Saturday, May 27, 2006


It started off as another beautiful day on the Top Yough. It had rained some the night before bringing the level up to runnable so we decided to skip the Saturday Upper Yough release and head there instead (as did many other people). There was considerable crowd in the parking lots and also at Swallow Falls. Between the boaters and tourists there was quite the audience. The four of us (me, Mark, Doug and Justin) ran Swallow and continued on to get in front of the crowd. We were having a great run. We bombed through the beginning and we got some nice pictures of all of us at Suck Hole (see below). I once again attempted the Room move but still no success (at least this time I didn't flip in the process!). Mark and Doug both completed it nicely though.

We were nearing the end of the whitewater section of the run. One of the last rapids has some fun little eddy catching moves that we've been practicing on each run. Mark went first and the rest of us followed. We had a good time eddy hopping our way down. Doug was last and when I got to the bottom I turned around to watch him. He had caught the last eddy and was working on peeling back out into the main flow. This took a moment though probably not more than a few seconds. Mark had been right there just before. I turned back around and he was gone and Justin suddenly started calling to me and signaling that something wasn't right. This seemed bizarre as there was nothing more than some class II water below us as far as I remembered.

I looked down stream and saw Mark. My view was partially blocked by rocks but I could see him. He appeared to be sitting upright though I couldn't see his boat. At first glance it seemed like he'd broached or pinned somehow but it didn't appear that he was in any immediate danger. Nonetheless I quickly started paddling towards him and then immediately realized something was very wrong. He was bending over and seemed to be in a great deal of pain. As I came around the rocks I saw that he wasn't actually in his boat. The boat was laying upside down on the rock (with his paddle laying beside it) and he was sitting on top of it (or maybe next to it I can't remember now). I paddled up to the rock and Justin was right next to me. He held my boat in place while I climbed out onto the rock beside Mark. He was sitting there holding his arm and I immediately knew he had dislocated it. I started asking him what happened and if he was alright otherwise but it quickly became clear that he was not.

I pulled my boat up onto the rock so that Justin could get out too and continued trying to help Mark. It became clear that he had been knocked unconscious and that he was extremely disoriented. The rock we were on had water going over it and he was leaning over into it. I tried to get him to sit up so that he wasn't laying in the water but it was hard as I had to avoid pulling on his shoulder so I held on to the other side and his pfd. I finally got him sitting upright but he couldn't stay up on his own. I kept trying to talk to him but he was initially extremely unresponsive. He didn't seem to understand what was going on. I would ask him questions and he'd mutter a quick response but didn't have the energy to put together complete sentences. His eyes weren't focusing on me and it seemed that he could loose consciousness any moment.

Justin had gotten out of his boat and climbed over to us. "Keep talking to him" he said. "Get him to talk to you, we have to keep him awake". But it was hard to keep him conscious. We asked if he remembered what had happened. He said he did. But we couldn't get him to talk to us and he kept closing his eyes. "Open your eyes Mark, please open your eyes". I was getting scarred. All I could think of was "please don't let him go to sleep". We had no idea if or what degree of head injury he might have. There was a small amount of blood near his mouth but otherwise there seemed to be no direct evidence of trauma to his face.

Justin wanted to check and see if he had a concussion. "We need to check his pupils and see if they're dilated" he said. "Open your eyes Mark, we need to look at them". But we couldn't get him to keep them open long enough. So Justin told him he was going to open them for him and we gently lifted his eyelids. His pupils looked normal so that was a good sign. Next we needed get him out of the water. He was going into shock and we needed to stabilize him and keep him from going hypothermic. He was slowly becoming a bit more responsive and was starting to resist us a little. He said he was okay so I told him he had get up. He could not of course. With Doug's help pulling him up by his pfd and Justin and I holding his legs (careful not to jostle his arm too much) we lifted him up onto a dry rock. I sat behind him supporting his head and back and continued talking to him trying to keep him conscious.

He kept saying he was okay and that he just needed to rest. "You can't go to sleep" we kept telling him and continued talking to him and making him respond at least a little. We started debating what to do. The takeout was only a little over a mile away and we knew there was a trail along the river as well. We were thinking we might need to send someone to get help as Mark wasn't improving enough to get up on his own. Justin had noticed the other group coming around the bend above us and said they would be there shortly. By the time they made their way down Mark was actually fully regaining consciousness and becoming more coherent. Eventually he was able to sit up some and then stand on his own and lean up against another rock. It was a wonderful relief to see him up and talking. He was even able to recall what had happened:

In the eddy hopping rapid everyone seemed to be having so much fun that I decided to show everyone a little slot in the next rapid down stream. It was a crappy little slot that from up stream looks a little too sketchy to try because the rocks on boh sides are obviously undercut but we had run it before and it was ok though a bit crappy. As I went through the water pushed me onto the right side undercut rock so I pushed off of the rock with my paddle which wasn't a big deal till the paddle got caught somehow and in an instant was pulled high behind me (because I was going down through the drop in the slot). I didn't let go fast enough and it quickly pulled my shoulder out.

In the next moment I found myself upside down on the back deck of the boat bouncing down the river on my face/chest. I slid my left hand up and grabbed my right (dislocated) arm and pulled it down by my side. At some point a rock hit my left front tooth and cause it to cut a good slice into the inside of my lip. Through all this I remembered that I had to relax my shoulder to get it to slide back in. So I spent a moment just focusing on relaxing the muscles in my shoulder till it finally slid back in. After that I started focusing back on my situation and realized that despite my not being able to lean forward to pull my skirt, it had come off, I guess due to my not being locked into my boat with my legs anymore. The next thing I knew I was washed up onto a flat rock that had bout 2 inches of water going over it with my boat next to me. I shoved the boat up furthur and looked up stream and made eye contact with Justin then layed down on the boat and passed out. The next thing I remember is Maggie holding me up and frantically asking if I was ok and what was wrong.

We sat and waited for the other group to arrive and debated what to do. Mark's arm was back in its joint but was quite completely useless. He tucked his hand behind his pfd to keep his arm immobilized as best as he could. He wasn't going to be able to paddle out. We decided that we should all hike out together. The other group arrived and hung out to help. The rocks we were sitting on were away from the shore and the current was too strong for him to wade across and putting him back in a boat didn't seem like a viable idea. So we helped him get back in the water and float a short way down to an eddie and he crawled up on to shore.

We decided that it would be best if Justin towed Mark's boat back to the takeout so that he wouldn't have to carry it. We put his skirt on it and tied off the tunnel with some string. I thought about asking Doug to do the same with my boat, that way he wouldn't' have to hike and I wouldn't have to carry my boat either. But this wasn't a good idea as I was worried that if Mark were to black out again it would be better to have two of us there. Once Justin had the boat all set up to be towed we left him to paddle down with the others. They had plenty of people to help him out. Many thanks to Mark C. and his group for the help!!

Mark wanted us to just paddle down and meet him at the bottom but there was no way we were going to leave him to trudge through the woods alone! So the three of us bushwhacked through some rhodo till we reached the trial (it was quite close to the river). Doug and I tethered our boats so that we could drag them and we made our way down. The trail had some logs across it that we had to drag our boats over but overall it wasn't a bad walk. Mark had gotten enough rest that the exhaustion had passed and he was doing well. When we reached the outflow of the Deep Creek Power plant he had to wade across the channel. Since they weren't releasing it was only about knee deep so it wasn't a big deal. Doug and I were able to get back into our boats and float along as the trail at this point followed the edge of the river closely so we could continue to keep an eye on Mark but not have to walk anymore. We reached the takeout safely and helped him get out of his gear. Luckily we were able to hold his arm stable enough to take his drytop off without having to cut it off of him!

We were all very happy that Mark did not have any really serious injuries or head trauma. His shoulder will need a couple weeks to heal. This was certainly the scariest situation I've been on on the river and I'm so thankful that everything turned out alright. No more running sketchy slots Mark!!

Mark running Suck Hole

Justin running Suck Hole

Maggie running Suck Hole

Doug running Suck Hole

Labels: ,

Friday, May 26, 2006


So finally on my 18th run of the Upper Yough i finally got over my irrational need to avoid it and finally ran the boof at National. I had heard Mark explain the line a dozen times but as he was explaining it to Doug i ignored him. I didn't want to over analyze it. I paddled toward the rock, angled my boat to the right, held my paddle ready, waited for the right moment to take that boof stroke and... voila! Perfect landing right in the eddy. It felt great! I'll definitely be running that line from now on. Good to finally get over that silly fear.

(sorry for the crappy photos, i'll put high res ones up when i buy them from the photographer)

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Finally spring has reached the Yough! Despite a somewhat dreary morning we had two beautiful runs with some leaves on the trees! We had a small group, just Mark, Rex and I. It was starting off nice and peaceful. We took more video and pics at Swallow Falls, Swallowtail and Suck Hole:

Mark running Swallow Falls:
Center line (filmed from bottom)
Right line (filmed from bottom)
Right line (filmed from top)

Mark running Swallowtail Falls

Mark running Suck Hole:
Entering the Room
Exiting the Room

Maggie running Swallow

Maggie running Suck Hole

Mark hiking up for another run

Rex running Swallow

On our second run Mark decided to provide some excitement. Below is his account:

A few small rapids after Swallow Tail (right where Muddy Creek dumps in) we came up to one of my favorite little moves. Most of the river narrows down to a little slide that's maybe slightly more than a boat width wide (at this level anyway). There's a sneak to the left but the slide is the best part. You have to enter with right angle and speed so you can boof off the right side of the slide or you end up dropping in the trashy little hole at the bottom sideways. The hole also had the nice feature of having rocks on either side guarding against any side escape. Right at the entrance of the slide is another hole that you have to either punch or cut in behind it just at the top of the slide making it a pretty narrow little move which was my preference.

Maggie went first, I was very close behind but realized she was trying to get her camera out to take pictures of us coming down so I quickly found a small eddy right above the top hole that I could sit in and wait. It put me in a bad position to line up from but I thought it would be cool to have the shot. After she was ready I pealed out of the eddy on the river left side which forced me to have to take a complete U-turn to point back to the river right side so I could make the boof (I couldn't peal out on the right side as that would have put me into the top hole directly). By the time all this was done I was losing good angle and had to power forward to keep from missing the line entirely. I also had to set a little bit of a ferry angle to enter where I needed to enter so I was actually pointing a little bit up stream as I entered into the slot.

All this, of course, caused me to have bad angle, and bad speed for making the move. I realized I was going to hit the rock on the right side if I didn't slow down so I took a back stroke which didn't do anything to help my angle so I ended up just bouncing off the boof and dropping into the hole entirely sideways on my left (off) side. In the hole I found that it was too steep at the bottom to get into a side surf and too boily and aerated to really brace on well enough to even get my head above water. The pool below the slide was pretty deep so I
couldn't even find any green water to grab right away. I felt around a little all the while worrying that at any moment Rex was going to slam into me and maybe also end up with me in the hole. I finally found some green outflow on the far side of the hole to grab and stuck my paddle in as hard and deep as I could. For a moment I started to move some but the the outflow broke up into boils and I had nothing to hold on to and was quickly pulled back in still on my offside. I had not yet even gotten my head up enough to get air, was still not seeing
any way out and still waiting on Rex to slam into my side or land on top of me.

What I didn't know was Maggie had signalled to Rex to stop and he had figured out the rest for himself. So probably a little too soon...I swam. I probably could have struggled enough to get my head up for a moment and grab a breath but I was starting to feel a little weakened from the fight and worried that I would need the rest of my energy to swim to shore. As I popped out of my boat I pushed off it with my feet to get away from the hole but still instantly felt myself sucked down toward the bottom and I opened my eyes to just see brown water all around me. I could feel a little upstream movement so I swam hard and emerged about 10 feet down stream from the hole. Maggie started coming toward me but I told her to just get the boat as I still had my paddle and could easily get myself to shore. My boat was still in the hole when I crawled up onto a nearby rock but was finally let go a moment later. Maggie pushed my boat up to me while I sat on the rock and sulked. It was quite humbling and a good learning lesson for the things I need to work on. My offside roll isn't perfect. I still don't brace or control myself nearly as well with it as I do my onside. I also need to stick myself into some trashy holes in my creek boat so I can get used to how it handles (i.e hole bait). It could have been worse as the swim was short and only my pride was hurt. It had been almost two years since I had swam from a similar situation and it had been almost 9 months before that (and that time had been when I dislocated my shoulder). So it's obvious what I need to work on to just find some holes to stick myself in and fight with....I'm thinking the hole at National would be a good one. -Mark

Mark going into the hole

Rex had actually watched Mark come down and me taking pictures. He saw me take a picture of him, then follow him with the camera and take another picture in the direction of the hole, then sit there and watch. After a few seconds I realized things weren't looking too good so i shoved the camera back in my pocket and held up my paddle for Rex to stop and started heading toward the edge of the eddy to be ready to help. Even before i held up my paddle to tell him to wait Rex already knew what was going on. In the the short time it took to drop the camera and give the stop signal Mark was out of his boat and already swiming for the rock he ended up climbing out on. I quickly gave Rex the go signal so he'd come down quick and help (which turned out to be unnecessary anyway). Overall this incident barely even slowed us down as everything happend within a few feet of the hole. We continued on and still had a decent run overall.

My first run was clean so on the second i decided to go ahead and attempt the room move at Suck Hole. I caught the river right eddy across from it and watched as Mark went in. I followed, made the ferry above the hole just fine but could not punch through the eddy line. I kept getting pushed back into the main flow and eventually decided to give up and tried to peal back out into the main flow. In the process i got spun around and flipped and ended up running the rest upside down. Ooops! I think i'll try that again at a lower level! Overall its a cool move though.

Next i managed to slightly pin myself. It was at "Rick's Rapid" (hee hee). We ran it from left to right and as i came above the last drop i hit a little f-u rock that bounced me over to the left and then pinned there. I was completely upright but it was a little scarry because in order to get myself off i had to spin myslef off the rock and ended up almost running the left side backwards. I had no idea what was over there so i paddled hard, caught a little micro eddy and paddled back over to the right. Of course this meant i came at the hole with no speed and ended up in it (it was munchier this time since the level was a little higher thank we'd run it before).

I side surfed there for a minute and tried to work my way out but the hole was guarded by a rock wall on one side and more rocks on the other. I was getting pushed up agains the left wall and i imagined what Rick must have felt like there but at least i was still perpendicular to it. Really the situation was quite similar to Mark's just a little whiel before. But i was quite determined to get out of there in my boat and i was pretty sure that he and Rex both knew what was going on. So i held my paddle out (which Rex took as a stop sign so that was cool since i didnt want him coming down landing on me anyway) and then flipped. I reached out with my paddle into the green water and it pulled me out. Not a big deal overall but pretty annoying nonetheless! Mark had boofed into the eddy on the right beside me and was in front of me when i rolled up. We both gave Rex the go signal and continued on.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Oh Deer!

Another gorgeous day on the Lower Big Sandy. The five of us (Mark, Ben, Rex, Sam and myself) were having a nice run. I got out and took pictures of everyone running Wonder Falls (Video for Mark). It was a fairly typical run and it didn't seem like there would really be anything too exciting to report....



So there we were.... standing around at Big Splat, checking out the drop, each thinking our own thoughts regarding ever running it. As we stood there i glanced up stream. As i turned my head a saw a quick flash of something going through the horseshoe. At first i thought it was a boater coming down. But it didnt' seem right as it came straight through the meat of the hole and it was too small and not nearly brightly colored enough. Then someone yelled "a deer is going to swim Big Splat! ".

Sure enough the poor animal had just completed its swim of the horseshoe. I didn't see if it had gotten recirculated at all or if it just punched through. In any case the hole let it out. We watched in awe as it despearately (and impossibly) tried to claw (hoof?) its way up the river right wall (as we all wondered "how do you throw a rope to a deer?"). Of course in the process it swam directly behind the huge rock on the right of the main drop. We watched in horror as it disappeard. We were all quite sure it would get caught in the seive and that we'd never see it again. A few seconds went by. To our surprise it emerged on the other side of the rock and continued frantically trying to claw its way up on the right. I imagine that its desperate struggle to keep to the shore probably saved it from getting stuffed under the rock.

It managed to get itself into the little micro eddy at the top of the drop. Unfortunately there was no way it could claw its way out of there and eventually made the leap/fell to the bottom. It disappeared into the froth behind the splat rock and reappeared a short way downstream. It conitinued clawing its way along the shore till it managed to swim into an eddy and climbed up the bank, shaking. After a moment it seemed to get its wits together and stood there briefly. It took one look at us on the other side of the river and bolted up the bank and into the woods. It was truly a bizarre sight!

Bambi in the eddy before taking the final plunge

Bambi boofing out of the seive

Bambi eddying out

Note: Yes the picture is real!! I have absolutely zero photoshop skills. If you click on the photo and look at the large version you will see that the deer is indeed very wet and very scarred. You can also see its shadow on the water and the splash coming off its hooves. :)

Once the deer was out of sight we marveled over what we'd just seen and continued on. Got some good rock launches and finished our run. At Second Island Sam showed us the river left line, a fairly technical and fun rapid. I'll definitely be running that side from now on.


Labels: ,

Friday, May 05, 2006

Whitewater Highway

Whitewater Highway - Tom in center

By popular demand i am putting up this post for the first (weekend) Upper Yough release of the season. I had initially planned on just doing an overall UY post at the end of the summer but i guess we'll have too many pictures by then anyway.

It had been quite a while since i'd been on the UY at 2 feet, sometime August or July last year probably. The end of the season had lower levels (1.6-1.7) and our runs earlier this year were also lower (1.7 and 1.25 respectively). This weekend the Sang Run gauge read 2 feet even (though by the online gauge using the old correlation it seemed to be closer to 2.2). I didn't find anything all that much harder but i'd gotten used to seeing exposed rocks and it was a surprise to see just whitewater everywhere for a change (nice)!

Margaret and her friend Rex as well as Scott M and Tom Djoined us. On friday we stuck to standard lines as it had been a while and Mark was also leading Tom on his first run. Saturday Mark and I ran some new (to me) lines including one of the slots at Charlie's (which to me was just a narrower channel, not really a slot, later we'll work on the tighter ones). Will need to get pictures next time. We also ran right line above Meat Cleaver (the Cascades instead of the "Rockies" a fairly staright forward but fun line). We also got out and scouter Time Warp. Although we didn't get around to running it this trip we decided it defintely didn't look too hard and that we'd be going that way next time

Now that i really know the lines and have had lots more practice i finally feel confident running everything on my own (i actually annoyed Mark a little cuz i kept getting ahead... hee hee). So the plan is to use the UY as training for bigger stuff: run harder lines, work on making harder moves, ferries, catch tough eddies etc. I even discovered a new little elevator move at a rapid below Cheeseburger (Mark was able to make it but i'll need some practice).

Overall it was a nice weekend despite the incredible crowds (Cheat Fest weekend). I'd never seen so many people on there (or as much carnage). It was truly a whitewater highway. Pealing out in between the huge groups wasn't much easier than trying to merge on the Beltway. I saw three people swim out of National in the span of about five minutes. Luckily everyone in our group had good runs. I really don't understand why people like to paddle in such large groups (some had at least 20!). It's ridiculous. Our group of 6 on friday was enough as it was!

Mark got to take his new creek boat (Riot Sniper) on its maiden voyage. He did really well, catching all the challenge eddies (Eddy of Doom at Gap and the tiny eddy on the right at Triple Drop, cave eddy at Zinger, etc).

Mark in the Eddy of Doom

Mark and Rex below the Cascades

Margaret at Meat Cleaver

Mark's favorite boof

Rex at the boof

Maggie at Gap Falls taken by Mark from the Eddy of Doom

Maggie boofing at Bastard

Maggie at National

Margaret at Gap Falls

Margaret at Bastard

Mark at Meat Cleaver

Labels: ,

hit counter code
low cost web hosting

Locations of visitors to this page