There is importance in talking about close calls as well as our success in the kayak community.
November of 2016 myself plus one other (we’ll call him Bob) put on the CC Stilly at 1600. It was my first time and I was excited.
We scouted the first drop, set safety, and ran it. We continued downstream without much note until the last ledge drop. He ran first on the left and signed to paddle hard, right. I ran right but too far right, headed straight into the rock. When I made contact I bounced to the left and flipped over. When I rolled up I was in the hole getting pushed up on the left rock. I realized after a long fight that I wasn’t going to come out of the hole in my boat. At that point I decided to swim. While swimming in the hole I tried the many techniques that I was taught. I balled up attempting to go to the bottom, that didn’t work. I tried attacking the edges of the hole and achieved no movement. I even tried to use my paddle to push off the left wall. I even tried to climb the wall but it was perfectly smooth. During all this, throw bags were being thrown but couldn’t reach me.
This next part has been passed on from Bob. While swimming in the hole I only surfaced a few times making getting a throwbag to me really difficult. When I finally did flush, I was unconscious and face up. The total time I was unconscious was short. Bob jumped in and started swimming us to an eddy. When he reached me I was pale with blue lips. As we were swimming I vomited water and pathetically started helping him by kicking. We finally reached the eddy after an extremely stressful battle against the current at which time I vomited again. Bob placed me on a rock and this is where my foggy memory picks up.
My brain couldn’t focus and my body wasn’t acting right. I tried to stand up and completely fell over so I crawled to a stable spot and watched my boat getting thrashed in the hole. Bob positioned himself waiting for it to flush so he could push it safely into an eddy. After watching the boat for about 45 min in the ledge I realized that I was lucky to flush when I did. All the water was moving left into a rock which made this nasty pocket. Bob was finally able to push the boat to shore. I stumbled my way to where the boat was located but my body still wasn’t working fully and my mind was trying to assess my current physical situation. I knew that I was a near drowning case and with the water I'd aspirated I should get to the hospital. We discussed our options and concluded that boating out would be the fastest route. I identified that the manky class 3 rapid below was not something I would be able to boat in the dark so we portage. Walking that rapid helped my mental clarity and physical coordination but I was still struggling. When we got to the eddy, Bob handed me his break down and helped me get in my boat. The moonlight lite exactly where we were going and we pushed off. We slowly eddy hopped our way down, portaging anything that looked like class 3. In that moment I was so grateful for all the Leavenworth full moon paddling and the muscle memory that 8 years of boating produced.
When we finally reached the take-out, I allowed myself to feel the gravity of what had happen, how close I had gotten and I cried. The rest of the evening was fairly straight forward; went to the hospital got a chest xray and was prescribed antibiotics to prevent an infection.
The lessons I’m trying to take away:
-This is a sticky ledge hole that demands respect and a scout. After this accident a number of people came forth with similar stories.
-Having 3 people could have allowed for live bait to happen or having someone on the left rock.
-Putting on late definitely didn’t assist the situation.
-Of course scouting the ledge would have helped.
I hope that others use my experience as a reminder to not become complacent. Life is truly too short and we never get enough chances to tell friends and family that we love them so use those moments and do it.