Ark strainer story - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-08-2011   #1
lmyers's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
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Ark strainer story

I was paddling high water Fractions a couple days ago with a crew of 3 other paddlers when we ran into a "situation" at Little Seidels...

I was below the drop already and watched paddler #1 drop in, he hit the meat of the hole and missed his brace, flipping. He proceeded to float into the next large hole upside down, missing 2 roll attempts. At this point I "T-ed up" for a T-rescue, but just then we pushed up onto a large pillow rock and paddler #1 had to wet exit.

Almost immediately upon exiting his boat he was flushed into a tree strainer. The tree was in the middle of the river, pinned on rocks, and had many projecting "pungee sticks". Paddler #1 hit the strainer and was pinned, just able to keep his head above water.

At this point paddler #2 caught the eddy directly behind the strainer and paddler #3 eddied out on the right and got out and provided rope safety from that side.

When I saw that paddler #1 was pinned, but had his head above water, and that the other 2 paddlers were beginning a rescue, I decided to quickly chase down his boat. It took me about 5 minutes and I got it out about 100 yards downstream. At this point I grabbed my rope and ran back up on the left bank.

When I got there paddler #1 was cutting his skirt free from the tree. When he did he was able to pop loose, exhausted. Paddler #2 was there to tow him to shore.

He lost his booties, paddle and skirt in the ordeal...and cut the shit out of his finger, but was otherwise ok.

I am looking for any opinions on what was done right or wrong in this situation...and especially if I did the wrong thing by retrieving his boat knowing there were 2 other strong paddlers with him still.

Thanks for any and all responses.

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Old 06-08-2011   #2
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 511
First off, super glad all made it out and way to be on top of it everybody.

Wood is no good, and there is a ton of it on that section, i have personally pulled a random kayaker out of a strainer from my raft in that section before.

As to your question of going after gear during a rescue, I would not have gone after the gear and backed up the rescue.

Not being there it is hard to say where I would have placed myself but a few suggestions would be.

Eddy out behind the strainer with the other guy and help free your buddy, strainers suck and are unpredictable. I have seen people stuck on them and suddenly flush under them where we have been able to grab them immediately down stream, or they remain pinned and it takes a ton of strength to pull them up and over.

Or if you see he is getting unpinned provide additional safety downstream to either the recuee or the rescuer if either of them would have fallen in.

The other thing to think about is what if his head went under but did not flush, then you need to get to him most likely via tethered swimmer. This is a technical maneuver that requires multiple people and needs to happen quickly has breathing water is hard.

Bottom line you are out of the scenario chasing gear, during a potentially life threatening situation.

Again, I was not there and it might not have been that dire of a situation, and everything did work out.
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Old 06-08-2011   #3
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Denver, Colorado
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I'd say fuck the boat. If the victim's caught in a strainer to the point where they had to cut themselves free, that's a big deal and they deserve your full attention.

Of course, that's a judgement call and the way things played out, your approach worked better than mine would have, because you didn't have to follow up the rescue with a boat chase. Still, unless the victim is telling me "I'm fine, get my boat", I'm staying with the victim until they're out of danger. Just my $0.02.
I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied...learn to swim!
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Old 06-08-2011   #4
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Lakewood, Colorado
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With the exception of a rope, gear is last on the list to get. Given the situation it may have been that the rescue was going to proceed just fine but it's always good to stick around. If there were more paddlers then sending one for gear becomes a more resonable option. With four total, if they needed a runner for help you'd have been the most likely. Stick with the people first. A rope, however, has a high probability of becoming a downstream safety hazard, and given the situation might be important to fetch though not at the expense of saving a life right now. The situation will dictate but err on the side of the paddler.

That you are asking for feedback shows good character. I can't say I'd have done any better or any worse.
On the river, I can abandon who I am and what I've done. However brief it lasts, while on the river I am nothing important and everything insignificant. I am flotsam, and happy to be so.
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Old 06-08-2011   #5
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Greater tri cities metro area, Colorado
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I did the same a couple years ago on gore, (went for the boat because I thought that Duke from AVA had my buddy taken care of) and my buddy nearly died. Every situation is different & decisions need to be made so fast, but I can say that in the future I will be focused on the person... screw the gear.
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Old 06-08-2011   #6
dillon, Colorado
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I would have stayed for the rescue and let someone downriver or a rock/eddy get the boat. Had it ended differently, ie if your friend had drowned, how would you feel?
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Old 06-08-2011   #7
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Summit County, and Idaho
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Logan, you're a great boater to have around and you take safety pretty seriously. You never know what you will do until you are faced with a split second decision. Dont beat yourself up for what could have been or what you should have done.
Good job for helping out, and being there.
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Old 06-08-2011   #8
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Thanks for the input everyone. That is pretty much what I figured...I should have stayed put instead of pulling out his boat. I felt bad about it afterwards and was glad it turned out alright. Guess I just created a thread to get confirmation from the boating community and so others will read it and think twice when faced with the same scenario.
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Old 06-08-2011   #9
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
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Everyone learns from every event shared. Thanks, this discussion gave alot of us pause. WE now have time to work it out in our heads, what would we do and why something you didn't have the luxury of during the event. I agree don't beat yourself up. You may have just saved someone's life by starting this chat topic. I give you a BIG thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-08-2011   #10
North Bend, Washington
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2009
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Always set up an upstream AND downstream safety if you've got the poeple to do it. Upstream lets anyone approaching know about the danger and situation so they can eddy out in time if need be.
More importantly, is the downstream safety. Let's say the guy goes under the strainer or one of the rescuers falls in below the strainer- who's going after them if there's no downstream safety?

Glad things turned out ok this time and the guy got out with both his life and his gear.
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