RIO PRIETO SUMMIT , RIO SABANA DOWNSTREAM, RIO CUBUY UPSTREAM
last day in Puerto Rico and it sure has been one amazing trip!! This last excursion was not anything short of awesome. The years previous I have traveled up the Rio Sabana to the Trade Winds rail to El Toro and down the Rio Cubuy to PR 191. I have gone up the Rio Blanco to the Rio Icaco to the pipeline trail, and this time I wanted to summit the Rio Prieto from the pipeline trail as well as descend down the Rio Sabana to the confluence of the Sabana/Cubuy rivers and ascend up the Rio Cubuy to old PR 191. This cascade hike was no joke! We got dropped off at the end of the road on old PR 191 and walked to the trailhead where the Rio Sabana and PR 191 meet. We followed the pipeline trail all the way to the junction of the Rio Prieto and the pipeline trail which included a 40ft waterfall and a old ladder that we had to climb up to reach the top of this first waterfall. We make it around the rusty lockjaw infested ladder and climbed up the shady ladder to the top where we could see the main waterfall. This waterfall can be seen from the road and was one of the biggest waterfalls I have seen in Puerto Rico.
|Rio Prieto, Its a lot bigger than it looks El Yunque Puerto Rico|
We make our ascent to the base of the falls and we start staging our routes to where we will be able to station ourselves and review the next pitch. We did climb in the falls but mainly climbed to the side of them which allowed us to avoid some slippery handholds and places to set anchors. I climbed up the first segment taking great care not to slip and making sure I had contact at all times as this was between 30 and 50 degrees up. As we are going up, Laura took a sliding tumble down to the bottom but along the way she had time to think to turn herself around and slide on her butt and stop on a rock with both of her feet. Nice job! I decided it was time to rope up and belay her from the top so I meat anchored myself with natural backup anchors and got her up safe, little by little.
|Waterfall level two Rio Prieto El Yunque|
Eventually we made it to the last portion of the falls and was able to scramble over that carefully so we didn't take a sliding tumble over 100 ft to the falls below. I used natural anchors and meat anchored myself to safely get us to the top of the Rio Prieto.
|top of the Rio Prieto|
It really doesn't look like we did much but it bit off a chunk of our day working up this cascade to the rim while making sure we were not breaking any legs and running into any flash floods. People have died on this route and other routes due to exposure by rimming themselves or using poor judgement so we made sure we were careful and we did it.
We came back down to the pipeline trail and made our way back to the dam on the Rio Blanco snapping a few pictures of the old railroad that was used to bring materials to build the dams for the towns in the valleys below us.
Pipeline Trail Picture taken by Laura Oliver.
The Navy also used the Pipeline trail for a place to run with heavy packs to the end and back when they operated out of Culebra in the Vietnam era.
We get to the dam and have lunch along with some down time away from the river systems. Afterwards we proceeded to descend the Rio Sabana from the pipeline trail to get to the confluence of the sabana and the Cubuy. We got into the sabana and encountered 4 pockets of waterfalls, some were 40 ft on a 60-70 degree slope which had to be navigated around through the jungle. Some falls had to be jumped over and some had to be jumped into so we slid down and jumped past the hydraulics at the bottom of the falls into eddy pools to re orient ourselves. We lost our bamboo walking sticks along the way too.
Finally we make it to the Rio Cubuy Sabana confluence and take a swim in the river pool below. Afterwards, we decide to ascend the Rio Cubuy back to the road so we could walk back to our car and head to the hotel for the last night in Puerto Rico. We scrambled and bouldered over rock until....