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I Tried It: Waterfall Rappelling in Taxco

San Diego Magazine's associate editor, Sarah Pfledderer, opts for a gravity-defying adventure outside of Mexico City



For some, a couple’s vacation means sunset dinners on the beach, side-by-side massages, or hot tubs après ski. For me and my beau, it meant dangling off the side of a 130-foot waterfall in Mexico.

It was our third trip to Mexico City and its surrounds, and we wanted to add a little adventure between our stays in Cuernavaca, the birthplace of pozole, and Taxco, a quaint metropolis known for its silversmiths and signature cocktail, the bertha. So Colton and I booked a four-hour canyoneering trip with Terra 3 Expediciones that included two waterfall rappels and light cliff jumping at Mil Cascadas, or “Thousand Falls.”

Our instructions were simple: Wear tennis shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting wet, and show up by 9 a.m. at the provided address. Our guides, Jerry and Julie, provided one waterproof backpack for us to share. Everything we would need—our gear, lunch, and two bottles of water—was inside. We climbed into the bed of a rickety pickup and departed on a 45-minute crawl to the top of Mil Cascadas, passing donkeys, dogs, chickens, a shepherd directing his flock on the switchbacks, and bumper-to-bumper traffic—on our dirt road.

Mil Cascadas is secluded but no secret, and for good reason. The water is crystal clear, the rocks smooth from years of wear. Families, even with dogs, were splashing in the natural pools, and little tykes meandered through minor natural waterslides. The beauty took my breath away just long enough to delay my embarrassment at how we stood out—tourists in our helmets, bright yellow jackets, and harnesses.

Near the first waterfall edge, Jerry lassoed a rope around a tree and hooked it to my harness for a quick rappelling tutorial: Sink into your hips and let your body drop into an L-shape, so your legs extend parallel to the ground, feet flat on the cliff face behind the water; let some slack out on your rope; and walk backward. When in doubt, “Just keep going.”

The first step was the scariest, like I was in a trust fall with my harness. Thankfully, it was successful and surprisingly not slippery. My quadriceps could take it from there. As I scaled the side, with gallons of rushing agua the only thing in earshot and drenching me up to my hips, my helmet too proved dependable when I stepped a little too close to the main stream. The water jolted my balance, leaving me dangling directly under the hardest pressure of the falls.

Appreciating my headgear for preventing a nasty headache, I remembered Jerry’s directions: Just keep going. I let out some slack to continue descending until gravity took me to a drier opening to reset my footing.

Crisis averted. I looked down below. Jerry, my belayer, gave me a thumbs-up and yelled, “Just keep going!” I could hear him, which meant there wasn’t much farther to the bottom. Once both feet hit the ground, I looked around—even more families, some of them clapping—and then I looked up, and that’s when the ten minutes of pent-up adrenaline hit me.

“Can we do another?”

You Try It!

Canyoneering expeditions begin at $150 for two people.

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