6.05.2008

5/30

Got another run in on Black Rock. Everything went really smoothly, and I made a new paddling friend. Can't complain much.

5/31

Headed out to the Big Thompson, which had water. Neither Bridger nor I had run it before, but it looked like lots of read and run III+ to IV+; challenging stuff but nothing life threatening. We looked at the Sluff Section, which contained lots of gradient, two ugly drops and one pretty one. I ended up running the pretty one, Cannon Shot, which lead us into what was essentially one big 4 mile rapid. Things went really well; we even handled the surprise IV+ section well, and blew through the whole thing in about an hour. Then we hitched back to the top of the run, where two other groups were putting on, and we let ourselves get talked into a second run. This time around we both fired up Cannon Shot, and headed downstream with the group. When we got to the class IV+ stuff above Drake, one of our members portaged, while I lead the group into the rapid again, eddying out behind a big rock about half way through. I was feeling good, especially since I had a clean run on it last time, and I dropped in. Things went well until the end, when I started feeling tired after a series of boofs and holes.

A hole near the bottom of the rapid tried to flip me, and I half-assed my brace and was flipped. I floated into a hole upside down, which surfed me for a bit before it let me go and I could roll up. As I was rolling up I saw a 3 ft wide slot that I was headed toward, and I tried to put in one more paddle stroke to straighten out, but it was too late. My bow caught on one rock and the force of the current jammed my stern against the other and pinned me solidly. I could reach the bottom of the river with my vertical paddle, which I leaned on, and assessed my situation. Water was pouring over my boat and my body, covering me to mid-chest. I could breathe, and I was stable. Things could have been worse. I blew my whistle three times hard, and prepared myself for waiting things out until my buddies could eddy out below me, get out of their boats, and come to help me.

Moments later I felt a tap on my helmet and someone grabbed both straps of my PFD. The boater who portaged the rapid, Frenchie, had heard my whistle and was standing on the rock behind me. "What do you want to do?" he asked. I replied "I'm stable, and I can breathe, and I can reach my sprayskirt. I'll count to three, pull my skirt, and try to step out of the boat. Pull me out." I counted down, pulled, and he extracted me and dropped me into three inches of water next to the rock he was standing on. I didn't even have to take a swim. As I was getting out of my boat, one of the other boaters in our crew got into trouble in the same spot and almost ended up pinning as well; we grabbed the bow of his boat and pulled it over the top of mine so he wouldn't get stuck. That dislodged my boat and we chased it downstream, where a couple of the other boaters eventually pinned it again near shore where I could get to it. All of my gear was still there. I was ok, the boat was ok. Not too shabby.

We ran the rest of the river down to the park and headed home. Aside from the sketchy bit, the Big T has made it onto my list of favorite rivers. Really busy, not too tough but not too easy either.

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