The Río Avilés is my favorite of the many streams that empty into Lago General Carrera. First explored by Arnd Schaeftlein, Bernd Sommer, Josh Lowry, Dave Kashinski, Oliver Grau, and Manuel Arnu in January 1996, this committing trip requires a 2-3 hour scout from both canyon rims to confirm that its slot canyon is free of logs or new rockfall. Coihue trees clinging to walls of the canyon could fall at any time creating a death trap.
Three significant rapids below the put-in lead up to the narrowest part of the gorge. Turbulent, flat water moves swiftly though these dark shadows before reaching an expanding sky. An unrunnable set of cataracts looms shortly downstream. At flows greater than 28 cms, the one boat eddy on the right could be tough to catch. Portage up and over a talus slope of house-sized boulders. Below the cataracts, classic pool-drop rapids will fill the rest of your afternoon. Beware of a few river wide holes that will ruin your day if you blindly blunder into them.
With the grandeur of its dark, towering walls, narrow slot canyon, challenging whitewater, and snowy views of Cerro El Ventisquero (2110 m), it is easy to imagine this river protected in a wild and scenic river program. Currently, only its headwaters are protected in Reserva Nacional Lago General Carrera.
From Puerto Ibañez, 164 km south of Coihaique, take the ferry across Lago General Carrera (or do the wickedly long drive around the southern shore of the lake). After disembarking in Chile Chico, drive west along the lake approximately 20 km to Puerto Fachinal. Continue west a few more km to the take-out at Puente Avilés elevation225 meters. Hike upstream on river left for two hours on a well-worn cattle trail to reach the top of the slot canyon elevation 350 meters.
The 5 km hike provides 4.5 km of class V- boating with 3-4 portages. Best run in summer months with flows of 600-800 CFS with average gradient of 28 mpk or 150 FPM.
Topo map is titled Chile Chico and other nearby rivers include Baker, Cajon, Rio Claro (Ibañez ), Cochrane, El Cañal, Estero del Bosque, Estero Lechoso, Río Jeinemeni, Los Maitenes