Rafter/kayaker argument--opinions? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-09-2005   #1
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 388
Rafter/kayaker argument--opinions?

My rafting friend chewed me out big time the other day. I think he was out of line but I let him vent. The story is long but interesting in several ways.

My rafting friend has 10+ years experience (3-5 runs a year) and has run lots of challenging rivers--mostly big water.

But, based on two incidents, I noted the following:
1) He thought he was a hot shit rafter yet he couldn't read the water well and avoid rocks or hit the slots well. I've guided paddle rafts and those moves were not super hard.
2) He seemed to think the class III Upper Blue was a challenging run.
3) He wants kayakers to always be very close to the raft--he has no flexibility. I wish him luck getting safety kayakers on his trips.
4) He doesn't seem to understand the difference between an inconvenient situation and an unsafe situation. It seems like he wants kayakers around to wipe his nose if he needs it.
5) He didn't accept that I ditched him in incident #2 below because my first priority was the kayaker in the water, not the people on land.

I think most of this guy's problems are caused by that he was uptight on the river, which I realize is very atypical for an experienced rafter.

Here are the two incidents that ticked him off:

1) On the upper Blue, he was in a 6 person paddle raft with 3 of us kayakers in the same group. At one stretch, us kayakers were 50-100 yards down stream of him when he ran the raft up on a rock. We saw it and waited/watched in an eddy. There was never any danger of his flipping. After 5 minutes of weight shifting and spinning, he was off the rock. He said we were so far away we were useless to help him. He only mentioned this after he got really ticked off by incident #2.

2) The next day, I sheparded his wife, his adult friend, his kids (12-15 years old), and my kid down the class II Lower Eagle. The wife/kids were in 4 duckies. I was the safety kayaker and there was one other kayaker, a 15 year old kid of a third friend. The kid is a class V kayker who decided to go down with only a raft paddle C-1 style to make the run interesting for him. 6 boats total. My friend said he wouldn't run the stretch since we didn't have enough boats (he invited a friend), he didn't want to blow up his raft, and he can't kayak. The run went generally great. The kids/wife had an absolute blast. Lots of hooting and hollering. Kind of fun to show others the fun of the river. Playing with the C-1 paddle was interesting for us kayakers.

We were going to take out at the BLM take-out after Wolcott. CRC II says the takeout is 1/2 mile below Wolcott, after the class III+ Tressle rapid. A little ways before Tressle Rapid, my son (12 years old) flips and bangs his knee real hard on a rock. The kid is normally a trooper, but I can see him struggle to hold back tears because it hurts so much. He starts to avoid the class I waves because they cause his knee to hurt. He asks if he can pull over and be picked up, but we are at a golf course with no road access, so he agrees to tough it out to the Tressle Rapid scout point. We pass Wolcott and finally reach the Tressle Rapid scout point a little more than 1/4 mile past Wolcott. Ok, the take out must be close ahead. But, here it gets interesting.

Everyone hits the eddy for the scout point. My friend is waiting for us. My son says he just wants to get to the car. He's toughed it out and he's hurting so I let him start limping down the abandoned tracks. The 15 year old kid of a friend asks if he should run the rapid to scout and to show them the lines. I'm thinking it would be fun seeing the kid, a hot kayaker, run the rapid while others look. The take out is right below the rapid. So, I tell him sure, but you have to use a real paddle, not the C-1. I grab my throw rope and join the other scouters on the bridge. My son is limping on the other side of the bridge by now. I tell my friend that my son is really hurting and needs to get to the car. He assumes I know the car is 30 yards up-river, but I never look. My son also doesn't see the car.

I take my first look at the rapid. It's longer than I thought--200-300 yards long and I don't see the take-out. It must be right around the trees that I can't see around. I scan the rapid--all of it is no problem if you can do basic maneauvering. The kayker hits an eddy below the Tressle, plays in a wave, and does some eddy hopping down the rapid. The eddies are real small and tricky. Yea, he's a good kayaker, but bad shit can happen in small tricky eddies. I catch up to my son on the other side of the bridge and ask him some questions about the knee that I couldn't ask on the river. Damn, the knee sounds bad and we may have to take him to the emergency room which means we can't do our trip to Dinosaur/Split Mtn the next day. I keep an eye on the kayaker. I'm his safety and he's the kid of my friend, so I'm definitely responsible. My friend on the bridge yells at me and waves to me, but I've got to follow the kayaker and I'm still talking to my son. I'll get back to him when I'm done with these two guys.

We go 200-300 yards at the bottom of the rapid. Damn, there's no takeout or car in sight. How much further can it be? There seems to be a road over the tracks another 200 yards ahead so the take out must be near. The kayaker has my paddle--I don't want to use the C-1 paddle in the rapid. I cut through the bushes and talk to the kayaker. He says there is a real dangerous hole at the bottom of the rapid. The kayker is also bear foot and the overgrowth is real thick. It's very hot and the rail road bed is boiling. I can't have him take out and walk with my son to the car. My son is still limping down the tracks. Damn, I don't like this. I left my friend and the other people on the bridge hanging. I tell the kid to head further down stream until the take out--how much further can it be? I catch up to my son. I'm now about 400 yards from the tressle, which is a 1/4 mile. We go another 100 yards to what I thought was a road over the tracks, but it is just a track sensor. Shit. The kayker has my paddle, got to find him. We finally reach the take-out in about 15 minutes, which is at least 1/2 mile below the rapid. My friend's car is not in sight--it was actually near the bridge. I find the kayaker, grab my paddle, and start to run back up stream. It's hot. I can't see the river for a stretch because it leaves the tracks and there are many trees.

Half way back to the put in, I run into my friend driving to the take-out. This is perhaps 30 minutes after I left him on the bridge. He tells me they didn't scout the whole rapid and that the kids and wife are running the rapid. I tell him about the dangerous hole, throw my paddle in the car, and have him drive me as close as possible to the hole. I hop out with throw rope in hand. It's 50 yards to the hole through thick bushes. All clear at the hole. I wait 5 minutes in case they come. Nothing--they must have past through already. I go back to the road, no car. I run down to the take-out. Good, everyone is there. Damn I'm dehydrated, so I hop in the river quick, grab some water, and apologize for letting the kayaker go. I tell them that my mistake was thinking the take-out would be soon below the rapid.

This is when my friend lets me have it for not being safe with his kids and wife. They were relying on me and I left them hanging. I did leave them hanging for which I apologize, I tell him, but it wasn't a safety issue because they were out of the water on the bridge with him. I tell him the issues I had to deal with. I tell him my #1 priority was being safety for the kayker in the water. He doesn't accept it. I let him vent.

An interesting angle to the story is that several small hiccups/mistakes led to this bad situation:
1) I relied on the accuracy of the take out location in CRC II not realizing how much the inaccuracy would cause problems. I re-read CRC II, and it did say 1/2 mile below Wolcott, not even "about 1/2 mile". It was more like 1.5 miles. But, you can't expect the book to be perfect.
2) I let the kayaker go dowh the rapid, not thinking about what would happen if the take out isn't right after the rapid. This was my biggest mistake.
3) The kayaker had a C-1 paddle, so I had to loan him my paddle for the run.
4) I didn't bring his C-1 paddle when we scouted so we could switch after the rapid.
5) The kayaker didn't have shoes on.
6) My son baddly hurt his knee which effected my priorities. I probably should have ditched him after I saw the kayaker through the rapid.
7) My friend didn't tell me where the car is.

Sorry for the length of this description, but I hope some people find it interesting/useful.

The best thing was that after all this time at the rapid, my son's knee felt better and I didn't have to take him to the emergency room. He just had a bad bruise. We still did our trip to Split Mtn the next day and it was spectacular.

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Old 07-09-2005   #2
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 86

you really were lost, the Blue doesn't go anywhere near Wolcott!

I wouldn't take that guys family down a river again, without at least getting paid, that's for sure.
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Old 07-09-2005   #3
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 388
Opps, I meant lower Eagle for run #2. I'll change it.

I'm happy to take his family again--they are great. But, I'd rather not have him around.
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Old 07-10-2005   #4
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Your asking our opinion to a question you already know the answer to. Find another friend.
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Old 07-10-2005   #5
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 305
Sounds to me like some errors in judgement calls and some good judgement calls were made, and bad beta effected both, But isn't that life?

Sounds like your friend "Could of done it better" in his opinion, and we all know that an opnion is worth what we pay for it...

As far as the "Running Saftey" part was he paying you?
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Old 07-10-2005   #6
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 191
If your friend was so worried about his family's safety he should have grabbed his bag and pfd since he was being your shuttle bunny. He shouldn't have let his family even launch if you had been gone a half hour it was likely you had a problem and he should have gotten his ass down to you.
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Old 07-10-2005   #7
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 8
Regardless of whether or not your friend is a little too demanding (which he is), I think the moral of the story is to make sure that inexperienced paddlers understand to sit tight in an eddy (or on shore) until you come back to get them. This can only be accomplished by explicitly telling them to "stay here until I return".
There is nothing worse than seeing beginners paddling down a harder section of river while you are hiking back up to guide them down.

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Old 07-10-2005   #8
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,829
It sounds like its not a kayaker - rafter issue you've got here but one of communication, expectations, river knowledge and attitudes. As a rafter, I want safety kayakers to be hanging out in the first eddy below major rapids, not real close to the boat - that just makes things more dangerous if everyone's in a cluster.

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 07-10-2005   #9
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 989
You need to exercise your middle finger more, bro. Maybe even keep your pimp hand strong.
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 07-11-2005   #10
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 60
Your friend has less experience than a 1st year commercial guide.
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