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Old 06-30-2009   #61
hullflyer's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 187
Hey all, lots of discussion on this thread. I can't second guess what went down and there are some damn good boaters who were there so good on everyone cause no one got hurt.
I have my tether on all the time, except when I'm rafting. I almost never use it. I wrap it around the opposite way it was intended so it's super tight up against my PFD. I have come pretty close to clipping in to a boat on the Upper Animas at around 4.5 ft. and someone came behind me and said "I wouldn't do that" which was a good thing since we were still in Ten Mile and it was a ways to the runout.
I still have it on every time I run Vallecito because there are some pools to catch the boats and have some time to regroup so I bring it, but have never used it there. I generally take it off on the Embudo because it's so continuous and little use in clipping because you would just release it around the next corner.

I have pulled a unconscious / non-breathing victim out of No-Name on the Upper A. He was a client and I was safety boating. The guy was probably 220-230 lbs. and no way could I have heaved that dude onto my deck. I did not have a tow line then. Really could have used one. I just grabbed the shoulder of his PFD and swung him from eddy to eddy one handed until I was close enough to shore to bail and drag him onto the rocks. Yeah, he lived. He woke up on the train ride down.

The tether tow systems work great and I used them often on the Futa in Chile. We even used them in tandem, one on the rescued boat and one on the rescuers bow to act as a tug boat. this was a coordinated team effort and only used when asked for and no one ever clipped to anything down there until it was perfectly clear to do so, with room to manuoever to shore. Big water has alot different rescue scenarios than steep fast colorado rivers. I would never clip in Class V! That's setting everyone up for an epic.
I saw a guy swim Entrance in Inferno Canyon and there was nothing to do but coach his swim as he surfaced every 10 meters. He swam 1/2 mile until we thought it safe to pull him in. Dude was super tired, rattled but fine.

Scene safety and don't become a victim. 1st rules in SWR I.

"Let's be careful out there" Sgt. Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues)


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Old 06-30-2009   #62
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
If one of the admins reads this, could we setup a safety forum? I have a bunch of experiences that I could post to it -- assuming I can setup an alias!
We have an access and safety forum, if at some point it seems like the right time, we can move this to that forum for historical purposes. Well its safety alerts. Do we need more than that?

Happy to hear everyone is ok. I have seen an experienced boater attach to my boat and it pinned and he couldnt release. Eventually he got free. Made me feel very guilty that I swam. Test those tethers from time to time! I do it since that incident.

"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 07-01-2009   #63
Horserump, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 458
Strong work

To Marty and crew, first I'm delighted no one got dead. Strong work on the rescues. Second to steal a quote from an old friend "If you're still boat'n you're just between swims". Third equipment is cheap. Fourth, tethers do work.... in the right situations. Those situations are usually in relatively flat water. If you are trying to rescue a swimmer or a boat in the middle of a rapid in a boat chances of success are low and chances of something bad happening to the rescuer is high. When your swimming know when to swim and when to just go with the flow and take a lick'n.
Lastly Thanks for sharing the story it has generated some great discussions and at the very least may get folks to think beyond the next move or next drop.
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Old 07-01-2009   #64
caspermike's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,507
GH be sweet to change the safety alert to general safety. lots of good threads that could be placed in that forum. theathering. rope skills, zdrag set up. shit about not standing up in the river ever. and of coarse the gnar i've learn this story that everbody has. it would be good and a little easier to access the good knowledge without digging back through for 3 hours.
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Old 07-01-2009   #65
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
I would rather see the safety alerts forum/section "left alone" and create a new forum/section for "safety lessons learned".

My reasoning is that I view the safety alerts section as an immediate heads up notice that something is happening. A lost and deployed throw bag in a specific rapid, a new strainer, etc. Having a bunch of discussions out lessons learned will cause the real alerts to be lost in the noise.

I think having a "safety lessons learned" topic would be fine where discussions such as this one can be moved to
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Old 07-02-2009   #66
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4
Thank you

Now that I've had a few days to recoup and think about what happened, and believe me I still have flashes of my experience, which is pretty surreal. I really wanted to thank each of you for your efforts in helping Adrian and myself. Once I knew Adrian was safe and I'm even more thankful for this after hearing about his swim adventure, I remember seeing his boat and not Adrian. I asked my friend who was also in the Eddy where Adrian was and if he was alright, once this was known my mission was on the boat. Frenchy and I stayed on the boat for the rest of the run. we were getting close to end of Middle with some slack water in between the last rapid and the final eddy, and then I remember specifically making the decision in my head not to clip the boat at the time that I did. I know how to use my tether and I know how it works, although I do not thread it in the way the manufacture describes because I believe that creates too much friction. I'm glad I threaded it the way I always have and in the end that might have been one of my saving graces. That was probably the scariest part was swimming above narrows and being attached to a boat, knowing this was almost eminent death in my head. I work hard to get unthreaded, but by the time I looked up the boat was already drifting away, now my next mission was a self rescue....the whole damn way. I made a mistake that I've taught people not to do, I did this to myself and made this choice myself, and have now learned first hand from my own lesson and lessons shared by others. I made a choice and in the middle of it all I excepted that choice, it's a shame because the saddest part of all is that it was just for gear. I would never want anyone to put their life at risk on my behalf, especially for gear. I wish Leif hadn't chosen to go into Lower, I already knew in my head that there was nothing he could do for me. Evan and Scott for being there and being prepared as much as possible. Frenchy and Marty for your experience, chasing my boat, and helping me process afterward. I felt that damn throw rope that Evan hit me with and after reaching for it wildly, which it seems I wasn't, I missed it and then I felt the tension of the rope for a brief second as it passed by my neck. I was already exhausted at that point and rag doll the rest of the run. I knew that throw was my only chance for what I thought might be my survival, so after that doing the rest was going to be up to me. Knowing that you guys were there that fast already on the side with a throw bag is a true testament to your experience level and abilities to rescue. JJ, Adrian, and Dan, I know you missed a lot of what happened, but knowing that you were there was extremely helpful, knowing that some of my friends and regular paddle crew were there boosted my confidence level in my swim. Thanks everyone else for your support during, after, and helping me process what happened.

None of us should put ourselves at risk for gear, and typically not for people, sometimes choices are made.

Thanks for being the crew that you are and next time we'll all be a little better off in our choices for future adventures. I'm thankful that I'm here, and also thankful in a way that the experience was mine. Thanks to the river for teaching us these lessons, afterall the rivers are some of my closest friends.
Cheers my friends and thank you,

Motto "Choices...only you can make them....only you can live with them"
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Old 07-02-2009   #67
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
From a little article I wrote years ago about kids learning how to take risks...
Some of nature's more harsher tests are a pass/fail grade with no chance to take the test again, it's much better being able to take some of the smaller pop quizzes.
Sounds like your adventure was one of the more major tests... glad you passed
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Old 07-02-2009   #68
Spits Hot Fire
N. Cascades, Washington
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 978
Wow, this thread has been some food for thought. I'm glad i'm not the only one who has swam there this year...kidding, I dont wish anyone a swim, 'cept maybe withdrawn1. Once was a pin in the early season, didn't swim but it could have evolved into a worse pin, but Scott was on it and got me a rope fast. The other time I swam, just below green bridge, Adrock and Scott grabbed my shit before going into narrows at about the same flows. Muchas Gracias for that again. The pitoned bow just popped out the other day.

Other times I've been the one pulling boats or boaters out of that spot just before lowers, by either bulldozin or tether. This post raises some good points which will surely factor into future decision making. Glad Adrock and tye and the rest of you guys are ok. Your all solid. I couldn't imagine swimming lowers at that level. The swim below GreenBridge kicked my ass as it was. Way to hang in there!
Your opinion doesn't matter when you're already biased.
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Old 07-05-2009   #69
Bend, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 141
To chase or not to chase

This thread seems to be exhausted but since this might be archived for others to learn from, I thought I'd throw one more in.
Chasing a boating partner down, particularly a close friend, is such a difficult choice in these situations, as so clearly shown by the various reactions in this situation. A number of years ago, a group of four was running the S. Fork of the Salmon at monstrous flows. Above the biggest class V drop (we didn't realize it at the time) we decided to punch through a breaking wave before eddying out to scout. We all misread it and three of four of us cartwheeled for a long time before washing out. One swam out and there was no rescuing him before the big drop. The rest of us were able to pick our way through the drop without scouting but it was pretty scary. I don't think I would (could?) do so today but if we hadn't, my best friend would be dead today. He was barely able to hold onto a boat at the bottom, probably suffered from a concussion, and was puking up water when he got to shore. Tragically, one of those four paddlers died a few years later when she selflessly attempted to rescue another paddler on a class V run she knew well.
So what's the right choice? Every paddler has to make that split second decision in the moment and won't know if they chose wisely until the end. If you play it through in your mind beforehand, learn about (and practice) all the rescue options available, and use logic instead of emotion in the situation, your chances are a lot better.

Vaya Con Rios!

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