What system did you guys have set up at Big Brother, the 25-foot waterfall with a nasty cave on the White Salmon, for this year’s Gorge Games?
We had set pitons and rock pieces into the wall so that a safety technician with a rope could hang out in the cave. He was there for the entire race and even though we had a few swims, there wasn’t any serious problems. It was a good system.
Sounds like a nice safety net. For the everyday paddler not racing down a Class V river, what’s the most important piece of safety equipment to bring?
Common sense. It is so easy to get in over your head on the river or in open water. A clear and accurate self-assessment of your current conditioning, personal skills, and your group skills/resources are key to having a safe trip.
Is there any new gear out there that we should know about?
The coolest technology of late for whitewater rescue is the REACH system. It is basically a rope-capturing device that allows you to connect two ropes together via a batman-style grappling hook. It makes attaching a carabineer to a victim, a rope or a boat that much easier.
Ok, so onto throw bag tips. Waist mounted or stand-alone?
I am a huge proponent of carrying a waist mounted throw bag. I know how important it is to always have a rope easily accessible, and it doesn’t get any more accessible than around your waist. It is so easy to leave your bag attached to your kayak or raft via a carabineer during a scout. This is one simple way to counter act forgetfulness.
What’s the difference between Spectra and Polypro rope fibers and which do you prefer?
Both have their values. Spectra’s lighter, stronger and more expensive while polypro is cheaper but less durable. I carry spectra throw ropes on all my exploratory and class V whitewater expeditions. I use polypro ropes for easier runs and rafting trips. Either way, make sure you have a least one rope.
Anything you see people forgetting too often: carabineers, pulleys?
It comes back to common sense. It is so easy to get over confident, and so easy to get complacent or overwhelmed with excitement. From forgetting your throw bag, to not having a whistle, just think BEFORE you get to the river.
Any parting wisdom?
Take a safety class. No matter if you’re a new kayaker or you’ve been doing it for years, your skills could use a touch up. So, spend a weekend brushing up before you head out on your next mission.