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Ben Stookesberry is an adventurer in every sense of the word and truly enjoys every part of the process of exploring new ground. When he and Jesse Coombs became members of Team JK, I was very excited about having them on board. Now, seeing Ben in his element, I see just how lucky I am to have his as part of the team. Jesse got hurt on his first day here, an stroke of bad luck (he is also a key part of this team, for Ben and JK).

Ben, who was a geology major, puts his studies to use everyday, reading topo maps, understanding what those squiggle lines are likely to mean given our location, etc, and being prepared for the put in, take out, portages, etc., considering the number of people that are on the run, etc.

He is prepared for repels of up to 200 feet, and we have two sections left that require 150 plus feet of climbing rope to get over the cliff and lowered straight into the river (no rocks to get out on). He lets the team know when we need to be prepared to get stuck on the river overnight, etc., and if you follow his lead, you´ll be prepared too.

Then you have Phil Boyer, who was Nick-named by Nick and Rafa, as pappa Phil. Phil is no stranger to what is required to make the logistics work for very difficult scouting, rapids, portaging, etc. and was able to guide those less experienced, but very willing, to keep the ball rolling. In situations where you have vertical cliff walls, madatory 60 foot waterfalls, huge sketch portages, and need to communicate by hand signals, Phil was a great guy to have on the team. Phil’s back got hurt on a drop and he was hoping it would recover enough to finish the trip, but never did, he went home yesterday.

Nick and Rafa (18 and 21 years old) are the young guys who are going full on every day. They have run just about everything in front of them so far. Running waterfalls over 70 feet tall, and rapids that take a combination of skill, guts, and willingness to take a hit, they keep on Firing it up. Nick is happy to have a day off today to rest up, with foot rot that is making him limp from being in wet shoes all day everyday, and sometimes at night. Rafa is loving life, being in his backyard and running stuff that has never been run before, making him a local hero.

Ben has been firing up rapid after rapid, probing most of them, and generally selling the line, or at least making it look possible. Some rapids just are hard to make look smooth. Like one he ran 4 years ago, that he named the Rib, which is about 60 feet tall and vertical except for a shelf or rib that sticks out and gives you a solid hit after about 40 feet of drop. Ben hit the transition and got flipped slightly over on his head and slightly right towards the rocks. No matter, it was good enough for Nick to go at it too!

Heather Herbeck chose to paddle a Rocker here and has been firing up one big rapid after the next, running the 70 foot Tomata Falls in it and being a solid part of the team.

Eric took the Mega Rocker down the upper section for his first run and got to test the bulkhead on the Pooper rapid which is a drop into a crack that he came in from the side and didnt make the turn in time hitting really hard and then getting spit over the 30 foot drop. He has worked with Ben for years and really knows his stuff, and is a solid boater firing up big rapids and is especially good at knowing what needs done at any given moment.

Also on the trip from the beginning is Darren from Oregon who doesnt have his own boat, since his broke but is borrowing a boat for now. Darren has been running everything and is also a super strong member of the team.

Another member of the team isnt a kayaker, Isreal. Isreal is our shuttle driver and local that knows where everything is. He has gained us access to many farmers property and other access points to the canyon, which allows us to break the river down into sections and also set up extraction points. Isreal shows up at 5:45am every morning to pick us up.

Mens Journal has a reporter and a photographer here who have actually been quite helpful too. Thayer paddles and has run a couple of sections with us, and Lukas hikes in when possible.

The cool thing is to see a great thing in progress, knowing what all went into the making of it. Hotel Charlie (code for hardcore) River of Doubt movie that will come out this spring isnt just another whitewater video. It includes major full on expedition of first descents, with some of the hardest access, portages, and rapids, and waterfalls ever seen.

This segment is only the first one, taking up about 25% of the video, and it is worthy of a feature lenght video in of itself. The next expedition will take place three weeks from today, two weeks after this one has been completed, so Ben´s mission is an aggressive one that requires more hardcore brute effort everyday than most people could stomach for an hour. He is a true adventurer, in every sense of the word. I ´believe that he will go down in history as the best kayaking expedition boater in history, and after his Hotel Charlie: River of Doubt, you will better understand why I am saying this.

We have one more week to cover 7 more kilometers of un-explored, steep-creeking, steep canyon, jungle river. Yesterday we got skunked, running some class three that seperates two major canyons, and when we got to the entrance of the second canyon it took us 5 hours to find the exit of it, and that exit was a mandatory 100 footer. We almost ran the canyon with a 100 foot vertical extraction set up at a walking bridge over the river in the jungle at a foot path. The water is high and the first two rapids were burly at least and the three of us who were suited up to get the first D were Rafa, Ben, and I. After having the extraction set up and ready (hanging from the bridge) we scouted the first two drops one more time and decided that we wouldnt likely make it through them, due to the holes being river wide (20 feet wide) vertical canyon walls, no exit, and one such drop right after the next. In order to complete this canyon that water is going to have to drop a fair amount. We just called it off, collected our gear and hiked out. Nick and Ben have serious foot rot and need a day to dry out and heal. I am sore all over and had a fever and cold shakes last night from something.

If the water doesn´t go down, we´ll rapel down below the 100 foot waterfall (over a huge cliff) into the river and run the section below that, that has never been run either. It will be interesting hanging in your kayak 150 feet over the river and getting lured down over the edge!

see you stateside in one week!