8.30.2010

Got out to the first annual Bailey Fest the other week. The faucet at Bailey is controlled by Denver Water, and it usually runs irregularly. Ian did the entire boating community a solid and finally got us a scheduled release. We probably had 100 or so boaters on the water, with some good lines, some not so good. I had a lousy line on my first ever run of supermax, pulling a weak ferry, pausing for a moment to figure out what I was going to do, and getting washed into the left side. The stern of my boat managed to sub out under the undercut, but I stayed upright. The rest of the run went a little smoother.
I spectated the gore race this past weekend. I had a good run, with surprisingly good lines. One guy didn't, and had to be evacuated from the canyon. Here's the story from my perspective:

I was spectating the race from river right at Gore rapid. A shredder that was in the race dumped at Gore rapid. One of the paddlers ("Paddler") was rescued on river right by a rope. The other swimmer ("Swimmer") continued downstream, and I could see that he swam through Scissors. A rope or two were tossed his way, and the last I saw him he was near a guy in a green boat ("Savior") above Pyrite. Another spectator had mentioned that safety had been set all through Pyrite, so aside from thinking that it wouldn't be a very fun swim, I didn't think much of it. 5 or 10 minutes later our group (Myself, Ian, and Pete) hopped in our boats and eddy-hopped through Scissors and Pyrite. In the eddy below Pyrite, we heard some whistle blasts and headed downstream.

Maybe 50 yards past the Pyrite pool, we saw Savior trying to pull Swimmer onto shore. We jumped out of our boats. Swimmer had his head and shoulders out of the water, but Savior couldn't get him completely onto shore by himself. We weren't sure if Swimmer had a head or neck injury, but we knew we had to get him out of the water, since he was wearing only a short sleeved polypro and swim trunks. We tried to stabilize his head and neck, and we pulled him out of the water.

Savior said that Swimmer came all the way through Pyrite, and was conscious when he was in the pool, but beat up. He grabbed Savior's boat, but then let go and semi-lost consciousness. No other boaters or shore safety was in the area. Savior managed to get Swimmer to shore, though I'm not sure how.

Swimmer was breathing, and semi-coherant. We flagged down a raft that was on its way through, and a few more kayakers. Someone managed to flag down one of the BNSF trucks that was up on the tracks, and told them to get the EMTs from Gore rapid. Meanwhile, Swimmer knew where he was, who he was, and who the president was, but it was taking all he had to answer our questions. I had an emergency blanket in my 1st aid kit; we got that around him, and eventually got his vest and wet polypro off, and replaced them with dry clothes from one of the rafts. Swimmer reported no head injury and no distracting injuries.

Maybe another 10 minutes later, the shore safety members from Gore arrived. We filled them in on what was going on. They took over, went through a series of questions, and confirmed that there wasn't a head/spine injury, which was good, since nobody could track down a backboard.

More people arrived; we probably had 30 or so at this point. Another raft guide (Guide) confirmed no c-spine injuries, and marshaled everyone together to build a litter out of oars, paddles, and cam straps. We got Swimmer onto the litter, and then slowly passed the litter up the scree slope, with a rope attached at the top. When the litter had passed each person, they reset at the top of the line to pass Swimmer up.

Swimmer was loaded into the backseat of one of the BNSF trucks, and driven into Kremmling. After speaking with someone who rode along, it sounds like he was still somewhat out of it for most of the ride, but came around when they got near the ambulance enough to argue against getting in the ambulance. That decision was left to the medics, and it sounds like they took him in to check him out.

My thoughts:

1. I didn't use the pseudonym "savior" for nothing. He saved a life on Saturday.

2. It was a mistake not to have safety set at the pool below Pyrite. I think it's commonly accepted that if you swim at Gore, it's very possible to get washed all the way down into Pyrite and, if you do swim that far, you're going to be pretty beaten up by the time you make it to that pool. Also, as for the fixed safety, someone near the bottom of that rapid should know that they're the last line of defense, to avoid the mentality that there's always someone further downstream to help on race day.

3. I think everyone who arrived on-scene did a commendable job. Things that needed to get done -- get Swimmer out of the water, assess his condition, get him warmed up, and get him out of the canyon -- were accomplished quickly and efficiently, without anyone getting in the way, causing additional problems, or freezing up.

4. Swimmer was not dressed adequately for the run. While a polypro and shorts is nice for the long paddle in to Gore, and while it's tempting to dress lightly on a hot day, everyone should be dressed for a swim. While you would still be plenty beat up after taking the same swim in a drysuit, taking hypothermia out of the equation leaves you with quite a bit more energy.

5. Wilderness EMT training is invaluable. While the first 4 of us on scene knew enough to get Swimmer out of the water, get him warm, and keep him conscious, none of us knew enough to clear him for a c-spine injury.

6. If not for the railroad access, this would have been a much different rescue. Instead of building the litter, we would have had to build a fire, get Swimmer warmed up, and probably get him some food and water. A space blanket and the means to start a fire in wet conditions should be in everyone's first aid kit.

7.18.2010

Big South

Snuck in a couple of more trips in the past few weeks.  Bridger and I got onto Joe Wright Creek and Spencer Heights up on the Poudre.  Joe Wright was really low, though Carnito Canyon was fun.  Spencer was a blast.  We hiked Rocket Launcher (which, as it turns out, lots of the locals walk as well, which made me feel a bit better about the decision).  The main canyon was a lot of fun; I wish it was 5 miles or so longer.  Then things got a little interesting that night; I managed to shear off my car key in my lock cylinder.  I tried to fish it out that night, and settled for drinking beer instead.  In the morning I managed to pull out the key fragment with the scissors of a swiss army knife.  Then I plugged that into the ignition and managed to start the car, which was a blessing since I was about 2.5 hours (one way) from my spare set of keys.  When I called AAA from my house to get the key fragment extracted from the ignition, the locksmith couldn't quite figure out how I had sheared off the key so deep in the cylinder.  I just shrugged.

Last weekend I finally got out to the Big South (the big south fork of the poudre).  It's 13 or so miles of wilderness boating, with plenty of class V thrown in for good measure.  It's a run I had been hearing about since I first got to Colorado.  I missed it one or two years because I wasn't sure if I was up to it, and last year because the season ran right up against the bar exam.  But this year was the year.

We had a solid medium flow, and things went fast from the Weird Creek put-in.  A bit scrapey, but very very fast.  Starter Fluid was a lot of fun, as was Barroom Brawl.  We portaged bouncing betty out of respect (it took the life of a fellow boater last year) and fantasty flight and meltdown due to wood.  We all walked the big 3 (meltdown, cool world, and double trouble).  I walked Slideways as well, which tore at me a bit, but I was cold at that point (my drysuit needs to be repaired) and not feeling up to the long, complicated rapid.  I was dreading it somewhat when scouting, and when I realized that I may just walk it, I started feeling a lot happier.  Seemed like a sign.  After watching some of the marginal lines our crew had on the rapid, I didn't regret the decision too much.

Overall, Big South was gorgeous, but I think I had my hopes for it set a little high.  It's a quality run for sure, but over the years I had it built up in my mind as something that was different from anything I had ever boated.

6.15.2010

High Water

Another good high water weekend.  Saturday we caught Bear Creek at around 175 cfs.  It was my first time out there; classic Colorado micro-creek mank boating.  We lapped No Fun Falls a few times and it looked like some press got some photos, so maybe I'll have pretty photos soon. 

Sunday we got on big water Big Thompson, with 575 on the gauge, and about 800 coming through past Drake thanks to the water from the North Fork coming in.  Big water and big holes all over the place.  No carnage though, fortunately.  At these levels, it might be one of my favorite runs.  What is usually a IV+ is a solid V at those levels, and the area below the dam was clocking in at a V- or so.  Good times. 

6.08.2010

Big Water Weekend

Record high temperatures have kicked all of the levels up. Things have been busy.

On Saturday a group of five of us, Cliff, George, Ian, Gannon, and myself ran the Big Thompson at about 800. It was big. Lots of big holes and busy water. Gannon swam in the first 2 miles or so, though the boat and swimmer recovery was remarkably quick, given the fast water. The rapid that was usually a IV+ or so was a solid V. Nobody had real clean lines; I had a small side-surfing episode in the middle of it, but it was fine. I punched one of the biggest holes I've ever gone through. And then one huge hole sent me on the biggest stern squirt I've ever had. It felt like almost all of my boat was out of the water. I thought I was going to be able to ride it out, until I only saw sky behind my bow. I went all the way over backwards, but a quick roll got me upright again.

Sunday was Black Rock at 1000. I showed a couple of MN boaters, Burgess and John, the way down. They had big eyes. Both of them walked the narrows, and we all walked rigor mortis. Everything else went pretty cleanly; all of the lines are the same, the holes and waves are just quite a bit bigger. Wavetrains on the lower were tall, and scremaing quarter mile was pretty busy. Fortunately, we didn't have any carnage.

Today, Bridger and I were back on Black Rock at 1100 or so. Wood was moving around some, but wasn't in play yet. Things were busy again, but the lines stayed the same. We both had issues in the Narrows; Bridger was flipped by the big hole after Mr. Bill; I was stern-squirted a bit and then had a pair of rolls over the top of big holes. It was nerve-wracking; a swim there would have been terrible. Screaming quarter mile was busy again, but there wasn't much that couldn't be punched or anticipated. I'd say screaming quarter mile today was on par with black rock or the narrows at 400 or 500.

Be careful out there boys and girls. There have been more posts on Mountainbuzz for lost gear and boats in the past couple of days than I've seen since I've gotten out here.

5.25.2010

Black Rock, Gilman

Got some more boating in this weekend.  Saturday was Black Rock again, at getting-to-be-respectable levels, around 375.  All of the lines went pretty smoothly, including my second run of Rigo.  The canyon was really busy, probably due to the sunny day and good flows.

Sunday was a run on Gilman Gorge on strong medium levels, in the 450 neighborhood.  A few from our group ran Homestake Creek as a steep and somewhat manky start to the gorge.  Preston continued to have a rough start of the season with a broken paddle early on. With only a somewhat flimsy breakdown, he ended up walking the best rapids of the run.  The fall creek trio of drops was a lot of fun; I had a great line on the boof rapid (twice), and managed to get away with a somewhat marginal line on the biggest of the 3.  Only Ian ran Slurry Pipe, which had a beefy guardian hole and a junky run out.  Nice day all around.  The in-between stuff on the run was a lot more fun that I had remembered, and everything turned out to be a little more forgiving than it looked.

5.22.2010

Prijon Pure First Impressions

I've spent a couple of days demoing a Prijon Pure, first at Confluence Park through some pushy eddylines, then on the Black Rock stretch of Clear Creek at low flows (275 cfs).  As for background information, I weigh around 175 lbs, and past creekers include a Perception Phat, Dagger Nomad 8.1, and a Liquid Logic Jefe.  Most of my comparisons will be relative to the Jefe especially, since it was my most recent creekboat.  Note that the Pure is longer than the Jefe, but has a similar volume (assuming that the companies calculate their volume similarly, which is doubtful).  My favorite style of boating is IV+ to V- boulder gardens, with the occasional big (to me) drop thrown in for good measure.

Performance: the Pure feels like a sports car.  Between the Nomad and the Jefe, I always felt like the Nomad was better in a straight line but hard to turn, and the Jefe was turn-ey but didn't have the same ability to hold a line.  The Pure is faster than the Nomad and turns quicker than the Jefe.  I still need to get used to all of the speed it carries.  The chines make eddy turns snappy, as long as you use your hips.  The combination of nimbleness and speed rewards someone who is paddling hard, but I think you can run into trouble if you're not paying attention, needing to throw in a big draw or rudder in order to correct a bad line and work against all of the speed.  Likewise, the edges can get caught in eddylines if you're not actively driving the boat.  Because of the speed and agility, I don't know that I'd recommend the boat to a beginning creeker, since I think the boat will punish you if you enter rapids without driving the boat where you want it to go.  If you decide where you want to go though, the boat GOES.  

The boat boofs well, and the big upturned bow gets on top of the water quickly.  Though I'm near the middle of the suggested paddler weight range, I had a fair bit of boat out of the water, and rode high for the most part.  The boat seems to have more rocker in the water than it does on photos; on flat water the tip of my bow was probably 3 inches out of the water or so.  A little bit of boof stroke goes a long ways.

The bow and stern are both slightly peaked, which makes resurfacing and rolls easy, though I haven't rolled it in heavy whitewater yet.

Design/Build:  One of the big reasons I was interested in the Pure was the plastic.  Blow-molding makes a much more durable boat than rotomolding, but the molds are expensive and it takes the blow-molding companies (Prijon, Eskimo) a long time to recoup their costs on a boat. As a result, most blow-molded boats on the market are a few years behind the design curve; take a look at the Prijon Hercules as compared to the Nomad.  The Pure is the most modern blow-molded design.  It has no pillars, which makes it comfortable and easy to load for overnighters.  The plastic is tough, and warrantied for 5 years.

Outfitting:  Prijon took pains to make the outfitting easy to adjust, and used a lot of moving parts to do so.  The backband is the standard snowboard-ratchet setup found in many modern boats, and works fine.  Hip pads are held in place by a ratchet system as well, which seems overly complicated, and which I'll probably replace with foam and duct tape.  Knee/thigh braces are comfortable and adjustable.

The footbrace system is particularly complicated: the brace slides forward and back on metal railings that move freely and are attached to the sides of the boat.  It's held in place by a 2" piece of webbing on each side, which is slack when you're out of the boat, and tightens against the pressure of your feet.  You can easily adjust the position of the footbrace by tightening or loosening the webbing straps.  The downside is that the whole system feels loose in the boat, is overly complicated, and is topped off with an aluminum footbrace, which feels heavy (though tough).  I'll likely try replacing the system with the guts of a Nomad, ad I don't need to adjust it once I have the footbrace where I want it.

Overall: At my weight and ability level, the Pure is the sportiest boat I've ever paddled, and I think it will perform well if you tell it where you want it to go.  It's my new creekboat, so look for another review down the road after I get a better feel for its performance.

5.18.2010

Esca

Loading up for the drive to the west slope

Escalante Again

Got another weekend in at Escalante.  This time around we had a little less water, but we were still on the good side of low.  I got one lap in on Saturday, and two in on Sunday, hitting the inner gorge (minus the falls) all three times.  The inner gorge was quite a bit easier than I had expected, though I think the lower flows were somewhat responsible.  We had a couple of swims at waterslide again, which seems to be racking up some victims.

There were probably 20-30 boaters on the water over the course of the weekend. We camped with about 15 of them at a big campsite, which was a lot of fun.  It seemed like one person from each small group knew someone else in another, and so on.  Rainy weather on Saturday, but a 75 degree bluebird day on Sunday.  Aaaand I'm sunburned.

5.12.2010

Escalante

Had a really fun weekend out at Escalante last weekend.  Escalante is really the beginning of the colorado boating season.  It's a desert run out by Grand Junction in a beautiful sandstone canyon, which contains a more intimate granite (I think) canyon.  The upper canyon is full of class IV, with a couple of V- drops to keep things interesting.  Then, if you're feeling saucy, you can run the inner gorge, which contains a couple of unportageable, soft-ish Vs and Escalante Falls.  I didn't fire up the gorge last weekend, but if I go back this weekend it'll be on my list if I'm feeling good.

The camping and weather were both beautiful.  We had a couple of swims in our group the first day, but nothing too major.  I felt good on the first day, and great on the second day; on day 2 I was right where I wanted to be in all of the major rapids.  The water was medium on Saturday, and medium-high on Sunday.  Lots of plastic in the canyon, but we managed to get on the water early on Sunday, so we were even home with daylight left.  Hope to get back this coming weekend.  Photos coming soon.

5.04.2010

More Spring Training

Got in a little more spring training, this time in the playboat.  The playpark at the confluence is only about 4 minutes from my house, handy since I forgot my drytop when I headed over there on Sunday.  The park was at a decent level, with a couple of fun, bouncy waves to be found.  I could use a little more roll practice, but I kept a dry head both days due to the lousy water quality.  Hopefully I'll be able to get back into the creekboat next weekend.

4.27.2010

Gore Spring Training Continued

We got out for another weekend at Gore, adding another 100 cfs while we were at it (the past three weekends, the flows have been 380, 500, and 600, respectively).  The change was noticeable.  Everything was just a little pushier and more padded.  The weather didn't cooperate quite as much this time around, with rain/snow here and there, but a few peaks of sun evened things out a little.  Gore rapid was quite a bit pushier, and at 600 you're still committed to running the meat.  The seam I had subbed out in a couple of weeks ago was getting rowdier, but still flushed.  That's where I ended up again.  We probed most of the line options, and everything went fine; the secret turned out to be a very well-timed stroke in the first tongue of the rapid to keep you away from my seam.

The rest of the run went equally well, though I managed to get away with a couple of other marginal lines.  I went left a pyrite when I intended to go right, and I didn't get enough of a boof at tunnel and managed to flip in the aerated water below.  When I was setting up to roll, I kept expecting to feel the chaos of the curtain hitting me in the side, but it never came.  I rolled up with my bow against the big rock splitting the flow at the lip, and frantically back-paddled.  Ian joined the swim team.  Kirchbaum's was a blast, more water made it more fun, and I finally ran it without trying to pin myself midway through.

4.21.2010

Another Gore Weekend

We got up to gore canyon again this past weekend.  I ran it both Saturday and Sunday, at about 500 cfs both days.  The lines were all about the same as at 400 cfs; the main difference was that gore rapid was a little pushier, and that Kirchbaum's was quite a bit pushier and busier.  

We had somewhat rainy weather that cleared up as we got on the water on Saturday.  Everyone had somewhat junky lines at gore.  Kevin started things off, getting a good boof over the ledge that creates Ginger, but landing somewhat on his edge and flipping in front of Gilligan's Island.  John went next, floating into the first seam and getting flipped, then basically floating through the rest of the rapid.  I was pulled faster than I expected toward the river-right seam, which stern-squirted me but left me upright.  Preston had a good boof but a bad landing, and was shoved hard into a rock (probably indecision, but I was downstream at the time).  Kevin hiked back up and ran the rapid again, finally running it cleanly.

Our lines were fine on the rest of the river; Tunnel at 500 cfs is a lot of fun, with a big boof over a 10 foot or so falls (though john proved that you could plug the falls and still be all right).  

We camped at pumphouse overnight (beef tenderloin for dinner = great camp food).  The next morning dawned foggy, but the fog quickly burned off into a beautiful day.  Preston opted not to run on Sunday, feeling somewhat disoriented after the shot to the head the day before.  Apparently he started feeling really out of it on the drive home, and a trip to the doctor confirmed that he had a concussion.  

We had a big group on the water on Sunday; 9 boaters in all.  I stuck my line at gore, and finally ran Scissors without getting flipped, which was a good feeling.  Anna had a really junky line in tunnel, ending up exactly where you didn't want to be, but things turned out fine (after a few moments of horror).  We had one swimmer for the day, not too bad considering the odds.  

Gore trip gone wrong


4.16.2010

Early Season Gore

We got out to Gore this weekend, and didn't even crash any vehicles! Flows were pretty low, around 380, but the flat water paddle into the canyon wasn't too terrible; we were only hung up a couple of times. The drops in the canyon itself were all really creeky. It was interesting, you could see where all of the gradient comes from when things are running at regular flows. The line at Gore was over a tongue, with a nice 4-5 ft boof onto a boil line. One of our group was pushed off line and subbed out into a seam, but resurfaced fine. I hit my line well on Gore, and then quit paying attention in Scissors. I was flipped by an entry tongue, tucked up, took a hit off of the bottom, and rolled up at the bottom of the drop. I smacked my thumb on a rock, but was otherwise fine.

Tunnel remained tricky, with a few laterals and holes guarding the approach to a deep 10 ft. falls. I misjudged the distance between the last hole and the lip of the drop, so I didn't get in as good of a stroke as I was hoping for. I hit the bottom boil/hole with a little too much angle and flipped, though when I rolled up I was clear of the falls. Kirchbaum's was full of eddy moves and little drops, just what the doctor ordered for spring training.

On Friday we got down to Confluence to work on some swiftwater rescue techniques. Good to get some rope-throws in, as well as remember what it's like to be a swimmer and have a rope thrown to you well. Great feeling.

3.23.2010

Well, the season has begun. I managed to get out to the confluence whitewater course both last weekend and this weekend in the playboat. It was nice to get back in the boat again, and remember how to balance in a boat and do things like eddy turns. Beautiful days, and boating down at the confluence, right in front of REI, makes you feel like you're a kayak ambassador. Bring on the water.