Monday, November 12, 2007

Unseen waters in the Estado de Mexico. Part III: the run.

After spending a full morning on the massive put-in drop, it was time for Rush, Tyler, Brooks and myself to head downstream. The whitewater below indeed promised some great rapids to keep us busy for the rest of the day. A whole TV production crew would be following us on shore, capturing every other stroke we took.

photo- Mauricio Ramos

Running on not more than 400 cfs, the mile long section we ran was constantly steep. All appeared to be read-and-run, except maybe 5 major ones we got out to check out. “Boof left, drive right, cut behind the rock, boof again” is somehow what our lines would sound like, marinated in this super technical waters.

Hesitating about running the last one, finally Rush and Tyler decided to fire it up. Both of them having cleaned the line, Brooks and myself didn’t hesitate on nailing it again.

The amazing part about this section is not just that it has some amazing, challenging whitewater, and is all lined by trails on both sides, but it is actually right in town: Valle de Bravo special. Another mile of the run is yet to be explored, and it will.

Soon enough
Rafa Ortiz

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Unseen waters in the Estado de Mexico. Part II: the huck.

The hardest part about first descending a waterfall is overcoming the fear of uncertainty. Trusting your scouting ability turns to be your only life insurance. You get in your boat and follow the line that you’ve come up with, hoping that it will make you successfully run the falls.

In the town of Valle de Bravo, Estado de México, Tyler Bradt, Rush Sturges, Brooks Baldwin and myself, started the river taking care of the entrée falls: a 45 footer, with a crooked lead-in and a log stuck at the lip. So the first mission was setting a system to extract the piece of wood. After a couple of hours, Tyler managed to lasso it, and then the next step was setting up the Z-drag that would get the wood out of the way.

Brooks would be filming from river right, as he hung from some rocks next to the edge. Rush held the downstream camera. Tyler waited at the bottom, just in case. Only I would run it.

“ Peel out of the eddie holding a 45º downstream angle, gather some speed in that direction until I would spot the flake which I’d be aiming (just left) for. Hard right semi-boof stoke, massive left boof stroke, and I’d be airborne just above the lip of the big fall, trying to turn my boat 90º just before landing. Stabilize my boat with a right stoke that would melt me right into the 40 foot freefall. Tuck forward, hit the pool, and float up”.

Such a slim line… As I hit the pool at the bottom I would realize that it had worked out. I would just come up and start cheering, after nailing my line successfully. Took me a while to believe it really.

Then we still had a good section of whitewater to run.

Rafa Ortiz

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Lost World: Newfoundland

The Newfoundland trip is in the books and with it the next in the Series of The Lost World: Hotel Charley vol. 3 teasers. On a whole Newfoundland has the most incredible potential for first descents that I have ever seen. Over 2 weeks Team Jackson memebers Jesse Coombs, Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Joel Kowolski, Nick Troutman, Darin McQoid, along with founder and son EJ and Dane where able to establish 6 new navigable stretches of river during a record dry October. Watch for clips from the Epic Cloud Gorge mixed into the footage featuring high volume slides accessed by an Epic float plain shuttle. On one such slide EJ shows us where playboating can pay off in the class V. Check out for the full story with photos.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Unseen waters in the Estado de Mexico. Part I: the scout

The Estado de México is located just West of México City and hosts some of the most amazing geology in the country. Almost any extreme sport can be practiced (excluding snow sports maybe, México, remember?).
As for kayaking, this weekend I went scouting some waters that have never been run, and are waiting anxiously to see a kayaker in them. The rivers are described as being really technical, continuous and specially dangerous. Flatwater is just a dream when paddling in a river that has only eddies in between the toughest rapids and falls.
By the end of October, myself and the YGP crew will be working on a hardcore expedition on these beautiful rivers, which will be filmed for a National TV show.
Stay tunned for the real deal.

Monday, October 1, 2007


It's that time of the year when the "fun and games" of the Summer expeditions are just a fond memory, and it's time to strap on your Grandpa boots. As in previous years, Hotel Charley really opens for business during the North American fall and winter when we set our sites on the last vestiges of unknown class V river canyons left on the planet.

Newfoundland... just the name adds a bit of intrigue. Darin McQuoid and Chris Korbulic set there sights on this ultra obscure paddling destination during the summer of 07 and they simply haven't been willing to take no for an answer. "Many first descents, massive slides and waterfalls, access to the ultra remote Labrador Peninsula..." was a line of rhetoric that simply trumped other would be plans. With the additions of my partner in crime Jesse Coombs and Team Jackson stalwarts Eric Jackson, Nick Troutman, Joel Kowolski, and phenom Dane Jackson how could I say no.

Darin and Chris K have already been putting in the hard work (scouting, logestics on the ground on in NF) and offered this via email.

The bad is the underbrush is very BC/Mexico thick, visiblity down to 2' at times. Canyons are steep and rugged. The good, it does have the business. We have done one run so far and ran some nice bedrock drops and one 20' waterfall, and then ran into a gorge straight off a 40-45 footer that we couldn't see the bottom of and had to portage. After the big portage we hiked up at river level and found it good to go with a perfect the action is here, the camping and hiking are rugged.
And so an expedition to Newfoundland will kick of my 7th consecutive season, traveling the globe in search of Hotel Charley rivers for that Hotel Charley sort of good time.



Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hotel Charley News Clip in Reno Nevada

Hello everyone,

The Hotel Charley film series is enjoying great success and exposure. We premiered Hotel Charley: River of Doubt during the Reno River Festival in Reno Nevada and got some great coverage from Kristen Walthers at KTVN Channel 2. Here is the link to the news clip they aired leading up to the show. The news clip is the second video down on the right.

If you listen closely you will hear her co-anchor gasp for breath when they show the waterfall.



Monday, September 24, 2007

Lizzy's Bull Lake Account

Holy crap, I thought we’d walked all the way to California! Granite domes were everywhere. On the second day of the hike my hips and collar bones were swollen, my feet were bleeding, and I was laying sprawled out on the trail next to a huge steamy bear growler. Who’d have thought… Wyoming.
Day one consisted of 12 hours of hiking over the first 11,200 foot pass (in which I came in second place.) We got to the top and I asked where do we go from here? Ben pointed over another mountain in the distance, “Oh sweet, that’s not that far!” I smiled.
Eric Seymour corrected me. “Yeah it is, that’s really f###ing far!” I think he was just mad that I beat him up the pass. My second place held pretty strong for the first day, and was shattered the second day. We had high hopes of being “almost there” as we camped for the first night. In the morning a group of old fifty to seventy year old fisher men informed us we were not “almost there”.
“I don’t mean to sound sexist or nothin’, but I’m amazed that a girl can do this. That boat has to weigh almost as much as she does.” Actually it’s 2/3 of my body weight. Luckily, these guys knew a way around the second pass, a short cut, and gave us a map of an old Shoshone hunting trail. Evidently the Shoshone had not been hunting in awhile; we lost the trail and ended up scaling cliff bands like turtles scaling a garden wall. This was the demise of my second place position, and I would remain in last place for the remainder of the trip.
Nine hours from first night’s camp, a few more blisters, a broken helmet from a nearly tragic “Turtle Shell” and we arrived at Dead Man’s Lake. (Apparently the first guy who attempted the hike didn’t make it.)
I would have been happy to camp there. But since the pressure to make it farther than the other guys was so immense, we geared up and started paddling towards the South Fork. We scraped our way down the tiny tributary, portaged a lot, and ran a few rapids. As eager as I was to run some good whitewater, I decided to walk the tight manky drop where Seymour stuffed his boat into a boat-sized crack. We camped there. Macaroni and oysters for dinner, and I was out.
Another morning of blue sky we launched day three, eager for the confluence. Less than a mile downstream our creek turned into a raging river just below a massive stunning waterfall. Game on. Immediately was the first gorge, still uncompleted, that Ben seal launched into the bottom two drops of. The remainder of the day was the classic bedrock drops flowing in and out of separate mini lakes- The Lake Section. This is where you’ll find the perfect twenty foot waterfall found on the cover of the new Colorado guide book. Seymour, Ben and Leif ran the perfect drop perfectly. I, on the other hand, missed my boof, almost hit the wall, rolled up against it and back paddled out. I started scouting the drops after that. We had lunch what turned out to be right above Hagen Daz, and I woke up with either a minor case of heat stroke or I was just tired. I didn’t run HD nor did I seal launch into the green water on the right side. Seymour did, and busted his eye brow open- way better than a busted back. From there were more huge granite walls, super clean class five rapids, and gorges with continuous whitewater. One gorge started with a heinous entrance that we put in just after and ran the rest of the gorge to our camp. We camped on a big slab of granite on river right and watched a bright orange sunset drop behind the enormous walls that towered over us.
Day four started out a little stressful in knowing we had a few mandatory class 6 portages. One portage being long and arduous carrying our boats over huge talus boulders, careful not to fall, but quickly to avoid falling behind as I often do. This took half the day and a great deal of energy. A few more class five rapids, Bull Lake, another portage, and then we arrived at the “mandatory class five+ above a 400 foot waterfall”. I excused myself and sat in the woods for a little meditation time before taking this one on. We scouted as much as we could but eddy-hopped until a gigantic horizon line where the world fell away just behind it. Everyone made the last eddy above the chunky twenty-terrace zig-zagging cascade that definitely totaled 400 feet. The best whitewater of the whole trip was the continuous class five just below this portage. We could finally blaze through miles of clean boulder gardens with swift boat scouting by Stookesberry and Seymour. This was a huge relief to have the 400 footer at our backs and sick whitewater all the way to camp. We caught Brooke Trout for dinner and I fell asleep on a 3 inch bed of pine needles before I could make my macaroni.
The next morning was a good one. I woke up to an incredible sunrise, well rested, and real hungry. I ate three packs of oatmeal flavored with dark chocolate chips and we suited up for the day. The river meandered through class four for a few miles then picked up to class 5 above the misnomer “Limestone Gorge” which is actually still granite according to Geologist Stookesberry. More meandering until we arrived at the last few slide drops of the run just before the head of the lake. A few boats were at the inlet so I was volunteered by the group to schmooze a ride from the old people eating fried chicken and potato salad. I didn’t get a ride, but I got some chicken!
Then for the grand finale we had the “nine mile paddle out”. We paddled for about two hours and the boys in front of me became smaller and smaller dots… way ahead. We’ve got to be almost there. Then the wonderful little buzzing behind me became louder and louder. Fortunate for me, the slowest person gets picked up first. (This is a tactic I picked up on the home run Ben & Jerry’s which also has a paddle out.) The boat rolled up and asked if I wanted a lift. I answered optimistically “I’m almost there; I think I can make it, thanks though.” They looked at me like I was crazy, so I held onto the boat while balancing in my kayak and climbed in. As we gunned it across the lake, I realized I was not almost there. Actually I was half way and probably two more hours out from finishing. I drank my beer and held it high as we passed Seymour, then Leif, and then Stookesberry who was 200 yards from the end. I finished in first place.

Hotel Charley Volume 3: Double Feature

Just announced from Clear H2O Films, the upcoming release of HTC volume 3 will bring the paddling world not only the latest installment of Hard Core expeditionary kayaking, but will also feature The Crash Course. The brain child of writer Thayer Walker, The Crash Course is a hour-long instruction video that chronicles Thayer's three week push to take his kayaking to a class V level. In addition to class V power strokes and technique, strategies in scouting, setting safety, and nerve control are covered. Check out Thayer's featured article of the same name in this March's release of Men's Fitness Magazine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SUMMER RAP UP PART 2: Wyoming Challenges California

After an extended stay in my home state of Colorado, I found myself heading up to Wyoming for the wedding of Eric Seymour and Jess McMillan. Unlike many traditional marriage processes Eric planned to enjoy his "bachelor party" not only after the wedding, but also on a little known multi-day river trip deep in the heart of state's largest mountain range: The Wind Rivers. This situation arose due to the unique employment of his wife to be as the world's preeminent Freeskier (extreme/ big mountain). As I was already looking forward to spending that time kayaking with Lizzy English, his proposed trip would work out perfectly.

Rivers throughout the Southern Rockies (New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming) where recently thrust into the limelight by a sping 07 release of the Mccutchen/ Stafford Whitewater of the Southern Rockies guidebook. This 600 page photo-filled compendium had already led Lizzy and I to a 2nd descent of a Colorado multi-day classic called the Los Pinos River located directly next to the well known classic of Vallecito. Now the "New Bible" was giving us just enough enough to give us the low down on what it claims to be "the toughest run in the Guidebook."

With a few late night calls to first descentour Evan Ross and Guidebook Author Kyle McCutchen we not only recieved all the beta we would need, but also gained one more team member to give us an even number of four: Eric, Lizzy, and I would be joined by Leif Embertson of Ft. Collins, CO who had apparently developed a taste for the biggest and scariest that the Southern Rockies could dish out. Check out Leif's beautiful photos and writeup of our BLC expedition at the

For my part, I present you with a video of the only expedition that I have done in the Continental USA that rivals California's Middle Kings. As should go without saying, please approach a BLC expedition with the utmost respect, both for the pristine environment and for the tribal land that you will be treading across... Incidentally Lizzy English is the first female to complete the trip, and her story of the 20 mile no mule support slog into 25 miles of full on class V expedition paddling will be worth the wait... Stay tunned.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

SUMMER RAP UP PART 1: Pit River Falls, CA

Well, it was truly a summer full of highlights from the 29 show Spring 2007 release of Charley Vol: 2 to this past 3 weeks in Southwest British Columbia, but there is one that certainly stands out: The July American Whitewater releases of Pit 1.

For those of you not familiar with this section of river, it is mostly pedestrian class 3 with some 4, until you encounter a 4 channel 45 foot waterfall. Dropping over a varied yet polished ledge formed as the river erodes an ancient lava flow, This falls certainly has the lines to entertain the most harden class V paddler, but also offers some other less thrilling lines for the 3-4 crowd. The two center lines of the falls are usually considered only by the truly psyched; although with this recreational release moving into its forth year, a record number of paddlers where seen hucking their meat over channel number two (a high speed ramp into a 30 foot falls).

When I arrived at the takeout on Sunday the 14th, California AW Stewardship director Dave Steindorf reported that nothing could shock him after seeing a crazed inflatable descent and subsequent swim off channel number 2. This came as a bit of a disappointment to me considering that Eric Seymour and I came with an all female paddle raft team in tow all set to run the falls in our well traveled Aire Puma 11-foot raft. I offered that I thought he would be in for another surprise today if whitewater diva Arden Prehn and her all girl power crew had anything to say about it.

Arden had recruited a couple of Noah's boldest and strongest female guides to give the pit a shot, and regardless of running the falls they would get a scenic river trip out of the deal located just 2.5 hours south in Ashland, OR. Talking about running a big dynamic falls in a raft and actually standing at the lip and deciding to do it are two very different things. This quickly dawned on Heather and Monica as we led them to the lip of the second channel of pit falls. Monica bowed out first having only a year or so of real whitewater under her belt and, the more season although no less skeptical Heather, was not convinced by a little light encouragement from Arden and I.

When Heather finally got tired of my rosy outlook on a would be descent, she called my bluff and told me to "get in there if you are so sure of a clean line." "Wait a minute" I said, "who's going to film!?" Well, I guess Heather had operated her parents handy cam once or twice so that qualified her as a non-professional but viable option. With Arden never hesitating for a minute, I agreed and the descent was on. Eric Seymour hopped in his JK Mega Rocker and made quick work of a clean descent with a beautiful floating plug. With Eric in place setting the second HD cam and stills at the Bottom, Arden and I made our plan: maintain a nice straight angle to the lip, and then high-side to the right as we hit the banking 30 foot free fall. As compared to our well suited waterfall machines (JK Rockers), sitting in a raft about ready to role towards the lip of a 30 foot falls, is a bit like sitting at the top of a very steep hill in a shopping cart (you are quite certain that you are going to get ejected but your not certain where and how hard you are going to hit). Oddly enough running falls in a raft is often quite the opposite with a good R2 crew. Well, see for yourself.... Clean as a whistle (ie Eric and my clean rafting descent of the final falls on the Gol Gol in No Big Names 3). Well maybe I had a bit of whiplash the nest day... Enjoy the vid, and check out for more information on the Pit River recreational releases.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hotel 2 Tee-shirts still available

A few hotel charley volume 2 shirts are still in stock. They make a great stocking stuffer. Contact Jackson Kayak for more information.

Jesse Coombs Back in Action

Jesse Coombs is back in action for the 2007 - 2008 filming of Hotel Charley vol. 3: The Lost World. When asked how he selects what drops to fire up and which to avoid, Coombs quickly responded, "I'm just out there running the stuff that is going to put a smile on my face at the bottom." Coombs must have been smilling alot on his latest trip to Southwestern British Columbia,CAN where he ran some of the areas ultra-classic V for the first time while also claiming a first descent of a major tributary to the Frazer River in his probing of an upper canyon in the Bridge River.

Coombs was first nationally recognized for his ground breaking efforts in the first Hotel Charley released in 2006 as National Geographic Adventure Hero of the year. To date he still holds the dubious title of gnarliest descent ever with his hair-raising solo probe of the 20+ meter Angel Wing Falls on the Santo Domingo. It was not the 80+ foot hight of the drop as much as it was the tiny recovery pool that flushed tenuously off the face of the earth. Before his NGA notoriety, Coombs was well known from the Oregon Kayaking website as the "Portage Killer."

Watch for Coombs in the upcoming spring 2008 release of the lost world as he puts his formidable skill set up against the most challenging rivers on the planet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hotel Charley 3 in motion: The Lost World

Clear H2O Films proudly announces a spring 08' release of Hotel Charley vol. 3: The Lost World. Inspired by the 1912 adventure novel of the same name, this upcoming installment of the Hotel Charley series sets it's sites on the unexplored river gorges of Himalayan Asia, the Plateau region of South America, and the largest runnable waterfalls on earth located deep in the heart of the Mexican Sierra. Stay tunned to for updates as this epic unfolds.