After Zeta there are about two kilometers of flat water before the entrance to the Throne Room. A river wide horizon line, rising fog and thundering noise marks the intimidating approach to this mighty drop. Here the river plummets over 20 meters from top-to-bottom over a distance of about 200 meters – the effect is awe inspiring. As the water ramps downward the river continues to constrict while simultaneously piling up against a two-story high boulder known as The Throne. The Throne divides the river into two channels. On river left there is a big hydraulic called Exit Hole and on river right is the Toaster Corkscrew. Things falling into the Toaster have a tendency to disappear and “pop-up” behind The Throne - like a well toasted pop-tart.
High and Low Water
At low water the damming effect created by the Throne is lost resulting in the disappearance of the drop at The Toaster. At high water the river flows over The Throne and the resulting pour-over can join Exit Hole with The Toaster forming a dangerously wide center pour-over. Unlike Zeta there are a large range of flows that allow this rapid to be safely run. However, if the water is flowing over the top of The Throne consider portaging.
Scouting can be done on either river-left or river-right, but the portage trail is on river-left. If you decide to scout on river-right but decide not to run this drop you can still portage by paddling upstream and ferrying across to the portage area on river-left. The river-right scout gives you an up-close and personal feel of the power and speed of the center and right side of the Throne Room. The river left-scout, from a high cliff, gives you a panoramic view of the entire rapid that leaves out the feel of how big things really are down there.
There are many features that could be classified as hazards on this rapid. On the most popular, center run, there are three: The Throne in the center, The Toaster on the right, and Exit Hole on the left. Unfortunately, these hazards pretty much cover the width of the entire river. However, there is a little slot-ramp called Drawbridge left of the Exit Hole that is easier to get to than you think. It can be your route for the perfect run. Drawbridge is so named because it provides a narrow escape route across the huge trough of Exit Hole.
The more common way to finish the rapid is directly through Exit Hole. The second most common way out of Throne Room is The Toaster, with the greatest damage being done to one’s ego in not having made the required moves. These two features are more forgiving than they look.
However, inadvertent things can happen in the Throne Room that should give rise to caution. It is possible to spend significant time accidentally surfing (window shading) the violent wave pillow above The Throne. In a situation like this the only choice is to ride out the storm, as swimming in Throne Room can easily result in serious downtime or worse. Lost or broken paddles (due to the extreme force of the water) are other worries along with blown spray skirts. Before entering the Throne Room make sure that all of your gear is in bomber condition and enter with the attitude you are not going to be parted from your kayak. Lastly, watch out for the submerged tree trunk pinned on a rock on the river-left side.
There is a wave up at the top of the drop, center-left, called The Jester. The Jester is a deep glossy wave that you will not soon forget if you get on it. Like the Court Jesters of old, who paid the ultimate price for going to far in the King’s Throne Room, be careful not to overextend yourself. Surfing The Jester requires nerves of steel. Have a solid plan to depart The Jester on a route that leads to your desired run in the Throne Room.
Where to Swim
Swimming in the Throne Room is not an option, especially above The Throne. At all costs hang tough and roll. If something goes wrong you are on your own out there, no one will be able to help until the bottom of the rapid – something to consider before trying this run. If you swim after The Throne via The Toaster or Exit Hole stay calm and relax – the water will get quieter.
Where to Rescue
The most probable scenario is for a swimmer to end up at the bottom of the rapid where a rescuer can pick up the pieces in the pool below. The rescue kayaker should be alert and be ready to go to either side of the river.
Running the Rapid
There are a number of inspiring runs and variations of runs down the Throne Room that are possible. Here we will describe three of the most popular in order of difficulty.
Mata Mosca Challenge
The most conservative route (and most popular) to take when running Throne Room is down the right side of the central v-tongue that leads to directly to The Throne. The key is timing. From the scouting eddy paddle out to river right and choose one of the entry ramps leading to the main tongue. It will be necessary to align your kayak with the right reactionary guard wave going toward The Throne. It will be essential to restrain yourself from paddling to the left too early as the natural instinct will be to do whatever is necessary to avoid The Toaster. By breaking left too early you end up meeting Mata Mosca (Fly Swatter), head on coming from river-left. Mata Mosca is the largest most powerful guard wave on the entire Futaleufu. Do not embrace the illusion that you are going to be the first kayaker to penetrate this mighty diagonal. It will swat you like a fly while simultaneously imparting a left-to-right momentum that will propel you directly into The Toaster. As The Throne approaches you will notice that the river will begin to rise unexpectedly upward in front of you, toward The Throne. The rise is dramatic enough to disorient a paddler because you are paddling downstream but uphill. Once past Mata Mosca break quickly to the left and aim for Drawbridge to the left of Exit Hole. The pillow cushion just in front of The Throne can help you surf across if you keep the kayak pointed left and upright. If you do not make it to Drawbridge, power through the Exit Hole. Once past the Exit Hole you will come in slower water somewhere below The Throne on the river-left side. Do not celebrate yet, there are small island rocks on the left at the bottom. One of them on has been holding a submerged tree trunk since 1996. You can see this hazard best from the river-left scout.
Escape from the Pit of Despair
Another impressive line is to enter the center tongue and drive into the Pit of Despair. The Pit of Despair looks like an escape-proof eddy with The Toaster behind and a ten foot high eddy wall coming off The Throne on river- left (to your right if you are in the eddy facing upstream). The way out looks like an impossible move, or magician’s trick. To escape you will need to jet ferry across the entire face of The Throne using the pillow wave-hole to surf and brace off of. Your final destination will be Drawbridge or Exit Hole (as a consolation).
From the Pit of Despair you will see The Throne pillow appear above you – literally 10 feet higher in altitude than the eddy. Study the surges of the eddy and coordinate your move with the surges so that you penetrate the guard wave at the top of The Pit of Despair. Initiate your jet ferry with a not to be denied attitude, with all your strength on call, quick sprint strokes, and the correct boat angle. If all goes well you will ascend toward The Throne and into the pillow cushion. From the top ride the now descending pillow above (and across) the Exit Hole to Drawbridge.
Hurricane is considered the hero route down the Throne Room, but in the early days before the Exit Hole and The Toaster were fully explored it appeared to be the safest line available. The run itself resembles something that might be found on the North Fork of the Payette in Idaho. On the left side of Throne Room the water is shallowest and there is a chance of cracking a helmet or worse if things go wrong. This run is appealing to paddlers with a slalom background or if they feel more comfortable running big, steep and technical water than the gigantic water offered out in the center line. However, if you are online your face can stay dry. Scout this drop from river-left peering through the trees on the cliff above - from there you can see it all. To run Hurricane you will need to enter on river-left and make two separate but similar moves paddling river-left behind rocks that keep you left of the The Staircase ledge holes that are the origin of Mata Mosca. These moves are delicate ones. Cutting too close to the rock will cause you to lose control and perhaps sub out in the seam-lines next to the rock. Being too far out will expose you to the first drop of The Staircase. The secret is to cut into eddies just enough downstream of each rock, as to not be disturbed by the water that pours over and around the edges of the rock, but close enough to catch the quieter water slowed down by the rock to assist you in making the move to river-left. After you cut behind the first rock, point down stream, the wait before aiming towards the second rock untill you get closer. Aim for the slack water some 5-6 feet (2 m) downstream of the rock itself. As soon as you enter the eddy point downstream again. Next you will charge over a very steep part of The Staircase that is a smooth ramp if you are on line. Just before you hit the bottom of this drop angle the boat left and charge into the Eye of the Storm eddy. Successfully getting into the Eye of the Storm will require to manage your boat speed and angle. The key to this is to catch some of the slower slack water behind the rocks above the Eye of the Storm. Once in the Eye of the Storm catch your breath and prepare for the next move. Peel out into the current (about 8 feet, 3 m) and align yourself with The Drawbridge, a tongue of water around the corner of Drawbridge Rock, that spans the edge of Exit Hole and the hole edging out from Drawbridge Rock. This smooth spine of water will deliver you into the pool below. Keep paddling out of the moving water avoiding the rock and tree trunk below on river-left.
- An almost perfect run of Throne Room, on the Mata Mosca Challenge line. Filmed from the cliffs on river-left. This paddler misses The Drawbridge and goes through Exit Hole instead. Video
- The author, Chris Spelius, running the Mata Mosca Challenge line. PaddleQuest 1996 Video
- Dan Gavere beat-down, attempting the river-left Hurricane Line in Throne Room. 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