Sierra Madres Canyoneering —
Or My Life as an Amphibious Mountaineer
By Tim Trezise
(Editor's note: In May 2004, Tim Trezise had an opportunity to travel to Mexico's Basaseachic Falls Parque National in the northern Sierra Madres, about four hours from where he lives. Tim and his family moved to Mexico in July 2003 to direct EduVenture (www.eduventure.net). This was his first chance to get away and see the awesome beauty of his adopted country.)
God did some amazing tricks with water (the flood?) in shaping a Mexican canyon that is like a cross-breed of Zion and Yosemite national parks. Candemena canyon in Basaseachic Falls Parque National has the tallest waterfalls in Mexico (800 feet and 1,800 feet) as well as El Gigante (Mexico's answer to El Cap and the world's tallest sport climb).
An intense all-day hike through this towering canyon takes you from alpine forest through various ecosystems to tropical riparian climate with Yuccas, Agave and Palm Trees. No park rangers, or marked trails or interpretive hikes - just route finding through cascading house-sized boulder gardens, poison ivy and an occasional herd of bovine.
Hiking alone, I was able to make good time (four hours) to the base of both Piedra Volada Cascada and El Gigante. I know that hiking alone is not a good idea, especially after the reminder of the canyoneer last year who became trapped by a rock near Moab and had to amputate his arm. But having an able climbing/hiking partner has been a difficult issue lately. At least I had a stray mut adopt me, becoming my traveling companion.
After a whole day of climbing and jumping over boulders and swimming cold pools and seeing some pristine wilderness I topped-out the day with a steep 45-minute hike out of the canyon on the main trail. As I climbed in altitude and returned to the people-zone, I saw more and more lack of regard for the beauty of this place with trash deposited randomly and carelessly. Unfortunately, the Mexican culture does not hold much regard for Leave-No-Trace. I have to get past this pet-peeve of mine and focus on being a good steward with the souls of men first then stewardship for His creation will fall into place.
Canyoneering has become my new found preference for exploring the outdoors. I like to think of it as amphibious mountaineering. Swimsuits, chacos and drybags instead of heavy boots, crampons and an ice axe. Flash floods instead of avalanches. A stiff neck instead of dealing with the effects of altitude.
I hope I am not disassociated from Climbing For Christ for preferring to go down instead of up. Climbing is still an integral part of exploring the depths of the earth just as much as it it for the high places. Instead of avoiding the crevasse - you choose to hike in something like one. Experiences in low places are just as rewarding as those in high places.
Mexico is a great country and it has a lot more than beaches and volcanoes. The whole Copper Canyon area is some of the least explored area in the entire country, if not much of North and Central America.