Dylan Wallace’s First Day in Chile – Robbed, Waterfalls & Hospitals

*Due to the June 5, 2024 accident we have moved Dylan’s profile below this story. This story shares a cherished account of Dylan’s first epic day of kayaking in Chile. Dylan sadly passed while paddling his favorite section of the Arkansas River (Pine Creek) with his best friends Kai and Cortlan. Friends and family share that Dylan was happy and excited about his upcoming kayak season where he would paddle full time shooting photos, and Dylan was paddling in great form.

Some background information. 

Dylan Wallace teaching kayakers in Chile how to safely run waterfalls.

I met Dylan four years ago while guiding at Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. As kayak instructors we co-instructed kids camps, First Descents non-profit programs, raft trips, kayaking and rafting trips, and shared the after work favorite laps on Pine Creek and the Numbers. Impressed by Dylan’s safety, mindfulness, class V kayak skills, and ability to put others first, I invited Dylan to guide in Chile. Dylan guided two Chile seasons, and achieved his goal to paddle the Futa and Rio Claro canyons amongst a bucket list of other great rivers. This is an account of Dylan’s first day in Chile. In all its epic downfalls and glory… the story conveys why we loved Dylan.

Cerca January 22, 2022 Pucon, Chile

Dylan Wallace runs Chiles Salto Blanco and sets safety for kayakers.

Near the end of covid travel restrictions the retreat was enthusiastic for our first commercial guest trip in twenty-one months. An advanced kayak trip promising Pucon’s best rivers and waterfalls with five guests. Dylan had planned his dream Chile Rio Futaleufu trip with friend Cortlan. Trouble started before the trip began when Cortlan arrived at a Canadian airport to get sent back to USA due to improper covid papers. Dylan promptly discovered Cortlan’s vehicle rental would not transfer. Matters got worse when Dylan got robbed of all his kayak gear and I don’t know what else. This is when independent Dylan finally Facebook messaged me to share his distressed situation.

“Get a bus ticket to Pucon and get out of Santiago ASAP. We’ll outfit and get you on the river.”

Dylan said he would arrive at the Pucon Jac bus terminal at 7:30 AM with his kayak. Evidently, thieves didn’t want his cracked and welded Ripper. That Tuesday morning the retreat was taking the advanced kayakers to run one of the most beautiful 12 meter clean park and huck waterfalls to be found on the planet, Salto Blanco del Sur. At 7:30 AM Dylan got off the Jac bus and loaded his Ripper onto the trailer.

Upon immediate sight Dylan is remarkable to see. A gorgeous thick red beard and mullet groomed for the occasional holiday in a style that looked like a viking gave birth to an 80’s hair band rock star. Well, that was Dylan and that’s the way he kept it for the three years that I knew him. 

“Hey, everybody this is Dylan. He’s going to be your safety today.” Getting into the van Dylan was handed a breakfast burrito and cup coffee. A set of gear was pre packed and just like that we were off on a two and a half hour drive to the volcano drainage north of Volcan Villarrica. The Conguillio Valley along the flanks of Volcan Lonquimay is where Salto Blanco amongst a handful of other destination waterfalls lie. Little did we know what the day held in store for us. 

I have to admit that I was kind of proud for Dylan to arrive to Pucon with such an epic welcome waterfall party. And equally proud we had such a safety conscious class V kayaker setting safety for the day.

At the putin we geared up as normal, took a warm up jog, began stretching the group, covered all the normal safety topics, waterfall techniques instruction and tucking, and rescue protocol. Then it was time to walk the 50 meters to the 15 feet of warm up paddling before the drop. I paddled first to set safety and had a soft and what felt like a fine line. Except, my paddle got ripped from my hands and then I flailed the hand roll. Guests watched me embarrassingly swim my kayak to shore and own it. I’d like to think that my easy self-rescue made the drop look even safer. I shrugged at them, yelled “who wants the first D?” Dylan graciously volunteered and I knew it would be better to have him down below for safety. Two kayakers went down after Dylan and up next was Devon Sutherland. She had a perfectly straight line until the last second. Right before impact she opened up her posture and her paddle drove through her wrist, shattering it. In that instant, our playful day changed. 

I yelled to the remaining two paddlers, “If you want to run the waterfall, it’s now or never. We’re hiking out and going to the hospital.”  And they did, quickly and perfectly. Down below the waterfall on river right, we were assessing Devon’s injury and trying to move her to river left where we would hike out.

Devon Sutherland explains, 

“Dylan played an integral big part in assuring my safety while crossing the river. Once we got to the correct shore, Dylan comforted and assessed my wrist checking for pulse, capillary refill and assessed for sensation deficits in fingers. He knew how important it was to make sure I had good blood flow to the area. Dylan seemed like he knew exactly what to say at that moment. I was in utter panic because I felt that my kayaking career was over. Dylan knew better. He went on to tell stories of his own injuries and how I would come back stronger than before. He was able to calm me down all while taking care of me medically. Dylan took his rescue webbing and the clothes off of his back to make a splint to hold up my arm. Dylan knew I was going to have to hike up a steep canyon trail and it was vital that my arm was stabilized. With my arm in a Dylan made brace, I was clipped into a backup safety rope and hiked up the steep  trail. I was out in no time, and boats began getting roped out of the canyon. Dylan and John (Higgenbotham) focused on moving me slowly while David organized the rest of the group to move the van and boats to the fastest exit points. By the time I got to the van, burritos were made. We were almost immediately en route to the urgencia just 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, that urgencia sent us to the next urgencia which sent us to the Temuco urgencia. 

Hours passed in waiting rooms as we bought pizzas, snacks and provisions for guests and focused on Devon. In the end Devon was surprised at the $0 socialized medical costs for the x-rays and cast, and eventually her insurance covered her trip costs. The group finally got to the retreat around three AM that night exhausted. 

We miss you Dylan.

Dylan’s safety training and mindset were assets all involved were grateful to have present. Dylan focused on Devon’s safety, security, and his strength moving equipment. Dylan immediately navigated the first aid kid and dealt with Devon, allowing me to move vehicles and boats. The basic rescue was an executed textbook style and Dylan’s calm presence was the difference.

Dylan would guide two seasons with the retreat even getting paid to guide the coveted Rio Claro canyons with world renowned Lucas Varas and Pucon Creek Week trips. His class V skills and safety presence were always valued by myself as an employer.  Dylan’s last Chile season (NOV – FEB 2024) he met Mike Bone during Guide Week. Mike, Cortland and Dylan finally got to do that dream Futa trip where I believe Dylan lived on the Futa for a month and a half just kayaking daily living his dream. I always enjoyed working with Dylan, was proud of his instruction and enthusiasm to go kayaking with guests, and our door was always open to Dylan. Much love to David, Betsy and family and friends of Dylan. 

Much love to the Wallace family and Dylan’s many friends. A celebration of life is planned for later this summer.

Meet Dylan Wallace – Team Buena Onda

TITLES: RMOC Raft Guide Trainer, Eagle Scout, Tuba Player, RMOC Kayak Instructor, Instructor University of VT

PRO CERTIFICATIONS: ACA L4 Kayak Instructor, SRT, WEMT

Dylan was first introduced to the retreat when co-instructing with PKR owner at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. As an avid chaser of all things whitewater kayaking Dylan enjoys post work Pine Creek and Numbers laps equally as much as Chile’s Rios Palguin and Trancura. A multi-year kayak instructor with RMOC, University of Vermont and Pucon Kayak Retreat have given Dylan plenty of industry experience. Proficient in both Swiftwater rescue and wilderness first aid make Dylan an asset for any expedition. Dylan has a minor in music with specialty in tuba.

Dylan first came to Chile to charge class V rivers and waterfalls chasing his kayaking dream during the Chilean summers. Soon, Dylan began guiding kayak instructional, institution and multi-sport trips at the retreat. As a lead instructor with UVM Dylan teaches future industry leaders and helped start PKR’s 2023 Student Kayak Trip.

INSTRUCTIONAL STYLE: Calming, reassuring, student-centric

Dylan’s experience leading UVM students from beginner to advanced kayaking has proved to be an instructor feeder program to RMOC, and now PKR too. Dylan has a soft instructor style helping students assess their skills versus rapids. Knowledgeable of all kayak skill levels Dylan’s commits his attention and time to each individual student. Whether you are a beginner just learning your roll, an intermediate practicing ferry angles and piercing eddies, an advanced kayaker charging boofs, or a class V boater seeking to paddle toss a waterfall Dylan can help progress your skills.

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