morale was up from the highly rewarding Trout
before, and we were equally fired up to have everyone back on the water
for another day of exploration. Israel once again secured us more
details from the locals, who said that there were five waterfalls in
this section. The planned run was hike in at the footbridge, our
previous days take-out, and kayak down to the first vehicle bridge
since the Classic Run’s take-out. This bridge was our
planned take-out for a two day trip, and here we were after four days
on the river, one scouting, and we were packing our boats with
overnight gear unsure of our ability to make it to the take-out bridge
before dark. Not that we were starting late in the day, several of our
days including this one started just before day break in Tlapacoyan.
Hiking in went by quickly since it was all downhill and
only a mile or two, and we were on the water by 9:30, and quickly made
time through small class II rapids and flat water for about a half
kilometer before the first major horizon line.
What happened? Everyone isn’t looking so fired up about this
Things weren’t looking so good, the
first major drop
of the day was a 25-30 footer which had at least 80% of the water
flowing into a undercut of unknown depth on the right that continued
downstream over fifty feet past the drop.
Phil Boyer wondering where the nice clean ones went.
Besides having a major undercut on the right, the drop had
an undercut on the left as well. As if this wasn’t bad
the waterfall had a slope that would naturally push you into the fold
If there was a portage route, I believe all of us would
have portaged downstream without hesitation. The bad news was that
there seemingly were no portage options, unless you wanted to jump in
ten to fifteen feet downstream from the base of the falls and deal with
the undercuts out of you boat, or of course hike back upstream to the
foot bridge, but no one was willing to give up at this point. We
searched and searched for portage or seal launch options but
weren’t able to find any good looking options and went back
scouting the waterfall.
Almost an hour was spent looking at options, and Ben
decided to run it and get us moving. He nailed the line, but still came
precariously close to the undercut on the right.
Still not liking it, Eric did a thorough search of
left bank for a decent spot to jump from, and found a small ledge that
put us a little further downstream and about twenty feet off the water.
Meanwhile, Phil decided to give the falls a go, he nailed the line as
well but still struggled to avoid getting pushed into the undercut wall.
Boyer, the first of five waterfalls.
Eric positioned himself on a slippery ledge while Rafa,
Nick and I made a chain to pass boats to throw into the river. We all
knew the first throw was supremely important, because what happened to
the boat would be dictating the rest of our day. We also wanted to
leave our cameras in our kayaks, so we wouldn’t have to deal
them while swimming the questionable undercut on the left. This posed a
bit of a problem as we wanted to throw our boats flat enough to not
fill up, but not completely boof em and make the expensive equipment
take a big hit. Eric got a good throw on his boat, but we all watched
in concern as it was quickly pushed into the undercut on the left. The
boat bumped up against the wall and to everyone’s relief,
eventually made it’s way downstream. We all inwardly rejoiced
this, knowing that the swim with the undercut wouldn’t be
defying, although probably a little scary. The train of boats
continued, all going up against the wall but working their way
downstream. Phil Boyer did a great job here rounding up the boats and
ingeniously tying our paddles onto a vine that reached to river level.
Eric led the way and jumped in about fifteen feet off the wall,
resurfacing maybe ten feet off the wall and moving towards it quickly.
He got is feet up and worked downstream, only going under once and
giving us the good to go sign. We all followed, and in all reality were
more worried about the current person on the wall than we were about
We regrouped and made our way just a little bit downstream
before encountering another waterfall, which had a rather nasty cave
formation at the bottom.
Rafa liked it and checked out his line, and once we were all ready he
styled the line on this thirty footer that had a large cave on the
right, and another downstream on the left.
Ortiz on the second waterfall of the day.
Rafa got a little funk at the bottom, but rolled up and
dexterously avoided both caves. Nick liked the line as well, and ran it
once Rafa was safe at the bottom.
Troutman, Middle Alseseca
Nick had a great line down the top, but ended up having
his paddle a little too high at the bottom and it was snatched out of
his hands by the big foam pile. He flushed out down the left side and
gave several hand roll attempts before swimming while entering the cave
on the left. We couldn’t see much from our angle on the left,
Nick said it was pulling him under but thankfully there were hand holds
in the pitted basalt rock, and he was able to keep his head up and work
his way downstream. This was a pretty sobering moment for all of us on
the trip, as his boat was still stuck in the cave and slowly
Recovering Nick’s kayak wasn’t a question, it was a
necessity with how far out we were. Phil stepped up and was willing to
be lowered in, with Nick and I running belay, and Eric controlling his
depth into the cave with a throw rope from the right side of the river.
The boat extraction went well, and we recovered the kayak with minimal
Moving downstream it didn’t take long at all for us
to reach the third waterfall. A few of us didn’t like the
this one, so we portaged down the left and seal launched in at the
base. On the other hand, Ben, Rafa and Phil seemed to like this
waterfall, a narrow thirty-five to forty foot drop that ended with a
big foam pile and rock wall that stuck out to back it up.
Boyer on “Speedtrap”
run ended up setting the standard for this drop, coming in fast,
resurfacing in the base, and getting worked on the left wall for a bit
short pool led into another great drop, a nice ten-foot boof followed
by a nice big pillow drop.
Troutman goes into the big pillow.
A right turn in the river led to an enormous horizon line
that a few team members got out on the right, returning ten minutes
later with news that we would have to portage on the left. The initial
part of the left portaged looked a little dangerous, it would involve
swimming down to a steep wall that didn’t have an eddy, and
clambering up the slippery rock face without getting pulled down into
the portage. We quickly setup a line on Eric and he made the move up
the face with no problems, and was quickly followed by other team
members. A nice portage route was quickly made and we got our boats to
the lip of the big waterfall. This was a big combo, it had a twenty
foot drop, really a mini-pooper for any NBN II fans, and the
mini-pooper led into a eighty to one hundred footer that was possibly
clean, but not a gimme by any means. Rafa and I jumped quickly while
the group started lowering boats down using two throw lines attached
Boyer on another big jump.
couldn’t resist getting the classic slow shutter speed shot
this beautiful waterfall.
Somewhere in here Rafa’s skirt started to separate
at the deck and tunnel, and he had a massive foot long separation. Ben
came to the rescue with some dental floss and a multi tool, but a fair
amount of time was lost and it was getting late.
Back in our boats we paddled a short ways until a scout
where it looked like the river might deal with a major cave feature
again. Thankfully it didn’t and we ran a nice 15 footer with
lead in rapid and fun exit rapid.
Boyer, a nice clean one.
Some jumbled class III-IV rapids came up after this, then
canyon walls started to loom ahead with a long, splashy rapid and light
fading fast. We were all stressed about camping out at this point, as
most of us had somewhere between full overnight gear and standard one
day gear in our kayaks. I had a ground pad but no sleeping bag, and
most importantly extra food. A quick scout revealed a clean rapid, and
we all ran through it and were rejoicing at the end when we saw Israel,
waving from the truck on a small bridge over the river. Taking five
days to complete what we had hoped to do in two, we are all relieved
to be off the river before dark, quickly load gear and head into
town, anticipating good food and lots of sleep.