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Old 07-05-2005   #11
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 498
Rating rivers the age old question's. These are just my opinion not a rule or gospel by any means The upper A is harder than the numbers. But it is a lodgical next step when one has mastered the numbers. Notice I did not say ran the Numbers. I also think it's easier than Gore. I think one thing that is not taken into acount is the first time you run a river even if it is in your ability range you should give it a little more attention than you give the IV or V you run all the time. Over confidence in a new setting is IMO the result of to many on river accidents. sj

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Old 07-05-2005   #12
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Saftey Issues with Rafts

As part of Nicole's group on the Upper A, descending just prior to the group with the fatality, I wanted to share my experience and thoughts on how rafting safety can be improved (especially for small groups).

We were a group with 5 very skilled class V to V+ kayakers. About 6 or more of the rafters were proficient in whitewater and quite experienced. We did however have 2 swimmers out of kayaks (one just a fluke and one in a room of doom sort of eddy on river left at the bottom of no name). The other rafters, maybe about 8 or 9, were all novice and some very flu flu girls(pardon the term). Watching over these folks was a tough chore and they were very wide eyed.

What I did not like about running safety was the long swim factor. When knocked out of the raft, these newbe swimmers were doing all they could to breath. They only fell out in No Name, Garfields, and Broken Bridge.

I was set up in the perfect spot to bag swimmers at No Name and Broken Bridge. Each time, when we had a raft flip or partially dump, I did bag 1 swimmer with a bag (2 different occasions). With almost 6 people per raft we would have needed 6 people with bags at the base of each rapid. We had at least 3 and a kayaker in the water. So we actually had people dragging tired swimmers out of the water by wading. They had no energy after a long swim to get to shore or stand up. That is how tiring the swim was! Our rafters had farmer John wetsuits on and wore fleece and splash jackets, booties and helmets. We were prepared and the danger of missing a swimmer was real.

What this indicates is the need to place more empasis on getting people out before they get hypothermic or panic.

1. Kayakers in the water can tow people to shore if the swimmer has strength to hold on to a grab loop.

2. Rafters need to bag swimmers from the raft and pull them in as soon as possible if not everyone has fallen out. (using a paddle works if they are close or muscling the raft to where the swimmer is located)

3. Swimmers need to swim as agressivley as possible (directed to shore or back to the raft).

4. Saftey with throwbags is mandatory. If you have a tiny group and want to run a rapid like this you are putting it out there, if you are in a raft period. Wait until a larger group comes through and coordinate.

5. Space yourselves with plenty of time to set up, repack bags, get everyone to shore and be ready for round 2 before the next raft launches.

I wish they had come through 2 hours earlier while we were there. It is an amazing section of river and people should enjoy it. Just be careful and use the right precautions and get the proper gear!

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Old 07-05-2005   #13
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 16
I too was part of the group just ahead of ill fated party on the Animas, collecting water bottles, propane canisters, and watching as a woman's sandle came floating by. I was one of the kayakers that swam. I have had two nearly consecutive weekends of swims due to flukes. The first occurred on the Numbers (#4) when my paddle snapped in the middle. On the Animas, I rolled in relatively easy water and as I set up to roll, my leg somehow wiggled out of my thigh brace. Being upside down, I basically started to fall out of my boat. I tried several times to roll and get my leg back in, but had no leverage to complete my roll, especially with a boat loaded down with all of overnight gear. I swam in some really really cold fast moving water. "Swimming" is really a misnomer in cold turbulent fast moving water. I was lucky enough to float into an eddy. Even in a relatively easy section of the Animas it was a difficult swim to shore. I am a good boater, not the Class V+ boaters I was with, but I definately have a bombproof roll as long as everything else is going right. Unexpected things can happen to us all. And I echo NHinze's thoughts on river safety. The import thing is to have enough people to ensure a relative level of safety, but not so many that it becomes unmanagemable, which nearly was the fate of our group. The Animas is definately a solid notch above the Numbers. Imagine Number 4 being 25 miles long, with 3 Pine Creek Rapids thrown in just for kicks, and that in essence, is the Animas. The unforntunate party appeared to be unprepared for what was ahead, but even the most prepared parties can suffer a similar fate. Be careful out there.
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Old 07-05-2005   #14
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 272
i think the emphasis here should be put on the temparature of the water. the Animas stands apart for shear frigitity which IMO should add a full point to the rating. i've paddled the Animas once at higher flows and it was alot like getting slapped in the face by a frozen trout for 6 hours. i've never paddled in Alaska but i imagine they are pretty close in comparison. beautiful, cold and swimming is not an option.

this goes back to (Coran Addison's idea maybe??) changing the rating scale to include such factors as remoteness, water temps, time to rescue, etc. comparing a river as class 4 friendly as the Numbers to something as remote as the Upper A has the potential for tragedy as we've witnessed here.

..anyway. i'm sorry to hear about this and wish the survivor and rescuers peace in this time of termoul. -trev
"I would drag my balls across broken glass just to hear her fart into a walkie talkie" -Jay Drury
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Old 07-05-2005   #15
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
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flame me if you will but we need to learn from this even if it means playing 'armchair quarterback'. they were clearly in over their heads and did not follow basic common sense of boating with others, proper clothing or proper swimming techniques. if someone else will think twice about being stupid because I am harsh then thats all I want. boating deaths are bad for us all.
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Old 07-05-2005   #16
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Englewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
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No flame intended. I think we've all seen with previous accidents how initial reports can vary from the final word in the weeks to come, that's all I was pointing out.

At the time, I was also concerned that I knew the couple involved. Although the guy I know would never put-in on the Animas with his girlfriend in only a paddle jacket, the initial description sounded close enough to worry me.
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Old 07-05-2005   #17
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 498
Mania I realized you would probably take it personaly and I did make an example out of your post. However i wanted to post a general lets get the facts straight post. It is it seems tradition on this board to armchair deaths ad naseum and even mean spiritedly. Much more so than anyother boating board. And your naming of the class III sections of the rivers they said they had ran gave me an oppertunity. You at the time of the post had no Idea what he had ran prior yet you chose the 2 sections that would be the most demeaning to the dead person and the person who's choices ended her life. Why I don't know it did not add fact or help the boating community understand or learn. That was my point.

We are on the same page however on most everything about this I would imagine. if you would like to discuss further with me. Steve
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Old 07-05-2005   #18
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 112
There is nothing wrong with learning from mistakes. The American Alpine Club annually publishes Accidents in North American Mountaineering that analyzes and sometimes second guesses those who made the pages. It's a valuable resource.

With that said I'd be reluctant to base any critique completely from a newspaper article. They are often completely wrong and written by lay people with no expertise whatsoever in the area they write.

IMO if you're not fit, athletic, and strong you probably do not belong on the Animas regardless of your skill level period. b/c as others have mentioned you have to be able to get to shore fast if you fall in. In whitewater swimming, atleticism and strength go along ways towards self preservation - as does the proper equipment. If you're not athletic and strong enough to beat the water when your swimming you'll lose very quickly on a river like that. This is not to say that if you have those qualities that you'll be okay, but it'll certainly lessen the chances of a long deadly swim.

My condolences to the family and friends and lets hope this is the last post of this nature. There's been too many this year.
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Old 07-05-2005   #19
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
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ok ok, if it was pine creek and gore canyon i will eat my words. but two facts that are known is that the deceased was wearing only a paddle jacket with not so much as a fleece or wetsuit (this is first hand from a member of search and rescue who was on scene). next the deceased did not attempt to swim properly and the survivor did not seem to even know that there are other swimming techniques that can save your life besides feet first. also apparently the pfd was not secure as it was found away from the deceased according to search and rescue.

i realize we should get every fact possible but the newspaper is one of the last places you will find facts. my apologies to those who knew the victem and will be upset by us talking about this like they had no idea what they were doing. I am sure they had some experience and might have been okay if they had done maybe one or two things different.

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Old 07-05-2005   #20
Join Date: Aug 2004
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I feel like I am picking on you not my intent. Just that experience is a key point in most accident threads. And we should try to keep things as real as possible as a community. The genral populace dosen't understand us and genrally has no sympathy when things go bad or we have an access issue. Sorry to make you an example. i have no idea who you are and am sure we would get along in person. sj

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