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Exploration of the Middle Alseseca

   Episode Six
  Rafa Ortiz, rappelling on the Middle Alseseca.

   Ben Stookesberry and Rafa Ortiz got up earlier than the rest of the group on day six. They were on a mission to scout out the gigantic waterfall, "Big Banana Falls" from the day before. The rest of us got a late start of 6:30 and headed to the waterfall staging area. 

Heather Herbeck walking back in to the falls, note the small town way up on the hill.

While Ben and Rafa scouted the falls we worked on finding a safe rappel spot. The thick jungle gave us a few issues, but eventually we found a nice anchor that would drop us into a large eddy feeding back under the waterfall. We knew the first person going would need to rappel with a kayak attached. Eric Seymour opted to go first, and is getting ready to drop over the edge.

Speaking of over the edge, we had brought a 70 meter (230’) rope on the trip. We knew that we would have to single strand the rappel, as it was well over 115’. In fact it was so large, on the first anchor we checked, the rope didn’t even reach the water. Thankfully on this one it did, with perhaps 10’ extra in the water. Eric’s rappel seemed to go well, but he signaled at the bottom that it wasn’t ok to rappel with a boat. Eric Jackson was up next, and had never rappelled before. Needless to say this is a large rappel to start off on, but after some quick instruction EJ was game and dropped off with no problems, followed by alternations of boats and people until our part of the group was at the bottom.

Heather Herbeck, Nick Troutman, Eric Seymour, Lucas Gilman, Eric Jackson, all safe at the bottom.

After a long, intense scout, Ben and Rafa decided not to run the waterfall. Ben rappelled with his boat, and like Eric found it was way too much weight and friction on the rappel and suffered some rope burn.

Ben Stookesberry at the bottom of the rappel.

   Rafa started to drop over and we got his attention, unfortunately he was already in the first twenty feet of the rappel and had a hard time ditching his boat, which he eventually did. If you look closely in this picture you can see his boat just below the rappel point.

Rafa Ortiz, enjoying one of the world’s most beautiful rappels.

Rafa almost to the bottom with EJ out there to pick him up.

Even that far away from the waterfall the wind was brisk, you can see the webbing tail from Rafa’s harness blowing in the breeze.

Rafa and EJ making it back to land.

Rafa Ortiz returned in 2010 and ran Big Banana Falls.

  It ended up taking us longer than expected to rappel the whole group, but was still only around two in the afternoon and we decided to head downstream for another kilometer to the next bridge. Four or five junky rapids later and we were at the entrance to another boxed in gorge that wasn’t supposed to exist, at least according to the map. The group split in two with some checking out the downstream options while the other half bushwhacked up a small draw in hope of gaining access to the ridge above the gorge. After perhaps half an hour we regrouped at our boats to discuss the options, which were rather slim. Downstream progress was not feasible due to the nature of the gorge, and the small draw cliffed out with no way to climb out. Now it was starting to get late in the day, and we knew darkness would set in on us in a few hours. 
   Quick discussion commenced and we were attaining back upstream, portaging any rapids run and paddling up the flats. I had never attained up a river like this before, and found it to be pretty exhausting, but after lots of work we were all at the base of the waterfall again. We quickly dropped gear and got ready to start on the hour long hike out, hoping to make it out before dark. Quick time was made up the steep but well maintained trail, and we arrived in the small town noted in the first picture. Ben and Rafa quickly set about negotiating a ride into town, while the rest of the group enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

   After the normal delays we were in the back of a pickup, bouncing down the road, only to run into Israel and Thayer five minutes down the road, on it as always.

Alseseca Exploration Seven

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