Scary incident on Clear Creek
So I had one of the scariest/sketchyist moments of my life last weekend while on the blackrock section of Clear Creek. What happened was somewhat unexpected, so I thought I would share it here in hopes others can take something away from this too.
I was with a group of 6 last sunday to run upper cc down through lower CC (portaging the P2P trail bridges). It was a great day until we got to the narrows. Some members of our group had some carnage in there the day before and decided that they wanted to portage to somewhere below mr bill. I decided to join and shoulder my boat too.
For those of you not familiar with this section with CC, it is relatively narrow( hence the name) and deep section of river off the road. There is a very steep slope composed of angular blast rock leading down from the road to the river. To portage, I hiked my boat up from the bridge at the top of the narrows and down this slope right below mr. bill. After hiking down the slope, I was looking for a suitable launch spot. I climbed over some of the larger boulders on the bank and was sitting near the waters edge when the unexpected happened... One of these large boulders started to shift and was coming down right on top of me. Before I could do anything it came down directly on top of my left knee, pinning me there. I started pushing on the rock and yelling to my buddies for help, but because of the size of the rock there was little to nothing that I could do to effect it. It is hard to remember exactly how big the boulder was, but I would estimate it to be about a 0.5-1 cubic meter, which would weigh approximately 3000-6000 lbs… needless to say this thing was huge!
After what seem like 10 minutes (probably more like 10 seconds) the boulder shifted off the top of my leg, and continued to fall, rolling down on my left shin just above my ankle, and then further into the river. I fell into the river with the boulder, but stayed close to shore and was able to pull myself out of the water before the next drop. After having the full weight of the boulder on my knee then rolling over my leg, I immediately was in pretty severe pain and was certain something in there was broken. I couldnt put any weight on the left, but my buddies quickly pulled me up the river bank by my pfd (I was able to help by pushing up the hill with my good leg) and put me in a car to the ER. Miraculously, all X-rays came back negative but there was a fairly severe gash on my leg at the point of impact and I am very bruised and swollen from the knee down.
I consider myself to be extremely lucky that this turned out the way that it did. The weight of the boulder could have easily snapped my leg if landed a little differently, or worse if I was sitting a little to the left it would have come down right on top of me, pinning me under water. I will spend the next few weeks on crutches, but overall not a big deal at all considering what could have happened.
Lesson to be learned here it is to be very aware of potentially unstable rocks and boulders near the water. This is especially true in a place like CC where rock was dumped for slope stabilization and they may still be settling. This may seem obvious now, but dont get between a large potentially unstable rock and the water. Another aggravating factor is that higher water likely had moved or loosened material that was supporting this large boulder increasing the likelihood that it would move or shift once the water drops, so having extra awareness after a big flow event could be very important.
I know I have always taken for granted that the larger rocks and boulders are relatively permanant, or are at least not going to move while I am there during a normal low water day. In hindsight, it was not very smart to be walking around on this slope, but I always assumed the weight of a person is so small and neglible compared to that of a large boulder there is little chance we could cause one to move. Obviously, this was not the best assumption at least in this case!
Be careful out there!