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Old 06-01-2009   #1
Meng's Avatar
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Durango Herald: Extraxted Vallecito Boater

Story: Durango Herald News, Kayaker rescued from creek

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Old 06-01-2009   #2
ACC's Avatar
dropzone, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 845
Interesting to see the video. Heal up quick to the injured paddler. We may have spotted the separated craft, as it looked like there was a boat pinned underwater in the river left side of the last drop of trashcan, in sort of a sieve that you could see from downstream.

In other news, the foot gauge in the creek was reading about .1 higher than the internet gauge for our runs.

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Old 06-01-2009   #3
River Gypsy
Swannanoa, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 1986
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Originally Posted by ACC View Post
In other news, the foot gauge in the creek was reading about .1 higher than the internet gauge for our runs.
So which gauge do you feel was more accurate?

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Old 06-01-2009   #4
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dropzone, Colorado
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Seemed like the visual readings were right, but I only have a limited comparison from a few runs two years ago, around the same levels -- between 2.0 and 2.2. We had a nice low-medium flow this weekend, with visual readings at 2.05 to 2.15, while the internet showed it around 1.95 to 2.05. On Sunday morning, when the guage online read about 2.13, it was more like a solid 2.2, with surges up to 2.3.

Someone who runs the creek more frequently probably knows best whether the internet guage is reading low, but that seems true to reason, since it's not just a cfs vs. gauge height difference, but rather a difference between what was observed vs. what the online guage reports.
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Old 06-01-2009   #5
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 10
things learned

first, i broke two of my own rules: get dialed in with new equipment before using it in class V; and, listen to your gut, if you're not feeling it don't go. i was dumb and paid the price... my tib and fib are broken through. sorry to everyone this affected.

there were a number of things learned, and i'm not going to talk about most of it here. but, there are a couple of things that i think people who themselves or their friends might be in this situation should know.

to give a little background, i paddled badly and got hurt, however, i had hoped to exit the canyon with the help of the group i was paddling with, had climbed part way up, and ropes were set to the top. at some point someone called 911 despite the fact we had asked people not to. once they were en route we decided to wait in anticipation of having proper ropes. in the end i think it probably would have been equally or more safe, and certainly quicker by several hours, to exit the way were planning. after waiting several hours on the ledge i was ready to descend, reenter the water and move downstream to where you can climb out. if rescue people get involved, even if you don't ask them to, they will essentially take over and treat you like you are in their custody.

but the main point of this post is that i'd like to warn people about some of the forms that were put in front of me when i was declining the abulance ride. i had hoped to be able to attach them, however, i have not received them yet, so let me explain...apparently under CO law, one can refuse an abulance ride but only after signing a waiver (i am not a lawyer in CO, so this was simply represented to me). i was given what was represented to be an acknowledgement of a privacy policy. however, what it said was quite different. it was a number of pages long and was acknowledging all types of liability, guilt, and debt, and waiving all liability on the rescuer's behalf. some of this might have been valid, particularly if i or my group had requested assistance - and some of it was totally inappropriate. the form was at any rate not what it was represented to be. i declined to sign it, at which point the real waiver of about 1 page long was produced and i signed it.

at the hospital i was again presented with a privacy policy and what was represented to be an acknowledgement and authorization. it contained, among other clauses, verbiage agreeing to a charge at the highest interest allowed by law (30% 40%?) as soon as 90 days from the non-payment of any bill elapsed. i struck these clauses, and signed it.

when you're hurt, and people who appear to be playing helping roles are putting forms in front of you, you might want to remain a little skeptical, and realize that you don't actually have to sign everything.

ACC, thanks for the well-wishes. i ran the bottom drop of t-can on the right backward - bad form! the boat is out. there was a boat in the entrance cave when we came by, and i understand that there were maybe a half-dozen swims at entrance in the days prior. i am still missing a black carbon werner with black mamba pogies.

the gauge still appears to be reading low. looks like it reads electronically at the trough, and is probably still reading a little lower than it did before the gauge was re-calibrated a few years back.
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Old 06-01-2009   #6
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Hey DBS - I'm glad you are ok. Thanks for sharing lessons learned, that's especially important to know about the medical treatment forms.

I have already RE-learned several creeking lessons myself this year, including the trust your gut one...

Heal quick!!
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Old 06-02-2009   #7
Durango, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Having been there for the majority of the ordeal, I'll offer my objective observations as well as short, subjective comments.
Objective observations: My party of 3 came across a party of 4 right above Pick Up Sticks, requesting our assistance for a paddler with a possible broken leg. The paddler was out of the water, with a Sam splint in place (initial first aid was given by Josh ? (used to work @Durango Joes, and ? Jesse?, both Durango paddlers) These two Durango locals initially helped out the party of 2. My party of 3 were all locals whom have paddled Vallecito numerous times, and one of whom is staff in the Emergency Department of Mercy Medical Center and on La Plata County Search and Rescue. Another is an EMS provider/firefighter in La Plata County, and trains with a technical resuce agency in the county. The 3rd member is a professor, and basically has Vallecito as his backyard run, and knows the creek as well as anyone.
When the paddler was found, he was hypothermic; his lips were a little blue and he was shivering. We advised him that the best, safest method of getting him out was the search and rescue team. He declined on the basis of money cost, even though agrevation of his injuries was very probable. My party agreed to help, despite the outlook of a difficult, dangerous, and lengthy (at BEST) extraction from the gorge. A couple of ropes were already in place, and utilized with the addition of another belay rope to effect a prussik ascension out of the gorge. Conditions were wet, muddy, slippery, with loose rock. It was raining on and off.
The paddler ascended about 15-20 feet, and was then very fatigued. Attempts to make a 3 to 1 hauling system proved inefective because tying together throw bags was not practical, sharp edges, thin ropes, etc.
At this point, 4 of us (all locals whom hava paddled Vallecito many times) decided to call an all stop to the operations and get search and rescue involved. While this was going on, someone relayed a message to Matt Wilson and party to call search and rescue.
Search and rescue personell arrived on scene and safely extracted the paddler out of the gorge ( about 60 feet of steep, wet and loose rock), about a 1/4 mile to the trail, and about 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead, where his partner took him to the hospital.
Subjective thoughts: The five paddlers who assisted, felt extraction from the gorge was possible, but would have placed us all at risk. It would have been difficult and dangerous at best. Making his injuries worse was very possible and certainly probable. Utilizing local resources trained and equiped for this very scenario was thought to be the very best, safest method. After all, everyone's safety is FIRST PRIORITY.
Don, I wish you a speedy recovery, and I hope that this incident hasn't left a bitter taste about Vallecito and the local rescue agencies. I admire your warrior attitude of wanting to get out on minimum resources, but please understand that your safety, as well as rescue personnel, were the main concerns. It's too bad that legal forms had to be dealt with, but in a day and age of lawsuits over people helping other people, it's a nesescary evil.
To everyone else, a backcountry hiking card, wildlife habitat stamp, fishing licencse, hunting liscense, etc can be purchased for a minimum fee (as low as 3 $ per year) to the effect of not paying a search and rescue fee should the need arise.
Also, we owe it to our friends whom we paddle with to have at least basic medical and CPR training, as well as carrying basic rope resuce gear/pin kit. Have fun, be safe, and "trust your gut feelings".
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Old 06-02-2009   #8
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,907
DES makes some valid points. Glad that your accident had a (relatively) happy ending.

This is a good reminder for everyone to buy a Colorado Outdoor Search and Rescue card. $3 is a bargain. As DES mentioned, if you have a hunting or fishing license, you're covered.

Colorado Search and Rescue Fund Card Purchase
You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you. - Heraclitus of Ephesus
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Old 06-02-2009   #9
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Glad your ok Don. Heal up fast!

Vallecito has really been dishing it out this year. Be safe in there!
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Old 06-02-2009   #10
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 10
guess i have yet to learn another lesson...

or i wouldn't have clicked that submit button yesterday.

there are a number of facts you got wrong and there were a number of things you apparently did not see, but i prefer not to discuss them here, so, DES and Durango Steve, you have a PM.

i appreciate you guys stopping when you came by, and at least entertaining my friend's request to help. but, i will just simply say that once someone calls search and rescue it forcloses all other options, and as i said at the time, subjects the person rescued to other risks...beyond being an involuntary participant in a photo op for the SAR's new pimp litter. i would have preferred that you had discussed this decision with me before acting on it as it subjected me to substantial risk without my consent. if you did not want to participate i would have completely understood. deciding for me and the others that i would be extracted is another thing.

oh, and i'm definitely going to get a fishing license next time, and by next time i do not mean that i'll be back in vallecito. adam's death in the canyon permanently changed my perception of the place. i think i've had enough of it.

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