Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chute Out 2006

Videos of the C1 class, September Chute Out, VA Chute:




MD Chute Out Website

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pin at Initiation Videos

See here for the full accident report

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Saturday, September 16, 2006


This post has gotten very long. But it is vey important. So please take the time to read it all.

This was our first weekend on the Gauley this year. Saturday Scott and Ben decided to go for the Marathon again. Mark and Justin were both thoroughly horrified by the idea and I wasn't too keen on it either overall so the three of us just stuck to the Upper. We would pick them up at the takeout for the lower at the end of the day. We had plenty of time so we took it slow.

When we got to Initiation I eddied out on river left and signaled to Mark and Justin to make sure they remembered where to go. I do this every time we run the Gauley, even if I know that everyone remembers it. I want to be very sure. We ran the rapid and eddied out on the right at the bottom. I looked upstream and to my surprise and horror I saw a guy trapped in the sieve. His bow was down deep, stern sticking up straight in the air. But at least his head was a good ways above the water and he seemed to be stable.

There were a few people in the eddy already, including some rafts. It had clearly just happened. One person was already scrambling up the rock next to the sieve to help. He quickly anchored himself with rope and walked down the slide beside the sieve (apparently there are anchors in place right there, a very sad necessity for this river). He tried pulling on the boat to free it but there was no way he was going to budge probably close to 200lbs of boat, paddler and water, especially with the force that was pushing down on him. Pulling his skirt was not an option since the boat would then fill with water and potentially pull him further under the rock.

He started shouting instructions to other people in the group. We all had gotten out. They worked quickly at getting ropes out. A couple of the raft guides got their customers out on the shore and paddled up to the base of the rapid. They tied a rope between the pinned boat and the raft. The pinned boater was obviously getting extremely exhausted. We could see him slump down but was still keeping his head above water and was able to lift it up some.

Eventually, after more useless attempts at pulling on the boat, they tied another rope to the other end of the raft and threw it to the people on shore. It missed so Justin jumped in, grabbed it and swam back into the eddy. Finally they had enough leverage. At this point a good crowd had gathered in the eddy and on the shore around the sieve. Mark joined a couple of people including members of the pinned boater's group and some rafters for a tug-of-war of sorts with the sieve. It was great to see everyone working together to save this guy's life. They lined up and grabbed the rope and pulled hard. It didn't take long before the boat was extracted as they all fell back. The boater swam free. Besides what was probably serious exhaustion he seemed fine. It took approximately 45 minutes to get him out.

Two people have died in this sieve and there have been many close calls. He was very lucky to have a made it out alive. Apparently he had forgoten what rapid this was and mistakenly took the right line down into the sieve. A most unfortunate choice.

We had speculated that he might have been surfing the "no-no" wave above the sieve. This was NOT the case. However, that is how the death in 1994 occured. I don't care how good you think you are! Don't ever even think about surfing that wave. It's a pretty crappy looking wave anyway and there are plenty way better playspots on the river. If you are running the Upper Gauley for the first time make sure you know where Initiation is and where the correct line is.

There are diagrams of the rapid and the dagerous sieve posted near the put in. These diagrams are provided by Surf City, an amalgam of Friends of the Gauley, Float Fishermen of Virginia, Songer Whitewater, the DNR, amongst others. NPS has agreed to post these diagrams of the rapid in order to warn people of the danger. These diagrams were done by a helicopter fly-over, wherein photos were shot straight down in sequence, then the diagrams were drawn from the photos so they would be as cloase an absolute match to reality as possible (Thanks to Bill Tanger of Surf City for providing this info). Please be aware of the location of this hazard and stay away from it!

Though this should go without saying here is the disclaimer provided with the diagrams.

"This map is not a substitute for scouting, adequate safety procedures, and good judgement.It is only a source of information to help you boat safely. The map is based on 2800 cfs [normal fall release level], higher or lower flows will decrease the accuracy of this map. Routes are only suggestions. "

In the pictures above you can see the surfing wave in the top left corner just above where the boater is pinned. There is very little room to surf that wave and make it off in time. The right side below the surf wave feeds directly into the sieve. I took some video of the incident. I didn't get the final extraction but you can see just how serious the situation can be. In the videos you can see people running the rapid correctly, far from the sieve on the left. Check out the videos here:

Pin at Initiation 1

Pin at Initiation 2

Pin at Initiation 3

The rapid just above Initiation has a (different / safe) surf wave that people stop and play at followed by a small (but sticky!!) pourover in the middle of the river. After the surf wave watch out for the pourover and be especially prepared to head left at Initiation. There are also some pictures on AW showing what the rapid looks like from above. Though I don't necessarily recommend relying on this. Memory of a photo can be deceptive as well. Best to go with a good guide.

(from AW Gauley site)

Here is a low water picture of the sieve. As you can see the rocks leading to the chock stone form a channel making it difficult if not impossible to escape to the left once you are on this line.

(picture from this site)

Here is a quick history of pins at Initiation (including some links). My intention is not to over dramatize the danger here but rather educate people on how easy it is to find yourself in the wrong place. Each person has a slightly different story of how they ended up in the sieve, and also how they go out (thankfully most have been fortunate enough to escape). These are the ones i'm aware of. If anyone has info on others please let me know. I know i've already drilled this point in pretty well but i think it's important to be aware of how easy it is to get sucked into this terrible trap.

1982 - Fatal - Failed rescue attempt

1989- Horrifying story of someone who pinned, got out of his boat and swam through the sieve

1994 - Fatal - Victim was aware of danger but surfed the no-no wave anyway.

2000- Pictures including low water sieve.

2001 - Another near miss

2003 - 1 - Rescue photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ,6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (from AW gallery)

2003 - 2 -
Until getting stuck in it I did not know the exact location of it. My dad told me that there is a really good play wave above it. To me really good play wave means steep with a good foam pile. Therefore, when I was paddling down Initiation I "knew" I was no where near the sieve since there were no "really good" play waves anywhere. The next thing I know I am vertically pinned. Things I remember:
-I had water coming over my head but I was able to get breaths.
-The force of the water kept me from being able to reach my grab loop to pull my skirt.
-My boat was not at 90 degrees. I was facing forward, ie, downstream with my bow in the sieve. The stern was pointing toward river left probably between 60 and 70 degrees.
-I remember trying to get out of the boat without pulling my skirt a number of times with no luck.
-I was able to use both hands to peel my skirt off on the right side of the cockpit. Once my skirt was off I pushed myself out of my boat gently for fear of falling deeper into the sieve. I was pushed to the river left side of the sieve and swam a considerable distance before making it to shore. My boat came out of the sieve pretty soon after I swam--I lost part of my bulkhead (I was paddling an EZ that day).
-I estimate that I spent about 5 minutes in the sieve. While I maintained composure through it, it was still really scary. I feel incredibly fortunate that the release was a little less than normal--Can't remember why but I think it was around 2600 cfs--I shudder to think that that may have saved my life. ~Steve Graybill

2005 - ???

2006 - The incident described above. See also the Boatertalk discussion including the victims own report.

2006 - Barely a week after the incident described above a paddler gets stern pinned and ends up swimming through the sieve.

2006 - And another. This one is pretty long but worth a read.

On Sunday, September 24, 2006 (Gauleyfest weekend) I was preparing to run the Upper Gauley for the second day in a row. The previous day had been my first time ever down the river. I had, however, been prepared for the challenge. I had been anxious to try the legendary UG for some time, and had thoroughly researched the river on the internet and in my Wildwater West Virginia book. As such, I was aware of a deadly sieve on river right in Initiation rapid. I had even looked at pictures and read accounts of people who had become pinned (two died.) So as I put on for the first time ever on Saturday, the sieve was on my mind. Luckily, we had a very good guide with us, who had run the river many times. Today he was guiding a raft with several of his friends while a few more of us hardboated alongside. He made sure all of us knew the line as we approached Initiation rapid. I remember briefly wondering exactly where the sieve was, but I never got a chance to look at it. Soon enough I’d forgotten about it as it was time to focus on the next rapid, Insignificant. The rest of the run went smoothly. The weather was great and we were hitting nice lines through most everything. We all had a wonderful time.

The next morning we woke up late to overcast skies and lots of rain and mud. We put on the river late, and started down. Only today, we were without our excellent guide, who had left that morning to drive back to NC. Still, we were in high spirits, thrilled at the chance to paddle such a marvelous river. I was much more relaxed than I’d been the previous day. I paddled through some small to moderate riffles and waves, and again I thought about the sieve. Had we passed it already? I thought back to Initiation rapid from the previous day. It hadn’t seemed more than a riffle, barely memorable… I asked a fellow group member: “Hey, was that Initiation we just did?” He was no more familiar with this river than I was. He thought for a minute and answered, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it.” I put it out of my mind. Approaching the next drop, I moved right, thinking I was coming up on Insignificant. I seemed to remember a big hole at the top, and I wanted to skirt it on the right… As I came to the horizon line, I suddenly saw a man on a rock in front of me, desperately shouting and waving me towards river left. He sounded panicked. Immediately I realized my predicament. This was Initiation, and I was headed right into the sieve. I angled left hard and tried to ferry into the center current, but it’s nearly impossible because the left side of the crack creates an insurmountable wall. Once you get into that flow, there’s really nowhere to go except into the sieve.

My stern went in first as my boat capsized. I was still angled upstream, and for a moment I was sandwiched on my back between the deck of my boat and the riverbed. I pulled my skirt and came out of my boat fairly easily. Swimming free, it was as though I had been flushed down a toilet. I felt myself go deep as the light faded and everything got colder. I remember being swirled around, flips and somersaults, the feeling of being in a cave. I felt rocks closing in around me. The current ripped my bootie off. I realized that I would probably die. Moments later, though, the blackness gave way to a distant light. I swam hard for it, but it took a while to get there. I guess I was pretty deep. I gasped for air as I finally surfaced. I went under a few more times, but I didn’t care, at least I was out of the cave. With the help of some fellow boaters, I got to shore. Looking upstream I saw my blue Diesel sticking straight up into the air, stern pinned.

The man on the rocks who had yelled at me turned out to be a park ranger. Apparently they had been set up on that rock all day, just waiting for some dumb boater (me) to go into the sieve. Looking downstream and seeing that I was safe, he and his partner immediately set to work freeing my boat. He clipped into an anchor in the rock and quickly rappelled into the current and right up next to my boat. He clipped a harness to my bow grab loop and returned to the rock. Their calm, speed, and perfect rescue technique were truly amazing to behold. In a matter of minutes they had my boat freed, drained, and back into my still quivering hands.

After taking a few minutes to calm down, I decided I was able to continue the rest of the way down. The only problem: my paddle had gone into the sieve with me, and had not been recovered. (I never did get it back…) Luckily, the park rangers had an extra paddle for me to use. I was nervous putting back on, but I felt confident that I could handle it, and I had a strong group who I trusted. Plus, I really didn’t feel like slogging up a wet hillside.

The rest of the day went surprisingly well, especially after a good line through Pillow Rock boosted my shaken confidence. I felt so grateful to be alive that I couldn’t help but smile. I was in a beautiful place, and life was good. I have learned a lot from what happened to me that day. Mostly I learned that I must be responsible for myself at all times on the river. Getting pinned was my own damn fault, and I intend to never let something that stupid and preventable happen again. I was aware that there was a danger, yet I didn’t even bother to know for sure what rapid I was in. I took advice from someone who admittedly wasn’t sure if he was right or not. This was very stupid of me, and could have cost me a lot more than a paddle.

I learned a few more things from the ordeal. One is the value of a good group on the river. Though my friends could only watch helplessly as I pinned, they were right there for me as soon as I surfaced. They were willing to walk out with me, or help me complete the run if I wanted. But the greatest help came from those two park rangers. After freeing my boat, they ran the rest of the river with us. I was still shaken up, so they kept an eye on me and led me through many of the big rapids, for which I am incredibly grateful. The one kayaker’s name was George; I don’t know the other’s name (he was in an oarboat.) These guys really knew their stuff. I would venture to guess that if I’d been pinned in a worse position, they would have saved my life. So next time you see the Parks Service on the river, please take your hat off to them for me.

Incidentally, a guy was taking pictures as the Parks Service worked to free my boat. I groaned to think that my stupidity would be plastered all over Boatertalk and AW the next day. But we saw him at the take out where he told that his camera had been stolen along with his drybox. What a pity... Have fun but please take a lesson from me and be careful.

~ Dave Jackson, Morgantown, WV

Sadly i'm sure there have been others.

So if you're taking anyone down for the first time (or second, or third...) make sure they know exactly which rapid it is and where the sieve is. Stop at the top of the rapid (on river left!!) and make sure everyone has a good look at the surroundings such that they will recognize it in the future. Also it always seems like this rapid comes up earlier than i expect it to. The AW site says it is .9 miles from the put in but this is NOT correct. It is actually approximately .75 miles from the put in!! Be ready for it!

Be safe out there! SYOTR

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Beaver, NY Videos

Beaver - Eagle Section, NY

Mark running the big slide on the Eagle section Beaver. This is where he dislocates his shoulder...again.

James on Eagle Section, Beaver

Scott running slide on Eagle Section, Beaver

Beaver -Moshier Section, NY

Mark running Moshier Falls, Beaver, NY

James running Moshier Falls

Beaver - Taylorville Section, NY

Mark running Taylorville slide, Beaver

Maggie running Taylorville slide, Beaver


Sunday, September 03, 2006


Just to be clear, Mark will be writing this post:

After the Moshier we headed over to the Eagle section. The Eagle section is a short and pretty steep (400 feet per mile through the main rapids). We carried over to the dam and found that he water was obviously on and there were tons of people there but the gate was closed. We were a bit confused but some other people there just climbed around it (passed the barbed wire), so we did the same. After the first obstacle we carried a little further and saw the put in, which consisted of a small eddy at the bottom of a slide on the the top of another slide on the dam. Probably the coolest put-in I've seen yet, this run was starting to look pretty good! The putin basically consisted of a small eddy at the top of a slide on the dam below another slide. You start off by precariously teatering on a small rock shelf just next to the slide. Then you have to paddle up the very edge of a rather mean looking hole then turn of go over the edge of the dam on a 30 or so foot slide. Ben and Andy both looked at it and said they were going to carry down and put on below but after watching a few people go they decided they felt up to it.

After the put-in we paddled through some small drops to a pool above the first big horizon line. Everyone was getting out on the left to scout so we got over to the side to get out. While waiting in line to get out I looked over the edge a little and could see the bottom of the slide in front of us and at least one eddy. It was so tempting to just run it, but I could see there was another horizon right after the eddy and wasn't sure if it would be a good idea to just bomb down. So I got out and we started scouting the rest of the run. We walked up and down looking at it a bit and watching people run the different drops. All told there were three main drops and one small water fall at the end. Visually it was fairly impressive but everything looked very manageable. Jeff decided to put on first so we got to see him come down. He got to the second slide (the biggest and most difficult) and flipped riding the last part on a face brace. He managed to roll up on the slide before hitting the bottom but it was definitely not a performance I hoped to repeat.

I was happy to put on after a scouting it looked to be a fun little run. James and I put on together again and I went first. The first slide slopes to the left so you brace your way down next to the right wall. Immediately after the slide there's a small eddy on the right that is helpful to catch if you're not planning on bombing down. I slid in that eddy then ferried over to another eddy on the left to line up for the next slide and also wait for the sign that it was good
to go. This slide involves punching a sticky hole then negotiating some complicated currents to line up and then run the slide which is angled to the right. As I peeled out after getting the go signal my main thought was "low brace and keep your arms down!", I repeated it at least twice as I punched the hole and lined up to run the slide. Where the slide starts the river bends hard to the right and the water hits the rock side there and sprays up. This blinded me a bit and
just somehow made me stop thinking clearly...the first thing I did was pick up my arms and hold my paddle above my head. I'm not sure why this is my reaction but it's something I really need to work on!! I slid down to the bottom and hit the hole at the bottom squarely. Most people seemed to be subbing out but a few were skipping up over the hole and doing a bit of a stern squirt. This is what happened to me too, I leaned forward trying to push the bow back down, the boat then started falling off to the side so without thinking about it I threw out a brace with my arms still straight out above my head. Due to the speed I was already going and the eddy current from the pool at the bottom of the slide heading back up stream it caused a lot of force on my paddle....and thanks to my poor position I dislocated my shoulder...again.

I immediately flipped, I knew I was still in the pool at the bottom so I stopped and began working to get my shoulder back in. After a few seconds (about 8 according to the video) I got my shoulder back in and swam out of my boat. When I came up the people in the pool started yelling that my shoulder was out, I looked at the closest and said "no I got it back in" he looked at me rather incredulously and responded with "Already?!?". They helped me get my boat and paddle to shore...the opposite shore from where I could get out. Unfortunately there was a lot of current there and a drop coming up immediately down stream. They began trying to figure a way to get me across the river to the other side. My shoulder was feeling surprisingly well at this point and seeing that getting towed across the river would have a decent chance of me swimming some very nasty looking rapids down stream I decided that I could get back in paddle myself over to a tiny eddy next to the other shore. When I told everyone there my plan they seemed a little unsure of how to handle it but let me go anyway. They got the traffic stopped and I went for it. It was a pushy little ferry right down stream from the slide and doing it with my shoulder feeling the way it did wasn't the best experience but I made it. Jeff and a few others on the opposite shore held my boat while I got out and crawled up onto the bank. I was very disappointed to have that happen again as I was wanting to do really well on the run. I had been feeling very comfortable on the run.

I later found out that a professional kayaker had done almost the exact same thing though it didn't make it much better for me. I was having a good time on the run until this happened. It was frustrating not be be able to finish it. Hopefully I'll get to return next year.


PS. Thanks to Margaret for contributing a bunch of these photos and Scott's video!


Mark on Eagle Slide

James on Eagle Slide

Scott on Eagle Slide

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Maggie asked that I write the entries for the Moshier and Eagle sections (yay my blogging debut... I hope this isn't too much of a dissapointment for everyone!) ~Mark

We woke up Sunday morning with a great deal of enthusiasm; it was going to be an exciting day (or at least that was what we expected). It was going to be the day for the two big ones that we planned to run (the Raquette was no longer on our list at this point due to it being two hours further north). We grabbed breakfast at the same place we had on Saturday (this time no one got the buffet....hhmmm lessons learned?) and then headed toward the Moshier. While trying to figure out how to get to the Moshier (driving slowing through the middle of Lowville) Jeff in a moment of divine inspiration announced "turn left here" at a random road in front of us... moments later he changed that to "no wait the other way", was that "right" Jeff? Soon enough we were putting on and looking at the bonus rapid. The bonus rapid is basically a slide about twice as long as Oceana and at least as steep involving several rooster tails, a nasty looking hole and a pile of rocks at the bottom. Apparently it's been run but not by anyone who could ever be deemed sane.

After a long pool we ran some ripples that emptied into another long pool. Somehow I had gotten the impression beforehand that the Moshier was creeky and at least relatively steep… I was starting to get a little worried. After the second pool we reached the horizon line for the first rapid and everyone got out to look. The river was wide here and the drop had two distinct lines. One a 12 foot or so clean drop (on the opposite side of the river from where we were) and one a double drop with a cool little angled rock slide at the end. We all ran the two sides several times while waiting for the rather large crowd to thin somewhat. After a little bit of "drop and plopping" we crossed the pool to run the next rapid. It was another 12 foot or so drop that has a short slide into a 7 or so foot clean drop into an island requiring a quick right turn to avoid a collision. After that you had to move to river right and negotiate several little ledges and holes to finish. The rapid was quite cool and boded well for things to come...

... and come they did not! After the second rapid was a large pool that fed into a small rapid after which there was another large pool. To make things worse we were stuck in the middle of what looked like an endless line of other kayakers. The intermittent class IIIs only served to frustrate us even more as we rode blindly into the drops with people following a few feet off our sterns and frequently trading holes with the hole bait in front of us.

When we finally got to Moshier Falls both Maggie and I were pretty frustrated with the whole thing. We had both expected something more exciting and hadn't quite anticipated the river being as congested as it was. We got out to look at the rapid and Maggie quickly decided she didn't feel up to running it, since most people were walking it or at least scouting there was a decent trail going around one side.

I looked at each of the drops (except the last one), and could easily see the lines and felt like I would have no problem making them, so I decided to go ahead and run it. The rapid is basically four drops all back to back except the last one has a small moving pool separating it. The line basically zigzags down starting from the left and alternating sides for every move. James decided to put on with me and after a short wait I started down the rapid. I made it through the first major drop and eddied out in a small eddy against right bank.

James came down and got into the same eddy I then pealed out and ran the next two drops (see the video) and eddied out before the last drop to wait for James. Several more people came down before I finally saw James, and he had a few problems mostly involving a search for fish in the shallow area between the drops and later said that he was thrown off because people kept coming down and cutting him off before he could get out of the eddy.


Mark running Moshier Falls

James running Moshier Falls

After that I ran the last drop and found myself in the final pool at the take out. The rapid had gone perfectly, I went exactly where I had intended to go and it was very fun so it really helped get me out of my bad mood and motivated me to go to the Eagle.


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