Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cerro Chirripo & La Perla First Descent

When I first laid my eyes on the Rio Chirripo Pacifico I was entranced by it's power and beauty. My original reason for visiting the Chirripo Pacifico was to scout out a few waterfalls I'd heard about and to climb Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica's tallest mountain. I had planned to climb Chirripo with my buddy Nate Davis, and just before leaving for the trip Chris Baer, whom I had never met, got a hold of me to say that he was in the area and that he'd like to come along.
Once we arrived at the town of San Gerardo de Rivas, which is located base of Cerro Chirripo, we spent a day running around looking at all the incredible waterfalls of the Chirripo Pacifico. The next day we packed our bags and set off for the summit. 
In our first day on the mountain we walked 14km through some of the most beautiful ecosystems I had ever seen, from the most dense cloud forests to barren tundra. During that night we slept at a park hostel to gain what little sleep we could before summiting the following morning. In the morning we woke up to heavy rains and winds, but non the less made our quick 5km push to the summit. This section of the trip was rather miserable, and my dream of being able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from the summit was quickly replaced with dense clouds that allowed for a maximum visibility of 100 meters. After spending some time at the summit we turned around and made the equally beautiful walk back to San Gerardo. 

The cloud forests were quick to engulf us...

... But the sun still shone through 

Last pitch to la cima

Slightly frozen at the top of Costa Rica
Back in San Gerardo we planned to get back to paddling the drops we had just looked at right away, but the day after we got off the mountain I came down with a gnarly week long illness. As I had pre-arranged obligations for the week after getting of the mountain, my dream of spending time paddling on the Chirripo Pacifico was put on hold. 
Luckily before too long I was able to return to San Gerardo in pursuit of stouts. When I got back, the majority of the river was looking low, but one drop still looked good to go. The drop was La Perla, a 50 footer with an off angle boof that led into steep slide below. I knew that as long as I was able to get up as far as possible on the right side boof flake that I would land comfortably on the slide and be in the clear. I also knew that if I didn't make it to the top of the flake and was pulled towards the center I would probably hit one of two boof flakes and possible land flat after a good 40ft. free fall. Confident I hopped in my boat and worked my way to the right. I came over the lip with a good stroke right where I was hoping and smoothly landed on the slide. The landing was soft, and in the pool I was stoked to have nailed the line. Chris, who had been shooting photos, quickly made his way upstream and paddled the drop without any problem as well.

Dropping in
Chris's line 

The entire area surrounding the Rio Chirripo Pacifico and Cerro Chirripo are incredible and I only look forward to further exploring in this part of the world. La Perla in particular went super well and I'm amped to return and check out the rest of the drops on this steep river.

Photos by Chris Baer

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Descent: Upper Rio Savegre

The Rio Savegre lies in the bottom of one of Costa Rica's most beautiful valleys and also has some incredibly fun class IV-V whitewater. Ferdinand Steinvorth, Chris Baer, and I had just got off the upper section of the Rio Division and were set on, after a good night's sleep, hiking 11 km. to paddle the un-run upper section of the Rio Savegre. Sure enough we were all able to sleep for a well deserved 10 hours, and woke up with the sun shining. We quickly ate some breakfast then loaded our boats on a couple horses. The hike up to the put-in was steep at times, but at every crest of a ridge we were rewarded with stunning views of the Savegre valley and at times the river far below.
Once we reached the put-in where our guide Felipe grew up we ate a hearty lunch then hit the river. Right off the bat there was some fun class V rapids, the magority of which we were able to boat scout. However, before too long we got to moving a little too fast and Chris dropped into a meaty hole. After a quick fight Chris ended up pulling his skirt and swimming to safety downstream. Luckily we were able to quickly gather his boat and other gear and proceed downstream. A couple bends in the river later we came across an attractive horizon line. Here Felipe, friends and family watched as we dropped over the 8ft. falls into a dynamic hole.

Ferdinand lining up for one of the bigger rapids on the run
 After this drop we kept paddling downstream to find more and more fun and technical class V drops. All the rapids downstream were good to go and throughout the entire 11km. trip we didn't have to portage once. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to document any more of the drops, but there were some descent sized drops throughout the run. This was an amazing trip and I can't wait to get back on this awesome river. 

Here's a quick edit that Chris put together from the Division and Savegre Rivers

Photos by: Chris Baer