Fisher-Gaskill-Toll-Wasson expedition 1977


In 1977 a group of 4 Coloradans (Tom Fisher, Steve Gaskill, Ellen Toll, and John Wasson) did a 790 km descent of Río Marañon from the Lauricocha-Nupe confluence down into the jungle. They used three recently introduced Hollowform kayaks (first ever plastic!) and a 12' army raft with frame and oars. At least 348 km of their river run was a first descent - down to Chagual.

Toll took over the 12' raft, but had to portage from Quivilla to Chingas (the Puente Copuma/Puchka area now) as it was "just not suitable for a raft" due to many long boulder blockades. The group reunited by the Puchka confluence and continued downstream over another 22 days to the jungle. They used a balsa raft for several days in the mellow valley section downstream of Chagual. At Corral Quemado they ran into Laszlo Berty rafting the river as well, so Wasson and Gaskill joined him for the descent into the jungle. The trip ended at Nazareth (Imacita). Wasson wrote a short article about the trip for the second issue of South American Explorer [1978 SAE article]. Note in this article that the "landslide" portage mentioned below Chingas is now a runnable class V - one I refer to as "Wasson's Landslide". It is the most notorious rapid in the whole Gran Cañon Amazonas.

Wasson is also known for other first descents. In particular, in 1981 he joined Lars Holbek, Rob Lesser, Don Banducci and Rick Fernald on the first descent of the Stikine (British Columbia). Wasson tumbled in a notorious hydraulic on an upper part of the river and nearly drowned. The hole has since been referred to as "Wasson's Hole".

All members of the 1977 Marañon descent are still alive. Wasson lives in Jackson Hole and may get back down to run the Marañon again - in a more relaxed mode where he can really appreciate the river's beauty instead of the anxious "tunnel vision" they all had on the first descent.

I had pleasure of meeting John Wasson in 2013 at the Outdoor Retrailer Show in Salt Lake City (my first one attended due to the Amazon Headwaters expedition being nominated for C&K's Expedition of the year) and had the opportunity to meet John. The previous year I had corresponded with him a lot and he even sent me a 40 min video of their 1977 trip. The photo below was at the OR Show [taken by Rob Lesser - that's me (Rocky Contos) on the left, and John Wasson on the right.]