Wednesday, December 17, 2008

4 river miles in 3 days

Mexico is cool

we stopped by Iltajin a beautiful old ruin on the way to Tlapacoyan

4 river miles in 3 days
The Big Banana and Pezma sections of the Rio Alseseca.

So hear is how we spent three days covering a mere four miles of river. When we first arrived at AdventuRec we heard great things about a mysterious section of the Rio Alseseca, The Big Banana aka the Plantain. The word was that there was a very large water fall on the run, and that no one had ever run it, and "you better put in on the downstream side of it". The group that was collecting the beta on the run had been turned back five times, concerned that they would put in on the wrong side of the falls. On the fifth day they found the falls, and did a immense scout of a huge waterfall. The waterfall was estimated to be 120 feet tall and "looked good to go" besides the fact that it's 120 ft. On day six the group doing most of the research had to head back to the states, but not before a missing wallet and a CB where installed in the truck. After helping our friends and giving farewell hugs we left to go run the Plantain. It was now just after noon.

Jake Greenbaum, Davis Gove, John McConville, Lance Rief, and myself where the crew that would head in to the plantain. It took us a while to drive up into the mountains and find our put in field, and then a bit longer to hike in. We hiked up, down, back up, back down, threw the cattle fences, down the steep embankment, back up and down, into and out of the jungle to get to a tiny creek, that portion of the hike took 2 hours. Jake and I both nursing bad knees decided to put on the creek, we slid bumped and mostly drug our boats down the creek for another hour.

put in falls

3:30 p.m. "WOW there is the waterfall" a beautiful spout of water flying out of the wall 120 ft above us crashing into the river just upstream of our tiny creek. "we ought to get going we don't have too much light left" .... this statement begins the true Epic potion of this tale. After the fact, we all said that we had worries about putting on that late but that none of us were ready to hike the three hours back up to the car. Once on water we made it an amazing quarter mile or so when both Lance and Davis found them self's swimming after an encounter with a submerged log. We gathered the swimmers and equipment quickly and continued down stream. During the excitement and confusion of two of our team members swimming John accidently left his camera on the shore, he didn't relies this until we had gotten far enough down stream that there was no way to get back up to it. After the swims the team seemed a little skittish, could have been the wood encounter, or maybe the fact that we were in and out of 200 foot tall gorge with no good way out, either way we found our selves scouting almost every rapid. In the next few rapids we found a beautiful 20 ft waterfall, and a just shy of mandatory 20 ft slide-sluice thing that broke Johns paddle. Another great rapid had three sections a double backed up hole, a swirly lead in to a thick hole and a mandatory 10-12 ft drop into a supper sketchy hole. The run was living up to the legends, and then the 40 ft water fall. The 40 footer looked good the landing zone was clear and the lead in was easy. The problem was again the hole at the bottom, the hole looked rather caved out, not to mention we had no idea how long it would take us to get a injured person out of the canyon. We walked, put back in, and ran more drops, with all of our scouting, portaging, and hiking we had burnt most of our day light when we paddled up to Meat Locker. Meat Locker is impressive a total height nearing 30 feet, a 15 foot boof off of the top into a ugly seam that swallowed all of us and shoot us into the boiling mess of an eddy right above another ledge. The next ledge looked horrible the ledge made a thick hole that had a cave on both sides and then choked back up by the cliff walls, " I ain't runnin that". After a quick scout we realized that we where done for the day, the sun had disappeared and within minutes it was going to be pitch black, A quick team meeting and we decided to try to hike out. We took the little amount of water and food we had, and left our boats and paddles in the jungle.

Davis on the 20 footer

We were near a banana grove, and the comment came up quickly " there most be some way for the farmers to get those bananas out of here". John was definitely the life savior here when out of his dry bag came a small head lamp. We followed in line behind John banging our shins on rocks and roots, slipping on the banana leafs, getting bit by bugs, not to mention the poisonous and thorny plants we where using to haul are exhausted bodies out of the canyon. Then there was a trail then we lost the trail then we found a better trail, and further out of the canyon. An hour went bye "shush i think i heard something" the distant growl of the overloaded truck using it's jake brake. Then the little dirt road appeared another 15 minutes down the dirt road and we where in a tiny village. We talked to a local farmer and he offered us a ride in his truck back down the hill to our truck, and we gladly accepted.

It was late, and we where exhausted as we pulled into town to force food into our bellies knowing that we had to refuel before we went back in to finnish the run tomorrow. We woke up early, with the thoughts of getting on, firing up the Meat Locker, and getting out of the gorge running threw all of our heads. We were all still tired, no one slept well, and we were all still overly tired from the day before. Even with the odds stacked against us John and I believed that we would have time to finnish the run and hike back in to the 120 foot falls swim down and get his camera back out of the jungle before dark.

the banana grove the second morning

We drove to the same banana grove we hiked out of the night before and quickly found our spot to hike back in. Another hour had gone by hiking in, and we arrived at the Meat Locker we had another team meeting all of us expressing the fact that we wanted to run Meat Locker but the next ledge was probable death. We set up immense safety, we had a live bait swimmer just after Meat Locker and another throw bagger, right before the death ledge. We all took our turns running Meat Locker and all had reasonable good lines. As we seal launched back into the river after the death hole, we realized it had taken us two hours to run the drop and we were running out of day light again. We came around a couple more bends and into the Pezma section. Pezma had some quality drops to it, 20/80 falls, a drop that notoriously beats down 80% of the kayakers, and a splattering of 10-20 foot ledges. It ended quickly a couple last small rapids and the roar of the trucks picked up as we neared our take out bridge. 30 hours, two swimmers, a camera left behind, and a broken paddle we had finally decented a mere 4 miles.

Jake in the Meat Locker

John having fun in the Pezma section

John looking for the 20% line in 20/80

Jake on the last big Pezma boof

the take out, with huge bamboo groves and my bamboo paddle, thanks Kenny.
Check out Kenny's hand crafted paddles at

"Mass Cerveze", we where all super happy to have finished the run as successfully as we had, and we all have planes to head back in for another attempt at the Big Banana. John and I also had the thought that we could get Johns camera back out of the canyon without running the whole thing again. So the next morning tired, hung over, and our legs cut scraped and beat to a pulp we hiked back in swam down threw some pools and got to the rapid we had swimmers on three days before. Right there on the shore line was Johns pelican case, camera safely inside. Another hour of hiking and swimming back out, and our Big Banana adventure was truly concluded.

Another Adventure by
Chris Baer

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