By Eric Jackson
Veracruz, Mexico is home to rugged mountains, jungle, wonderful people, and epic whitewater. In 2006 a first descent Expedition lead by Ben Stookeberry, with Rafa Ortiz, Nick Troutman, Phil Boyer, Eric Seymore, Darin Mcquoid, Heather Herbeck, and I opened up the Alseseca river from the top down, with the most famous of sections being “Big Banana”.
This has become an ever increasingly popular river destination with the logistics becoming easier each year, thanks to Adventurec providing daily shuttles to the different sections of the Alseseca and Jalacingo.
The first creek race of the year, the “Alseseca Race” down the famous “Roadside Section” kicks off the new year perfectly. Paddlers from 8 countries competed this year with two paddlers from the Ukraine making a debut for their country here this year. A festive atmosphere with a very cooperative group makes this a good experience for those who are looking to step up in their paddling and those just wanting to enjoy the rivers. The rivers are challenging enough, and require beta to be safe, with some mandatory portages, making it both difficult and not advisable to attempt to read and run your way down. Missing a portage here can be fatal and few are obvious. For that reason, first timers here are in luck, as there are plenty of groups who have been here before and know the runs. We have paddled with many different groups since we got here and been able to lead people down new runs. Nick is always excited to lead a first timer down any of the sections of river here as people are always so fired up when they get through to the take out and see the splendor that these rivers offer.
This is a high water year, something different from the past two years here. These creeks are very channelized and the harder rapids often have vertical walls making a small change in water level affect the river substantially. An example is Meat Locker on the Big Banana Section is my favorite rapid here, but we are walking it because of the “Boof or Die” drop below it that has one of the scariest holes around that feeds into a cave on the left. High water makes getting out of the river before Boof or Die super difficult and very dangerous. Tempting to run it, but smart to walk it. Lower Jalacingo, with “Twisted Pleasure, Dirty Sanchez, and Dungeon” Waterfalls on it are all three too high this year for a reasonably good chance of success. However the Upper Jalacingo is better at higher water and has been entertaining us as well. “Log Drop” is still out of play with the big log that finally “dropped” right into the rapid. Bukaki is the highlight of this run with big curlers fast slides straight into a crazy parallel lip on a 20 footer. Everyone comes out of that one hooting and hollering and big smiles (at least if done right side up).
The race this year was also high water and the biggest rapid, “S-Turn” gets difficult and not very attractive and it was taken out of the race. Sticky hole gets sticker but can be done well. Rafa swam out of it on Friday the day before the race, but nailed it during the race… it can get the best of them. This year’s race was perfect weather which followed up cold and rainy weather for two weeks. 78 degrees, sunny, and just perfect!
Thanks to Tom McEwan for making this race happen again!
Last year Dane and I tied for first with Nick in 3rd place, Clay in 4th, Rafa in 5th. This year Dane had a commanding lead with a great run on both the top and bottom sections, while Nick and I battled it out for 2nd with Nick winning the top section and I won the bottom section. I got eddied out in a hole against the wall and Nick flipped but he ended up 2 seconds ahead of me for 2nd place to Dane and I got third. I will post full results as soon as I get them. We were all paddling the Karma and it has become the boat to have down here with everyone trying to buy ours or borrow them. There were quite a few Karmas in the race this year, and those who tried them are planning on getting them when they get home now. It is great to see our creek boat finally getting the attention after years of only our play boats really getting the attention.
Yesterday was a day at Tomata Falls. Dane and Jordan wanted to set the new record for the most laps done in one day, with Rafa having a 6 lap day last year for a photo shoot. Dillian set up an ascend system at the base of the falls that was about 80 feet of climbing to the top. Dane, Alec, Jordan, and Nick all ran the falls. Dane and Jordan continued on for 6 hours to complete 7 laps each and exhaust themselves in the process. No swims all day, and mostly all good lines. I hurt my shoulder during the race the day before and am on my second day not paddling, which is really not my style, but I can’t afford to be out of paddling when I get home and my shoulder would not respond well to hard paddling yet. Alec had an interesting ascend as he was 80 feet over the rocks and water and his final pull up the sheath on the climbing rope broken and he fell down a few feet and it rendered his climbing device inoperable. Brett from WA state was able to reach him with a webbing ladder and pull him over the edge, essentially unassisted. Alec handled it well, but was clearly traumatized. The combination of a 30 minute climb with the final few feet having the rope’s sheath tear in front of your eyes and cause you to drop back down some was enough to use up most of his adrenaline.
They reversed the rope and Dane and Jordan kept on going for 4 more laps.
We have three more days of paddling here. I am missing the final Big Banana section run today, and filming with Kelsey for a “Facing Waves” TV segment. This episode is going to be light on my appearance as I wasn’t able to do Tomata or Big Banana with the boys. I am hoping that tomorrow I can do the Upper Jalacingo and my shoulder responds well to 2 days off and Ibuprofen. I have been lucky over the years with very few injuries and rarely am I the guy that has to miss paddling due to injury. This particular trip has been less lucky for me with a hurt rib two days before the race from a waterfall landing that didn’t go just right and then my shoulder during the race from a bad line/stroke combo. I hope this gets my injuries out of the way for the year! I have a trip to China booked and then Uganda and need to be healthy to kick off the 2014 season.
When we return, we’ll make a video of our trip. We have been filming with our DJI Phantom quad copter, as well as GoPro, and standard video cameras. Kelsey brought his Sony 240 fps camera for the TV show and is also getting some epic shots with a great camera. I think we’ll be able to make an awesome video this year.
Having the Karma here has made this place even more fun with speed, control, and performance that hasn’t been seen in a creek boat before. The new fiberglass reinforced hull support is really making the boats pop off of rocks and gives it a solid feel on the slides, and prevents oil canning. Dane keeps asking if we can keep the Karma for at least 5 more years. That is a good sign…. He is in love with his. Good Karma comes in many forms, even the form of a kayak!