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Accident Description

Vertical pin in Piece of Risa on Tobin run

After surviving my biggest scare in kayaking, I feel the need to make people aware of this hole so that the same thing or worse doesn't happen to somebody else. On the last rapid of the Tobin section, Piece of Risa, at a flow of 1000 cfs, I ran the rapid on river right. Unsuspectingly, my boat pinned vertically in a nasty hole that the river has bored in to a boulder. This hole can not be seen at released flows. I had no idea it was there until I landed in it.

I was pinned for about 10 minutes until I was able to free myself from the boat. I was not able to get out of the boat because my skirt was pinned between the kayak and the rock with the flow pushing against the back of the boat. Had it not been for the aid of my fellow kayakers, all of whom where knowledgeable in swiftwater rescue, I feel that I would not be here writing about this experience.

Four people were able to get on the rock next to me and hand a rope down to me. As I tried to get out of my boat, I realized that I was stuck in the boat. My sprayskirt was holding me in the boat and would not release. At this point, I realized that I would have to cut the skirt off to get out of the boat. My biggest problem and lesson learned here was that I did not have a knife on me. I broke one of the cardinal rules that I learned in swiftwater rescue class. Always have a knife! Luckily one of my buddies on the rock above me had one and was able to attach it to the rope and pass it to me. It was very difficult with the force of the water pushing against me to cut through a brand new kevlar skirt. After about 10 minutes of time I was able to finally cut through the skirt and remove myself from the boat. The four people who were still on the rock above the boat tried dislodging the boat from the pin unsuccessfully.

I drove back the following day to remove the boat myself after the flow had been shut off. What I saw scared the shit out of me. The boat was pinned in a perfect tube through a granite boulder. Big hole at the top, small exit hole at the bottom. A perfect sieve. Had my kayak gone in at any different angle, the situation would have been much worse. Fortunately, I was able to easily hold my head above water as the bottom of the boat deflected the current to either side of my head. The other thing I noticed was that the boat had started to fold slightly as evidenced by the large dents on either side of my boat. This was my biggest fear during the pin.

The reason why I am writing about this experience is so that: 1) People who don't know about this hole don't end up here. It is not visible at higher levels. The AW website says this about the rapid. "The last drop on this section before the Rock Crest Bridge (the private one-land bridge) is Piece of Risa. You want to start in the main current towards the left and then move your way over to the right before you get to the big undercut boulder at the bottom. Just don't go right too early or you'll find yourself in the nasty bit midway down the drop on the right." 2) If you are going to run whitewater, especially hard whitewater, take a swiftwater rescue course. The knowledge I took out of the course and especially the people who assisted me saved my ass. 3) Carry a knife! I learned this in swiftwater class, but never got around to buying one. Had I been in the middle of the river, especially something as wide as the Tobin section, this situation would have been a lot worse. Luckily it happened close to the side of the river and people were able to get close enough to hand a rope and a knife to me.

Last, I want to thank everyone who helped my ass out. Todd, Kevin, Trent, Grant, Sam and the rest who chipped in, you guys rule. I owe you all a beer or two or three or, ..... Keith We did a run down Tobin on Saturday at fish flow and I looked at a sieve that I saw a guy swim through a couple of years ago. Basically it is formed by a slot between two BFR's (Big F*&king Rocks) with a smaller boulder partially plugging the slot. If there had been any kind of wood or anything else in that slot, the guy would have been in big trouble. As far as the last rapid, we used to run it entering on the right the first year of releases. I used to boof into it and drive hard out to the center. During one of the releases, one of the guys started in on the right but was tentative and plugged the entrance. He dropped right into a vertical pin. Fortunately he was able to wiggle off after some effort. I have also heard of a kayaker who was pinned in a pothole on the top left of that rapid.

The moral of the story: while it is good to know where these hazards are, assume that for every one that we know about, there are probably a dozen more lurking.

Keith trevorhaagenson I agree with axr6's comments that the realitive ease of the moves on this run has induced many people onto this stretch that either, 1) take it too lightly or 2) do not posess the necessary skills. I have run this section dozens of times over several years at flow from 200 to 3500. During the September release I took the worst swim of my life through a sieve on the left side of this same rapid near the top. In fact I lost my paddle in there and never recovered it. On returning the next day to look for my paddle I was impressed by just how ugly the seive I swam really was This experience emphasized how lightly I took this run. Although I had run this section many times I had only run it once in the last two years and that was at 3500cfs making it a totally different run.

I had a general idea of all the lines but no clear memory of exactly where all the hazards where. I entered the last rapid where I vaguely remembered I should be. As it were I was a little too far left so I decided to eddy out along the left wall and peal out again. There was what appeared to be a small slack water eddy but as I entered it I was sucked into and under the rock and rolled. As I went over I was pulled down still in my boat. I was immediately in a tight spot with rocks on both sides, unable to roll I pulled, swam deep, and came up just above the undercut rock at the bottom of the rapid.

I learned a valuable lesson. In the future when I do a run that I don't know well or clearly remember I will take time to scout and make better decisions. I have blasted down this run with only a vague memory of it many times but this time was almost my last.