Rio Alseseca - El Siete to Puente Tablazo

Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
1
7
9
Trip End Feb 13, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hotel La Villa

Flag of Mexico  , Veracruz-Llave,
Thursday, February 11, 2010

It was an early start today as we met at Esprit at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast. Many people weren't feeling too well today. We were supposed to have chilaquiles but they decided since we had so many upset stomach that we'd have toast, burro tea and scrambled eggs for breakfast instead.

We were doing the "roadside" Tomata section of the Rio Alseseca today. I have to admit that I looked at pictures of this run on the net before going to Mexico and it made me very nervous. I don't have much experience creeking, or boofing or running waterfalls for that matter and that is what the Tomata consisted of entirely. This section of the Alseseca is pretty much solid class IV drops with a scattering of class II-III rapids in between. I tried my hand at class IV in October and had quite a few swims, so I wasn't really sure what was going to happen today!

We had our gear with us at breakfast and left right from Esprit for a 2.5 hour drive to the Rio Alseseca. We drove through many picturesque little towns, fields of agave, mango trees, chayote and sugar cane and some bigger towns including the horribly traffic choked city of Xalapa. We saw several views of the Pico Orizaba, which has more snow on it now than has been seen in the last ten years. We also went past the town of Perote, where the H1NI swine flu is rumored to have started.

Jim, the owner of Esprit, was taking Will Lyons, of Lunch Video Magazine, and Dooley Tombras, filming for the Canoe Movie to the Rio Alseseca as well. I can remember thinking "my god if professional paddlers come here to film this creek for a movie they are making it must be something wicked!" Thankfully they put in up river from us in a section with more severe waterfalls.

We put in down river from them near a rickety bus station and got changed. They played "Eye of the Tiger" again and I thought this looked more appropriate for the song. The hike down to the creek was incredibly slippery and we had to slide our kayaks down the hill since it was far too treacherous to try carrying it. Once everyone was down by the creek Anna walked us a few feet down river and showed us a small class III rapid with a must make move. This little rapid made me nervous and she gave us the option of running an 18 foot drop just up river. I think because the class III made me nervous I decided to run the class IV 18 footer just to shake out the nerves, that's not like me but I decided to go for it. We hiked our kayaks up the cliff and Anna gathered us together to scout the rapid and give us the line. Mil ran the drop first and showed us where we wanted to be. Emily, Joanne, Karen, Mary Frances, Salli, Marlo and I decided to run it.
 
Salli went first followed by Mary Frances, Marlo and Emily. Things seemed to be going well, some landed up right and some flipped and rolled. Karen went next and she flipped almost as soon as she dropped over the lip and she landed on her shoulder. I didn't see since I was in the eddy up top but I could tell something happened. Once Karen's boat was moved to the shore Anna gave Joanne the green light to go and the me. I ran the line clean but at the bottom I got a little too far right and clipped a rock on the right and flipped. Laura came flying over and gave me a bow rescue before letting my try to roll.

Once I was upright I could see Karen on shore with a pained look on her face, Mil and Laura were with her and Dawn was looking at her shoulder. Dawn is a surgical nurse so she looked Karen over, she thought she had separated her shoulder. They managed to get Karen's dry-top off her and made the decision that Mil would hike Karen out to where Lalo was waiting with the shuttle while we ran the rest of the creek. Just then Will, Dooley, Jim, CJ and Billy came over the 18 foot drop. Anna asked them to set safety for us on a few of the bigger drops down river since we were down an instructor.

Once everything was settled we continued down river. Next we came to the class III that had made me nervous. I rode up the pillow and got spun around backwards and flipped at the bottom but I rolled.We pulled into an eddy and Anna had us get out and scout. It was a class IV+ rapid, very narrow with a large keeper hole at the bottom. Anna talked us through the run while C.J. was hooked up to be "live bait". "Live Bait" refers to a situation where a paddler in a rescue jacket is tethered to a rope that is on belay by another paddler. The live bait jumps into the river to save another paddler from a sticky hole or other obstruction. We watched as Cailyn ran it and then set up to take pictures. Salli, Marlo, Emily and Mary Frances decided to run it. I watched as Salli and Marlo both ran and had alot of trouble and got flipped in the hole and had to be rescued by C.J. I decided to walk this one and so did everyone else.Once everyone ran this drop we regrouped in the eddy and continued down stream. Up next was a smaller two tiered water slide. I got flipped at the bottom and rolled right up!
 
Up next we came to a large 3 tiered waterfall. We pulled into an eddy upriver and carried our kayaks alongside the first two drops of the waterfall. Anna showed us the line through the biggest drop while Laura ran in to set safety at the bottom. C.J. was clipped into live bait at the hole on river left while the rest of the LVM crew watched. We had the option of running the 2nd drop and the 3rd drop or only the 3rd drop. There was a class V hole after the 2nd drop and before the 3rd so I chose the only run the 3rd drop. Everyone looked a little hesitant about this drop, it wasn't the highest drop but it was the most technical. Also the fact that there was a class V rapid just around the bend didn't help, you really couldn't swim here!
 
Anna grabbed my boat off the pile so I was up first! She held my kayak as I got into it and she launched me into the current with a pat on the back and some encouraging words. I charged hard right because I wanted no part of the hole on the left side of the drop. I kept my hips really loose and shot over the lip of the 17 foot drop, to my amazement I landed upright in huge spray of foaming whitewater, I nailed it! I was so happy and pulled over into the eddy behind Laura. I watched the other ladies run the drop and then Mil shot over the lip. She said Karen was ok but was waiting until we got done our run to go to the E.R. to be looked at. Laura directed us to a teeny tiny micro eddy on river left. We had to go one at a time since the eddy was too small to hold more than one boat. If you missed your ferry and the eddy there was a huge class V rapid downstream. I named this the "scary ferry" since the consequence of missing it was severe.

Once everyone made the "scary ferry" we hiked our kayaks up a hill alongside the class V rapid. We got back into our boats and we were lowered down in our kayaks on ropes over a 25 foot hill. You had the option of being lowered all the way down or telling them to let go whenever you felt comfortable and doing a seal launch into the pool below. I had them lower me about 8 feet and then I seal launched the rest of the drop. The impact was amazing, it nearly took my helmet off! Once everyone got down into the pool we paddled about 8 feet and got out on river left to scout the next drop. I had to take some time to empty my kayak since I had a leak near one of the screws.

This drop was over 20 feet, maybe 25 and it was a true waterfall, your kayak did not contact the wall behind the waterfall. It was a steep drop. The line was basically down the center and dropped into a hole at the bottom. I ran the line fine but hit a rock at the bottom and got flipped. As soon as I flipped my kayak spun out toward the wall on river left and pinned me against my on-side. I tried to roll on my on-side twice and couldn't and actually gave my off-side a try once and ofcourse I couldn't roll so I swam. Donna came down behind me and also swam. We got our kayaks drained out and pulled in down river where Anna was explaining the next drop.

The next drop was very steep and tight with a near 90 degree turn at the bottom. I took a look at it and didn't think I wanted to run it after my swim and hitting my head. Donna also decided not to run it. So we ferried across the top of the drop to river left where we hiked our kayaks to the top. Once we got to the top we had a problem, there was a vertical cliff face on the other side and a drop into a class IV+ rapid. We saw a few of the girls run and flip and some swim this drop while we were trying to figure out how to get down. Cailyn came up the wall with webbing. We had to boulder across this slippery cliff face and perch ourselves on an over-cropped ledge while swinging the kayaks on webbing across the cliff. It was scary, I almost fell in twice. If I would have known this portage would be this bad I would have ran the drop!

As soon as we got our boats down Mil and Laura showed us the line through the next drop. It was about a 15 foot waterfall and the line was down the center but aiming left. Donna decided to walk this one, I was too exhausted to keep carrying the kayak around so I decided to run it. I ran the drop clean and met Donna at the bottom, she had an easy carry and a seal launch to get into the pool below the drop.

Up next was another narrow run with a large hole and live bait was set up. Most of us took the easy but slippery path around the drop and seal launched into the pool below. Our next drop was called "Autoboof" and was smaller than the previous drops. It was about a 13 foot two tiered water slide. You had to keep you hips loose since there were bumpy rocks on the bed of the water slide. It was a fun run down into a pool followed by a bend to the right and another 5 foot drop.

Our next few drops were much smaller and required boofs. The creek began to mellow out some as the gradient became less severe. And soon enough we were at the takeout. The section we ran was only about 3 miles in length but took longer due to the scouting, swims and portages. There were about 7 major drops and many other smaller drops in between. It was a pool drop creek and very fun and somewhat scary at times. I did much better than I anticipated doing with only one swim all day!
 
Karen was waiting for us back at the take-out in a sling. Her pain had subsided somewhat although she was going to the E.R. to be checked out. We got changed, packed our gear and had lunch by the river-side and had chili, cheese sandwiches, cookies and diet coke. We found out that drinking Coke or Diet Coke after a river run is a good idea because the acidity of the soda helps kill any foreign bacteria you may have ingested in the river to help prevent montezuma. It would have helped to know this a few days ago!The drive back to Jalco took about 2.5 hours. We stopped in Xalapa to let Karen, Mil and Lalo get out to go to the E.R. to have Karen's shoulder looked at. We arrived back in Jalco at about 6:30 p.m. I checked my email before heading to dinner at Esprit.
 
Tonight we had chicken with mango salsa, rice and a spinach salad with feta cheese and house dressing. For dessert we had a chocolate mexican birthday cake with strawberries made by a local woman. It was delicious. We watched our pictures and videos of the day, which were awesome before returning to La Villa for the night to pack and get some rest.

Things Learned on Day 7:
 
1. Chilaquiles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilaquiles

 2. Rio Alseseca info: http://wikipaddle.org/wiki/Alseseca

 3. Lunch Video Magazine: http://www.lvmvideo.com/

 4. Canoe Movie: http://canoemovie.amongstit.com/

 5. Live Bait: http://www.ehow.com/video_2347096_do-live-bait-kayak-river.html

 6. Seal Launch: http://www.trails.com/how_29991_seal-launch-kayak.html

 7. Coke or Diet Coke helps kill bacteria from foreign river water to prevent Montezuma.
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