its spectacular view from Crater Lake and somewhat challenging routes has given it enough fame to gain the cover of “Colorado’s Indian Peaks” by Gerry Roach.

The view from the lake is truly spectacular, but Lilly didn’t seem to be very impressed. But the smell of water and enticing scents that had been left by the local creatures soon caught her fancy, and she eagerly sniffed every bush in the near vicinity and took a short swim before finding the perfect grassy spot to lounge in.

The day was still a bit young, and dusk is usually the best time to fish, so after a brief nap, I grabbed my fishing rod and rambled toward the lake. I have never been much of a fisherman, but I do enjoy the serenity and meditation of the sport, and I love to eat fresh fish. Crater Lake is one of the Colorado gems that doesn’t see a lot of visitors, so the fish are not aware of the many elusive tactics that fisherman have perfected. A few casts with simple spinning gear yielded a 12 inch Brook Trout that put up a thrilling fight and supplied a splendid dinner.

Both Miss Lilly and I were quite exhausted, and we quickly found slumber just after dusk. I let her share my tent, and she seemed very content as she snored away in the mountain paradise.

We both awoke at dawn, but our aspirations were very different. I was anxious to try and bag a peak, and she seemed very content to lounge after the previous hard day. She didn’t wish to share my cup of coffee and wasn’t very hungry, but I left her a large bowl of food and plenty of water before scratching her ears and belly to say goodbye.  When I looked back, she had resumed her old lounging position and seemed very content.

The morning air was a bit brisk at the high altitude camp, but the trail was dry and the fragrance of the high mountain plants awakening was extremely invigorating. I was in a valley where I had never been, and the excitement of exploring a new peak brought my energy to an exuberant level. The path that I had chosen was well documented, but it still left a feeling of exploration, and I was completely alone in the vast canyon. The route involved climbing quite high in the canyon and then traversing across fairly steep and exposed terrain to the ridge. I probably didn’t find the easiest way to gain the ridge, but the exposed moves felt solid and the adrenaline rush was quite refreshing. 

A cup of good coffee and a bit of adrenaline is a great way to start the day, and all the other pieces suddenly fit together. The exposed ridge just above the peak offered some fun scrambling and incredible views of of the western slope, and a marked trail of cairns led to a brilliant, but quite challenging view of the awaiting scramble. Many lost hikers seem obligated to force others to share their fate, so I was faced with at least two sets of cairns. The first one that I followed led to a 20 foot vertical foot cliff that looked quite challenging and a bit harder than I wished to solo (especially on a down climb).  After examining this route very carefully for a few minutes and meeting another pair of climbers who were running away in fear, I stumbled across another set of cairns which gave way to a much easier route. The last few moves to the summit were a bit precarious, but the rock was solid, and the empty summit was beckoning. This high point was truly grandiose, and I was now the only soul in this grand valley. The weather was perfect, and I found a comfortable rock chair, so I sat and lounged in this heaven for at least 20 minutes. I could have stayed much longer, but concern for my dear dog was pulling my energy back to camp. The exposed forth class near the peak was easily repeated, and soon I was wandering back through the empty valley to our remote camp. 

Lilly was very anxious to see me and looked well rested. She seemed a bit anxious about my absence, but a good tummy rub and some ear scratching relieved her tensions. After a brief siesta, I managed to catch another trout for dinner, and enjoyed a very sound sleep in the empty paradise.

The next dawn brought another perfect day, but our goals were easy, so we lingered and absorbed the awesome energy of this remote abode. We had plans to spend one more night before crossing the divide, and the hike to Pawnee Lake was only a few miles, so we waited for the very pleasant sun to climb above the canyon walls. It was a very content feeling to gaze up at the famous spire and recall the blissful moments of the past day. 

The late morning sun seemed to arose both of our spirits, and Lilly seemed eager to move on, so we cleared the camp and slowly wandered back toward the continental divide. It was sad to leave this truly awesome valley, but the new memories that we had made remained, and I often looked back in wonder as we trekked away. 

The day was becoming quite warm and Miss Lily was very excited to find out that we were camping at another lake. When I started to set up the tent, she tilted her head and gave me a big smile. This seemed to be her method of expressing contentment, and she quickly dove into the lake. A quick swim and a sniffing concerto of the surrounding area completed her daily exercise and she decided to spend the rest of the afternoon joining me in a grand siesta. 

The next morning dawned with another perfect Colorado day, but we were not anxious to leave, so we lingered and enjoyed the serenity. The much more inhabited region of Brainard lake was awaiting on the other side of the pass, so we postponed our travels till almost noon.  

Climbing in the Aspen Fast Lane

Aspen has been a popular party town for the rich and famous for quite some time, and the early 80’s were not an exception. The intense hedonists that were becoming a strong influence in this valley were looking for anything that gave them pleasure and price was not much of an object. Cocaine was a rich man’s drug, and it became very popular. This is the same time period when Cocaine use was featured on the front cover of Time magazine.  It was very fashionable among the rich and successful business folks, and the city of Aspen reduced criminality to a misdemeanor that was rarely enforced for possessing less than 3 grams. It quickly became some what of a status symbol, and the flagrant users would carry fancy silver 3 gram automatic dispensers that could be used on chairlifts and in restaurant bathrooms. The old hippy days of passing joints was considered low life to these decadent connoisseurs! 

I have lots of found memories of living in this awe inspiring valley, and I must admit that this is one place where trickle down economics actually seems to work.

The cocaine also trickled down and I was introduced to this evil drug while working as a trim carpenter on a local restaurant remodel. The owners were extremely anxious to finish by the lucrative Christmas season and bribed us with lines of coke in the walk in cooler. It was my first experience with this so called magic powder, and the initial response was like an extreme caffeine high with happiness and lots of energy. The artificially induced energy allowed us to work 10-14 hour days and the project was finished on time. 

The drug didn’t seem to be extremely addictive, but I did enjoy the high, and started purchasing small amounts for special occasions. But, like most mind altering substances, the highs seemed always harder to achieve, and the use gradually  increased. Coke is also a perfect party drug because it keeps you alert into the late night hours and allows for ridiculous amounts of alcohol consumption. The combined ingredients offer a great high, but the morning penalties can be severe.

My construction company was just getting started and I was building a small addition for a friend in Snowmass Village with my old climbing partner, who had come to visit. Gringo Negro is the source of many legends, and he did like to party, so he quickly adapted. 

It was a good party for a couple of weeks, but the thrill gradually waned, and we started to question our new life style.  

“This is really stupid!” I exclaimed to Dave, in the middle of a late night party. It was about 2 AM and we were both enjoying a good buzz, but I was very discontent. “We really need to change this habit and get back on track. Let’s go climb something good tomorrow. It’s what we really need.”

The “Bell Cord” between North and South Maroon peaks is a classic, somewhat steep snow climb that Dave had never done and I was itching to repeat. I had done it the fall before with blue ice conditions, and it had been one of my all time favorite ascents.  The current conditions offered exceptional snow climbing on an awesome peak, and it seemed like the perfect route for a long summer day.  A quick survey of our available food supply revealed 4 ounces of dried beef and 1 avocado, but we still had a gram of the magic powder, so we quickly grabbed some gear and drove to the Maroon Bells parking lot where we passed out on the tar next to the car. The sun was warm and bright and the tourists were starting to arrive and were almost stepping on us, when we groggily awoke and started to rally. 

Dave was a desert boy who had learned to climb on the chossy desert rock of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix with a clothesline for a rope. He had never climbed ice or snow, but he was a solid 5.11 rock climber, so I trusted his ability, and the conditions were perfect. His Scott ski boots seemed like the best available option, and I had a spare set of crampons and some extra ice axes, so we quickly packed and scurried away.  Our stamina hadn’t suffered too badly during the recent break in activities, so we snorted a couple of lines and ran down the trail past Crater Lake. It’s been a few decades, but I vaguely recollect that Dave was running in his flip flop sandals, which were his shoe of choice at that time. 

We quickly arrived at the base of the snow and found a group of out of towners who were carefully setting a belay and climbing with a large array of technical gear including glacier stakes and ropes. They didn’t seem quite ready to start and they were obviously much slower than us, so they politely let us pass.

The Bell chord is steep, but not extreme, and is a fun solo for a competent climber. It does involve about 1800 feet of mostly 45 but up to 50 degree snow or ice, so it is still a serious adventure and falling would be extremely dangerous. But, the biggest hazard in this gulley is rock fall, so a swift confident solo climber takes much less risk than a slow party using ropes and exposed belays. 

We thanked the group for letting us pass, snorted some long lines, and jammed for the summit, as I coached my rookie friend.

“OK Dave!

This is it. It’s kinda like rock climbing, but you can get a hold whenever you want with your ice aces and crampons. So, just stay focused, stay balanced, and only move one appendage at a time. The conditions are perfect, but still be aware of ice, thin spots, and rock fall, and DON’T FALL!  Rock fall is a definite hazard, and just stay low and don’t panic. The worst case scenario is to fall because of panicking. I barely dodged a rock here on a late fall ascent lat year, but I had enough time to secure my axes and duck when it arrived. It was a baseball size rock that bounced off the walls of the coular and flew by about 10 feet from my head. So, the faster we go, the safer we will be.  

“Oh wow! This is pretty easy and kinda fun too. Maybe I’ll try ice climbing next year.”

The climb definitely kept our attention, and the high mountain air was thin, but we sustained a steady pace and jammed up to about the middle of the route.

“Wow! This is really fun, but I’m getting kind of tired. Is there any more of that magic powder left?” 

“Yup! but it’s too dangerous to stop right here. It looks like a small nook and ledge that will be somewhat safe from rock fall about 50 feet ahead, so let’s stop there.”

We didn’t have one of those fancy silver devices, but the flat surface of the largest ice axe provided an adequate surface and we spread out 2 very generous lines. 

“Yaaa! I feel much better now!” exclaimed Dave as we gained a new sense of energy, and jammed up to the comfortable saddle between the two bells. An exposed, but enjoyable scramble through the hazardous loose blocks of rock brought us to the friendly summit of North Maroon Peak. 

The day was still quite young, the weather was fine, and the mountain was empty, so we enjoyed a brief break and savored the spectacular view and the nirvana of finishing a great route. The summit was hard to leave, but we were starting to get a bit hungry and the descent route was easy, so we rushed back to the luxurious mountain town and enjoyed a gourmet dinner with fine wine at the Chart House. 

We awoke refreshed with a great new attitude, and I never did Coke again.   

The Head of the Wolf

A great adventure in the Wind River Range of Wyoming with three old friends.

John, Dave and Franz in the Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming; The Wolfs Head Tower is in the upper left corner.


“The route goes right up that knife edge ridge” exclaimed my old friend Franz Helfenstein, as we reached the top of Jack Ass Pass in the Wind River range of western Wyoming. We quickly dropped our over-loaded packs and gazed at the incredible vista of classic granite spires that compose the Cirque of the Towers. The East Ridge of Wolf”s Head is a classic and very exposed line and the first glimpse gave us all a bit of an adrenaline rush.

Franz is a 60 year young math professor from Bend Oregon who is a veteran of many expeditions. He is also known as the “Mad Math Professor” because of his many extreme kayaking adventures, including the first descent of the Cotahuasi River in Peru. This might be the deepest canyon in the world, and it is also one of the best. The clear waters start in the high Andes and create miles of pristine class IV-V whitewater as they flow through a paradise filled with Inca ruins and old vineyards. Franz was also a a fairly accomplished climber, and the Wind Rivers was one of his favorite haunts. He had already climbed many of the classic spires.

Franz had already set up camp in a very pleasant meadow, so we finished the last bit of the arduous hike, and dropped our packs for the last time. It had been a very long day, but now we could enjoy the luxury of a well stocked camp in a mountain paradise. The happy team watched the alpenglow on the large towers as we feasted on a gourmet dinner including a small ration of reasonably good wine. Tales of old adventures flowed freely, and we feasted on the joys of nature and old friendships.

Sleep came very easy and we awoke to another perfect day. The nearby granite tower called Pingora was our first objective. It was big and very steep, but a carefully hidden series of ledges provided an easy, but very exposed route to the summit.

Our group included four old friends, so we split into two groups of two and used technical climbing techniques. I had been climbing with Gringo Negro since the early 70’s and it was great to share a rope with him again. This somewhat famous wild man has spent a good portion of his life exploring the world, and he had been part the team that explored the Cotahuasi. His real name is David Black, (Hence the nickname) and he honed his early climbing skills on Camelback Mountain, AZ. He is only 55 and our skills were a bit rusty, but the difficulty of the route was well below our current skill level, and we were excited about the adventure. The forth member of the group was a seasoned 56 year young adventurer named Ken Ransford. Most of Ken’s outings were with his kayak, and we had enjoyed many, including a 17 day trip on the Humla Karnali in Western Nepal. Ken was a bit of a novice climber, but he was very fit and teamed up with Franz, who was a fearless leader.
We all enjoyed a very thrilling ascent and completed the route without any problems. The weather held, and we savored a warm and sunny summit with pristine views of the surrounding towers. This included a birds eye view of the Wolf’s Head Ridge, which was very intimidating from this viewpoint. The first pitch is a narrow 30 degree slope with more than 500 feet of shear cliff on both sides. The summit view made it look steeper than it really was, and pondering the route that we planned for the next day was a bit frightening. But, the perfect weather helped to calm our nerves and we found a comfortable ledge with a natural rock backrest.

“Wow! Isn’t this awesome? This is what life is about.” Exclaimed Franz, as we nestled in to our natural chairs. Summits are magical places and we enjoyed a casual lunch with a lofty view.
The summit of most routes (especially spires) is really only about half the climb, because getting down can be very difficult and dangerous, and descents have been the scene of many accidents. Descending Pingora involved three rappels, but the anchors were already there, and Franz knew the way.

Ken looked a bit nervous as he clipped into the ropes, so I checked his rigging and technique very carefully. We proceeded with caution and arrived safely at the first of three comfortable ledges. His nerves relaxed a bit for the second and third rappels, and a short scramble brought us safely back to camp. The alpenglow provided a second great light show, as we feasted on another gourmet meal.

“We need to get a really early start tomorrow.” Exclaimed Franz over dinner. “It’s not much harder than what we did today, but it’s a lot longer and a long descent. It’s an awesome route, but I think we’ll all find it exciting.”

We awoke to a very pleasant day and scrambled quickly to the high saddle between Wolf’s Head and Pingora. The very narrow ridge looked like a very steep and narrow sidewalk to heaven with intense exposure on both sides. It didn’t look that hard, but a fall by either party would be really bad. Franz bravely lead the first pitch, and Ken followed without any problems.

Once again, we climbed in pairs of two, and Dave and I prepared our belay while we waited. Dave had chosen to wear some old hiking boots because of comfort, and they made the steep ramp a bit more challenging. I watched and belayed him nervously as he cautiously climbed up the steep ridge. He seemed a bit anxious, but his old instincts served him well, and he made it to the top without any problems.

“Off Belay! That was really a rush!” He exclaimed, as he finished setting up the anchors. His belay would prevent me from hitting the ground if I fell, but he had only managed to place a couple of pieces of protection, so a fall would still be very serious.

I take three deep breaths and follow his lead. One of the main reasons I climb is because of the complete mental focus that is required to be a competent climber. All the worries of the world suddenly disappear, as the narrow ridge consumes all of my thoughts. My boots feel somewhat secure on the course granite, and the edges of the ramp provide descent handholds, so I climb like a cat up the exposed ramp.

“Yeow! That was great!” I exclaim as I reach the belay ledge.

“I should have let you lead that one.” he remarked in his usual joking manor, as I arrived at the belay. “I thought the next pitch was going to be harder, but it looks great from here.”

The next pitch is mine, so I grab the rack from Dave and continue upward. The ridge steepens a bit, but there are two beautiful hand to fist sized cracks that provide excellent holds and plenty of protection. The combination of exposure and confidence provides a state of pure euphoria, and I am grinning from ear to ear as I top out and set up the belay.

The route eases quite a bit, so we coil the rope and continue very carefully. Ken and Franz have vanished in front of us, but we soon catch them at a narrow squeeze chimney that is challenging enough to require a belay. Franz and Ken climb into the chimney and drag their packs, but Dave and I find a way to stem the edge of it. This method is a lot less grungy, and much more exciting.

The next obstacle is a 50 foot spire that blocks our path on the exposed ridge. The established route involves traversing a steep slab with some thin moves and intense exposure. The route has been protected by some fixed pitons, but they are about 15 feet apart, so a fall by either the leader or the second would be very thrilling, and could result in an injury. A small thundercloud is threatening from the West as Franz takes the lead and disappears around the corner. We send Ken next, and belay him with a rope from each side for better protection. He does just fine, and I watch anxiously as Dave follows quickly behind him, and disappears.

The brief moment of solitude creates a more intense mood, as I clear the belay and wait for the signal from Franz.

“Belay on! Climb when ready.” He finally exclaims.

The rope tightens, and I move very cautiously around the spire. The next pin is about 15 feet away, so I will take about a 20 foot swinging fall 800 feet above the ground if I slip. The finger holds are very small, so I am relying almost completely on some small footholds that are spaced a bit further apart than I would really like. I have chosen to wear my mountaineering boots for comfort and now I suddenly wish that I had brought my technical climbing shoes instead. But, Dave has already survived with his hiking boots so it can’t be too bad. One of the moves involves trusting most of my weight to a tiny foothold, but my boot soles stick, and I reach the safety of the next pin. From here the climbing eases, and I join my friends on a large ledge.

“Yow! That was a great pitch. My adrenaline level is very happy right now! How is yours?” I exclaim as I reach the comfortable ledge.

“Me too!” Exclaims Dave with a big smile.

Franz continues up the steep ridge and Ken follows as they disappear from our sight. It is my turn to lead, and I scramble somewhat fearfully up to a horizontal crack. The first moves are quite hard and a fall back to the ledge would be long enough to get injured, so I move very cautiously up to the safety of the hand sized crack. This provides great handholds and an opportunity to place protection. But, the friendly crack suddenly ends as I step around the blind corner. The next move is a bit awkward and extremely exposed, but a good set of handholds allows me to swing over to a low angle ramp.

Ken and Franz have vanished from sight, so I am forced to find the proper route on my own. I scramble to the top of another very exposed ridge and straddle it. I cannot see Ken, and it looks like there might be an easier route lower down on the right, but I am already committed and continue leapfrogging in my straddled position. My adrenaline gland is starting to max out, but I find Ken and a very comfortable ledge to set the belay. Ken is on a very small ledge belaying Franz who is out of sight.

“How does that next pitch look?” I inquire.

“It looks pretty scary. It’s probably not that hard, but you have to balance on your feet because it looks like there aren’t any handholds, and it is really exposed.” Ken replies in a very nervous state.

“That last pitch was sure wild, and that cloud looks a bit ominous. I hope we’re almost done.”

“Me too.” He replies as he cleans the belay and prepares to climb.

“Wow! That was kinda hard and really scary!” exclaims Dave with a big smile, as he reaches the belay. “I hope we’re almost done.”

All of our nerves are being pushed to the limit, and the anxiety of waiting for the next pitch pushes them even further.

I nervously watch Ken traverse the narrow ledge as I move the belay to the tiny exposed shelf, but he makes the moves without any problems as Dave scrambles up and takes his turn at lead. This pitch involves standing on the edge of a horizontal crack that traverses the rock face. The best technique involves shuffling sideways with his toes in the crack and his upper body hugging the wall that was void of handholds. His heals are hanging over the edge of the narrow ledge, but he moves onward without any problems, as I belay him carefully from my airy perch.

“Off belay! Your turn!” He exclaims with a somewhat ominous chuckle, as I clear the belay and prepare to meet my destiny.

I have been sitting and watching for quite some time, which does not help my unsettled nerves, and standing up is probably the hardest move. But, the crack ledge proves to be friendly, and I am very relieved to find that the footholds are solid and the shear face is sloped enough to make the positions balanced. I suddenly have thoughts of an old James Bond movie, as I move quickly along the skyscraper window style ledge to a comfortable belay.

“The rest is easy and the storm is moving in, so we need to hurry!” Exclaims Franz. He and Ken are standing on the summit, so we move quickly up to join them.

I would have enjoyed lingering for at least a few moments, but the storm is threatening and summits are the most dangerous place to be in a thunder storm. A quick rappel drops us on a comfortable ledge, and the storm changes directions, so we take a well needed break, and enjoy the lofty view. Four rappels and a bit of challenging scrambling bring us back to terra firma and a great celebratory dinner.

Photos of the Wind River Range:

Climbing, Kayaking, and Trekking in Peru

Peru is an adventure paradise. The many great mountains provide fabulous alpine climbing, and the deep canyons are filled with extreme whitewater and ancient Inca ruins.

Randy Kennedy in the deep and mystical Colca Canyon.

Randy Kennedy in the deep and mystical Colca Canyon.

The lofty country of Peru is home to more than forty 6000 meter peaks and the Equatorial climate is very good for climbing. The routes vary from moderate to extreme, and the open valleys provide easy approaches, stunning vistas, and great trekking routes.

The Colca claims to be the deepest canyon in the world, and it’s shear walls and ever-changing rapids have provided a thrilling adventure to many hardy paddlers. The scenery is absolutely stunning, and the local trails provide excellent trekking.

Climbing and Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca

This famous mountain range rivals the Himalayas in everything accept altitude.  The highest peak is just over 22,000 feet, and dozens of lessor mountains and remote valleys stand waiting for eager adventurers. The busy city of Huaraz can easily be reached by bus and is the starting point for most of the climbing and trekking activity. The town is filled with hotels, guides and trekking companies, and is the perfect place to organize an adventure. The dry season climate ( May through July) is usually very good.  “Classic Routes of the Cordillera Blanca” by Brad Johnson is an excellent  guidebook.

Exploring the Cordillera Huayhuash

This truly spectacular range of mostly limestone mountains has a very interesting history, and is far less crowded than the Cordillera Blanca.  It was a main base camp for the infamous “Shining Path” gorillas in the late eighties, and the Peruvian government closed the whole area to foreigners for several years. The rugged peaks have been the scene of many climbing epics, including Joe Simpson’s “Touching the Void,” and the steep faces offer many challenges to modern climbers.

The trek around the range is one of the most spectacular hikes in the world, and a small peak called the “Mute Devil” offers a fun challenge for moderate climbers. The political conditions of this remote area are constantly changing, but tourism is growing, and the locals are usually friendly. Huaraz is the best place to organize a trek or transportation to this unique range. Jeremy Frimer’s “Climbs and Treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash of Peru” is highly recommended.

Kayaking the Colca Canyon

The infamous Colca Canyon has been the scene of many epics, but the deepest canyon in the world offers stunning scenery, and an experience that you will never forget. The whitewater is challenging, and the shear walls filled with loose rock and the ever-changing rapids make every descent a new adventure. The circling condors and steam from the many hot springs create a surrealistic mood as you drop ever deeper into the great abyss. This fabulous river is run commercially by a few brave companies and is a perfect 3-5 day self-support kayak trip. Peruwhitewater is an excellent source of information.

Kayaking through an Ancient Inca City

The Cotahuasi might be the best whitewater river in the world. The dry climate is perfect for a self-support kayak trip, and the remote Atacama desert provides a very mystical setting. This pristine river flows through the middle of an ancient Inca civilization, and it is possible to camp in many of the ruins. The crystal clear water that flows from the high Andean peaks tumbles through dozens of miles of continuos class III-IV rapids that are pure bliss for an expert paddler. The spectacular canyon walls are not as shear as the Colca, so there is little danger from rockfall, and campsites are easy to find. There are a few intermittent class V’s, but the rapids are easily scouted, and may be portaged if desired. Two optional Class V+ canyons can provide a bigger challenge for hardy paddlers, and portaging the big falls with burro support is a memorable experience. “Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet” by John Mattson provides a reasonable description of the logistics.

The Many Other Natural and Man Made Wonders

Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley are stunning relics of the Inca Empire, and Cusco is a great place to spend a few days. The miles of rugged coast line offer fabulous surfing, and the Amazon Jungle is a world of it’s own. Lima is big and dirty, and traveling can be a bit challenging, but Peru might be the best adventure travel destination on Earth. A little knowledge of the Spanish language is almost crucial.

Earthquake in the Colca  is a thrilling story of paddling the Colca.

Adventure in the Andes  describes an early climbing expedition.

The Mute Devil and the Volcanos of southern Chile is a thrilling saga of climbing and skiing.

The Grand Canyon of the Cotahuasi might be the best river in the world.