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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Applegate Waterfall Rescue

I left work early to meet up with Skyler,Brock and others to run upper applegate.  We ran both sections and Brock decided he wanted to go up and run the waterfall as he has done numerous times before without issues.  Today was a different story, I went below and set safety on the other side of the river as I have in the past.  It's mostly smooth slippery rock covered in moss so footing isn't the best.  As he came over the falls I could tell he didn't flush as quickly to the center of the current as he normally does, he rolled up and was sucked into the cave and rolled.  I fought the urge to throw the bag until I thought he could see me, I threw it and it went behind him. I should have yelled before throwing the bag, so he would be aware of it.

I thought it might work over to him so I left it for a few seconds then pulled it in, the second attempt was worthless as well, I gathered myself and the bag and told him to hold on, this time I yelled ready and was able to get it to him.  Let me stop here and say I feel bad I feel like I could have cost him his life by not performing under pressure as well as I should have.  As you begin kayaking you start to build skills and you want to push limits further to test yourself, to get that high, to get that feeling of accomplishment.  I have never taken a swift water rescue course but now will be saving up money so I can be better prepared for situations like this because it won't be the last.

After Brock got ahold of the rope I new fairly quickly the current was stronger than I was and looked up at Skyler and Darin and told them to get down to me.  It was a fight, I was pulling as hard as I could and slipping and pulling,it felt like my skin was being tore from my hands. Brock yelled" help" and I could see the fear on his face, I thought he was at a point of letting go, I yelled back "hold on" don't let go. I yelled back for someone else to get over to me, Skyler threw another bag over which caught up in mine, he was able to drag the end of mine to him, while he did that Darin jumped in and came across to help pull.  We had three of us pulling at that point I was just hoping the rope didn't go limp at that point.  Brock was barely able to hold on to the loop at the end of the bag and make it out.

That was the most intense kayaking day of my life, it could have easily turned out different.  I started to feel really bad on the drive out.  I started second guessing what I'd done and thinking about what I should have done differently. I can tell you that you need two people on that side of the falls doing safety unless one's built like Arnold.  The current is deceptively strong and flushes hard to the back of the cave.  If I can think of anything to add I will I'm mentally exhausted from today's ordeal.


  1. Try not to beat yourself up to much. Under the circumstances I think you did a admirable job, and YOU did save his life. Sky

  2. Agreed with the above comment. You made a couple of mistakes technically obviously, but nothing totally killer. The best thing about that rescue course you mention will be that it will help you to relax more, and panic less. For instance, a lack of panicing, and your first shot (which you said missed) would have by the looks of it simply drifted in the strong current round to where your mate was. Looks like your mate could have done with a rescue course too - it's generally recommended not to hold onto the loop (better than nothing though) and it would have made it easier for you to pull him if he had lain on his back. Remember, you did save his life!

  3. I agree with the posters above. Don't beat yourself up. You friend is ALIVE because you were there and saved him. Were mistakes made? Yes, a few, but the bottom line remains the same - he's alive. Also, you did learn the valuable lesson that EVERYONE who paddles whitewater needs a SWR course. Sell an old boat and get SWR! :-) BTW, thanks for posting this. It could help save another life.

  4. 1) you will look back on nearly every rescue and see what could have gone better. Everyone lived, without serious injury... that's what counts.
    2) You're planning on taking a rescue course, because you recognize the need to know more.

    Few tips:
    -Try wrapping the rope behind your hips (like rock climbers belay) It lets you pull with your entire body instead of arms only. Be prepared to let go instead of letting it drag you in though (you mentioned the footing sux)
    -Practice throwing the other end of the rope as well. (with short throws, it han save alot of time, instead of having to reel it all back in and toss a second time) we all miss throws, and getting a second toss is a hard skill to master

    Thank you for sharing this, both as a warning to those who boat that creek, and for all who learn from the rescue. Glad you all made it out safe, SYOTR

  5. Thank's for all the positive feedback.