Grommets, Survival Mode, and Lactic Acid . . .
The Story of our Trip to Matacanes Mexico
by Trey Fly
If adventure is what you are looking for, then Matacanes canyoning is what you need. We had a group of 11 guys drive down to Monterrey from Texas and had the time of our lives. We expected adventure, but we got so much more. Upon arrival, we met our guide and piled our gear into the back of a pickup truck. Along with a few cases of beer and some tequila, we all fit in there pretty tightly. For the next two and a half hours, in the dark, we would be at the mercy of our driver, who would also be our guide. The beer started going down really easy once we were fishtailing around corners with sheer, 200 foot drops only feet from the tires. We tried to focus on laughing and telling jokes rather than the steep cliffs nearby. The air got cooler and cooler as we rose in elevation, and several times we were rained on. There was an enourmous sigh of relief as we arrived at the cabin nestled within three or four mountain peaks.
It was a majestic sight with the stars and moon overhead.
After a great meal of beef tacos, the guides left us and we finished off the last of our beers.
After such a long day of traveling, the beds felt good. Little did we know of everything that would occur in the next two days!
The morning hit me like a brick in the head as our guides arrived yelling Vamenos! and Andale! The sun was just beginning to rise between two mountains; it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. After a quick breakfast, we geared up, received our instructions, and began our journey, starting the neverending hike downward. Our beginning point was 6900 feet. Our first day we chose the "Picorete" route because we wanted something challenging. It was VERY challenging to say the least. After about 35 minutes of hiking, we arrived at the river and our first rappell. The water was very very cold, and each one of us shrieked as we hit the water. Most of the group had never rappelled before, but as the day went on, we all began to be more and more comfortable with it. The first few rappells were easy short ones, all landing in the cold water.
Later on in the day we started to get to the monsters, 60 feet, 80 feet, 100 feet, and more.
After lunch was the biggest rappell of the trip. It was literally breathtaking, a total adrenaline rush. Throughout the day, we did about 30 rappells and covered about 3500 vertical feet!!! As the sun began to drop, we started a rappell through a cave where a large piece of shale fell on Will. It cut his arm pretty good, scraped his leg, and left the ugliest bruise I have ever seen. He was pretty shaken up, but didnt let go of the rope and made it down. After the guides bandaged him up, we continued moving and it started it rain. So now, the sun was going down, and it was pouring down rain, and we were in a canyon that we couldnt get out of! We kept asking ourselves, what are we doing in a canyon in Mexico? The water rose and the CFM was probably 5x stronger than before. At this point people are freaking out about how we are going to get out, but there are sheer cliffs on either side of us that even the best rock climbers in the world wouldnt have a chance of escape.
The only way out is to keep moving on, keep going down. There were two rappels in particular that were probably the scariest thing I have ever done starting out, but upon completion, it wasnt that big of a deal. By this point, we had all learned to trust ourselves, our guides, and our equipment, and those are the things that got us out in one piece. Saying that, even trusting myself, it was still scary as hell rapelling down an 80ft waterfall with hundreds of gallons of water pouring over my head. As it finally stopped raining, it also became pitch black outside. We did three rapells, some techinal climbing, and two 25 foot jumping into caves in total darkness. I'm not going to lie, most of us were complaining about the cold and being hungry, but looking back on it, I wouldn't have it any other way. It was an amazing feat. After 16 hours in the canyon, we had finally emerged at camp.
As we began to take off our wet clothes and eat our chicken soup, which was the best tasting thing ever after that long, cold day, the guides started telling us about some climbers that were stuck down the canyon from us. We all thought it was a joke that they tell all of the gringos when they get there, but sure enough, there was no joking involved. These four people had been stuck in the canyon at the bottom of a cliff for about 10 hours! They asked us for our help to rescue 4 stuck canyoners who had lost their rope. They were stuck at the bottom of our first rappel in the morning. So after our meal, we hiked about a half mile down the canyon to a 100 foot cliff, the first rappel of Matacanes. It was now 11:30 at night and we had been awake since 6:30am. For the next three hours, we would pull up four people with a rope, foot by foot, to the top. It was grueling.
It felt good to rescue people though and save a kid from getting hypothermia; he was on the verge.
Finally, at 2:30am, after 20 hours of hardcore climbing, we got in our sleeping bags and passed out.
Again, we woke up very early and were groggy, except this time we all looked and felt like we had aged 60 years over night. My feet were swollen, ankles and knees hurt, and my body was bruised. Others in the group were having trouble with their legs also. After packing up and eating breakfast, we started the "Matacanes" trip. We went back to where the rescue had taken place the previous night, and started the rappel. It was a beautiful waterfall, with the water already becoming more clear from the underground rivers. The next rappel was into a cave, which was amazing. There were huge stalagtites hanging from the cieling and was totally dark. When we emerged, it looked like some fake river ride at Disneyland. It was amazing. The rest of the day was filled with bouldering, swimming, and cliff jumping.
There were about 50 jumps, some as high as 40 feet into clear blue water. The day was relaxing and soothing, especially after such a brutal trip
By the end of day two, we were around 2000 feet elevation. After that, we had a huge authentic Mexican food meal, then started the 7 hour drive back home to Austin.
Bottom line is, the entire trip was amazing. The food was good, the forest and mountains were absolutely stunning, the guides were excellent, and the commaraderie was special. People in our group were definately amazed at what the human body is capable of doing and definately got over any fear of heights. The experience was one that was painful and would seemingly never end at times, but now looking back on it there is no regret. For those that want adventure and fun, I would recommend Matacanes. For those that want a true man vs nature survival experience full of peril and adrenaline, go try Picorete. Either way, you will not be sorry you did so. If you would like to see pictures, email me b/c we have about 250 of them. Pictures don't do justice for something of this magnitude, but it may help.
Everything about the trip was incredible, thank you Mauricio, Victor, and Carlos.