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Enrredadera Mission - Leeway Collective

Posted: 11.23.2015

Enrredadera mission

Last winter Rok and I spent 2 months kayaking around Chile. We paddled 21 different rivers and each one was something special. But there was one which I remember the most. It's a tributary to Futaleufu and people call it  Enrredadera. This was the first river on our trip that we reached without car access. The river starts high in the mountains, has a deep canyon and a high gradient. 

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Enrredadera Mission - Leeway Collective 2

Our starting point, at the end also take out, was just 50m further from the bridge over Enrredadera. There is a small farm that also has a restaurant. After we got permission from the owner to pass his land, we packed all of our stuff in kayaks and hit the trail which should have led all the way on the top of canyon to our put in.

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The first part was really steep and exhausting, but luckily after an hour of walking, a nice view of the Futaleufu valley appeared and gave us more energy to continue our journey.

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We walked for the next 3-4 hours and there was no potential put in on the horizon. The walls of the canyon were just too steep to  be able to descent to the river. As if this wasn't enough, heavy rain started soon. Water in the canyon started to rise very fast, so even if we could have found the put in we wouldn't have  been able to paddle down. As we were not well prepared for camping in the mountains, we were forced to leave everything there and run back to our quincho for the night.

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The next day the sun was shining and water level was good. We walked back to reach our boats and then continued the walk. Somehow we lost the trail and our way went further just straight through the bushes. It took us quite some time until we arrived to Enrredadera tributary. Although it looked very steep we hoped that we could reach the river down there. It went well for first 100m until we got to a big waterfall where we almost got stuck in a box canyon. 

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After some more easy climbing and walking through the bushes we finally saw the river for the first time. Knowing that with some rope work we could reach it, we were relieved and ready to get on the river. It was not as easy as we thought, but after another 2 hours of repelling through the jungle we were finally at the put in. The time was around 5pm so we had to hurry up.

The first part of the river was easy class 3 and we already thought that all the best rapids are in the upper part, which we missed due to our emergency put in. Just behind the corner there should have been the take out so we tried to enjoy at least the last part as much as possible. 

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But we were wrong. When we came over the corner we were shocked. All the way we saw there were just big bolders and pretty quickly we all knew that this is going to be tough. Almost everything was class 5, necessary to scout and between that there was also a lot of rapids which were unrunnable for us. You can imagine that we were moving very slowly and portaging over big bolders was really not what we wanted.

Time was running fast and Enrredadera was still surprising us. We came to a scary must run which was impossible to scout. Actually we could see the first part until small eddie from where the second part could be seen. We were locked in the box canyon so hiking out was not an option. We were forced to run the rapid, luckily the second part was also runable and everybody did it well. We were back in the race with time.

The last part of the canyon was a little bit easier, we were scouting less and less and portaging was over. Soon we saw the end of the canyon and the last rapids, knowing that we did it was pure fun and a feeling that you don't forget. We were out of the water just before the dark at 22pm and for a cherry on top an older local lady fried some eggs for us.


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Sea Kayaking Vancouver Island, BC

Posted: 10.28.2015

We woke up in Toquart Bay's Secret Campground to the sound of rain drops pattering on the tent. It was an easy decision to roll over and go back to sleep until the storm passed. From what we'd heard, weather on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC was notoriously warm and sunny during the month of August so we were optimistic. My husband Drew and I were setup to launch on a 3-day sea kayaking loop through some of the 100+ islands that make up the Broken Group in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. After a couple hours it started to rain even harder and we knew it was time to get moving if we were going to get on the water. Outside the tent dense clouds sat heavy on the mountains but the fog was lifting to give great visibility of our first landmark, the Stopper Islands. That was enough motivation to pack up the wet tent, load our kayaks with dry bags, and launch into the solitude of Barkley Sound.

We headed through the passage between Stopper Islands and Drew mentioned he had always wanted to see a whale in the wild. Our guidebook mentioned there were 75-100 resident gray whales that live off the west coast of Van Island year round. We put whale watching at the top of our activity list but the rain continued to pick up. My hood was cinched so tight around my face it was hard to see anything except Drew's bright kayak in front of me. After a couple hours of paddling through the torrential downpour we made a lunch stop at Hand Island and had given up our expectation that the storm would lift. We huddled in the dripping trees dreaming of camp, dry layers and hot chocolate. After a couple more hours of paddling we made it to the beach camp of Gibraltar Island. We found a sheltered spot in the cedars and set up a tarp and tent to hunker down for the afternoon. The rain continued to hammer down and by evening a waterfall had formed next to camp.

The next morning it was a relief to wake up to the sound of gulls instead of rain drops. We rolled out of our sleeping bags to find blue sky and we happily hung our gear to steam in the sunshine. A bald eagle perched in a tree overlooking camp as we loaded up and shoved off into the glassy water. It seemed the weather had deterred the summer crowds, the air was fresh from the rain, and things were starting to look bright.

We spent the morning winding our way through the Tiny Group and spotting sea stars and jellyfish in the clear blue water. While lounging on a white shell beach at lunch we finally got to experience the picture perfect Broken Group as it appeared in the photos that had drawn us in. By early afternoon and a couple seal colonies later we made it out to Benson Island on the edge of the Broken Group. We scouted the open water for signs of whale spouts but didn't have any luck. Our priorities soon switched to setting up camp on the point of Clark Island and an afternoon of tanning, hiking and tide pools. We had the island to ourselves so we turned up the music while we set up a beach burrito bar and sat around a driftwood fire as the sun went down.

The next morning we scanned the ocean again hoping for a whale sighting but finally gave up hope. We packed our gear and started the four hour paddle back to the launch site. About halfway I suddenly saw a geyser shoot straight out of the water in the distance near Dodd Island. Out the corner of my eye I was sure I'd just seen a whale! Unfortunately, all that was left to point out to Drew was a cloud of mist hanging over the water. Fingers crossed, we hovered for a few minutes hoping for another sighting. Sure enough, directly ahead we saw a gray whale surface and shoot out another spout of water before it disappeared from view for good. That's all it took for us to fall in love with sea kayaking and we were so excited the rest of the way back. From the launch site we headed to the Tofino waterfront to start planning our next sea kayaking adventure over a fresh seafood dinner.

For anyone wanting to experience a paddling trip to the Broken Group, this map and guidebook have good information on everything from camping permits to currents and tides: 

Kayaking the Broken Group Islands. The Essential Guidebook
SeaTrails Chart: SEABC001 Barkley Sound-Broken Group

In general, the inner islands are a calm place to paddle in the summer and the conditions get rougher near the outer islands of the group. It's a great place to go if you already are, or think you might want to get hooked on sea kayaking.

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Poutine, Plugging and Porcupines: A Canadian Roadtrip

Posted: 10.28.2015

Poutine, Plugging and Porcupines: A Canadian Roadtrip

Soon after moving to Washington DC, I found myself in a bar with Erin Savage and Margaret Williams getting fired up about the idea of a Magpie River Expedition. Having just accepted my first desk job, the thought of having a multi-day wilderness trip on the books was something I couldn't turn up! Quickly the idea turned into a serious plan and bug nets were purchased, meal plans created and float plane reservations made. In the week leading up to the trip, we were all fully prepared for the adventure. Unfortunately, just days before departure, the water level, which was already high, kept rising. When we asked for advice from notoriously hard-core kayaker Adam Herzog, who paddled the Magpie years previously, he informed us that we while we "would probably survive, it's not recommended." For perspective, Adam is well known for many feats, including but not limited to, doing three laps on Linville in a single day. When Adam does not recommend you put on a multi-day river in the middle of no-where Canada at high water, you listen. So it was time for plan B. 

The good news is that plan B was still an awesome plan! Instead of doing one river for 8 days, we would spend the time road tripping around Quebec in search of lots of different classic rivers. Since none of us had spent much time kayaking in Quebec before, we were all stoked for the new plan. Margaret and I left DC after work on Friday and began our drive North. Erin and Toby were already in Canada and picking up Steve from the airport. We all rendezvoused the next morning at the takeout of our first river.

Rouge- Seven Sisters

The first river on our hit list was the Rouge. It was a bit further south and a short run, so a perfect option for coming off a long drive. The Rouge is a commonly rafted run, with fun class 3 rapids at the top. Moving further downstream, it enters the seven sisters section, named for the steep rapids it contains. The water was on the high side of good, and the rapids were big! Without any local beta to go off of, our group found ourselves not wanting to take a bite out of very many of the drops. After portaging the first couple rapids, we finally came to one that looked reasonable. The team scouted and debated how to approach it. Boof or plug? Boof or plug? Toby says plug. We all listen to Toby. 

Jacques-Cartier - Tewkesbury

After our afternoon on the Rouge, we woke up the next morning and headed to the Tewkesbury section of the Jacques-Cartier. We met up with some local boaters and enjoyed following them down through all of the creeky lines on this classic class 3-4 run. With water levels in the area dropping out, we were stoked to finish up our run with dark skies and rainstorms. 

Malbaie- Section A

The Malbaie is not easy to get to. The shuttle is not short and roads are not paved. But if you take the time to go out there, you won't be disappointed. Our plan was to drive there, run the shuttle and put on the river and do both the A and B sections. Sounds easy enough right?  Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as simple as we'd hoped. A combination of poor road conditions and a longer than expected travel time led to us putting on the river later in the day then we would have liked.  

Even with our late start, we were still hopeful we might make it through the B section with day light. That was until we got to the 30 footer. After all that plugging practice on the Rouge, I decided to go for the plug instead of the boof. Turns out, that was the wrong choice this time. I plugged the drop and popped up right in the hole at the bottom of the waterfall. After spending a short time in the hydraulic, I quickly decided I wasn't going to get out in my boat and pulled my skirt. After one or two quick recircs, I found myself suddenly in a calm place. It was dark, but not violent. I was deep in the river with absolutely no sense of up or down. I curled up, stayed patient and calm, and just hoped that I was where I thought I was. All of my previous experiences told me I was in the down flow of the hole, being sent deep but that I would eventually resurface downstream of the falls, in a safe place. After approximately 20 seconds (based on what those watching saw), I saw light. I gained a sense of what was up, and started to swim to it. As happy as I was when I resurfaced and took that first deep breath of air, I think my friends watching from the shore were probably even more relieved. While I at least had a sense of what was happening to me, they had no option but to assume the worst. I gave a few I'm ok taps on my helmet and watched the rest of the team stomp big boofs off the falls!

After finishing up the end of the Section A rapids, we got to the half-way bridge as dusk was settling in. It was an easy decision to take off there and call it a day. After dealing with our shuttle logistics (we didn't have a car at the bridge), we found a great camp spot in the dirt and posted up for the night to be ready to rally down both sections the next day.

Malbaie- Section B

So as not to repeat our mistakes from the day before, we woke up and got started early on running the shuttle. Thankfully we had two time Silverback Champion Erin Savage with us, and savage is more than just her last name. She drove the takeout vehicle as far as it would go down the old overgrown road, jogged to the river to mark our takeout, then made her way back up, past the car all the way to the main road where the other shuttle vehicle was able to make it to pick her up. By 9:30am, Erin already had 8 miles under her belt. With that taken care of, the team made our way to the put in of Section A. We bombed down the rapids and arrived at the bridge in no time. Moving into Section B we found fun non stop boulder gardens for the first few miles and then a number of really sweet distinct rapids to finish off the day. 

We took off the river at a decent time, but from there we still had a 3 mile hike to get back to the car. The "trail" was overgrown. Branches smacked us in the face on every step. Mosquitos attacked our ears. But hey, at least it was mostly flat. Can't say I enjoyed it at the time, but in retrospect it was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. I'm a sucker for that Type 2 fun. 

After taking off the Malpaie, we decided to head back into Quebec City to reassess levels and accept an invite to take showers and crash under a roof at Quebec Connection's Emrick Blanchette's house. Some significant rain had fallen and the rivers that were too low just days before were on the rise. For the next two days, the classics were too high for us, so we opted for a couple of local runs that need a lot of rain to go. The first day we put on, then hiked off, the Sault à la Puce (SAP) because there simply wasn't enough water. But we did get a decent flow and paddled with a fun crew of Quebec locals on the Talayarde the next day. After enjoying a couple days in the city, we were ready to head back into the woods and made our way to the Neilson. 

Neilson- Section A

If you ask anyone their favorite Quebec classics, there is no doubt in my mind that the Neilson will one of the first rivers mentioned. Located in a beautiful valley with a distinct rock face jutting out from above, the Neilson contains endless miles of continuous class 4-5 rapids. After arriving at the river we hopped on the A Section at a water level I would call the high side of good. The rapids just kept coming and the juicy flow coupled with us not knowing the river made even the smaller rapids feel game on. After recognizing just how high quality and fun the run was, we decided to post up at the Neilson for a few days and lap the A Section while waiting for the water to drop a bit before continuing onto the slightly harder B Section. 

Neilson- Section B

After letting the water level drop a bit, we all decided to continue onto the B Section of the Neilson on our third day at the river. Toby and Steve ran it the day before so we were able to make our way downstream with minimal scouting. While considered harder than the A Section by most, the B Section was much more pool drop and did contain a few rapids larger than anything found on the A stretch. Personally, I found it less intimidating overall, but you should probably go there and decide for yourself. Regardless, both sections contained the kind of whitewater worth traveling for and I could have run that rivers for weeks. Unfortunately, after knocking out our third lap on the Neilson, my trip was coming to an end. After a team farewell dinner at the local Poutine shack, Steve and I decided to cap off our trip to Canada with a little culture in Quebec City.  

Quebec City

While I am not much of a city person, I do enjoy experiencing the culture of the places I travel to and sometimes sleeping in the dirt next to a river doesn't give you that (though sometimes it gives you more culture than you ever bargained for).  For this reason, Steve and I chose to grab a hotel room in the city and spend the morning before our flights seeing the sights. We ate, we drank, we walked along the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico, and most importantly, we visited the Maple Syrup museum and sampled Canada's best syrups. It was the perfect way to end our Quebec vacation. 

Who knew Quebec Canada was so awesome?! Knowing what I do now, there is no doubt that I'll be back sooner than later. The people, the culture, the rivers and the scenery all more than lived up to my expectations. Thanks to Erin, Toby, Margaret and Steve for being such a great team! 

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Balkan River Days - 72 Hours for Rivers

Posted: 10.20.2015

Balkan Rivers Days - 72 hours for Rivers


The shortest way to explain what was going on from September 24th - 27th in Serbia is to describe it as Unconventional gathering of River lovers.

Imagine 120 River conservationists from 18 countries hanging out in the most amazing place just next to the mighty Sava River in the most vibrant city and the former capital of Yugoslavia - Belgrade. We were the ones representing kayaking community...

It was as fun as it looks or reads. When you have good and quality ingredients it is not hard to make a good dish with them. In our case the dish was ideas on how to fight the insatiable appetite for damming rivers in the Balkan Peninsula. It is somehow hard to imagine that there are more than 2,700 hydropower plants projected in the region; even National Parks and other protected areas are at risk! They want to put a dam to every river that was left untouched till today as they think they have a right to do it and that they are doing us a favor. Or just said simpler - they like the easy money.

So who is the one against all this absurd dam craze, who is the one going to battle with big corporations and corrupted governments that don't give a damn about the treasures their countries, in difference to other European countries, still possess? We are! Kayakers, fishermen, little local NGOs and other passionate people in the campaign. There is only us, no one else will do it!

I can fit myself in all listed above, but to be honest I am most proud of the fact that I am a kayaker. This has to do with the fact that kayakers were the ones that made the difference in the field in many past battles for the rivers. We don't think and discuss too much; we simply go to action without big hesitations. Or like a respected activist Edward Abbey, who was totally against dams that devastated USA, once said: "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."

Among all I believe we kayakers feel the strongest connection to rivers and their free flow. One can't be a sailor without an ocean and we can't be kayakers without wild and free rivers and we feel this in our guts. You all know the smell of the river in the morning when mists are still rising above the rapids, the haze around a waterfall that never ceases and a feeling when you see a wild trout or salmon under your boat. All that is gone when there is a wall between upper and lower stretches of the river...

It feels good to know that there are more enthusiastic people like us around and that we are not alone in this. Joining forces is and will be crucial and having fishermen and conservationists for friends is not that bad at all, believe me. So lets prove that we are still the ones that river lovers can rely on when battles for rivers start.

There is a choice; we make it every day... Leeway collective's choice is organizing a Tour across the Balkans in 2016, all the way from our home Slovenia to the Albania and gather broad kayaking community to paddle these amazing rivers together, spend time with friendly locals and spread the word about this important issue across the region and in world wide media. Come join us, you know it will be fun!

More info on the tour and dates will follow but April/May will be time for that. Follow us on social media or contact me directly via [email protected].

See you on wild and free rivers!




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Trip Report from The Upper Callaghan

Posted: 09.25.2015

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Women’s Green River Takeover 2015

Posted: 09.23.2015 event created to bring together the female kayaking community for a day of inspiration, camaraderie, and most importantly, fun!

Women’s Green River Takeover 2015
by Laura Farrell

Two weeks ago, 56 women came together for a single mission: to have a great day on the Green River! It was the second annual Green River Takeover, an event created to bring together the female kayaking community for a day of inspiration, camaraderie, and most importantly, fun! I don't feel like I do the best job at putting into words what this day is all about, so I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking. 

Registration started bright and early, but that didn't seem to slow anyone down. Thanks to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Astral, the French Broad River Academy and Girls at Play, we were lucky enough to have enough shuttle vehicles to carry us all to the put in. Also thanks to some of the local men of the kayaking community, we also had our own personal shuttle bunnies! Once at the put-in, we did a quick safety talk before splitting into smaller groups and making our way downstream. It was amazing to watch woman after woman make her way through the namesake rapids of the Class 2-3 Upper Green with cheers of support echoing through the river valley.  On the Upper that day we had a huge mix of ladies, ranging from women running the section for their second time to women who run the Class 5 Narrows on a regular basis. We also had a 50 years age span, from a middle school student in her teens to a mother in her 60s (whose daughter was also on the river that day)! 

After arriving at the takeout to the Upper Green, the group of ladies not continuing into the Narrows began their hike out. While I was not there to experience it, I hear the group made the most of the uphill hike and managed to squeeze some fun into a typically painful experience. From there, 27 women paddled on into the Class 5 Narrows section of the Green. It was so amazing to see that steep and narrow river literally filled with women. Support and laughter were in no short supply as we boofed and slid our way through the rapids. We eventually arrived at the last rapid, Hammer Factor, and reunited with the ladies who had hiked out. They were there swimming, jumping and cheering as we all came through. 

At the takeout we cracked open some refreshments, ate snacks and spent time enjoying each other's company. Phone numbers were exchanged and plans for future paddling trips were made. We wrapped up the day with a raffle to raise money for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund, a fund to support women in paddle sports. We had some awesome prizes to raffle off, including a Seals Sprayskirt,  Astral Designs Shoes, Adventure Technology Paddle and much more! In the end, we raised over $800 for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund!  The energy felt during this day on the river is empowering, but silly at the same time. It's confidence building through laughter and friendship. It's female kayakers of all ages and experience levels coming together to strengthen the community and build bonds that can last a lifetime. It's awesome! The event was made possible with the support of Dagger Kayaks and AT Paddles, along with a number of other local sponsors including Astral Designs, The French Broad River Academy, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Girls at Play, Seals Sprayskirts, Mountain Khakis, Mountain River Tap and Growlers, and of course our amazing shuttle bunnies. Thanks to all the ladies who came out! I cannot wait to come together on the river again at the 2016 Green River Takeover! 

If you want to learn more about what this day was all about, check out this awesome Blue Ridge Outdoors article by Takeover participant Jess Daddio and this sweet video from the day made by Daniel Brasuell!  

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Pro Whitewater Tip: Safety First!

Posted: 09.01.2015

By Kim Russell

Adventuring into the world of whitewater kayaking can be a dangerous undertaking and requires all safety precautions to be accounted for. Because of this, it is very important to carry specific safety items incase a boat gets pinned, a paddle gets lost, or you have to hunker down overnight in a canyon. 
Below is a list of what I personally keep in my creek boat no matter what difficulty whitewater I am paddling. Some people carry more, some people carry less, but in general, most people carry the same basic items. 

1. Throw bag *
2. Break Down Paddle * (held in place by an airbag)
3. Pin kit (2 pulleys, 3 locking carabiners, 3 small diameter prussiks and 8 feet of tubular webbing) *
4. First Aid Kit (including duct tape)
5. Fleece hat and gloves
6. Emergency Blanket
7. Headlamp/small waterproof flashlight/glowstick
8. Waterproof Matches/lighter
9. Energy bar (s)

I like to keep items 3-9 in a drybag inside my boat, leaving the throw bag, breakdown paddle, and pin kit available for immediate use.

In addition to these items, consider carrying the following in your PFD:

1. Rescue Vest with a tow leash (most rescue vests have more flotation than the standard pfd. In addition, they have a tow leash, which allows you to clip yourself to a boat for a boat rescue, hook yourself to a rope for a live bait session, etc).
1. Whistle 
2. Knife (Rule of thumb: anytime you are carrying a rope, you should also carry a knife)

Hopefully you'll never have to use any of these items, but if you do you will be glad you packed your boat full of goodies.

Stay Safe,



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Kim Russell's Tips for Ladies Interested in Whitewater Kayaking

Posted: 09.01.2015

Learning to whitewater kayak can be frustrating. The gear feels awkward, the boat like a bathtub, and the motion not so normal. As a female, in particular, this can truly be exacerbated, as we are smaller, are generally less able to muscle through motions. We rely more on technique, and must search for women-specific gear to that fits, allowing us to succeed. By making a few key choices at the start of your paddling career, you'll be sure to up the FUN factor of paddling, and save some money in the long run!

1. Boat Choice: Start off with a boat that is a good all-arounder - a river-runner! This is the 4x4 category for kayaking and will do it all for you, while providing greater stability and comfort. Not to mention, it offers more room for growth in terms of paddling ability. 
2. Buy a drysuit! While this might seem excessive, it will keep you dry, warm and happy even on the coldest of days! Costly, yes, but likely one of your best investments! To maximize your purchase, consider a drysuit that doubles as a dry top. The top of Kokatat's Idol drysuit can be used as a stand-alone dry top, making for a 2 in 1 product! You can even customize your colors!
3. Wear plenty of layers! As a female, we have a tendency to get cold faster than men. Wear more layers than you think you'll need (socks too!), and don't be afraid to bring some with you in a dry bag. Generally speaking, I wear a thick fleece uni-suit all year round. If it's especially cold (think snowing), I'll toss a thin wool layer underneath. Always be sure to wear a sturdy, protective shoe.
4. Small diameter paddle shafts! Small hands rejoice! Paddles now come with small shafts, ideal for females (Thanks AT)! If you feel as though your paddle control is lacking, or yourself unable to truly grip your paddle, consider a small shaft. Most of these paddles come with smaller blades as well, reducing the overall wear and tear on your joints.
5. Hot beverages! Toss some hot chocolate or tea in a thermos and keep it with you in your kayak. Whether it's a chilly day, or time for a sip, what better way to warm up than with a delicious beverage!

Paddle on,

Kim Russell

photo by Wet Planet Whitewater

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