The canyoneering world is pretty small.

And once word gets out of a hot “new” canyon, the legend spreads like wildfire, and chuckies descend on it like moths to a flame.

I’m one of them. Which is why it’s so weird I’ve never been to Matacanes. The lucky few who have seen this canyon often refer to it with hushed tones and reverence, as if it is the Sistine Chapel of canyons. I had seen photos, it looked incredible, but I always had an excuse.

I used to blame it on logistics. Or money. Or not enough time. Finally, Heather sent out an email with an invite, and all the details sorted. Turns out, the logistics aren’t significant, the expense is modest, and you can squeeze an action packed trip into a long weekend.

I was out of excuses.

Alpine start for Day 1. Turns out, the road to Portrero Redondo would be the toughest approach of the whole trip.

Portrero Redondo

Our plan was to stack the entire trip into a 4 day weekend over Memorial Day. Flying to Mexico, driving a few hours into the remote mountains of Cumbres de Monterrey, and wrangling all the logistics of gear and access is borderline impossible without help. Enter Jesus “Chuy” Guerrero who runs IBO Adventures in Monterrey. Chuy is well known in the states, and almost all of our friends have called him to facilitate their trip. He’s an absolute legend.

I’m rarely one to want to sign up for all-expense guided trips. But this was worth every penny. We arrived in early evening on a Wednesday, where Chuy’s crew met us at the airport, wisked us off to a hotel for the night in Monterrey, and at first light had transportation all lined up for us to Portrero Redondo.

The drive from Monterrey deep into the mountains of Cumbres de Monterrey is no joke. It’s a rough road notorious for destroying cars and trucks. It’s not something you want to drive every day to get to another canyon, and that’s the only option if you insist on staying in a hotel. We were looking for something a little more authentic.

Fortunately, Chuy had arranged for us to stay with locals in the village, where we could sleep in their cabins, enjoy a hot meal every night. And if we were lucky, maybe even get a sip of their local mezcal.

Best of all, the town is within walking distance of all three canyons we hoped to descend.

Mind. Blown.


After getting rocked and rattled for a few hours on the mountain drive to Portrero Redondo, we were chomping at the bit to get into a canyon. First up, Hidrophobia. It’s less of a slot, and more of a waterpark. Drop-dead gorgeous and full of waterfalls with huge jumps. It makes the perfect introduction to the area.

The action starts fast and furious, with multiple jumps in fast succession. Excitement got the better of me, and I jumped a few before I really thought about what I was doing. It almost always made sense to take off your pack before sending it, and I left mine at the top of the second drop. I hucked off the slippery drop into an awesome pool, laughed my ass off, and gave the OK to the guide at the top. She tossed my pack down after me, neither of us realizing my camera was inside it. It was in a housing, so the water was no problem, but the impact of slamming into the surface of the water would break the lens.

2nd drop of the first day, and my only camera that can handle water was busted. Fuck.

First and last photo in Hydrophopbia with the housing.

Wipe that smile off yer face Kev. This isn't supposed to be fun.
Holy shit, is this place for real? Spring room in Hydrophobia.

Base Camp

Fortunately, I did still have another lens back in the village, but it meant in the big water, I’d have to rely on my trusty gopro for both photos and video. Not exactly an ideal scenario, but ya play the hand you’re dealt I guess. And I was trying hard to not let a few photos ruin an otherwise amazing trip.

Back in Portrero, the crew was just cooking up some amazing tacos and our hosts graciously let us take turns trying the village mezcal.


For Day 2, we had Chipitin on the agenda. The final drop in Chipitin is actually the top of Hidrophobia, but that’s where the similarities end. Chipitin is a proper Class C canyon with multiple ridiculous features, including the two stage final rappel down a huge waterfall and overhanging grotto. If you’ve ever seen photos of Mexican canyoneering, I can almost guarantee it is from here.

If that was the only amazing feature, it’d be worth the price of admission alone. But Chipitin has another feature that’s arguably even more cool. The day starts off in a smaller branch of the canyon, and unfortunately an unseasonably low water year meant the upper stretch was close to dry. Other times of year it can be an impassable raging torrent.

While it may have been slightly less photogenic than “normal” I considered it a fortunate circumstance, as it allowed me to pull out my camera without a housing far more frequently, including in the most impressive feature of all, the Groove Tube.

At the confluence with another small tributary, the flow of water increases dramatically to a few CFS. You rappel blind over the edge, and then drop straight into a tube that ends in a cavern that looks like it is straight out of a movie. The water is clear and blue, with limestone walls surrounding you on 360 degrees. We became children, climbing and jumping off every ledge, and giggling uncontrollably. Unquestionably one of my favorite canyon scenes I’ve ever experienced.

The guided rappel on the first stage of the enormous final rappel sequence.
Completely insane. What an amazing scene.
Check out the tiny canyoneer in the upper right for scale.


It’s hard to imagine there could be anything that could top Chipitin, but legend has it the single best canyon in the entire area was Matacanes, the final canyon of our trip.

Matacanes is the signature canyon, for a couple reasons. There is only a couple rappels, and they are relatively easy, safe and straightforward. Which means it is a much easier canyon to guide than Chipitin, which requires multiple guides and a competent crew.

So while it’s not as technical, it is arguably more fun because it has countless jumps, slides, waterfalls, and caves – all of which are ridiculously photogenic.

After a couple hours of non-stop waterpark fun, you get to the most memorable feature of all – the entire canyon goes underground and turns into a cave.

And I thought Chipitin was mind-blowing – this place is on an entirely different level.

Special thanks to Heather for organizing, and especially the crew at IBO for an unforgettable 4 days. I still can’t believe I let an excuse of “logistics” get in the way of doing this trip years earlier. It really is one of the most simple international trips to pull off, and it instantly became my favorite canyon trip of all time.

Countless springs inside the cave of Matacanes.
Canyoneering Cumbres de Monterrey in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Home of the the famous Matacanes, Chipitin, and Hidrophobia canyons.