Khyber Pass

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Contents

Quick Facts

  • Class: IV+
  • Type: Ledges and Boulders
  • Length: 150 meters (500 feet)
  • Alternate Names: Kyber's, Paso las Cabres
  • Previous Rapid: Lower Terminator
  • Next Rapid: Himalayas
  • Interactive Map: Futaleufu River Valley
  • River Section: Middle Futaleufu

Overview

A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Khyber Pass
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A detailed sketch illustrating the key kayak lines of Khyber Pass

To get to the tremendous surfing waves of the Himalayas one must first traverse the Khyber Pass. This rapid can be the second most intense rapid on the Middle Futaleufu, only the Terminator exceeds it. After making your way through the Terminator it is easy to let your guard down and get ambushed in the Khyber Pass. Most swims through the Himalayas are caused by exiting the kayak in the Khyber Pass. However, there is a sneak chute on river right that turns Khyber Pass into a class III+ line that can allow an intermediate paddler who has walked the Terminator a shot at the Himalayas.

The rapid contains some nasty surprises for the unwary paddler especially on the river-left side. Khyber Pass is essentially a series of ledges with deeper water on river-left than river-right. The river-right shallows slow the oncoming water while the river-left, deeper channel speeds it up. The difference results in a series of reactionary waves that feed from right-to-left. The main current and these waves all lead to the primary hazard in the rapid: China Hole.

High and Low Water

At low water the rapid will flatten out a lot and lose much of its punch. Moves will be easier to make but the holes will become more retentive. At high flows the China Hole gets huge and with even higher water will washout creating a massive explosion wave. At the highest levels Khyber and Himalsyas join into one rapid.

Scouting

This rapid can be boat scouted from a river-left eddy above it. If one is going to run the sneak chute carefully make your way to the river-right eddy where there is good scout from some big rocks at the top of the rapid.

Hazards

Khyber Pass in the background with the Himalayas on the left. Corner Rock and No Exit Eddy clearly visible.
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Khyber Pass in the background with the Himalayas on the left. Corner Rock and No Exit Eddy clearly visible.

China Hole is the greatest hazard in Khyber Pass. It got its name from the fact that almost everything that goes into it does not come out (going straight through the earth to China) – or at least not coming out in one piece. When paddlers accidentally trespass, China Hole delivers a violent surf and an inevitable boat-parting experience. If a paddler falls into the hole it will be obvious a mile away due to the "popcorn maker effect" that the hole has on kayaks and float bags being tossed around in it. The other major hazard in Khyber Pass is the submerged Mushroom Rock on river left, so named because it kicks up a veil of water that resembles a fan shaped mushroom. Steer clear of this rock as a collision could have unpredictable consequences. The third major hazard of this run lies around the bend, below No Exit Eddy. The eddy has no downstream outlet except over a steep ledge-hole.

Play Opportunities

Down the center of Khyber Pass, with the Lower Terminator in the background.
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Down the center of Khyber Pass, with the Lower Terminator in the background.

A great surfing wave at the top of the rapid at the entry on river-left. There is a service eddy on the left side where you can return to the wave over and over. Just be aware of the hazardous Mushroom Rock and China Hole downstream of this great play-wave.

Where to Swim

Swimmers should swim away from the China Hole and the Corner Rock hole at the bottom of the rapid. If one is parted from their kayak on the river-right side an attentive rescuer can get the swimmer to shore before the Himalayas. If one is parted from their kayak in the center of this rapid or in China Hole, it is best to just relax and have a rescue kayaker direct the swimmer through the Himalayas to be picked up in the pool below.

Where to Rescue

Safety kayakers should be waiting at the bottom on river-right attentively ready to sprint out to get a swimmer. If you can get them in before Himalayas you are a hero, but most likely your best option will be to direct or pull them away from the holes and get them down the tongue, safely into the Himalayas, where you can pick them up below. Do whatever it takes for to avoid the Corner Rock and its associated hydraulic.

Where to Portage

This is an awkward rapid to walk but it has been done on river-right.


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Running the Rapid

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There are three entry ramps to Khyber Pass, right, left and center. No matter how you enter the rapid you will need a strategy to stay right and away from China Hole.


Right:

The most conservative line is the river-right route that involves only going out into the current far enough to get around the rock and hole that is along the left shore. As soon as you get out, charge the wave that extends out from the rock and start coming back in towards the shore to avoid the Corner Rock pocket hole. If you do not get back in quickly after going out, you will be heading straight to the Corner Rock pocket hole. Try to make it to the right of the rock. In a pinch you can go left of Corner Rock and still drive right to get back into No Exit Eddy but you will have to power-up.

Center:

Center: The second most cautious route involves the middle ramp. Here paddlers will need to overcome the reactionary waves coming from the river-right side that lead directly to China Hole. Paddle down the center looking for the horizon line that marks China Hole on your left. Steer clear of it by actively paddling toward Corner Rock and into No Exit Eddy behind it.

Left:

The third route is entering above China Hole and moving right. The trick is not to break to the right too soon. Breaking to the right immediately will put you in opposition to the reactionary waves heading toward China Hole. Once you allow a right-to-left boat momentum to develop as a result of these reactionaries it will be difficult to counteract. To run this line stay in the main flow until you pass Mushroom Rock to your left, then begin padding hard right heading for Corner Rock and No Exit Eddy behind it.

No Exit Eddy:

This eddy is the perfect place to regroup before the Himalayas. Note the hazardous ledge-hole at the bottom of No Exit Eddy. To leave No Exit Eddy you will need to paddle upstream and out to a tongue going between the river-right rock and the center hole. Try to catch the Shangri-La surf-wave that is in the entrance to the the Himalayas.

Video

  • Khyber Pass at high water. Notice the Corner Rock is under water and much of the rapid washed out. Video

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Disclaimer

  • Disclaimer: Under no circumstances should paddlers substitute the information and diagrams in this guidebook for their own sound judgment on the river and their collective experience running rivers. This guidebook is based on Expediciones Chile's twenty years of experience running the Futaleufu River. However, the diagrams and descriptions found here are only approximations of what paddlers will find on the river once they get here. They are not to scale and nor are they completely accurate. Water levels change, rocks move around, landslide debris can enter the river at any time making the diagrams obsolete. Expediciones Chile also reserves the right to update these diagrams and descriptions at any time as we find better ways to illustrate and discuss the rapids. Use this guidebook at your own risk.

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