Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Stream crossing horror stories


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Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/14/2013 23:21:14 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:23:31 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 07:32:35 MDT Print View

Have had one bad close call back in Ireland about 8 years, will post what happend when I get home from work as on a phone at the moment.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 07:55:23 MDT Print View

There was the lady that walked around Mt Hood Labor Day, 4 days of heavy rain, drowned in Sandy River.

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 09:18:08 MDT Print View

No personal horror stories, thank the trail gods, but I'll share this post I came across just yesterday, even though it may not be quite what OP has in mind:

http://outbounddan.hubpages.com/hub/The-Backpacking-Neck-Knife

In this case, the 'stream crossing' was a bridge in winter, he made a dumb assumption and it went horribly wrong. He was pretty lucky to get out of it and tell his cautionary tale. (Well, not all luck, to be fair. He did have the foresight to wear a knife around his neck.)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 11:04:36 MDT Print View

There is quite a bit of information out there with diagrams and techniques, like facing upstream, group techniques, swimming techniques, etc.

My $0.02:

Wait, turn around, or find a better crossing if the one in front of you looks dangerous. If you are trying to cross after a big rain, waiting may be the best option: water levels can change quickly. Hiking is recreation, not some critical mission. Survive to enjoy another outdoor journey!

NEVER use a rope. I think it is counter-intuitive, but you will go under and be trapped if you rope up while crossing a stream. The pressure of fast moving water on an object the size of your body is immense and no one is going to pull you out. Bottom line: if conditions are so bad that you think you need to rope up, you shouldn't be trying to cross anyway. I have heard way too many gruesome stories about using ropes while crossing--- a terrible way to die!

Don't cross in fast water more than knee high. Also, rocks are constantly moving in stream beds. If you stand there a while you can hear them rolling. Consider one rolling on your foot.

Release your hip belt and sternum strap before crossing so you can dump your pack if you go in. Have some emergency essentials in your pockets in case your pack does go downstream.

Understand how debilitating cold water is. Many folk have never taken a dunk in a glacial melt stream and it is a very rude surprise, especially with muscles that just walked up 1000 feet of switchbacks with a backpack.

Think about all the above when log crossing too. If you fall off the log, you are in the same dilemma. There is a log crossing on the Monte Cristo trail in Washington that can have water touching the bottom of the log. If you fall off the upstream side, you could be trapped up against the log, or get a head injury in the process. There is another sweeper log just downstream to add to the danger, so if you fall off the downstream side, you can get taken out by that one before you can react. I have watched parents take their kids over that log by carrying them on their shoulders. The Forest Service really needs to fix it.

Log crossing

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 11:39:23 MDT Print View

Déjà vu!

We hiked up to Goat Lake last fall during a torrential downpour. We were supposed to hike to Monte Cristo the next day but couldn't as the river was flowing over that log! If we would have gone a day earlier, we would have found ourselves trapped on the wrong side of the river. We opted for a leisurely hike up to the Ice Caves instead.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 11:46:47 MDT Print View

If you cross upstream of a rope, and the current sweeps you off feet, you'll go into rope which can trip you up - bad

If you go downstream of a rope and hold on to it, it can be useful, worst case you'll be swept away from rope and it won't do any harm

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 12:14:03 MDT Print View

"If you go downstream of a rope and hold on to it, it can be useful, worst case you'll be swept away from rope and it won't do any harm"

There is an old saying, "who confesses the Pope?" Or in this case, "who hangs up the rope?"

Again, if it is flowing that fast, you shouldn't be out there in the first place, but yes, I would use the rope if it was there :) I do fear that false sense of security, because if you do let go of the rope, you have a problem. If someone strings the rope up with sweepers just downstream, you have a death trap.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 13:33:30 MDT Print View

Yeah, you're probably right, if you need a rope there's too much water

I remember crossing Coe Creek on Mt Hood. Some people were going to cross upstream of rope but I suggested they cross downstream:
coecrossing

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 14:02:59 MDT Print View

That was good advice. They would be better of facing the current and using both hands on the rope. It looks like the rear hiker has poles but isn't using them.

Fat packs too, compared to the small loads we see here--- another good case for UL.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 14:12:08 MDT Print View

I'm sure I must've posted this on BPL before (apologies!), but I'll add it to this thread:

About 30 years ago my boyfriend and I decided to backpack the Na Pali Coast trail in Kauai. I don't think we'd ever done anything beyond car camping up to that point. We were woefully inexperienced; I decided that we didn't need sleeping bags, so we just took thermarests and our tent, and I slept in my 50/50 poly/cotton sweats!!! However, I found that it actually rained a lot there, as in starting about 30 minutes after we left the trailhead. It continued all day, including while we were crossing the Hanakapiai stream near the beginning of the hike. We managed to cross without getting our feet wet by hopping rock to rock, and noticed a rope crossing, about which I thought to myself "if the rain makes the stream get higher, we can use that to cross on the way back."

Well, it rained all day and all night, we woke up with our tent in an inch of water, and decided to turn around and go back (still raining). By the time we got to the "stream", it was a raging torrent, probably several feet deep; you could not see most of the rope because it was covered with white water. Most of the large boulders in the stream could not be seen. We set up our tent and decided to wait, but after a couple of hours we were pretty cold, having all our clothing drenched (amazing how cold Hawaii can be when you're soaking wet and the sun is not out).

After a while we heard some other hikers outside the tent; they had somehow moved the rope up to higher ground, perhaps in collaboration with someone on the other side, so that it floated atop the water between two trees. They had also gotten another rope from a life preserver at the shore of the ocean (not really a beach at that time of year, just roaring ocean, as I recall around 30-50 yards downstream from the trail, so that you'd get washed out to sea if you floated down!) and were using it to tie around the waist/chest of the person crossing the stream. Folks on the shore would hold the end of that rope while the one crossing went hand over hand on the fixed rope. We watched for a while, getting more and more scared but also more and more cold, and finally went across ourselves, floating our bodies on the current and going hand over hand probably 10-15 yards or so across. I have never been so scared in my life, nor so exhilarated as when we made it across! One guy before us lost hold of the rope, but was pulled back to shore by the rope around his waist, and made it the 2nd time.

I learned a lot of lessons on that trip, mostly about stupid things never to do again! I also got a healthy respect for the power of water, which I'd only known theoretically from reading up till that point.

This is a picture I found on the web that looks sort of what it looked like at the start of the hike:
Hanakapiai

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 14:54:16 MDT Print View

How would you set up a rope for a stream crossing? How would you get the rope to the other side of the steam?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/15/2013 15:05:07 MDT Print View

"How would you set up a rope for a stream crossing? How would you get the rope to the other side of the steam?"

tie rope on one side

walk across stream with rope

tie rope on other side

this obviously only works for the case of setting up a rope for others to use

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
One way to do it on 04/15/2013 15:10:07 MDT Print View

n/m

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/17/2013 13:00:30 MDT.

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
,, on 04/15/2013 22:36:51 MDT Print View

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5SyBTy6j24

(warning graphic)..

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Hanakapiai Stream - Kauai on 04/16/2013 03:10:49 MDT Print View

We just lost a few toruists at this stream on Kalalau Trail (Na Pali coast) last month. Heavy rains swell the stream and they tried to cross and were swept out to sea.

Hawaii is beauitful anfd amazing, but NEVER under-estimate the power of water in these streams because the source is coming from so high up, plus the discharge is to the ocean.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Hanakapiai Stream - Kauai on 04/16/2013 09:20:50 MDT Print View

Yes, we were awfully young and inexperienced. I knew that streams could swell with rains, but I was thinking it would rise maybe a foot or two, nothing like the reality. At least we were cautious enough that we NEVER would have attempted to cross the swollen stream on our own. It took watching several people cross successfully (even the guy who initially lost his grip) before we finally decided it looked relatively safe with the two ropes.

Youtube video of the stream I found, this is sort of what it looked like for us:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBZQiVgQZSw

This one shows the "beach", though the stream level seems lower than we experienced, and these guys could actually walk across with the rope:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZzV5c280WY

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/17/2013 11:01:49 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 09:24:43 MDT.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: One way to do it, (until someone dies) on 04/17/2013 12:10:28 MDT Print View

"Strongest swimmer swims over with PFD (some people make them out of Platy bottles) and rope in tow. Ties to tree. Other side uses a trucker style hitch and secures to another tree (a few ways to tie this in.) Remainder of group - 1 crosses river. Person remaining on other side unties rope and ties in. Group on far side of the river pulls this person over.

I've used this technique about six times with success but it's something the group would need to rehearse on dry land. In the case of the spring thaw/ near freezing rivers of Washington... walk up or down river until you find a bridge."

Sorry, but you are giving advice beyond what can be safely taught in an online discussion group. Too many variables. Rule of thumb, as Dale points out, if it is over your knees, find another way.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: One way to do it, (until someone dies) on 04/17/2013 12:44:48 MDT Print View

"Sorry, but you are giving advice beyond what can be safely taught in an online discussion group. Too many variables. Rule of thumb, as Dale points out, if it is over your knees, find another way."

There are threads on mountaineering techniques here on BPL which I understand require more advanced training beyond what I can learn here. As a person who is interested in a Rainier summit at some point in the next couple years, I find them helpful but wouldn't throw on some crampons and try to recreate a technique I observed on the internet without professional/adult supervision.

This is an established technique which requires the team to have a basic level of proficiency before attempting. It's not overly complicated but you need to understand the sequence of events. The military has been using it for decades. It certainly isn't something that you show up and try to figure it out as you go. It shouldn't be anyones first choice and like rock climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities, it is not without some inherent risk.

This is not really something that 99% of BPLers would/should use trail hiking but it's a good tool for people on an expedition with little support.

As another forum member so eloquently noted, this is like a watermelon, eat what you want and spit out what you don't.

Edit: out of respect for your concern I've removed it but FWIW I read everything on BPL with a footnote of "at your own risk."

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/17/2013 12:59:37 MDT.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: One way to do it on 04/17/2013 12:58:25 MDT Print View

n/m double post.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/17/2013 13:01:03 MDT.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/17/2013 13:03:16 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 09:23:29 MDT.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Cost vs Benefit on 04/17/2013 13:09:47 MDT Print View

It's funny that they call this a rope bridge but the people who use it are up to their chest in water. Upon second thought, I figure anyone who would be in a position to use it (eg expedition in Latin America) would already have this skill set.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/17/2013 13:20:07 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 09:22:50 MDT.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Take a class on 04/18/2013 14:39:43 MDT Print View

If you want to learn to cross streams and rivers safely, take a class where you practice in a river.

In USA, that means a Swiftwater Rescue class, which will cover more than just crossing rivers, since we don't have river safety classes for bushwalkers like they have in New Zealand.

Rescue 3 teaches Swiftwater Rescue courses all over USA.

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council teaches River Safety courses in ... New Zealand.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/18/2013 15:02:07 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:39:18 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
A close call on 04/18/2013 16:14:26 MDT Print View

Stubblefield
serious swollen but very slow moving stream in N. Yosemite. (Stubblefield). I started across and it was deep but not at all scary. Next thing I knew the slow moving current picked me up and a was flailing, trekking poles in hand, to get to the opposite bank. I grabbed a bush and pull myself out. Not something I want to repeat but I ended up coming out OK. No gear in the pack was wet and I hung on to both my poles and my visor.

What did I learn? Take my time and scout out alternative options. It could have been avoided.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Stream crossing horror stories on 04/18/2013 21:53:05 MDT Print View

Very interesting blog post here on river crossing, includes information on the use of ropes. http://www.windy.gen.nz/index.php/archives/620

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: A close call on 04/18/2013 22:19:22 MDT Print View

That looks COLD.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/18/2013 22:33:23 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:38:45 MDT.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/18/2013 22:40:39 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:38:06 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: finding someone else's rope: take it down or leave it up? on 04/18/2013 22:54:59 MDT Print View

Leave rope - just my opinion

Maybe someone put it there and expects it for return. If you remove it they'll be stranded.

Maybe officials put it up.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: finding someone else's rope: take it down or leave it up? on 04/18/2013 23:06:57 MDT Print View

Taking the rope down could create bigger problems, depending on the situation.

If you are alone, you must (1) detach one end, (2) cross the stream, (3) detach the other end, (4) retrieve the rope, and (5) carry it out. While the rope is flapping in the stream during step (2), the rope could get snagged on rocks and vegetation, or you could get snagged in the rope, creating a much bigger problem. And carrying the rope out could impair your safety, from the extra weight, or from snagging hazards in future stream crossings.

If the stream flow is low, the stream is narrow, the snagging hazards are minimal, and carrying the rope doesn't otherwise impair your safety – go for it.

In any case, you shouldn't trust the rope to hold your weight if you didn't rig it yourself, so cross downstream of the rope, preferably without touching it at all.

Ropes and swift water are a dangerous combination, especially in untrained hands. Avoid if possible.

I have an unreliable sense of balance, so log bridges are usually my last choice. You must judge the consequences of falling off any log bridge – How far is the drop? How deep is the water? What would you drop onto? How fast is the current moving? What's downstream? – before you proceed.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Don't cross the streams. on 04/19/2013 00:02:09 MDT Print View

Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Total protonic reversal.

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North; UK
...stream crossing on 04/19/2013 00:20:24 MDT Print View

I've crossed my fair share - normally solo in Scotland, generally in summer so pretty do-able.

Last October a few of us were in the Cairngorms though, heading up to a camping spot we met a guy coming down who had successfully crossed a stream we had been concerned about - we hit the same stream about 30 minutes later and it had morphed to this...

Gorms river

We decided to give it a miss...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: finding someone else's rope: take it down or leave it up? on 04/19/2013 00:26:43 MDT Print View

"log bridges are usually my last choice"

Eleven years ago, I was on a long solo jaunt through the north end of Yosemite National Park. You know, twenty miles per day, up and down. On Day Three, I came to a stream crossing. The water was almost waist deep, and I just did not like the looks of it. There was no better place upstream or downstream. Where the trail disappeared into the stream crossing, there was a narrow tree trunk broken so that the trunk was bent over horizontally across the stream, and the far narrow end of the trunk was tied by rope to a stump on the opposite side. So, it looked like an invitation to cross the stream by "scooting" across the tree trunk. I sat astraddle the trunk and scooted out on it. When I got halfway across, the trunk was bobbing up and down with every movement, and I was just about ready to topple off into the stream. My boots were already hitting the water. The only thing that kept it all together was that the rope tied the opposite end to keep it from bobbing too far. So, I just held on like a nervous virgin.

After holding my breath and inching along so carefully, I managed to make it to the opposite side. There, I could swing down off the trunk and plant my feet on firm ground. Yosemite probably has an iron bridge there by now.

--B.G.--

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: finding someone else's rope: take it down or leave it up? on 04/19/2013 00:34:16 MDT Print View

>So, I just held on like a nervous virgin.

bjkl

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Stream crossing horror stories on 04/19/2013 00:52:37 MDT Print View

I went hiking to Cache Creek last summer. My plan was to cross the creek and camp on the other side. When I got there, it wasn't a "creek" anymore. They opened the dam near Clear Lake and it about 10 times bigger and deeper than it was in winter. I considered crossing it. It was a long swim and the water was pretty fast but I have seen many people swim across worse. There wasn't any chance of hitting rapids. I would basically start really far upstream and end up downstream.
I ended up choosing not to cross. The inside of my pack wasn't waterproofed and I wouldn't have had time to dry out my gear before dark. I'm not a really strong swimmer and I didn't have enough experience to know what is safe and what is dangerous. I'm glad that I didn't attempt to cross. I could have probably found a shallow spot to cross if I bushwacked far enough up the creek.

Edited by justin_baker on 04/19/2013 00:53:23 MDT.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/19/2013 09:28:33 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:36:28 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Re: a Close Call on 04/19/2013 11:12:41 MDT Print View

"Just for academic purposes, how deep was the water when you first went in? Was it over your knees? Have you been back to this stream crossing since?"

The water was almost waist deep from the beginning. It just kept getting a bit deeper and deeper until the force of the current was strong enough to move me. It was between belly button and chest high at that point. I wasn't expecting it to be that deep or I would have put my poles on my pack, moved the pack to the front and just swim it. And no haven't been back to North Yosemite since that trip.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/19/2013 11:24:07 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:35:35 MDT.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
water crossing (overlong post) on 04/20/2013 11:12:47 MDT Print View

in the interest of science . this is an excerpt form my written-but-not-published guidebook on how to walk across alaska.
i have since graduated (aged) to an alpacka raft, and now i just hit rivers where they be lakes, and we avoid all such foolishness.

but ok, yes certainly, things can go bad. i once upon a time rafted (raft a lash-up of empty fuel barrels) under a log jam. it was touch and go for some time under there.

section out of the introduction ... (possible repeat text )



Crossing rivers is required to complete either of the longer walks. We will pick our crossing spot with utmost care; prepare our gear for the worst; do what we can to minimize the risk of being immersed in freezing water (possibly bringing a small raft); and give it 100%. It seems inevitable that on occasion people get knocked off their feet and rolled in the current. The viscious cold quickly sucks the strength out of one’s efforts, and once they do make the far shore, landing on the rocks ensures a surprisingly thorough beating. There are steps to be taken to reduce the risk, but the crossings comprise the highest risk factor of summer arctic travel. The issue of these crossings, primarily the Firth River in the western Yukon, goes as far as setting start dates.

Drowning:

Crossing rivers is required to complete either of these walks. If one gets rolled, a landing on the rocks results in a really good battering. With any shortage of motivation or luck, one will be not only well beaten, but still on the wrong side of the f’ing river. There are steps to be taken to reduce the risk, but the crossings comprise the highest risk factor of summer arctic travel. The issue of these crossings, primarily the Firth River in the western Yukon, goes as far as setting start dates for us. One can swim these northern rivers if pressed to do so and if the risk seems justified. It is hard to imagine this act being enjoyable.

doubled text from first chapter ?
--
The author has had good results swimming rivers, so far, by performing an elaborate gear preparation ritual ; All that is really desperately required to survive is stuffed into the top lid of the pack. This lid, with the bright yellow parka strapped to it is worn butt-pack style, but in front. Double bag as required, it’s going under water. The pack is adjusted so the shoulder straps are loose, to aid in circulation for the arms, because it can happen that a crossing can be some long time in the water holding extremely hard onto a staff, and any loss of arm strength will precipitate a problem. The hip belt is worn snug to keep the pack high, thusly increasing the fording depth before pack buoyancy becomes an issue. The pack has some very bright strapping on it to aid in locating it underwater should separation come to pass. Experience with the pack volume rolling the authors head under water resulted in the technique of lashing the t-rest to the chest. This provides considerable flotation and balances the buoyancy of the pack. You can find the Kiwi version of this technique at the Aarn.com site using his front bags. If the water is big enough for all this trouble, a staff is in order. 8’ long by 3” around is not excessive. Trekking poles will work, but they are not what one wants in a nasty spot. The staff is deployed downstream, where it will be under compression. The bomber cap is strapped on as well as possible, glasses are secured with a lanyard, and it’s In-We-Go.
Where one crosses matters a Great Deal. The nicest spots are those braided areas which break up the flow into multiple parts. There is a lot of latitude in crossing, in that one can also make way up and down river while in the water, or on midriver islands. There will seldom be need to force a crossing straight across. Second choice is a pair of opposing bends where one can exploit the trailing tongue of one gravel bar, to access the rise of the bottom leading to the bar on the opposing bend. The least depth between a pair of opposing bends usually lies upstream of midway between them. Outside corners are generally the deepest.
Working upstream is more stable, affords better visibility, more options, and is generally
just safer. It is the method of choice on longish fords such as the Killick, and wherever trekking poles will work instead of a staff. However in deep water it won’t work, and there starts a series of reductions in safety as techniques change in the face of adversity. Going straight across allows one to lean on the staff harder, and thusly increases the workable depth. Then comes angling downstream, with it’s attendant bonus in staff compression, and a nasty little reduction in ability to backup out of the situation. Following this is working downstream, but at a much shallower angle, and not stopping between steps ... rather walking With the current, strongly working the staff to safety the moves. Each step bringing one slightly closer to the opposing shore. Soon this will degrade into more of a floating experience as the displacement of body and pack combine to reduce weight and control. With every bounce of foot and staff, bound in the direction of good as much as possible. At this point one will be glad they lashed that t-rest to their chest because sure as god made little green apples somebody is going to step in a hole and voila, they are swimming.

The upper layer of river current has a strong determination to go to the outside of any upcoming bend, and this crossflow is a mortal enemy of one trying to swim across. Aim for the selected gravel bar and put absolutely 100% into getting there. Do not attempt to stand up when making first contact with the bottom, get the legs pointed downstream and claw into shallower water, then roll up onto the shore. There will be bruises.

Fording nippy water will eventually make the legs numb, but this is not a big issue if one first gets their boots filled with water, and then does the gear prep. During the prep the feet will warm the water which results in sort of a wetsuit effect during the crossing. If the water is just up to ones crotch, there is time aplenty to work the crossing. Getting one’s entire body into the water is another matter entirely. The nature of a serious crossing is such that one may not feel cold until on the other side. This in no way means that the effects of freezing are not noticeable within moments of going in. There will be an immediate loss of strength and power. No abundance of character or strength of will is going to make up for compromised abilities. Once you go deep, the clock is running. Move with Power and Confidence. Do Not Analyze. Do Not Dork Around.

At an expense of $60 and 4.3 pounds (with paddles !) one can avoid swimming if they chose to carry the Sevylor Trail Boat. This item is Not an $950 Alpaca Raft, being more of a “pool toy”, but for what they cost, they’re awesome. The author floated the snag infested Reed River in Alaska in one to get around a very nasty swamp. Gear prep is similar, but with the top lid worn very high on the back (as a backrest) with the belt just under the ribs, while the pack sits in the front under ones legs. The hull and floor are quite susceptable to damage from rock and ice. Do ones self a favor and Throw Away the stock black Sevylor cord and subsitute anything else to secure the paddles. One does not need the inflation bag (sevylor). Use the paddles separately, not kayak style. When one is done with it, for what you spent, just leave it in the food drop box and walk away, or burn it. Launching is done backwards off of a gravel shelf, and if one does not attempt to keep their feet dry it will considerably prolong the life of the boat. While allowing for some drift, select crossing spots with the emphasis on the optimal landing spot. Land head in and get the feet wet. One can exit sideways with dry feet, and will hole the floor every time. Only Muskeg Ck, the Firth, and perhaps the Kong justify packing a raft. The Bell is so fast down low, that it is safer to work upstream until it braids, and then stroll across.

In 2011 the author acquired the Alpacka Scout. This inflatable hull is as durable as a proper Alpacka Raft, and weighs/costs substantially less. It is a vastly better, and more expensive alternative to the fragile Sevylor boat. The author has used the Scout to cross open leads in arctic sea ice, and trusts his life to it. No Problem.

A well versed Kiwi in a Whitehorse cafe counciled the author that the “downstream bouncing technique” holds a very real danger in the form of leg entrapment. This is a true fact and one needs to look well at the bottom conditions before committing to the program. The recommended crossing points on the Firth have a bottom of softball sized cobbles. Your mileage may vary.

A related crossing issue is creeks in the early spring. Once thru the snow wall that borders most of them, the water would be no problem if it were running in the bed of the creek, which it isn’t. It is running on a slab of rotting ice that’s laying on the bottom, and easily punched through to a depth unknown. One can usually walk across the stuff on snowshoes, and the author thinks that’s a silly way to die. One may be able to invest a reasonable amount of effort in a walkaround. Or one may just wade on in and hammer a trench as they go. In the middle of such a creek one may see a bush sticking up .. “ and island .. hey ... it will be shallower over there ! “. Sure, it just might be, but the bush will have conducted heat down into that section of ice making it even worse in the deep channels that normally border one or both sides of mid-creek islands. If one removes the basket from their trekking poles in these creeks, they will be able to obtain a better idea of where the real bottom of the creek lies.Oh the joys of early season walking and another good reason to break the BRT into two parts.

i hope ya'all enjoyed that. it's rough, but it works, so i'm not near dead yet.
cheers,
peter v.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 04/22/2013 21:16:22 MDT Print View

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Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/09/2013 01:22:57 MDT.