Lower Blue - swim team on the third diversion dam - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 08-31-2015   #1
 
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
Lower Blue - swim team on the third diversion dam

Yesterday a group of four of us set out in two paddle boats to run the Lower Blue. Originally, the plan was to run the first section to the kayaker take out. But the group opted for a longer day and the shuttle was set near the Gore put in, before the oxbows. Everything was going great until the third diversion dam. The first paddle boat bumped down the left side. The second paddle boat (a mini-me) went for the center, which was sticky. It was so sticky that both paddlers were immediately ejected on the first stage of the drop. One paddler swam clear of the hole and through the second part of the drop, while the other was sucked back under the boat, then tried to climb back into the boat unsuccessfully, and then also swam clear to the nearest eddy. The paddle boat downstream caught most of the gear that had come free from the mini-me. The mini-me paddlers/swimmers thought the raft was certain to come out of the hole. They watched and waited, standing guard to warn other river users of the hazard and ready to swim for the boat in case it came free. Of course, this was trespassing on Jones ranch.

After more than half an hour of watching the mini-me endo, spin, and surge in the hole the reality of the situation changed. Both swimmers were exhibiting signs of hypothermia, and it was getting late in the day. A paddler from the first boat took over watch and the two swimmers changed into the warm clothing available from the first boat. One cell phone was available on the first boat, and service was available in an open area nearby. Outside help was informed of the situation, and asked to help evaluate the situation. In addition, one of the swimmers had a spot device in her life jacket. The spot device was used to inform the outside help of the exact location without calling out EMS.

One plan had been to haul the other boat back up river and launch with all four paddlers in the boat to knock the mini-me loose. However, with two of the paddlers already compromised, this seemed risky. Consultation with outside help indicated that the nearest public access was 1-2 miles upstream at Spring Creek road bridge. It was decided that the first paddle boat would leave some supplies with the mini-me crew and continue downstream. Outside help would go to the nearest public access upstream and call the BLM and the sheriff, to inform them of the hazard, and indicate that everyone was ok. The mini-me crew was still on watch for river traffic as the first paddle boat left. Shortly after the first paddle boat left a fishing raft came down. The mini-me crew got the fishermen's attention before they entered the diversion structure. After one aborted attempt, the fishing boat squared up and pushed hard, landing right on top the mini-me which was perpendicular to the fishing rig. The entire shit show surged backwards in to the hole, but a good push from the oarsman -whose oars could barely reach the water- got the mess free. One member of the mini-me crew was on shore with a throw bag and used it to help to pull the oar rig, which was high centered on the mini-me, to shore.

Once the boats were separated, the fisherman gave the mini-me crew each a beer. It was decided that since outside help had already been engaged, the mini-me crew would hike the boat upstream to Spring Creek road. Just as the mini-me crew had sorted through their belongings, packed them up, and started walking with the heavy load, a ranch SUV arrived. The mini-me crew explained the situation and apologized profusely for trespassing. It turned out the fishing raft had seen these ranch fishermen and told them about the situation. The ranch guys were there to help. The mini-me crew and all of their crap was taken to the Spring Creek road gate, where outside help arrived shortly afterwards. The mini-me crew arrived at the take out just as the first paddle boat as unloading.

All in all, the mini-me surfed the diversion dam for two hours. The only lost gear was a small cooler. The group struggled to balance personal safety with leaving a hazard in the river. Fortunately, the fishermen came along and risked there own safety to knock the boat free, making our night much shorter. We get by with a little help from our river friends.

Have at it buzzards.

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Old 08-31-2015   #2
 
Louisville, Colorado
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Old 08-31-2015   #3
 
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Longmont, Colorado
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Any pics of the new "feature"? I don't remember the middle diversions being all that big?
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Old 08-31-2015   #4
 
Louisville, Colorado
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I don't think it is a new "feature". But, but none of the four of us had been below the kayaker take-out before. No photo.
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Old 08-31-2015   #5
 
Join Date: May 2004
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I glad everyone was OK. I wasn't there so I'm have a hard time figuring out what the emergency was. Correct me where I'm wrong. 2 people swam, a 9' raft was stuck in a hole, you had warm clothes for the swimmers and another raft. Instead of a cell phone, a spot and "outside help" how about a throw bag, a carabiner and self rescue?

Before you and your crew consider more remote rivers of higher consequence, you may want to consider your protocols when shit really hits the fan. Maybe go throw that mini me in the play wave at Pumphouse and figure it out.

I'm not sure if you are asking for tough love or trying to alert others of a river hazard but having run this section many times, I assure you that the danger level is pretty low.
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Old 08-31-2015   #6
 
summit, Colorado
Join Date: May 2009
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I can't remember exactly which diversion it was, but third sounds right - I was rowing over it a few years ago, and the anchor decided to drop above it just as we went over, and then the rope locked back up, pulling us back into the hole. We didn't know at first it was the anchor - just thought it was my weak rowing skillz, so we couldn't get the anchor line cut in time to get out. We probably surfed sideways for a good twenty minutes, trying all sorts of maneuvers to no avail (while our dog swam in circles in the middle of our "self-bailing" raft), but finally another fishing raft came along. He went around us, got on shore and we threw him a line, but he couldn't pull us out. A ranch hand then came along, we threw him another line, and between the two of them, they were able to pull us out. We lost a whole bunch of stuff that day - sandals, cooler, beers, anchor, etc. But no trespassing ticket, and the ranch hand was super nice. He pulled us to shore and told us we could hang out as long as it took to get our shit back together.
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Old 08-31-2015   #7
 
Steamboat, Colorado
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Wow! Sounds like that could have ended up pretty bad. Glad everyone's ok... I've never been down that far on the Blue, just down to the kayaker take out and was totally unaware that any of the diversions could surf you like that!

Just a question, were any of you wearing dry gear or just regular ol' shorts and what not? It's tricky trying to balance a super hot day with super cold water coming out of the bottom of a deep reservoir, and I think there's often a false sense of security when you're rafting in regards to preparing for carnage, especially on an easier run. Rig to flip and dress to swim.
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Old 08-31-2015   #8
 
Louisville, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie D. View Post
I glad everyone was OK. I wasn't there so I'm have a hard time figuring out what the emergency was. Correct me where I'm wrong. 2 people swam, a 9' raft was stuck in a hole, you had warm clothes for the swimmers and another raft. Instead of a cell phone, a spot and "outside help" how about a throw bag, a carabiner and self rescue?

Before you and your crew consider more remote rivers of higher consequence, you may want to consider your protocols when shit really hits the fan. Maybe go throw that mini me in the play wave at Pumphouse and figure it out.

I'm not sure if you are asking for tough love or trying to alert others of a river hazard but having run this section many times, I assure you that the danger level is pretty low.
Ah yes, just the type of insulting, skill questioning, response I anticipated. Thanks for not disappointing. I take it you never want help, Jaime D., and that you would turn it down in favor of another cold swim after having experienced goose bumps, shivering, blue lips, and increasingly incoherent thought in the preceding moments. I will avoid a tit for tat about river skills and resumes, but constructive criticism is welcome. Maybe even a discussion on the use of readily available resources?

This is really more of an trip/incident report, not a safety concern. Clearly the biggest safety risk was hypothermia as the amount of dry clothing was limited and it was getting late. The two swimmers who had begun showing signs of hypothermia were exhausted (hypothermia will do that to you). Given that we were in an area with outside help readily available, we used it. Houses were visible. We weren't going to die out there. We chose to regroup using the readily available resources.

My constructive criticisms include: we should have addressed the potential for hypothermia immediately, rather than letting it happen. We were also not very well "dressed for a swim". We should have studied the river section that was new to us so that we were more familiar with the hazards and layout.
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Old 08-31-2015   #9
 
Louisville, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soggy_tortillas View Post
Wow! Sounds like that could have ended up pretty bad. Glad everyone's ok... I've never been down that far on the Blue, just down to the kayaker take out and was totally unaware that any of the diversions could surf you like that!

Just a question, were any of you wearing dry gear or just regular ol' shorts and what not? It's tricky trying to balance a super hot day with super cold water coming out of the bottom of a deep reservoir, and I think there's often a false sense of security when you're rafting in regards to preparing for carnage, especially on an easier run. Rig to flip and dress to swim.
Soggy, it was definitely a balancing act on the gear. I had a dry suit, but opted to wear fuzzy rubber bottoms and a long sleeve shirt instead. I did have full coverage river shoes and aqua sox. It was the standing on shore believing the raft was going to pop free at any moment that did me in on the hypothermia front. My co-paddler had some splash gear on, but had taken the jacket off as we passed by the kayaker take out because it was hot. My drysuit was in the dry bag. It didn't do me much good there (and I am really glad we didn't lose the bag).
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Old 08-31-2015   #10
 
Join Date: May 2004
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You don't know me and I don't know you. My post was in response to facts you presented. The only part I'm not clear about is this "Outside help was informed of the situation, and asked to help evaluate the situation. In addition, one of the swimmers had a spot device in her life jacket. The spot device was used to inform the outside help of the exact location without calling out EMS".

Wanna explain that. I don't want to just to conclusions.

To me, you sound overly dramatic. You can't have it both ways. Either you were prepared and there were houses close by and it was no big deal or you had a total shit show on a class 3- section of river and needed help to get outta there safely.

I understand that different people call in assistance at different times. I personally find one of the most rewarding things about kayaking, rafting, backcountry skiing, backpacking etc. is self-reliance. The first option is always self-rescue. Even when not completely necessary, it is cool practice for when it is.
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