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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.