sketchy rope experience on clear creek
Did some laps on the narrows today. Good times, good boofs, beautiful day. Last lap we ran 50-100 yrds below mr. bill to get closer to the cars before taking out.
I was eddy hopping in pretty mellow water, and caught an eddy on river left. As I faced upstream in the eddy and started washing out the back, I noticed a rope that was not visible earlier. It was a climbing rope with a few knots in it. It was chocked upsteam between some rocks, and my stern had somehow wedged under it and the rope was over my back deck. I presume that the rope was chocked in the upstream rock, and just on or under the surface and not visible when I hit the eddy.
The current was pushing me downstream as it was a bleeding eddy, and the rope was over my back deck pushing me back upstream. My boat started to tip upstream, and I leaned to counteract, and was trying to paddle to extricate myself. The problem was compounded by the fact that I could not really see the rope on my boat as it was directly behind me, but I could see it upstream in the rocks and next to my boat.
While trying to paddle upstream and out of it, my paddle got tangled under the rope, and my boat was getting tipped upstream again. I lost grip of the paddle while trying to stay upright and suddenly found myself without my paddle, still in the boat and upright and floating free of the rope. There were many rocks downstream, with a relatively narrow slot. After a moment of indecision I pulled my skirt and jumped out of my boat and attempted to get to shore quickly as I didn't want to float sideways into a pin/broach situation with no paddle.
The boat pinned on the rocks, and I got up on the rocks. We got the boat out ok, and I thought the paddle was lost downstream. I went back upstream to cut the annoying rope that had just F'd me. As I got it out of its upstream chock, my paddle floated to the surface. I jumped to try and get my paddle, and dropped the rope on a rock at the rivers edge. I chased the paddle, and got it, but when I went back up to get the rope, it was gone.
I searched around underwater with my hands trying to find the rope, but no luck. So there is a length of climbing rope somewhere below the narrows rapid on the black rock section of clear creek. Its particularly dangerous as it has several knots in it that can chock between rocks. Because it held my boat, it may have been entangled downstream as well. I searched around where I last saw the rope, but did not probe the entire rapid for the rope for a potential downstream entanglement point. In retrospect, I wish now that I would have more thoroughly searched for the rope downstream.
A few things I would have done different in retrospect...
1) I would have chucked the rope on shore or secured it so it could not go back into the river in my haste to save my paddle. At the current levels, I could have found my paddle downstream, but now the location of the rope is unknown, but in the river.
2) I had a second or two of indecision before I decided to pop my skirt and bailed. In retrospect, if I would have made this move immediately, I could have gotten myself and boat to shore before the pinning rocks. My hesitation to bail ended up in a pinned boat. I knew that the river was shallow enough at that point that I could pretty much get out of the boat, and drag my boat to the shore. I guess my reactions are a little rusty from the winter.
One last thought... I was wearing my drysuit, which I wear alot, as I'm usually never hot once I get on the water, and I feel like I never know when I will need it, for myself while swimming or during a rescue. How many times have we all heard "dress for the swim"? Its easy to get complacent on low water or familiar runs that you are comfortable with and that you think your chances of swimming are very low. After spending a good bit of time in the water getting it all sorted out, I was glad I had my drysuit on. My partner had wetsuit pants on, and both of us spent a decent amount of time in the water getting it all sorted out. I often get funny looks putting on a drysuit in warm summer or spring conditions, but this experience solidified my intent to use it often.
In the end, all I lost was a nalgene bottle, and I got a nice dose of river humility, but it could have been worse.
Low water narrows is still fun though...