Poor form? or Just the way things are? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-14-2010   #1
SummitSurfer's Avatar
Summit County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
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Poor form? or Just the way things are?

So I have to ask, because I really don't know. I've been down Browns a handful of times and feel comfortable with the lines. Yesterday, was running Browns in my raft for the first time with me at the helm. As I entered Pin Ball, I noted 4 commercial boats approx. 200 yards away approaching. I feel like I'm pretty considerate of those around me so I decided I would be through the rapid and out of their way by the time they entered. I know the commercial guides are out there trying to make a living and I'm just takin it easy on a day off from work trip, so I don't mind letting them by with a peacful "hello".
I entered Pin Ball and was feeling pretty good with my technical skills at the oars when I feel a huge bump to the back of my boat, followed by "sorry man......everyone back stroke"...Surprised they had come up on me so quickly and closed the distance. Those of you that have run Pin Ball know that at 648 cfs there is but one line. This didn't bother me to much, I actually felt kinda bad for being in their way, but there was no place for me to eddy out or go. So, I tried to speed things up....this didn't work so well. Then a female guide and her clients came at us stating to her client "Raming speed people"...hit my boat, sent us into a binding rock and yelled for me to pull my oars up so her client and her could get by and not to hurt them with my oars. I looked at her and said, you literally have me against the wall and I can't take my oars up. 4 more boats come into the tangle and they are having a blast bumping boats and stuff but are now yelling in aggravation at me to pull my oars in or up or get them out the water. This angered me so I carefully came back into the main flow or "line" and stuck my oar into their bow and said respectfully "guys, give me a second and I'll get out of your way and let you by at the next opportunity". I did and they went on their way. The rest of the day, I tried hard to yeild to this company and their clients but we played leap frog several times and it seemed like every other rapid or so either because they stopped for lunch, snack or jump rock.......I couldn't get away from them.
1. When I'm on the river, I'm out there for a peacful time with a few beers and friends, so I typically will yeild to other boaters such as ones with kids or paying clients. So, I don't mind yeilding.
2. I'm curious, is this typical of commercial trips and river courtesy? or is it just a fact of life.
3. Call me crazy, but if I was a guide with clients and came up on a large raft with big oars slinging around I would back off for the safety of my clients until I could pass safely around the oars in a FLAT section of the river.
Truth of the matter is, I'm not sure if this situation was unusual behavior or if its the way things are.
Not mad...just curious.

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Old 07-14-2010   #2
pocatello, Idaho
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Poor form on their part. I would not have been so polite. In my experience the firts person in the rapid has right of way. If you want to pass you should ask politely and make it happen where it is convenient for everyone. If you have time to stop and jump/swim/eat you aren't rushed enough to pass in a rapid.
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Old 07-14-2010   #3
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Summit County, Colorado
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Yea....thats what I was kinda thinkin too.
Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 07-14-2010   #4
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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Yup, poor form and dangerous as well

That kind of stuff happens on lots of high-use rivers and seemingly on Brown's in particular. There are the minority of guides out there that think they're God's gift to the riparian world and who can be really rude and make the whole bunch look bad. I think the majority are more considerate, professional, and mellow. I was getting a great surf at Canyon Doors in my oar rig one day and had a commercial paddle raft run right up on top of me at speed. Other times I've had guides be very cooperative and pass or be passed when the need arose, though I'm usually the one letting them by. Its just like anywhere, most folks in the group are fine, a few make them all look bad.

I'll take you at your word about the incident. Calling for ramming speed in the middle of a rapid with another boater that's not part of their group was rude & brought on an extra and easily avoidable element of risk to you and their clients due to the possibility of a pin or you smacking someone in the face with your oar. Its always seemed to me that you're supposed to give other boaters about 50' separation or more in a rapid, not try to run them over and play bumper boats in a confined space. Yeah, it was only 650cfs but people drown in less. I suggest you consider reporting the incident to the raft company's management, with the date and time of the trip, a description of the problem guide(s), and any other info you can give them to identify who was being inconsiderate and dangerous.

If you have time to stop and jump/swim/eat you aren't rushed enough to pass in a rapid.
definitely true. just because the water's down and they're getting bored is no excuse for that kind of guiding.

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 07-15-2010   #5
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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At least you were in a raft, I have literally been run down by commercial rubber in my kayak...I have seen rafts go right over the top of an upside down boater...unfortunately I think it's just the nature of the beast when your talking about high traffic times in Browns. I have come to the decision that I will only float it at high water, and/or late afternoon.

As Andy said, "I think the majority are more considerate, professional, and mellow."
- but when you get that many people boating the same stretch every day, someone is bound to be an asshole.
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Old 07-15-2010   #6
dtown, Colorado
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I agree with Andy on that not all are that inconsiderate, but there are such a large number of boats and guides out there that there are bound to be some rude ones.

Having used to guide on the Ark, specifically Browns, I know some companies and their guides have no consideration for any other boaters, be they private rafters, kayakers, or boats from another company. If they want to get down, they will pass you no matter what.

Shame you had to experience that group of boaters, hope your next trip is carefree
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Old 07-15-2010   #7
Thronton, Colorado
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I agree with the others, I think you probably ran across the 20% group of the 80-20 rule. I spent a good amount of my rafting time this year on Brown's, and never had that kind of experience, and I came across quite a few commercials in the trips I had this summer. In all cases, they were quite the opposite. They usually backed off if I was going into a rapid ahead of them, sped up if they were going first, or doing whatever was necessary to maintain some sort of spacing. There were also times when some realized I was a private boater and on my own (just one boat with some friends - not by myself) and they not only made sure we all had space, but they also made sure I was OK after getting through something.

I think the majority of the experienced guides and the more reputable companies have been around enough to be sensible. You may have come across some rookies that were trying to learn how to entertain their customers at lower levels when the splash factor isn't as high. I agree that you should report it to the company. They'll either educate those guides or they won't be baxt next year would be my guess.
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Old 07-15-2010   #8
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Durango, Colorado
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Unfortunately, common courtesy has become less common.
You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you. - Heraclitus of Ephesus
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Old 07-15-2010   #9
surrounded by mountains, Colorado
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Granted, during the peak summer season, Brown's is a commercial rafting highway and private boaters are best to let traffic pass. Essentially, the commercial companies are in a rush to get their morning trips from A to B and then return with a fresh second trip of paying customers. On the busy days it is a continous traffic jam during specific hours and is not particularly condusive to the casual private boater being able to enjoy the beauty and pleaure of the canyon as much. Therefore, it is wise to pick your days and launch times to avoid those crowded times.

That said, though, doesn't it bring to question what discourteous guides are effectively teaching the guests to our valley, ... "That it is acceptable and rewarding to be jerks in the wilderness"?

Instead, shouldn't industry representatives be educating their guests about respect of other users (rafters, kayakers, fisherman, landowners), safe river navigation, and preservation and respectful enjoyment of the prestine environment? It is still fun while achieving it in a respectful pursuit, isn't it?

It seems there is a often not enough education to guest occuring and it tends toward a herding of naive meat through with some disregard for life and nature. With that in mind, employers should probably be informed of any guides behaving disrespectfully, and private boaters may want to enjoy Brown's at hours of less congestion.
No risk, no reward. It is not that we have to, it is that we get to. Preparation and education are essential to self-confidence and success. - KV
"If there is no risk there is no adventure."- Bill Briggs
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Old 07-15-2010   #10
Cisco, Utah
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Commercial rafts (all boaters for that matter) are just another natural river hazard to be considered when picking your line. They are just more dynamic than rocks.

Curious what company it was.
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