“Go right, go right… paddle hard … grab on and push.. oh sh*t! Hold on! Hold on and don’t move we’re coming! ”
We’ve got a tip-top crew of internationally experience kayakers all randomly coming together for a fun day on the Green. There’s a light rain falling but smiles all around as we carve, boof and bounce our way down the familiar lines of one of the most popular class 5 runs in the world. As I turn into the eddy to clear the way for any ”direct Left’ lines in our group I happen to see my Idaho friend Kira swinging the turn into Boof or Consequences way too wide ..and not knowing the river like we do, she’s looking at that left crack like it might be an option. ”Nooo!!” and other calls come at her from 3 different eddies and she reacts instantly, swinging her bow back to the right and trying to climb back to the center chute but it’s too late. Kira’s sideways on the divider rock and starting to fall the wrong way when she heeds the call to ”Back up!” and manages to grab the left wall before the current pulls her off the 8′ drop into rocks. That instant is now a flashbulb memory in my brain, the point every unfolding emergency when you must shift from ”oh no!” to ”what do we do?” and our random group of friends must become a rescue squad as fast as possible. Here we go!
The first thing to come to me was to tell Kira to hold on and that we would come for her. One glance downstream showed slick, steep rock faces leading to the log-choked left side of Go Left – not somewhere anyone wants to visit – so every second she could stay put was another second we could be ready if she lost the fight. Sam lets us know that it’s a tough place to get back up to – likely longer than she can hold on, but seeing how strong the rest of our group was the answer was easy ”go for it!” and off he went. With Sam racing up the rocks in hopes of re-enacting LVM’s ”Grab that bitch!’ segment, Cooper and Stephens swing into the eddy below her while Daniel jumps out with a rope. I’m talking away, yelling that they are on the way up to help her relax and focus on the task at hand. Then something changes. The bow starts to rise up over the rock – first just a foot, then another and then it edges higher still. Kira’s stiff-arming the left wall and trying to stay forwards but her stern is dropping deeper in the crack and she’s about go vertical when she finally frees her bow and drops flat as a pancake into the rocky gap below. Whew! How she pulled that off I’ll never know but from my angle it looked like she found the perfect line – a nice flat boof into the boat-width crack between boulders.
Unfortunately things are not quite over yet, because instead of flushing though the squeeze into the eddy her bow rises up once again as her stern is sucked beneath a big flat rock guarding the exit. She grabs the rock, Cooper graps her bow to keep it from rising higher, and Daniel is right there within reach but can’t get any footing to pull her and her boat against the current up on the slick sloping rocks. I’m late to the party, so I draw the roll of rescue organizer this hand – while everyone else is busy I get to look around and make a plan. ”Kira – your stern is under an overhang so just hang tight and we’ll pull you right through” She smiles – always a good sign when the ”victim” is listening and you can get them to smile – it lets me know I’ve got time to play with as they going to do anything unexpected. (ALWAYS talk to the victim! They often tell you things you need to know or have a good idea on what to try already.) In this case all she had pulled off the crux and seemed content to wait it out. ”Daniel – its a deep current coming out so you shouldn’t try anything upstream, if she’s stable you can do the rope work from over here”.. Daniel talks to Kira, letting her know the plan, adds a carabiner to the end of his rope and hands it to Cooper, who is still holding the bow so it’s an easy clip. Rope is let out while Daniel climbs downstream for a better angle, waits for Kendra and Stephens to back him up, and then on ‘3” they pull till the boat pops out of the overhang, rising up and over the constriction before sliding right into the little eddy below.
The whole event took maybe 5 minutes. Everyone is back in boats and talking about Go Left within ten. There is no equipment to chase, no injuries to deal with, and not even a ”time out” needed to let people clear their head before tackling the next challenges downstream. While I’ll have that ‘flashbulb’ memory for years to remind me of ‘that time Kira boofed the Consequences crack’ the only real lesson to be learned is how great it is to boat with a solid team of rescuers who just happen to be a fun crew of friends to go boat with.