The Jalacingo was opened up by Team JK in 2007 and since then only a few have attempted the run, particularly the lower section. Rafa set a goal for this trip to run the total run (upper and lower section) all in one day. This is 2,200 vertical feet of drop with technical rapids, big waterfalls, and challenging portages. The upper section starts off with some super fun slides and we started with Emily, Rafa, Nick, Dane, and myself. A group of photographers met us at the Dukaki rapid, which is a long twisting slide with two big turns and curlers/holes, leading into a short pool and a 15’ vertical drop. The direct line through is crazy with only a narrow jet of water shooting out of the slide, parallel to the lip of the 15’ drop and ½ of the jet goes into the eddy and ½ goes over the falls. If you angle left and do a left draw you can pull yourself at Mach 1 over the boil and then turn that stroke into a boof as you FLY off the lip. We did the slide three times, eddying out, and then the full rapid one time (can’t really get back up). Dane took Emily’s boat down this drop.
Emily was doing really well but unfortunately flipped at the last part of the “log drop” and got the wind knocked out of her and decided to take out at the next extraction point in the canyon. The drop is a twisting slide along a huge old growth tree, then a duck under the tree while another log is on your left, into a wall with a hard right turn and a big curler as it drops vertically another 10 feet. Dane almost flipped right but hit a hard right brace and slapped his paddle hard on the rocks to stay up. My line went smooth and I thought this was one of the best drops on the upper, as ducking under the log in the middle was cool.
The rest of us continued downstream recognizing that we were at the point of “maybe” making it before dark. We did a big portage around two big waterfalls that land into a cave and one on rocks and the entire river goes under. The portage included a run on a dirt road dragging our kayaks while jogging and then a long hike back into the river to start the lower section. Two 20-25 footers begin the lower section and it leads right into a 60’ waterfall that Rafa named “Twisted Pleasure” as it has a technical S-Turn lead in right to the lip where the water fades off to the right at the lip and offers a variety of options for running the lead in, the strokes at the lip and the method of getting vertical and holding it. We had several photographers who are here to document our trip in Veracruz taking photos, which slowed us down. Rafa went first. He got push up on the rocks 5’ above the lip and slid off backwards with no speed and had to use a forward stroke right up to the lip to get on line; and had a good line, but a little right and boofed it slightly, but was OK. Dane went next and also got pushed up on the rocks, and while he had a perfectly vertical plug , he was a little out from the curtain and had a hard hit. I went next and tried a different lead in to avoid stalling out at on the left rocks, knowing it would be a faster line, but it would allow me to float over the edge instead of pulling on a forward stroke. My line was almost perfect, but I faded a little too fast to the right, just above the lip and didn’t have time to fade back left before leaving the lip. My right momentum put me on the edge of the runnable area as I fell 60’ staring down the rock outcropping below and decided not to tuck forward head first in case the rocks stuck out any further underwater. My plan worked fine for that, but it ejected me from my boat instantly and both myself and boat went to the bottom and behind the falls. I was face down on the bottom of the river with the falls on my back. I got on all fours and jumped hard “forward” where it got calmer, but darker and when I jumped up I hit rock above me. I turned around and Jumped back the other way off the wall, but slipped and got pounded by the falls again. My elbow pads were around my wrists and the impact left my seeing stars, so I stopped to think for a second and just tried to swim for the light. I was doing flips underwater and couldn’t keep track of which way I came from. I got pushed to the bottom again and pushed off towards light and popped up in the boils. The entire thing was only 15 seconds, but a very “unknown” feeling made the seconds go by slowly. My boat didn’t come out for a while after as Nick, Dane, and Rafa had a look of relief when they saw I was OK. After I got my boat back before the next rapid, Nick lined up his run and swam back upstream to his boat. He had a good line, landing in the middle and backlooping, losing his paddle, but hand rolling up. Everyone was fine and ready to book downstream. We were now officially behind schedule and had to move it to make it. We had a ton of vertical feet to drop still, a long portage, and then a 30 minute run out in class 3 before the takeout and it was about 4:30pm, about 1 hour from sun-set.
The next big drop is a 40+ footer that is a mandatory boof, or thought to be. I hadn’t seen this drop yet, and there is no way to scout it. My back was not up for a 40’ boof that landed wrong after a few hard landings on some of the other drops and I decided to go for the far left line (portage) and met the others down below. I made the portage faster than they ran the drop. Rafa apparently got stuck behind the falls for some time, in his boat, and it slowed things down.
We started moving again, running some cool slides, and waterfalls. There was some manky sections, too. One drop Nick said, “this is a manky one, don’t flip” as we came around to a seal launch/wheel chair, over a rock and dropped into a slide/pourover and then down a manky narrow slide. Dane flipped and got pinballed upside down but was OK. He was laughing about it.
The next major drop is “Dungeon” where the river enters an overhanging canyon above the drop and gets really dark. Then it drops into a short lead in rapid, over a lip of a 30 footer with a tough entry, into a truly dark caldron of a pool. It is black in there from up above and no way to scout without a major hike from above it, around the drop . We didn’t have time for scouting, and like most of the drops of the day, I was going off of very short verbal descriptions for choosing my lines, or following Nick, Dane, or Rafa who have run it before. This was a “don’t get on the right walls” don’t plug it, and make sure you get away from the drop as it lands in a hole and has caves on the sides.” Type of drop. Boofing another 30+ footer, not much choice this time. Rafa and Dane went, each of them coming off the lead in drop and having to turn hard into the right wall and then turn back hard at the lip. I chose an alternate line, kind of like at Twisted pleasure” and came in hotter and straighter but right of the boils so I let the boils push me sideways towards the right wall but kept left angle and got a big boof off the middle left and landed about as soft as a 30+ foot boof can land. Nick got a nice boof off as well. We were all sitting in this incredibly dark caldron of a “dungeon” with beautiful overhanging walls (water going under the rocks everywhere on both sides) and then overhanging trees and plants on top of that to block off all available light. It was already getting dark from being so late in the day, so the effect was pretty impressive. It was a perfectly named rapid. No way out, unless you are in your boat, or a good swimmer.
The exit of the dungeon is a 5’ boof over a big diagonal hole and back into the light. As dark as it was, it seemed very light out! We worked our way downstream through a much more open area, very non-intimidating as there is a cow pasture and easy access. One group that ran this run earlier this year got lured into complacency and went one eddy too far and launched off of the 100 foot portage falls and got royally screwed up, a mistake I doubt any of them will make again. Luckily they all survived.
The portage is easy at first, but you have to drop back to the river and have a 150-200 foot climb down a very steep section using ropes to lower the boats and then a human chain for the second 1/2 . We made it as fast as we could as we were seeing the end of the light and still had about 30 minutes of class 2-4 before the takeout. Once we got our boats in the water and made the portage (a very bad place to be in the dark) we were all relieved and knew we could make it to the takeout. The paddle out was fun, as we raced through rapids, did passes, and boofed everything boofable. Isreal was parked right down by the river and had his headlights on to mark the takeout. We pulled our boats up onto the dirt road and high fives and hugs all around to celebrate our successful first full descent of the total Jalacingo.
We got back to our hotel for food and beer, and to plan out our next day of creeking….
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