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Exploration of the Middle Alseseca

The day before we had a great warm up run on the Upper Alseseca and we were all excited and nervous about exploration of the Middle Alseseca. For posterity’s sake it must be noted that years ago a young Tao Berman attempted the Middle Alseseca at high flows and ended up spending three days hiking out through the jungle. That, combined with our knowledge of hefty gradient, precipitous canyon walls and the remote, jungle nature of the Middle Alseseca composed the extent of our knowledge. From the topographic map we found a possible take-out six kilometers downstream of the take-out for the classic run. Six kilometers can be a long ways for a first descent of this nature, so we geared up for an overnight and loaded all our gear in the truck so we could move our base camp. This delay combined with time spent finding out take-out bridge had the group assembled at the put-in and loading kayaks around noon.

We did have a small amount of knowledge about the first kilometer of this run, it was reputed to be very similar to the Upper Alseseca with a hike-out point before it dropped off the face of the earth. On the river we found typical drops similar to the Upper Alseseca for a short while, then a blind drop that Ben ran halfway down to scout the corner.

We all received hand signals from Ben and Phil Boyer leads the charge.

It was a rather unusual rapid, the river split around an island and divided the flow in half. Down the left a long set of low angle slides led into a unfriendly looking hole, while the right side had more pronounced drops but offered a chunky slide at the bottom that if ran with enough right angle would avoid the ugly hole that was at the base of where both channels met.

 Eric Seymour getting the right angle.

The gradient promptly started to pick up, Nick Troutman, Eric Seymour and Rafa Ortiz scouted the next blind waterfall that was a fifteen footer into a teacup that was a bit sticky and circulated back into a cave, mandating a strong boof. Phil and I stayed in our boats on this one because it offered us more lead-in speed, so no pictures on this one. The character of the river stayed true and we had another pool with a crack style waterfall. When we got out to scout one couldn’t help but notice the downstream view, this is where the gradient started to take off, and the canyon walls soared.

Nick, Ben and Rafa scout up the crack waterfall that appeared to have a small rock shelf on the left side of the landing.

Eric Seymour gets his seal launch on to head downstream and get photographs.

Rafa Ortiz getting right on the waterfall, it looks small from this view but was in the 20-25’ range.

Downstream we found a large waterfall that was chock full of wood, and far from portageable at river level. Eric Seymour sitting at the top.

We started our first big portage of the trip, climbing around seventy feet up a creek on the left and portaging through a mix of jungle and cow pasture. We all figured this is probably where Tao and crew hiked out, meaning from here on it was all first descent minus one waterfall that had been park and hucked. Looking back up at the teacup and crack.

We scouted a little downstream during the portage and found that below the initial mandatory portage was a small pool followed by another clean waterfall of questionable height, which in turn was followed by a long turn and a blind corner. At this point in the trip we were still highly optimistic, so we did a nice thirty-foot jump above the clean waterfall and lowered boats down in. The clean waterfall ended up being a perfect twenty footer that led into one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Nick Troutman on the clean ten footer.

Nick and Eric paddled around the waterfall while Phil and I took pictures, and they discovered you could paddle back behind the waterfall.

Nick emerges from behind the curtain.

Downstream the river wandered through a gorgeous vertical walled canyon that led into another waterfall. A quick scout unmasked a thirty footer that landed on rock, but to our surprise we found that after a quick twenty-foot climb up the rock on the right that we were on a trail. We carried for a hundred yards downstream and our trail met a creek and followed it uphill. We left our gear here and scouted the canyon below the second portage. We found an inaccessible but clean thirty footer that led into a massive fifty plus footer that landed on rock. Downstream of the fifty footer were two huge bedrock slides followed by a clean waterfall of unknown height. We decided to camp at our current location that night, even through we were only 2k into the run. While eating dinner we talked about how horrible it was to overnight while being sick, as a few of the boys weren’t exactly solid. I ended up waking up some time after midnight and proceeded to throw up for the rest of the night, not sure if it was breakfast from the day before or if our water bottle filers weren’t cutting it. The Alseseca isn’t exactly clean in the middle section, because Atzalan dumps raw sewage into a tributary. The next morning I did one of the most brutal hike-outs I have ever done while the group rappelled into the base of the fifty footer and continued exploring.

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