Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mexico 2012 Part II: The Big Banana

Below: Namesake, photo by Adam Goshorn

After spending out first full day in Mexico paddling the Roadside section of the Rio Alseseca (see pictures and video HERE) we returned to Aventurec and ended up spending the evening drinking a few beers with German paddler Julian Schafer and Canadian paddlers Mikkel St. Jean-Ducan and Lianne Germaine, who were also staying at Aventurec. As often happens among paddlers, we all quickly became friends and ended up paddling together almost every day for the rest of our time around Tlapacoyan. While hanging out that evening, Julian offered to show us the Big Banana section of the Alseseca the next day. The Big Banana section was on our hit list for our trip, but, having only paddled one day so far, it didn’t seem like much of a warm up before heading to one of the harder runs in the area. However, we all certainly understood the advantages of having him there to show us the put-in and feed us some beta along the way. Eventually we decided that we would paddle the second half of the Big Banana section the next day, hiking into the river at the notorious Silenco waterfall and paddling out through the Pezma section to Puente Tomata.

Below: Matt Beauchamp on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

The hike into Silenco begins at a locked gate in a barbed wire fence at a small pull-off on the side of the road on the drive between Puente Tomata and the Roadside section. It’s such a non-descript spot on the side of the road that we were all immediately thankful to have Julian there to show it to us. The hike was relatively easy, almost all downhill and for most of the way it follows an old roadbed that led down to and through fields of grazing cows. After sliding our boats under another fence, we hopped over and found ourselves at the top of Silenco, a thunderous drop in the 35-40-foot range with a tricky entrance and boxed in landing at the bottom. We spent a little while scouting, but ultimately no one in our group was willing to commit to such a stout drop in their first few paddle strokes of the day. We traversed another barbed wire fence and portaged around a bend to a spot where it was possible to enter the canyon by either jumping or doing a big seal launch into green water at the bottom. After watching the first few folks seal launch with mixed results, the rest of us tossed our boats and jumped in, floating a short distance to a shallow rock where we could get into our boats.

Below: Adam Goshorn on the 20-footer that signals the beginning of the Pezma Section, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

Just downstream of where we entered the river the action began immediately and continued very consistently all the way to the take-out. Soon, I found myself portaging more than anyone else in our group and I was starting to feel like coming to such a hard run on only our second day might not have been the best idea. I had done very little creeking during the fall (due to dry weather and low water) and just prior to our Mexico trip I had spent two lazy weeks floating down the Grand Canyon… one day on the Roadside Section just hadn’t been enough to get my creeking mindset and confidence up to par. Never-the-less I truly enjoyed seeing just being in such an awesome canyon and the rapids I did run were great! It was also awesome to see the rest of the group fire up some of the bigger drops, including the new classic, Meatlocker, a 30-footer where paddlers skip off the second tier of the drop about half way down, a truly awesome waterfall!

Below: Wade Harrison on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

Below: Ben Bernhard on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

As we made our way downstream, the gradient began to ease a bit and we entered the Pezma Section. This lower section starts with a cool 20-footer and is full of fun rapids and drops that are a little less difficult and committing than those upstream. I got pushed into the right wall at the base of the 20-footer and ended up swimming, but soon thereafter I got into a better rhythm and really enjoyed the remaining rapids that led us to the take-out. My favorite was a rapid known simply as Double Drop. It begins with a six-foot boof over a sticky hole and then a low angle ramp accelerates paddlers to another water-boof that is around ten-feet tall.

Christine Boush on the 20-footer that signals the beginning of the Pezma Section, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

We finished out the Pezma Section and took out at Puente Tomata, just a short distance upstream of Tomata Falls (a classic park-and-huck in the 65-foot range that sees a number of descents each year). From there we headed back into Tlapacoyan to find dinner and then make our way back to Aventurec to formulate our plans for the next day. Check back for Part III soon!

Until next time...

Below: Ben Bernhard and Adam Goshorn in one of the boulder rapids, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Ferns covering the walls of the Big Banana Canyon, photo by Matt Beauchamp

kayak session

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