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Accident Description


Forum: BoaterTalk

Date: Aug 10 2009, 13:52 GMT

From: rustyboater

Yesterday's early run...featuring a cast of thousands...was a bit tough for me. I was feeling 4 straight days of good paddling and while folks were talking up a second run, I was definitely on the one and done schedule. Dynamite lines everywhere down to El Horrendo, but really wobbly after confirmed I was done for the day. While running Gerald and Matt back to Garden Hole for the rewind, Hugo called on his way. I told him I was done, but would hang at Rat Hole until he got there. After the crew headed on for the second set, I snacked and drank water waiting for Hugo. The longer I waited, the better I felt...so thought maybe I'd be good for a second run after all. They'd probably be notching the dam down anyway, so probably be a lower easy level.

Hugo got there and was very glad I'd join him after all and not just run shuttle. We had a shuttle driver, so it was going to be easy. We put in and the river was still hanging at 380cfs...I was surprised, but no big deal. I've been feeling GREAT in my boat lately, good confidence level, and had just run a picture perfect top to bottom line at Triple Drop which is really my switch from a good run to a great run. So we meandered down the river, telling lies and feeling good. I hung right at Tower and Hugo dropped the double boof, all good.

I first ran Fist in 1995 and have done so over 1000 times. In that time, I've NEVER had what I'd consider a close call. I've wrecked &rolled in the middle of it, but I really haven't been close to that crack. Yesterday when I was pointing my boat at the eddy in front of the crack, I had no inkling...no premonition...no idea that I was going anywhere but the eddy. Even on my last stroke, not a thought of that crack was in my head. I DON"T EVERY LOOK AT IT when running the rapid. But something went awry. I got on my edge to carve into the eddy going in, but overdid it and flipped immediately. Dang I thought, and set up in a split second to roll back up. Half way up I hit a wall that knocked me back over and my first thought was...that was quick, then I felt the pressure of moving water pushing me against the wall.

That was my first thought that something wasn't right. Upside down, still in my boat I opened my eyes to see a black hole right in front of me. That's when I knew. I pulled skirt and bailed as fast as I could get out of the boat. I bobbed up once in time to get a breath before I was sucked into the slot, but it was too tight to get through. I dove a bit and pushed myself under the rock...I was through in a blink. Here's where a little knowledge is a wonderful thing. I KNEW what I would be up against once underneath. There's a very large air pocket in there and in a moment my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The paddle came in with me, but the boat was stuck in the hole. I took a minute to get the ole shit together and started yelling and blowing my whistle to let Hugo know I was ok. Unfortunately, he didn't hear me.

First I tried to push my boat OUT of the hole, but the water pressure coming in was way too great. I briefly had a thought that I might be able to swim out that way, but no no no. I managed to get the boat pulled through the hole and into the cave with me. My first serious thought of escape was the back door up the bank...which is nearly always clogged and yesterday was no different. Slim rays of daylight was coming through, but I couldn't climb up and out...just too much debris. That meant I got to swim out the long passageway out the bottom of the cave. It took about five minutes for me to talk myself into it. I kept debating on trying to get the boat out that way, taking off my pfd and helmet, other things like that.

I pushed the boat into the exit direction and it promptly wedged itself against the roof. I decided to keep my helmet & pfd on mainly because I didn't want to leave them in there. The good news was the light coming in through the opening really showed the way. In fact, it was the most beautiful water color I've ever seen. Glorious...one of the many thoughts was for a camera to record that emerald color. So I got my breath and I dove, first working under the stupid boat I'd put in my way, then swimming as hard as I could. The next time (yeah, right!), I'll take the helmet &pfd off because they REALLY slowed me down and made it way harder than it should have been. The passage out seemed much longer than it had all those FUN times I'd swam in and out of there.

I got out and popped up on the back side of the big rock with a very loud hoot. Poor Hugo was sitting there just torn all to pieces. I thought he could have heard me under there, but he couldn't. He'd been trying to figure out how to get in and just couldn't get in to the cave. I felt worse for him than I did about winding up in a cave. So I get to make a boat hike as soon as the corp drops the spicket. I'm very happy we cleaned that crack out a month or so ago. I'm very happy that Hugo didn't have to make the solo run with different news.

Everybody be careful out there...remember, you run a rapid a thousand times...things can happen.