Monday, February 22, 2016

Why Big Volume Waterfalls Are Such Fun: Rio Fuy and Gol Gol

There is just something about that big water boof

Leaving the swirling eddy with a little concern about the location of the obscured indicator feature; taking a couple strong strokes to get up to speed with the water; spotting that small, breaking wave to line up; Duffek onto the three foot wide, bright green tongue; leaning forward, waiting, watching the water glisten as it runs over the rock below you; looking for the moment that rock drops away and the water explodes into a white flash; turning the boat over on edge; levering the stroke deep, the solid friction of a blade full of water and pulling all the way through; leaning further forward; realigning the boat; falling, surrendering to gravity; the water droplets making contact with your face and chest; white-out in the eruption of water; feeling the firm yet giving impact of the bow settling itself into the aerated water; the stern making contact, transforming all of the vertical flight into forward momentum; wheelieing into the pool. All of this is why big volume waterfalls are some of the most sought after features in whitewater. The Rio Fuy and Gol Gol produce multiple opportunities for these types of rewards.

car camping at the Fuy put-in
Chris Baer finding that magic spot
Aeon deep in the Gol Gol

Another Vertical Rescue

It was our second day paddling the Gol Gol and the crew was a bit tired. Slowly, we made our way down to Salto Princessa, one of the “big ones”. The lead-in for this twenty footer is rather awkward and no one had a spectacular line the day before. After a quick group chat the consensus was that we were going to run relatively close to each other in a “blue angel” safety pattern. The going theory is that not everyone is going to crash, and that everyone will be relatively near each other in case anything weird were to arise. Mark went first, and from my eddy he appeared to have a good line. I fired off of the falls second and had a great line. As I set my stroke towards the eddy I spotted Mark’s boat upside down. Then I heard a, “Whoop!” My head swiveled. Where was Mark? One or two paddle strokes towards shore and another, “Whoop!” I started yelling back to an undisclosed Mark. Aeon came off the falls only moments later and was able to spot Mark tucked up into a rather nasty looking rock/tree undercut pocket. Thankfully, Mark was able to stabilize himself in the pocket by holding onto two marginal twigs. Mark’s precarious position was unfortunately costing him a ton of energy and he was quickly getting cold and tired.

Aeon Russo discerning that elusive lip

Aeon and I dove out of our boats, throw ropes in hand. We tossed a rope down to help stabilize Mark, but it didn’t seem plausible to pull him vertically out of the pocket. His perch was gross. The rocks and wood were overhanging on three sides of him and the water rushing in on the fourth side. It was taking too long. We were attempting rescue strategies that were going to put Mark in too much risk. It was simple. The best way to get him out of the situation was to turn on the adrenaline, get real strong, and pull him vertically up and out of the overhung pocket. This took two ropes attached to him and quite a bit of cursing. The tactile sensation of reaching over and grabbing his life jacket brought a huge smile to my face.

Aeon Russo waiting for the stroke

The team took it pretty hard. Legitimate rescues had been coming at a pretty ferocious rate on this trip. Had we been pushing it too hard? Were our balls bigger than our brains? Was it just our turn? The fact is Aeon Russo, Mark Taylor, and I make a strong team. It’s because I have faith in these folks that I’m willing to put myself in these dangerous situations. It’s because of this team that we have endured these trials and tribulations. I for one am excited about our next adventure!

Mark Taylor approaching free-fall

Rope Ladder

ten alpine butterfly knots in a throw bag
After two vertical extractions, here is another technique to retrieve an active victim. Simply tie one end of rope to a solid anchor and then tie multiple butterfly knots on the other end. The active victim can simply climb out under their own power. A good video on how to tie a butterfly knot can be found at this link:

adventure by Chris Baer

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