We are often asked what our guides do in our spare time in Mexico and Costa Rica. The answer is... we go paddling of course! This winter I finally fired up La Cascada de Truchas, an 18m superclean waterfall burried deep in one of the canyons of the Alsaseca river. I had been thinking of "stepping up" to running Truchas for about 4 years but the timing and water levels were never quite right. After a very high water season Truchas still had water in February. It was time!
Getting to Truchas is half the adventure. It starts with a 1km trek through the forest to a "launching pad" high above the canyon. From here we put on our harnesses and set up a 30m rappel into the canyon beside a ragged and raging waterfall. The spray of the falls consumed me as I was controlling my descent. Once we disconnected at the base of the falls we sent our ropes and harnesses back up to the top committing us to either run the Truchas drop or "throw and go" into the pool below.
We paddled across and walked down to scout the main drop. As expected, my first impression was "wow... thats high"! My attention then turned to successfully getting to the lip. I couldn't really focus on the main drop until I figured out a bombproof way to get there. I chose to start in a micro-eddy, pointing upstream with the idea of "curling" around to charge for the right hand side of the drop. I had been warned that going off the left would likely send me into an autoboof and landing flat would likely hurt (understatment of the decade). As I made my move I rode up exactly as I had hoped for on the "marker boil" which guards the ideal entrance. As I reached that spot I had a brief moment to think "Yes... I Made It" before focussing on the drop at hand.
As I rounded the lip everything slowed right down (think... The Matrix). I remember seeing Martin below on safety. As I started to descend I looked for the bottow to "spot my landing", slowly tucked forward, tightened my abs and arms and waited for impact. What was only a few seconds seems like forever.
The hit was much softer and lighter than I had expected. I washed freely away from the falls into the pool. After impact I sat upright and moved my paddle into position to roll up. My first attempt was a quick "carp" to catch a breath and my second attempt got me upright, thankfully, with body, boat and gear intact.
The few moments following the run were surreal. Of course it starts with the "obligatory High 5" with Martin who dragged his boat down below the falls to set up safety. Next came a "salute" to Isidro and Julian who helped steady my boat and gave me beta on the drop. I then paddled over to Cheeks who was cheering like a mad man with camera in hand.
We went back a week later to accurately measure the drop. Our calculation comes in at just under 18m (+59 ft.). It seems like we can confidently say that the bar has been raised since Steve Frazier ran Elk River falls in NC over 20 years ago. I don't believe that this "record" will hold for very long, nor do I really care. The sport of whitewater canoeing is hitting new heights based on new designs of boats and a charging bunch of young, skilled and impressive paddlers. I am pleased to have helped "raise the bar" and look forward to watching athletes charge harder, higher, further and faster in the years to come.
In reflection, I feel a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment. Truchas had been a "monkey on my back" for a long time. It is always great to complete something that has been "tugging" at you for a while (whether it is running a big waterfall or just completing your taxes). It was a personal "best" for me.
My first words to Cheeks were "No A Las Presas" (say NO To the Dams). The threat of losing some of the world's great paddling runs looms large in the state of Veracruz. We encourage you to come and paddle here while the rivers are still free flowing. There are amazing runs for all levels of paddlers. Joining us helps us fight the good fight.
Many thanks to the Truchas Crew:
Chris Loomis: photos/video
Martin Breu: safety/logitics
Isidro Santiago Soberanes: technical site guadance
Julian Schafer: boat holder and "jumper"
Barbara and Taigan: for understanding passion
Additional thanks to: