Getting too spread out -- keeping a group together - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-12-2006   #1
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
Getting too spread out -- keeping a group together

On Sunday, the group that I was in had a swimmer that we almost didn't notice. The person was at the tail end got a little too far behind. When I turned around at one point, all I saw was a boat without a boater. I alerted the rest of the group (who were all downstream), and eddied out and was getting out of my boat about to run back up stream to see what the situation was. I saw the swimmer upstream in the water, changed my plan to set up a throw rope, when he was able to get into an eddy and up on shore.

He indicated that he took a good pounding in a hole.

The person who is sweeping should try to keep up with the group (it's easy to get behind if one is playing). The rest of the group should make sure that they are not moving so fast as to leave people behind, and the lead in the group should make sure that they are not racing down the river and get too far ahead of everyone else.

And remember that nasty things can happen in even the easier parts of the trip.

Fortunately everything worked out fine (other then being a little rattled), but it might have been worse (pinned boat, entrapment, etc.)

So -- just be aware of where people are.

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Old 06-12-2006   #2
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,303
My 2 cents.

Every single person in a group is responsible for looking back at the person behind them over and over and over. It is not the first persons responsibilty to make sure the last person is there, but only that the second to last person knows that the last person is there. (Unless of course your entire group is 2 people).

Likewise group communication is passed this way. I've seen pins result from information not being passed back. The first person signaled to the second, the second to the third, and then somewhere back the message stopped, and the fifth person ended up being stuffed under a tree.

I often hear that large groups can't navigate a river, and people try to limit group size to four. This isn't neccessary. Last season we had a group of eight that succesfully ran the Embudo at 3.7, and none of the paddlers had eddy problems from having too many people. We simply divided up, sometimes into two groups of 4 (working closely together to run the rapids), and other times into four groups of 2. TG of the Range Life said that they had 9 on every river, and were in gorged out first D runs for a week straight. It was never a problem.

The fact that many groups cannot safely navigate a river with a large group is a sign that most paddlers know very little about how a team should function. More often than not, everyone meets and bombs down together, and then wonders why they are always clustered.

At the very least, when a paddler feels that the person in front of them doesn't look back enough, they need to say something to that person then, not to their own friends later. (Thankyou to all of the paddlers that told me that when I was younger)

I also personally signal for people behind me to move closer when I know what is coming up, and know that it will be easy for them to follow me, and for me to keep my speed. They rarely respond though.

When I'm on steep creeks with small eddies, I prefer the leap frog method...another story.
Kyle McCutchen
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Old 06-12-2006   #3
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,107
I agree with Cutch, #1 is that you have to look over your shoulder to keep track of the person behind you. It sucks when you are running sweep and no-one looks back for a looooong time. Always look back, even on easier stuff. I looked back at my buddy this weekend in the middle of a fairly easy rapid that he knew. He was swimming, I saw him get to shore, and I chased the boat. If I would not have looked back IN the rapid, I would not have seen him get to safety, I would have saw an empty boat when I finally eddied out, and I would have been freaked!

Frequent eddies are also common sense. Eddying out above and below major drops (if possible) keeps the group together and keeps up the communication. Pre run discussion is also key. Having a simple discussion about how you want to run is always a good idea. It could be as simple as "we are bombing down, its our second run", or "eddyhop, regroup, scout the big ones etc."

I also think that if you are in the lead and you see boaters getting stretched out behind you, you should make attempts to eddy out and help keep the group together.

The opposite side of the coin sucks too, getting too bunched up and running too close makes things dicey.
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Old 06-12-2006   #4
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
I agree with both posts 100%, it is important for everyone to keep an eye out.

The point is, is that both the sweep and the lead need to be aware of their distance, and ensure that the entire group doesn't thin out. It might mean that the leader has to eddy out before that great play spot and that the sweep can't hang on to that last surf wave .. just a bit longer..

Regroup at the top of a rapid, regroup at the bottom. Even if it's "easier" sections.
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