dealing with the Past

Ok, finally I will tell the tale of an epic day out for a Face Book Group. 10 years ago now, I was on the West Coast of the USA with Jason Smith, editor of CanoeKayak UK. We went to fire it up in Oregon and Washington, and after arriving into Seattle we hit a few runs and were getting into the mode for steeper fun. We met up with friends in White Salmon, and headed for an adventure on the Little White. I have previously run this great section before and not without another story for this group, but another time I feel.

At the put in we were 5, a mixed crew; Andy, a UK expat, Johnny, a West Coast Green horn, Joey an East Coast charger, Jason, UK shop boy and myself. The level was high, well it was certainly considered high at that time, yet on we got, and the first incident was within 250m of the putin, Johnny had swam, a little ridge from the task that lay before us and made a rolling competition with himself, he lost. After a while searching for the nice new Werner paddle, Johnny headed back to the car

Into the Darkness
Onwards we went, the pace picked up and we started to enjoy the early drops, great fun. On one sloping ramp drop, I ran hard right to nail a boof, and amazingly I got a little deflection into an odd pin. Now my weapon of choice was Dagger’s Gradient, I really did not like this very roundy boat, plus the volume around the cockpit was all a little too less for my likely, as you felt certainly well down in the water. Anyway, my new roundy boat had gotten myself into an odd pin, where I was now facing back up river with the boat pitched forward into a sump. My paddles were thrown straight away, as I fully understood the situation, as the deflection on the ramp had placed myself into a siphon, my arms were on the rocks that guarded the siphon, and I was holding the weight of the boat and myself up to avoid plugging the gap.

Seeing the light
The whole crew were on river left, and I was amongst an overhanging rock jumble on the right. My arms were not going to last too much longer and the my paddling crew were still not with myself. I started to look for all the possible options, I certainly was not going back out the way I came, nor could I climb out as the overhanging rock was a little challenging. So I watch where the water was going, and I could see beyond the dark siphon, the occasional moment of light. I watched for what seamed a long while, and then I kicked the boat off, and let her go through the siphon, watching all the time. And when my arms could not hold myself any more, I tucked up and went for my through the looking glass experience.

On the other side, Andy had just managed to get on to come back upstream, and then I appeared just after my boat in an eddy around the corner from where I last was seen. We collected all the gear, on retrieving my paddle I look again at the siphon and the benign deflection rock on the ramp, and it all seamed so innocent, and the escape I had chosen was the only option

Regrouped below, off we went, the drops came fast and action was great. We got to a double drop, where a boof on the right, grind the bank to avoid a pour over was the way we ran. All went well, until Jason in the Diablo Evolution made the prefect piton on the right bank and bounced into the pour over. The cartwheeling was world class, vertical ends, an excellent rhythm and the occasional change in direction. A truly high scoring run. After a while Jason’s efforts to get out were fruitless, and getting a line to him was not really an option as the boat chopped ends at quite a pace. Jason bailed. During the whole swim, Jason’s head never re-surfaced, his camera box, paddle, boat and spray deck!! all came out, but no Jason!

I was stood on the side watching for any sign, and then at the foot of the undercut rock I was on, a hand appeared, I grabbed hold and lifted him ashore. Breathless, Jason was happy to be on terra firma…

Up and out and down we went.
Jason’s boat was broken, and the only option for him was up and out, so we said our goodbyes and headed our own ways, 3 paddlers carried on.

En route to the main event, Andy on a high boof landed bad and was hobbling along, the pace slowed and the ambition lessen. Finally looking at Spirit Falls, the side curtain was forming quite a hole, and Joey who was here the week before, fired it up and nailed the line. He re-surfaced so happy with himself, that he looked back at the drop and into the side curtain hole. Another rolling competition unfolded. During this time, I headed to the eddy below, Joey had not swam, but missed the eddy and went backwards into the now famed chaos drop…..

Ripper at the door
Joey battled well, yet at that level they is little chance of escaping Chaos. By the time I was in my boat, Joey was heading downstream, face down. I sprinted after him, by good fortunate his unconscious body eddied out, I jumped from my boat, turn him and opened the airways, a few rescue breathes later he was clearly alive. We did a few rounds of the eddy, before I got him, my boat and paddle and myself ashore. Andy had join us by then, and Joey had started to regain consciousness. After 10 minutes had past, Joey could speak and we reasoned our options. We could stay put to rest more, paddle out to the car a km a way or walk out. Joey did not wish to paddle anymore, his boat was pretty broken along with him, I did not wish to stay, so it was climbing out. It took several pitches of climbing to drag Joey to a bench, where we rounded a ridge and drop down to the run out of the river, we swam across to the car and on to the hospital.

Lactic acid is your friend
On arriving at the local hospital, there seamed to be a height level of activity, all of a sudden, Joey was in the chopper en route to Portland hospital and then all was still.

Collecting our thought, we spoke to the Doctor on hand, and he had said Joey’s heart was beating abnormally, and then he needed serious medical help. After we got to Portland, and found out the rest of the story. Joey was all good, yet during his fight with chaos, he worked so hard without oxygen than his heart muscle had high amounts of lactic acid in it, making it’s pattern abnormal, and the fact we climbed up and out and did a huge amount of work probably stopped him have a heart attack on the river……

Seldom do adventures encounter few problems, yet solve them as they befall you, and keep a sense of momentum and group dynamic going, sometimes misfortunate knocks you down and whilst being good can be great, its always best to be lucky.


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