Terminator is the longest most technically difficult rapid on the Futaleufu. The rapid received its name from an aborted first raft descent in the mid 1980s led by Steve Curry Expeditions. Their fully loaded rafted ended up in the massive hole at river center, now known as the “Terminator Hole”, thus terminating the trip. The center-line in Terminator is without a doubt Class V + and will redefine the definition of Big Water Class V for any paddler who attempts this epic route. The center-line of Terminator contains some of the biggest waves on the Futaleufu, as well as one of the hardest to exit hydraulics. Photographs and scouts from shore can be quite deceptive regarding the size of these features because Terminator is so wide. Those who have run the center line can attest to this. For less daring paddlers the left side of Terminator contains a memorable, Class IV sneak route. This route is technical in nature and requires a scout midway through to spot the Pyramid Rock, crux-move area. The rapid itself is characterized by many ledges and holes interspersed with large boulders. From top to bottom the rapid also constricts creating huge waves and a very strong current at the bottom.
High and Low Water
At low water the rapid becomes easier to paddle and less pushy but the hydraulics become more retentive and less forgiving. At very low water the rapid can get harder as new hydraulics form in your former route. At very high water the rapid changes markedly in character as normally exposed rocks turn into hydraulics.
This rapid should definitely be scouted by all those who intend to run it. The best scouting area is the large, high Scout Rock on river-left about a third of the way down the rapid. You can get out of your kayak just before the Scout Rock and climb up on it for the best view. To see details of the bottom part of the rapid one can walk further down and actually get on the top of the Peninsula Rock.
Center Line: Deciding to run the center-line of Terminator is one of the most serious decisions you will make on the Futaleufu. The hazards are the hydraulics and mean diagonals that tend to feed you toward the Terminator Hole. These can and should be avoided at all costs, a swim from anyone of them puts a kayaker in danger of entering the Terminator Hole with consequences at certain levels that can not be predicted. The Terminator Hole has a rock downstream of it that backs-up the water and enhances its keeper characteristics. The hydraulics above the Terminator are wide and sequential, with very little offset, which means if you are off-line and fall into one you are likely to fall into others –creating a domino effect with a downward spiral. Swimming the center-line in Terminator should not even be considered and all attempts should be made to stay in your kayak and ride out the storm. You best chance to avoid the Terminator Hole is to remain in your kayak. This center-line has already claimed the life of one kayaker. That said, if you want to paddle the center line of this rapid you are on your own – rescue won’t be possible or practical until the very bottom of the rapid after the Terminator Hole.
Sneak Line – River Left: In terms of hazards, the river-left line is almost like running another river altogether. Once you make it river-left, and are on route, the odds of getting offline and being jetted out to the center are not that probable. On the river-left side you will encounter some small holes, rocks, ledges and chutes but the action will pick up after you depart the Scout Eddy. Below the Scout Rock lies a drop with a set of waves headed just right of the Peninsula Rock where you will need to veer toward the center of the river around several boulders and weave through some offset holes (still in the river-left chute) then surf a diagonal towards the center left of the river. This is a definite class IV run involving a number of rocks and offset holes that can easily be seen from the big Peninsula Rock. The Peninsula Rock has an eddy behind it. The biggest hazard on this route occurs during the lowest levels in Feb-March. The current on the river-left route tends to flow into the upstream side of Peninsula Rock. Stay away from this as this rock is undercut. You can see the undercut nature of the rock from the eddy below by observing the flow of water under it.
Just getting through this rapid is challenging enough, however some stellar class V paddlers have found the play-spots in some of the holes at the center. The right side of the Terminator Hole is one of them. However, you can not go wrong showing respect to the rapid and play elsewhere. Before playing in the center, scout this rapid throughly, as water levels can change drastically from day to day.
Where to Swim
Swimming is not recommended on the left or the center route. If you think swimming is a possibility, portage. If you are on the center route and find yourself in the water unexpectedly try to swim to the left of the Terminator Hole or at least to the left side where you do have a chance to flush through. Stay in the current and at the bottom of the rapid try to swim toward river-right before Lower Terminator rapid (T2).
If you swim on the left we recommend staying in the main current of the left channel. Do what it takes to go right of the Peninsula Rock and right of the Boulder Fence below it. This line is similar to a small steep creek run, so keep your feet up.
Where to Rescue
The rescuer should wait on river-left in the Promised Land Eddy. Most swims on the left take place at the bottom, where you will have a chance to activate a mid-river Eskimo rescue if someone has a roll failure. If you have a kayaker attempting the center route, locate a rescue kayaker on the bottom right to rescue or prevent a runaway.
Where to Portage
From the Scout Rock, if you do not like what you see one can go back and get their kayak and portage around the last part of the drop and get back in their boat at the Promised Land Eddy. The portage trail is on river left. Please do not portage on river-right as this is private property.
Running the Rapid
Center Line (Class V+)
After departing the Terminator Wave head down the center of the river toward the Entrance Ledge and identify Diamond Rock. Diamond Rock is in the center but slightly to river-left and is the biggest rock in the area. On the mid-river side of the rock is a v-tongue which passes between Entrance Ledge on river-right and Diamond Rock on river-left. After the Entrance Ledge you will encounter two more ledges of lesser magnitude. Dodge the offset holes and rocks caused by these ledges and try to identify Dinosaur Rock. Dinosaur Rock is the largest boulder in the rapid and looks much like a Dinosaur wading across the river, especially from below. On the mid-river side of Dinosaur Rock there is a trashy ledge-hole, but further to the middle of the river lies another v-tongue that allows passage between Dinosaur Rock and a mid-river hydraulic. After Dinosaur Rock the next identifiable landmark will be the City of Rocks. City of Rocks is a cluster of large protruding rocks (or hydraulics, depending on the water level) just left of river-center. Find the entry ramp, v-tongue to the river-right of these rocks which leads to The Funnel and the Injector Ledge; so named because without active paddler intervention whatever goes into this region gets funneled then injected into the Terminator Hole. At the top of The Funnel is Middle Hole, river-left of center. At high water levels, this Middle Hole can be as ferocious as the Terminator Hole but a low water levels a large out-cropping of rocks (City of Rocks) emerges. You will need to skirt Middle Hole to the right. The tendency here is to shave Middle Hole too closely forcing you to interact with some reactionary waves that will give your kayak enough left-to-right momentum to propel you inextricably toward Terminator Hole. Your next objective, after deftly skirting Middle Hole is the Injector Ledge v-tongue/wave-hole feature. This is marked by another large rock called Sentry Rock which serves as a "gate house" to the Injector Ledge. Depending on the water levels, and where you hit it, Injector Ledge can be a large trashy wave-hole or a v-tongue heading towards Terminator Hole. The state of Injector Ledge depends on how much water is getting backed-up by the rocks in the center of the river. You will need to hit this feature head-on or better yet, driving right-to-left. Once past Injector Ledge you will come to a calm region and beyond that the Terminator Hole. This calm region is about 30 meters long. Getting backendered here, or not responding quickly enough will result in an unwanted encounter with the Terminator Hole. The trick is to respond aggressively, without hesitation, by moving you kayak to river-left around the Terminator Hole. Once you get past Terminator Hole you will head down one of the fastest and most explosive wavetrains you have ever been on. Eddy-out to safety on river-right above Lower Terminator rapid. </p>
Sneak Chute – River Left (Class IV)
The basic strategy for the river-left route is the same at all levels, but the highest. Take the closest route to the river-left shore that has sufficient flow for you. If you run into any shallows, ledges or rocks closing off your route, paddle out around to the right of the obstruction and cut back into the left channel as soon as possible. You will need to negotiate two major ledge systems using this strategy. This strategy works until you come down to a big eddy, one half of the way down the rapid, called the Scout Eddy. Get out and study the rest of the run from the river-left shore on the tall Scout Rock – a tall feature you can’t miss. After departing Scout Eddy you will come to a little drop with a horizon line just off the river-left shore. Punch the stopper at the bottom of the drop with a little right angle. Take a few hard strokes to keep your downstream speed. You will then see the Pyramid Rock directly in front of you to the right. Aim as if you were going to eddy out behind the Pyramid Rock to catch the slack water behind it. (Another option is to actually eddy-out to the left, behind Peninsula Rock.) Once you are behind Pyramid Rock look for Center Rock and Turtle Rock. You will see a v-tongue opening between the two rocks, this is your line. This route is directly downstream of Pyramid Rock. Aim through this opening with right-to-left boat angle and speed, which will assure that you avoid a hole extending into the center of this chute from your right (at low water this can be a rock). At medium to high water levels a pocket-hole can form on the river-left side of the chute – so you don’t want too be too far left. The moment that you are safely past the river-right side hole you can spin and begin driving to the right to avoid a downstream ledge-hole. If you do not clear the ledge, surf the curler protecting this ledge by bracing against it and you will find your self surfed downstream and to the right around the ledge into a channel. From there it is just a matter of driving back to river-left to eddy-out in the big Promised Land Eddy. You can sling shot into this eddy by powering behind a little rock in the current that will help pull you left into the eddy. This is a great place to admire the run you have just paddled. It is also a great place to stay alert in case the next paddler needs support.
- Cleaning the river-left sneak route from below the Scout Rock. Video
- Carnage on the river-left sneak route, starting from the Scout Rock. Video
- The river-left sneak route, at low water, from the bottom. Video
- The center-line in Terminator. A kayaker accidentally drops into the Terminator Hole but avoid serious consequences because of high water. PaddleQuest 1996 Video
Copyrights: (Copyright © 2006, Expediciones Chile) All photos, maps, diagrams, text and computer code is the copyrighted property of Expediciones Chile with all rights reserved.
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.Read More: Disclaimer