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Discussion Starter #1
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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Discussion Starter #4
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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #8
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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Discussion Starter #9
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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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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Discussion Starter #11
Jaime D. to me you sound overly insulting. But, hey, I don't know you, you don't know me. I don't want to jump to conclusions.

Outside help had the advantage of google maps in front of them, outside help could contact the sheriff and inform them of the situation before the ranch called to potentially have us arrested, outside help was the people who would be worried if we didn't come back on time, and might have activated emergency services unnecessarily. The SPOT made it so that outside help could know exactly where we were relative to the other things they could see on the maps in front of them.

No doubt it was shit show.
 

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overly insulting
Does that imply that some level of insulting is acceptable? We are having a conversation on the internet about the proper course of action in the situation. You'll claim that I wasn't there, don't know the specifics and am a meany.

I'll say that given the fact the weather was nice, the river is friendly and you seem to have had the resources you needed with you, should could have attempted self rescue and been on your way in about 5 minutes.

I'm a resident of Grand County. The relationship between our Sheriff's Office (who operates SAR), private land owners, our citizens, the BLM/FS etc. and tourists who visit to raft, hike, hunt etc. is pretty fuckin' tenuous.

The newspaper and the GCSAR logs are filled with examples of those recreating in the "wilderness", get into a spot of hot water and cry for mommy to be bailed out.

We're all one stereotype or another. I'm a grizzled douche from the mountains who wishes people could fend for themselves a little better and have a thicker skin? What are you?

Ask yourself, what would you have done if the fisherman didn't come, the ranch hands were not around and you had not cell signal?


p.s. It was 87 degrees in K-town yesterday and people going hypothermic don't usually drink icy cold beer from good Samaritan fisherman.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Jamie D. I know you are from Grand county, and your description of yourself proceeds you based on discussions with others.

Believe me when I say we evaluated all of our options. We had other possibilities, and went with what we thought was the safest for everyone. Part of that evaluation was maintaining communication so that SAR would not be engaged and the sheriff would not be coming out on a bullshit call. We also called to let the sheriff know everything was free and clear. Had the raft not come free, we would have ended up back at the dam in short order to deal with the situation in a safer manner than we were able to at that particular moment.

Everybody I know would have a beer when they are relatively dry onshore and there boat was just freed preventing further cold swimming.

Clearly you are in the "don't use any readily available outside help" camp. I'll take that as your opinion, and refrain from further engagement with you at this time.

Still interested in constructive criticism and opinions from others.
 

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I'll give another semi-related two cents....
Yesterday we did Pumphouse... it was our first time kayaking it and only our second time on this section in general, and we had two people who were total newbies (one that had been kayaking maybe 5 times, and one that had kayaked once). Despite this being an "easy" run the guy who had just slightly more experience kayaking swam twice in the same 10 or 15 minutes right after Eye of the Needle. While the guy who had only boated once felt super comfortable and confident and had no issues or swims, not a worry in the sky, the guy who had the two swims was completely exhausted, scared, cold and wanted nothing more than to be out of the canyon. In fact, his exact words were "I just want to be done with this." If outside help would have been handy or even a raft with some extra room, we probably would have taken it, but as it was we made him paddle out. Hopefully he will get back in the boat and try again. In retrospect, I think we should have only taken one beginner down and should have made him wear dry gear (we have mountains worth). Just another example of underestimation.
 

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I'm not out for a fight. We just disagree about some stuff, that's life. You've clarified some facts that help me out. Thanks for that and specially thanks for not getting SAR involved. I'm pretty sure you are saying, "if needed, we'd have had it undercontrol. other people were there so we took there help". Thats cool.

The pictures truly are awesome. Is that the offending drop in the background? Glad it worked out. Serious. Hugs and kisses.
 

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The newspaper and the GCSAR logs are filled with examples of those recreating in the "wilderness", get into a spot of hot water and cry for mommy to be bailed out.

We're all one stereotype or another. I'm a grizzled douche from the mountains who wishes people could fend for themselves a little better and have a thicker skin? What are you?
Well in a lot of countries, if you need to be rescued you are responsible for the cost of that rescue. In the good ol' USA, the fellow tax payers pick up that tab. Take that however you want but its the way it is.

In fact, his exact words were "I just want to be done with this."

Hopefully he will get back in the boat and try again.
Doesn't sound likely lol
 

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Ran the exact same stretch yesterday, no hypothermia, only mild sun burn and one hook to the face - "just a flesh wound".

We saw you at the dam when picking up the shuttle vehicle, probably 6 - 6:30. It looked as if you were putting in then?

At any rate, weather you put in at 6 am or 6 pm the fact remains the same - know your limitations. What's clear about this whole tale is that you had little or no idea what you were getting yourselves into. Those diversion dams can be sticky, but they're a cinch if you know the line. I understand there's a first time for everything, but the lower blue is not something to run blindly. On my first run I politely asked another crew at the put-in if they'd mind me following a little closely. They were glad to help, even stopping a few times to offer pointers on upcoming features. I've since then payed the favor forward several times.

As a warning to other buzzards - you should consider the decision to run the lower blue carefully. The put-in by itself should give pause - you have to slide your boat down a 50 degree pitch and then carry it another 100 feet to the river. Once that's done there's no turning around, there's almost no cell signal anywhere, there's very few houses or places to stop and summon help. If you come un-prepared it's a good chance you'll be the next one posting on Mountain Buzz about their ordeal. Besides, Pumphouse is only another 20 minutes down the road.

And for what it's worth, I had a swimmer on that same irrigation damn on a 40 degree October day - a dry towel, dry clothes and some hot joe from the jetboil got the situation under control in 15 minutes.
 
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