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Rio Piaxtla, Durango, Mexico

Episode Six

   A layover day to recover from the portage would have been ideal, but by our estimation we were less than halfway through the river and five days in. 

Last nights mishap with my camera took a toll: a cracked command dial, no light meter or sequencing. 

   Good thing I've been shooting all manual using the histogram as my light meter, it wasn't much of a transition to continue shooting.

Ben's body shows the toll of the rash and portage.

Paddling out of camp it was game on at 400fpm. Jesse Coombs leaving camp.

Thankfully the river was pool drop, filled with big boulders. Ben Stookesberry.

   Large boulders often create interesting rapids, or just full on sieves. Sometimes a strange mixture of both. This monolith was carved out in the middle, and Ben and I decided to give the crack drop a go.

Ben Stookesberry deep in the crack slide.

   Gradient quickly leveled out to a more manageable level and allowed us to enjoy the scenery. This lower canyon made the upper look relatively insignificant.

 Locked in once again, Jesse Coombs.

Making downstream progress as the river bed widens out.

Gradient may have tapered off, but the scenery was still majestic at every bend.

   Before ever putting on the Piaxtla we had discussed the option of a lower put-in at a major confluence. This would have let us enter the river below the vast majority of the gradient, and was highly anticipated as we struggled through the slow, steep miles up top.

The confluence, unique in geology from what we'd seen so far in the river.

   Cheered by the confluence we took a nice long break in the warm sun, already reminiscing about the adventure of the last few days. Despite one significant mile of gradient below, we were confident that we were home free and would make it out with sufficient food.

   Curiously the Piaxtla didn't want to let us escape so easily. We were forced to portage at the confluence, and complete it with a dubious seal launch into fairly shallow green water.

   Immediately following the seal launch the now voluminous river plunged through a rather nasty two tiered bedrock drop. After much scouting we decided it didn't look great, but if you stayed in your boat you would flush out the bottom.

James Dusenberry testing out our theory.

Ben Stookesberry, confluence crack drop.

Laughing about lines in the ugly looking but congenial rapid.

   To our immense dismay the river did not maintain a bedrock character. We were still exhausted from the massive portage on the previous day. Not only did the river turn back to boulder gardens, but more sieves appeared as the river was now double in volume. 

A late in the day portage is kept entertaining by a unique tree that seems to grow right on the rock.

  We pushed hard into the afternoon, hoping to escape the gorges for a relaxed night where we would not have to worry about overnight rainfall, but hours after the sun had left the canyon we were forced to biovac in a questionable campsite only inches above the river in a vertical walled gorge.

Rocky's setup, quite creative.

   The threat of rain was undeniable in our conscious as we made valiant attempts to to sleep. If we got lucky and didn't get flooded overnight, hopefully we could make it our of the canyon in the morning because we still had nearly thirty kilometers to cover and a minimal amount of food, having spent five days of effort covering the last ten to fifteen kilometers.