Professor Paddle: Close call on Tumwater
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Jule
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  Quote Jule Replybullet Topic: Close call on Tumwater
    Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 4:42am
This was on Tumwater on Saturday, 2300 cfs. While chasing my errant boat, a member of our party got sucked into a sieve on river right in the top third of the Wall. The boat was pointing straight downriver and stuck between two rocks, and his torso was out of the water so that he was able to quietly sit and wait for help. Wiggling around would have only destabilized the situation, there was no chance of self rescue. Fortunately, we were able to get there quickly and yank him out by his PFD shoulder straps (buckle it tight, kids) as the skirt imploded and the boat slowly inched downward. His head was never under water, and he was unhurt. We got the boat out after about 20 minutes of ropework.

Everyone involved was incredibly calm, efficient, and competent.

I know class V boaters get pretty nonchalant about this stuff, but I will be paddling class 3 for a while . Or take up flyfishing. 
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  Quote H2Ohta Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 7:54am
Glad to hear that everyone is okay and that the team reacted well.

Please take this the right way but it seems that more and more people are taking Tumwater for granted. In the past few years, I have seen more Class III boaters coming over to run Tumwater for some reason. Tumwater is fun but only when you have the proper skills. IMHO, I think you should be comfortable running every line through rapids like Boulder Drop at different levels way before you come over to run Tumwater. Practice hard moves in easy water and do your best to not be a liability team, even if that means not putting on the river. That being said there are other stretches of the Tumwater that are less demanding and are good to practice moves for taking the next step.      
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  Quote H2Ohta Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 7:55am
"and do your best to not be a liability to the team,..."
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  Quote water wacko Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 8:05am
Glad he got out safe and everyone is okay. Experiences like this are great for the de-brief after the run and will always make us wiser and hopefully a safer paddler! Talk about it and what he may have done to keep himself out of that spot. Not chasing the boat is always an option. In larger rapids I try to stay within 15 or 20 feet so I'm close, but can get away if it suddenly becomes pinned. I don't chase boats into big rapids I don't know or through routes I'm not familiar with (exceptions come with experience). I stick to the lines I know and if the boat doesn't come through the other side, I know where it is. It gets tricky and is very much an in-the-moment decision to act, but in general, if your in 'safety mode' chasing gear... paddle conservatively.

In rescue the number one person to keep safe is:

   1. MYSELF
   2. my team and/or bystanders
   3. victim/gear

If I'm the rescuer, I'm number one. That's one way I keep from becoming a victim and increasing the complexity of the rescue scene. Maybe I'm a newer paddler and the thought of getting in the water to stabilize the victim is terrifying. Listen to that. Assist from shore or something else you ARE comfortable with. When involved in a rescue, play conservative and don't go beyond your comfort levels.

Swiftwater rescue classes are a great start, but practicing with the people you regularly paddle with is key. Practice practice. Thanks for putting this up, Jule.
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
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  Quote dave Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 8:44am
Ya, Tum water is demanding. Even though I consider myself a solid kayaker, I turn down the Tum when I have any doubts about my confidence or strength levels on particular days. Especially when it is over 2,000...
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  Quote Scott_H Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 9:06am
Sounds like a pretty heads up move by the stuck boater to stay calm and not force it.  If anyone from the party was inclined to post up a blow-by-blow account I am sure it would be of benefit.
 
Perhaps semi-related, Jay and I were heading down to take Wet Planet's one-day rescue clinic for paddlers on May 7th.  I feel like a re-fresh was in order. 
 
But the icing on the cake is the second day (Sunday), which is a creeking clinic, which we both took last year and thought it was great.  The instructor (Andy Round last year) dissects the river, talks about how to approach different features, finding good lines, etc.  Probably the best "safety" course I have taken.  I think adding some formal paddling instruction over the last couple of year has been a real benefit to me - it has made the river seem less random and arbitrary.
 
 
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
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  Quote Jed Hawkes Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 10:59am
If you have the time Jule it would be great to do a full trip report and post it to the Tumwater page, getting a blow-by-blow account is always helpful.
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  Quote Jule Replybullet Posted: 26 Apr 2011 at 12:42pm

Good comments, everyone. Learning to kayak is a lot about learning to override your gut instincts - and I think I have gotten a little too good at it. Way to reawaken your inner fears! It's very nebulous territory trying to decide how far you want to take your boating and how to go about it. I have always progressed the most when I push myself, but this may become less of a good idea as runs get more consequential. I may see you at the creeking clinic, Scott! I've been wanting to do that for a while. I will put up more details about the pin situation when I have time. 

 
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  Quote Jule Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 7:11am
You want details, you get details.

There were six people in our crew - three experienced class V boaters, two that are competent on class V but not as experienced, and me. I am comfortable on class IV, but definitely not ready for the big V. The only reason I put on that day is because I'd run Tumwater at 1900cfs before, and 2300 couldn't possibly be that much harder (ya think?). I was going to walk all the major rapids except for the Wall. Only one of us was familiar with the details of the run, so we were going to take our time and scout everything. There was also a big group of regulars that put on shortly after us and had just passed by us when stuff happened.

It started with a little swim. After running the entrance to the Wall we briefly got out to look, and I was the second to last to get back on, not feeling emotionally ready to go but going anyway. There was a ledge where you run right, and cut left right after to avoid some rocks that the current pushes into. I didn't manage to avoid the rocks, flipped up against them, couldn't roll, pulled, and self-rescued very quickly into the eddy behind those rocks. I even had my boat, but decided to let go to give myself a better chance to make it to shore. At that point I had made up my mind to walk out, and was just hoping that people would not bother too much with my boat and keep themselves safe first and foremost.

Then I looked up and saw the thing that nobody wants to see: the torso of a boater sitting stationary between two rocks. How did he get there? He had eddied out on riever right behind a big rock trying to catch my boat. I think they were going to try to at least clip a line to it. To get back into the main current from behind that rock, you had to peel out high from the eddy and work left to get back to the center tongue to avoid getting pushed into a sieved-out line of rocks on the right. Well, he didn't make it into the main current, and had a few split seconds to try and decide what to do with this crappy situation. He ended up picking an almost-wide-enough slot between two boulders, trying to keep his bow up and slide through. But his boat got stuck, in a pretty stable position with the bow pointing down just a little, such that only minimal current was pushing the boat under water. The rocks were about 20 feet from shore, and easy to reach by swimming through a 5-foot wide bit of current.  The two most experienced guys got there first, and I shortly after. The first one to get there took charge of the situation and led the rescue. He told the victim to not move, as there was no chance of him getting out by himself. Any dislodging of the pin would have just allowed the current to grab the boat and push it under. He clipped a line to the front rescue loop of the victim's Green Jacket for good measure, and then they both yanked him out of his boat by his shoulder straps. This was not easy as the skirt had imploded by now, and water was filling the boat and making it hard for the victim to even move his legs against the force of the water. He was slowly inching downward with the boat, the most sickening thing I have ever seen. But his face was completely calm the whole time. And they managed to pull him out, as the boat went under.

The victim took like 5 seconds to catch his breath, smiled, and then proceeded to assist with the boat recovery. I, on the other hand, was completely traumatized and refusing to get off that rock to swim through the little bit of current to get back to shore and help with the z-drag, even though I'm real good with ropes. I did not give a damn about the boat. I was done with kayaking, and just wanted to be with my kids.

The boat came out with a z-drag set up to pull the stern upstream a few inches to allow the boat to wiggle free and be pulled out by the bow from the bottom of the sieve. We were surprised it worked, but a 3:1 advantage and four strong guys pulling did it. The whole thing took 20 minutes, enough for the onlookers by the side of the road to get bored and wander away. People have about 5 minutes when they're underwater.

I finally was roped off the rock, and walked upstream with one other person who ferried me across the slackwater just downstream of the putin. The rest of the group proceeded downriver and we took out at the candy shop. My boat had been lovingly propped up by the side of the lake by other crew on the river that day. 


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  Quote chipmaney Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 8:44am
sitting all alone on a mountain by a river that has no end
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  Quote WA-Boater Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 8:57am
Curious if you guys were in playboats or creekboats?

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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 10:58am

Thanks for posting this Jule, I think it's really useful to hear about when stuff like this happens and I always learn from the comments that follow too.  Very glad you and everyone else are OK!

It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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  Quote jella Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 11:57am
I'm really glad everyone is okay.  Thank goodness. 
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  Quote tiziak Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 12:03pm
Jule, I'm glad you're ok. I wouldn't take up fly-fishing just yet. You were out there for a reason and maybe just stick to the basic skills for a bit and build that confidence back up. You'll be back out there an loving it in no time. I like this quote, I think it sums up boating and specifically creeking pretty well:
 
"The river doesn’t care. It is a force of nature, following the laws of physics and showing us continually that flowing water contains all the beauty and magic of the world. Learning to engage that magic is what creates our sport. Challenge and fun, as well as danger and death, all come from the same place. It is up to you to decide what that means, and to treat it with the care and respect it deserves." - Doug Ammons

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.

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  Quote doggievacation Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 12:44pm

Jule,

Thanks for posting your story.  I think it highlights one of the trickiest aspects of our sport:  knowing when it’s time to safely move up a notch.  It could be a brand new run or just a higher flow on a run you’ve done before, but in either case it’s often difficult to know (ahead of time) when you’re just about to take a nice, small baby step in difficulty or a big-ass leap. 

If it’s a run you’ve done before, you have your prior experiences to guide you.  But if it’s a brand new run, then you’ve got to rely on your fellow boaters to help assess whether you’re ready or not.  I figure if a better boater (than me) knows me and my abilities, and is familiar with the run we’re about to do, then it’s really their call.  If they say, “Yes, I think you can run this,” then I assume they are willing to help rescue me if I screw up.  If I get a thumb’s down, then it’s just going to have to wait for another day.

Even though this sport seems to attract the arch-typical “rugged individualist”, it’s really a group sport in that we must depend on each other when sh*t happens.  I completely appreciate how you feel about this incident.  Your swim was no-big deal, but it put someone else at great risk and that’s a HUGE deal.

Don't waste water!
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  Quote doggievacation Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 1:53pm
I was the only one in the thread above who used the word "better" and I can assure you that I meant better as in "more skilled" not "more valued."  I think you make some excellent points in your post, and I agree with what you're saying.  I just don't want to see my entire contribution to this discussion invalidated over the (mis)interpretation of one word.

Thanks,
John
Don't waste water!
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  Quote shirepaddler Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 2:30pm
Jule,
I was with the group that passed through. Thanks for the update and we were all very relieved to hear that no one was injured!
The Wall at that level is a solid V and full of slots and holes best to be avoided. You guys did a great job of keeping a bad situation from getting worse!
Flyfishing is fun and all, but get back out in your boat on the river on beautiful sunny day and remember what it's all about.
Cheers
Kelly
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 5:41pm
Originally posted by slickhorn

I come from an admittedly different paddling culture, but most of hardshell kayaking culture, is "push yourself."  Usually this is in terms of stepping up to ever harder water.  It is anathema to plateau.  

... it's a recipe that gets people in over their heads fast.

  But I really wonder where these people who are so into "stepping it up" are after a decade.  more likely, they are burned out or scared off and are now pursuing other hobbies.  We've all seen plenty of people go through that progression.

 I just really want to say this: get back out there and do the kind of boating that puts a grin on your face and makes you want to call in sick to run the river again and again and again.  The rest will sort itself out with time.  

 
Listen to Slickhorn: He is a wise river runner with many fluid miles under his belt!
 
along with the "step it up" mind set is the nieve assumption that progression in the sport of whitewater is nothing but a sexxy looking j-curve where your skills just suddenly and miraculously sky rocket up up and away style like peeps was superman.
 
until they get hurt, scared, injured, or loose their bomb-diggity gear...
 
in my lifetime of experience with whitewater, yeah it has been an escalating series of J-curves that have formed my progression, and most humans desire to continue to improve at their endeavors- but for me the sport has had it's troughs, dips and setbacks.
 
I think people should focus on the sensual feeling of boating well rather than ever challenging goals. too many creekers are drawing the carriage before the horse. Better to boat gacefully on class III than sloppily on class IV. Being in over your head is bad form in and of itself. Technique is a good thing.
 
Here's an example where I'm at currently with my own paddling:
 
-why get scared on the Little White at a water level above my comfort zone when I can rock the Truss, and have a great time feeling the water move beneath my boat as I shred it up? Not looking to get scared every time I go creek. I spend at least 60% of my yearly paddling on stuff below my ability. It keeps me honed- then when opportunity knocks I am ready to shine on that stuff that is near my limits and maybe stresses me out more.
 
-why go "exploring" when i know there ain't nothin up those no-name/obscure creeks that can top the guidebook classics? (Sorry, man- you can't convince me Major Creek can offer me up better Goods than the Truss.-just an example- not tryin to dis my homey though he will take it that way) yeah exploring is cool, but more and more I just wanna paddle and enjoy it, man. Just because I'm out on the river doesn't mean I want an adventure.
 
-why get all tied up in the logistical knots of large groups? Over it. I don't want to be dragged through the learning curve of every new boater who shows up with shiny gear.
I see a ton of solo boating in my future and I'm stoked. It's different.
 
there are so many reasons to hit the water, and this forum is great for talking about it.
Thanks for sharing. 2300 is gettin fat n juicy up in there for sure,BTW.
 
Just go back to familiar waters and keep boating on your own terms.
Keep the Fun to Terror ratio mixed richly in favor of fun.
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  Quote water wacko Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 7:07pm
Secretly, I waited for JP's post.
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
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  Quote up4air Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 8:44pm
One of the best things I've heard out of Shelly B is, "I don't have to defy death every time I go boating."



More water, please.
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 8:47pm
Great posts Slickhorn and JP.
-Jay
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  Quote KBfree Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 9:06pm
Jule,  I was also in the group that went through the wall just before you and was releived to hear that everyone was safe.
 
In all fairness to the situation... the Wall (and all of the Tumwater section) was a step-up in difficulty at the 2350cfs on Sunday over the 1900-2000 levels, from my experience.  This was the highest I've run this section to date and found there was not much room for recovery for getting off line.  Chasing a boat or gear was pretty much impossible in the Wall and we pretty much paced the boat as it went down the class III towards the bottom.  I think if there were a swimmer... every attempt would have been made for a rescue by everyone there. 
 
A large part of this sport is knowing yourself and your abilites... the other is understanding the levels and how they effect the river.  Experience is the best teacher and I think you are making the most out of learning from this situation.  Thanks for revisiting this and letting us in on your learning experience. 
 
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  Quote water wacko Replybullet Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 9:52pm
Originally posted by KBfree

In all fairness to the situation... the Wall (and all of the Tumwater section)is a step-up in difficulty at the 2350cfs on Sunday over the 1900-2000 levels, from my experience.  This was the highest I've run this section to date and found there was not much room for recovery for getting off line.  Chasing a boat or gear was pretty much impossible in the Wall and we pretty much paced the boat as it went down the class III towards the bottom.  I think if there were a swimmer... every attempt would have been made for a rescue by everyone there. 
 

A large part of this sport is knowing yourself and your abilites... the other is understanding the levels and how they effect the river. 



Well put, Kirk. In general, a point I would like to emphasize, class V rivers require a certain level of physical aptitude combined with the aquired skill of "dealing". Dealing, a lot of times, is just the ability to 'hang out' until you roll up. Mental patience assists greatly with this skill. It is a skill you can't practice for either. You earn it the old fashioned way. Mainly, I think, it's the ability to avert catastrophe in the nick of time to avoid dealing.

I've also noticed a trend to 'step it up', like Rush Sturges likes to say. Eventually you step to the top. Hopefully it is your comfort level that stops the ascent and not physical ability. Take your time seasoning your skill and natural fire. Your natural ability and judgement will always be there to guide you. Pretty soon, you'll be an old growth standing tall and strong, not an Alder laying on the forest floor, broken because it grew too fast and could not support its new towering heights. Hell, I used to walk rapids if I thought there might be a chance I would FLIP. I wouldn't ask anyone to adopt that kind of crazy thinking.

I'd also like to emphasize that it is much more enjoyable to watch someone stomping a class III line and making it look really good than a sketchy IV+ line or a V swim.



Jule, I've seen you paddle. You're a charger, that's how you are. That's how you got to be paddling Tum at 1700 without issues. Like Kelly said, paddle the stuff that puts a grin on yer mug!
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
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  Quote Lynn Wang Replybullet Posted: 28 Apr 2011 at 10:05am
Everyone's words expressing their personal-internal conversation re: boating progression is insightful and encouraging. As a class II-III boater I absorb what is said by the experienced and it is comforting to know all boaters-whatever skill level are processing this same internal debate.

"but for me the sport has had it's troughs, dips and setbacks." JP
Before my shoulder injury, watching IV, V+ boating youtube snippets was my off-time routine boating inspiration. At this time thinking about boating class III freaks me out and watching those clips aren't as motivating for me. However, watching a slalom boater glide through troughs and pivot on a dime on the Cedar last night, with clumps of snowflakes falling on us was inspiration that filled my heart.

"The river doesn’t care. It is a force of nature, following the laws of physics and showing us continually that flowing water contains all the beauty and magic of the world. Learning to engage that magic is what creates our sport. Challenge and fun, as well as danger and death, all come from the same place. It is up to you to decide what that means, and to treat it with the care and respect it deserves." - Doug Ammons

I just want to add this short bio on the "victim". 2 hours after the boater got pinned, he led a beginner trip down the Wenatchee, he play-boated the best he could with the small features available, had a genuine smile with a quietness to him that was a little unusual. He kept us safe, allowed us to play, didn't micromanage, bark or bite. Then he gave back again on Sunday. That is the magic of this world...

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  Quote kbelenky Replybullet Posted: 28 Apr 2011 at 1:15pm
I was almost part of that trip but had already made plans.

As you've now discovered, Tumwater is a peculiar beast. 1800cfs and 2300cfs might as well be different rivers.

Here's my general advice that I give to everyone who's just had their first class V beatdown. In this case, the first half seems especially apropos.

1) A class V beatdown is communal. When you get your ass handed to you on class III, it's personal. You get beat down. You swim. You yard sale, and your buddies have a fun time trying to wrangle you and your gear to shore. Other than that, it doesn't really affect anyone but you.

When you get a class V beatdown, it affects everyone. Wrangling gear is not mindless entertainment, it is a hazardous problem with tough choices and serious consequences. In a best case scenario you'll recover the swimmer and their gear within a couple of minutes but everyone's nerves will still be frazzled for the rest of the day, which may lead to problems later. In a worst case scenario there may be immediate secondary beatdowns, separated groups, or lost gear with no egress. That affects everyone.

Now that you're in class V, the decisions you make affect your whole group. Almost more importantly, when you choose to paddle with a person, understand that you are taking responsibility for their decisions.

2) Practice makes perfect, but you don't want to get too perfect. Gracefully recovering from a beatdown is a learned skill, one that takes practice to get good at. Going too long between beatdowns can almost be counterproductive because you're less prepared for them when they do arrive. I'm not saying anyone should be grateful for a beatdown, just try to redirect it into an opportunity for personal improvement.

Kennet
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