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First Ascent Kayakers Prepare for Second Mexico Expedition
Posted on September 27, 2010

By Ben Stookesberry

More than 100,000 square miles larger than Alaska, Mexico is endowed with dynamic sub-tropical to tropical climate and spanning at least three major mountain cordilleras. Mexico is considered by whitewater kayakers to be one of the greatest river-running venues in the world. With its multitude of unknown rivers, Mexico entices the exploratory end of our sport in a way distant remote and unclimbed peaks of the Himalayas lure mountain climbers.

Last year, the First Ascent kayak team made a historic first descent of the Rio Piaxtla, an immense canyon that penetrates the western Sierra Occidental Mountains. Based on research by co-expedition leader Rocky Contos, the Piaxtla meets the requirements to be called the deepest river canyon in North America. After seven days paddling through the Piaxtla mighty shear-walled labyrinth, we emerged from the canyon awestruck by the beauty of the place, the exhilaration and challenge of the river.

During our reconnaissance of the Piaxtla, we came across another canyon running parallel to the Piaxtla called El Presidio. According to Rocky, “the maps show sections of the Presidio’s canyon that will probably be much more difficult to negotiate than those we encountered in the Piaxtla, including a 120-meter waterfall.”

Our team will be carrying two 120-meter lengths of rope, along with food and supplies for at least a week in the canyon. Add the inherent danger of flash floods to our heavily packed 100-pound boats, plus the extreme vertical exposure we expect to find in the canyon, and we have a real class V expedition on our hands.

Our goal for this year’s expedition is to make the first attempt at the second deepest canyon in North America, El Presidio. We also hope to communicate with the local and federal government of Mexico to protect this one-of-a-kind Twin Canyons region of Durango. We are partnering again with Mr. Contos, and an elite pair of Mexican paddlers in Rafael Ortiz and Daniel Migoya.

This expedition will also stand as a training mission for the upcoming Africa Expedition, in which the First Ascent Kayak team will be facing many different kinds of exposure. El Presidio offers a few of those elements, and is best suited to test and hone the mental preparedness of the team before getting into the incredible dynamics of expedition kayaking in Africa.

Author: - Monday, September 27th, 2010
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  1. Matthew Beauchamp

    Awesome, can’t wait to hear more!


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