Here is the Video Edit by Dane of the trip you are reading about below…
One of the staple runs in Mexico is the Big Banana section. This section of river was first explored in 2007 by the team lead by Ben Stookesberry that included Darin McQuoid, Nick Troutman, Rafa Ortiz, Phil Boyer, Heather Herbeck, and myself. It was a grueling expedition and the Big Banana section that can now be done in 45 minutes from top to bottom without stopping took three days to explore. The gorge leading into the 127 foot Big Banana falls was almost entered out of frustration in the amount of time and danger it was taking to scout the gorges. That would have been a big wake up call coming into the final section of the gorge only to be walled out with a 127’ waterfall at the end and now way to scout or get out.
Getting on this section of water today was a wonderful reminder of the expedition, but without the effort of the exploring one canyon at a time and being able to just run the whitewater and know where we are going. It was just Nick, Dane, Clay and I on the water. Clay and I walked the Silencia drop today. While I have run it before, I am in a place where I pick and choose when possible and don’t run everything every time. I am not feeling well today, didn’t eat dinner last night, and barely any breakfast today, and spent the morning on the porcelain throne. Nick and Dane both ran it and enjoyed their lines. It is a 40’ waterfall with a less than attractive landing zone against the wall on the left and a tough lead in. I have been told it is a soft boof, but try not to test that theory on anything over 30’. I have only plugged it and seen it plugged. Nick told me it was a very soft landing, but now is struggling with his neck hurting… hmm… Maybe I’ll run it tomorrow again.
There are so many rapids to both to describe them all, but my favorite is the “Meat Locker” It is a rapid that when we came here in 2007 and discovered it, everyone was enthralled with it. It is one of those special rapids that is like a “combo move” in a playboat. It is a 15’ drop into a landing zone just a bit wider than your boat and then another 15’ drop with just enough time for a stroke on the landing. Boof, land on stroke, boof. Beautiful drop and crazy fun move. Below it is one of the more terrifying holes on the river that we didn’t run in 2007 but we did on our next trip back and we ran it today. One of those- hit your boof and you are good to go, miss your boof and you will have to be roped out because there is no way you are swimming out. We all hit our boof and we ran safety on the hole too.
Another rapid that is memorable is “Mega Rocker Meltdown”. I named it that in 2007 paddling the Mega Rocker which is 92 gallons but it melted me way under water when I ran it first. There is no “good” way to run it. You just have to plan on hitting this crazy pillow and getting pulled into a seam that will melt you down and spit you out next to these rocks and another hole that wants to flip and keep you. Today the water was low and the move wasn’t as hard. Only one flip. A few more rapids and you end up in the Pesmo section at the 15’ falls that was the highest anyone had run before 2007. We enjoyed our run down that section to Tomata Bridge where we took out and came back to Adventurec for some dinner and rest. Dane, Clay, and I are not eating well right now for some reason. I hope we feel better tomorrow! Upper Jalacingo day!
January 14, 2013- Got up late today- 8am- everyone needed sleep. Nick’s neck is super stiff and hurts from the 40 footer, Silencia, yesterday, taking today off. Rafa, Dane, Clay, Iker, and I are heading to Upper Jalacingo. Iker is iffy as he is throwing up, but wants to go. Israel is running shuttle for us. I was able to eat breakfast today- getting better and feeling normal again . Dane as well. Too bad about Nick.
We dropped Nick off at a massage person in town, not sure that is going to help any, but worth a try. By the time we got to the put-in for the run it was almost 2pm. We need to go fairly fast as it is a long run with 5 portages. The run starts off with some mank and then turns into slide heaven. Beautiful lava rock bottom that has carved out channels so that even at low water it all goes well. It is a nice 20-25’ waterfall that pops up after one of the slides. The lip is nice and rounded and by the time you can see the landing, you see a very narrow landing spot with a log on the left. It is enough time to adjust right and boof right into the little caldron. Beautiful drop! The Log Drop got nasty with the log dropping into the entry zone, making it unwise to run. Dane scouted out an alternative portage that allowed us to run the next drop afterwards which is a sick 40’ off vertical slide into a kicker and a high speed landing that has a pretty big impact and the boat planes out and settles into the pool. We did the first D on that one last year when a tree was in the normal line. Dane and I had similar lines with a left angle and boof and plane out. Rafa ran up on the left wall and landed stern first and soaked Dane. Clay pretty much freewheeled it by accident and exclaimed.. “OW!”
Eventually we made our way to Bukaki the best rapid of the run, arguably. It is a steep twisting slide that has a run out where 50% of the water goes into the eddy and 50% of the water goes over a solid 15-20’ vertical drop. The runout runs parallel to the lip of the drop making it as unique as they get. You can run the slide, eddy out and peel out into the cross current and run the falls or you can come off the bottom of the slide and get left angle and speed and try to get off the lip before you run on the right rocks that trip you up and screw up your boof. The direct line is way faster and ultimately a more exciting line. Dane went before anyone and Rafa was in the eddy. Clay and I ran the slide and eddied out and then we all walked back up to do a direct run over the falls. I had a super smooth run- getting left angle and pulling off of the drop and landing softly. Clay had a sweet boof and stomp. We didn’t get to see Rafa go but he said he had a good line. Dane walked up for a second run and charged up on the “FU” rocks and boof the “bejesus” out of it, for an awesome visual from below. The next time I run that rapid I want to do that! There were some more sweet slides below that into a long manky low volume run out to the finish line. We scouted the biggest waterfall on the lower section called “Twisted Pleasure” on our way out. We got beta from some of the paddlers from Quebec that said the water was WAY TOO LOW to run this drop. Hmmm… after looking at it, it still looks about the same as the normal flows and is on our target list for the next few days, depending on when Nick feels good enough to do it.
Got back to Adventurec for an awesome dinner. Everyone from the race is gone and it was a small group there. Antonio busted out some Spanish wine, and had a grill dinner with steak, sausage, etc. that was awesome. I sat with him and his wife and we enjoyed some good English/Spanish conversation and got most of the points across that we wanted to. We finished the “happy drops” of wine on our bottle (the last drops to come out) and I headed back to “cabin 8” (highly recommended) with Dane, Nick, Clay, and Rafa. Tomorrow? We havent’ decided. If Nick feels good enough to paddle, but not a lot better we’ll do something like Big Banana again. If he feels really good we’ll do “Total Jalacingo” which is a big day of creeking and some Stout stuff.
Woke this morning at 7am and Nick is feeling better but not all the way. We decided to do the Lower Jalacingo and then run the Big Banana Section from Silencio to Tomata Bridge. Today we got to paddle with Tom McEwan who is one of the most inspirational paddlers you’ll meet. He is 67 years old and has been paddling hard for as long as I have known him (30 years). He had not done the Lower Jalacingo yet and was able to join Team JK for his first ever run with our team on a run that I think just made his list of favorites. He has a son, Andrew, who is also an amazing paddler. We loaded our boats on top of Tom’s van and also took our car to the river. We set our car at Tomata Bridge and had our shuttle driver, Israel, drive us around to the Lower Jalacingo. We put in below Dirty Sanchez and Twisted Pleasure today, saving them for tomorrow’s “Total Jalacingo” run of both the Upper and Lower in one day. Israel took Tom’s van to the take out of the Jalacingo and also got our car there for us. The run is pretty inspirational. One of the most amazing views in kayaking is the view below the Dungeon and the next drop looking up the canyon at the lip of the Dungeon and the next drop. Vertical canyon walls that go up for a long ways, with green moss, wonderfully carved walls on both sides and the canyon you are sitting in is only about 10 feet wide. I missed filming that with my GoPro and regret it. I’ll try to get it tomorrow. It is hard to explain the feeling of being there, but it was amazing. The awe of the view, plus the satisfaction of running the Dungeon successfully, and the mutual excitement of the group was like a thick icing on a cake Everyone was very happy to be who they are and where they were at that moment. That is a good moment to remember. We all had a great time on “Boof Heaven” with one great drop after another as well. We got off and it was 3:45pm and we were loading boats for our next run on Big Banana. It gets dark at 6 so we had to rally.
Israel drove us to the “Silencio Plantation” where we at 4:17. hiked, slid, and generally rushed our way down the 30 minute walk in 15 minutes to the seal launch below Silencio. By the time we seal launched in it was 4:40. We rallied down the river without eddying out all of the way to “Meat Locker”. We decided the fastest way to have safety at the “Boof or Drown” drop below Meat Locker was to have somebody run down- climb out before it- run the rope and then seal launch in below it. Rafa volunteered and he ran Meat Locker first. Nick, Dane, Clay, and I were in the eddy above the drop. What a cool place. You are in a nice calm, but small eddy, with a horizon line that has a wall behind it that looks like you are going to boof straight into (that is pretty much what you do) and then you know there is another big drop right below that- (one stroke below it if you take it quick!). A nice arc of a peel out and right on the right wall, start to roll off on the flake, spot your landing zone (1.5 boat widths or so) and land on that with enough left angle to miss the wall with your bow, but not so much that you land in the hole of the first drop which is also the lip of the second one making a turmoil of water that is a “who knows what would happen there” scenario. A big boof stroke on the lip of the second drop if you are quick enough and you land in a big exploding water area that is pretty neat. If you are left of the boil you end up on an overhanging wall with current into it. If you are right you float right out but into a small cave that collects wood, that is scary at high water but mellow at low water like today. Awesome- easily one of my favorite rapids on any creek!
Around the corner and you come into the “Pezmo” section- starting with a cool 15’ waterfall that you drive into a veil on the way down to avoid the right wall. Some smaller drops and slides finish it up at the “Double Drop” which has a fun boof over a big hole and then boily water into a nice final drop. A few more mellow drops, one with a big hole, and the bridge appears and we were already talking about dinner… “Pizza???” Oh yea… wood fired pizza in town, on the corner, three tables in the entire restaurant… perfect. Two big bottles of Sol Beer for the Table and we were good to go! That was a good day of kayaking! While eating we had Israel, who has been Rafa’s shuttle driver since he was a kid, and ours since the Hotel Charlie Expedition in 2007. Antonio, who raised Israel, popped in while we were eating. Antonio was our shuttle driver on the Jackson Kayak/Veracruz department of Tourism trip in 2011. That was a pleasant surprise. There are so many good memories and good people down here for all of us. Dane’s first trip here was in a SideKick when he was 15 and about 75 pounds. Time for a good night’s sleep.
January 16- Today is our last full day here. I am taking today off from paddling. Going to give my back a rest after banging down lots of gradient non-stop for 7 days straight. I had a bad injury in 1997 in Washington State on a waterfall there and my lower back has suffered ever since. I have managed to keep it protected for the most part since then and it treats me well most of the time. However boofing drop after drop and bouncing down some steep slides has taken its toll this week. A day off today could prevent losing time from injury. I hated to say goodbye to the others this morning as they went back to the Jalacingo. Had I not gotten on both the Upper and Lower in the past two days I would have gone. I am not missing a section of river by skipping today, just a day of paddling. I think I’ll put together a video of the GoPro footage I have from the race and training for starters. When I get home I have a list of things to do that I have not been able to do here. Catching up with Kristine, Emily, and KC for starters, and plenty of JK stuff as well. I don’t think I’ll be making many videos at home. I’ll pass my stuff to Dane and Nick… I can’t wait to see the Karma promo video that comes from our past two months in this boat! Rock Island stuff, Bear, Suck, some big waterfalls, some great class 2-3 stuff, and lots of great Mexico creeking will round out the promo video nicely. It should be a great edit with some great footage. We have had mostly rainy, foggy weather, however, so the footage isn’t bright sunny stuff. Both in the USA and in Mexico.