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[pct-l] More on water crossings & ropes

Mark/Stinky asked "What would be wrong if the first person across a
raging stream on the PCT tied a rope from one side to the other for the
health and safety of future crossers? "

Christine wrote I've read of disasters happening with the combination of =
ropes & stream crossings - even if the rope itself could provide =
support/balance, it could offer a false sense of security to someone not =
experienced in crossing streams...er...raging torrents.  I'm not going =
to even go NEAR the littering issue... ;-)
What I've heard is that the rope can actually contribute to keeping the =
hiker submerged after a fall.  Anyone with swift water rescue experience =
out there?  (If Mark's suggestion were implemented...)

OK, so here is what I know (or have been told) about river crossings.=20
1.	The first thing you do is walk up and down the banks looking for the =
safest place. Knowledge of what is downstream is especially important, =
since you do not want to undertake a crossing with any risk whatsoever =
if you are not that far upstream from a falls, a dam or weir, a =
dangerous rapid, or other serious hazards like logjams and sweepers =
(trees with submerged branches that have fallen into the water.) Look =
for a place where you can have a long, safe swim if you happen to slip. =
Any water level above your knees with a forceful current  should be =
considered hazardous. Rocky bottoms generally are easier to cross than =
sandy or muddy ones.
2.	Loosen your pack so that you can shrug it off quickly if you do fall =
- swimming with a pack is hard. Anyone who is knocked off balance and =
finds themselves being carried in the current should assume the "safe =
river position": legs and feet up and pointed downstream, lying on your =
back.  Keeping your feet up prevents them being trapped in rocks below =
the surface (this is bad because then the current can push you over and =
with your foot trapped you will be held underwater; it may also break =
your leg). Keeping them up in front of you also allows you to use your =
legs to kick yourself away from boulders in the river.=20

Use the backstroke to ferry yourself to the bank:  Angle your body =
slightly with your head towards the shore you want to be on and start =
stroking and kicking. Look for eddies, but don't waste your strength =
trying to fight strong currents. Sometimes it is easier to go to the =
shore forty feet away through calmer water than the shore 5 feet away =
through swift water.
The only exception to the "safe river position" is if you find yourself =
being swept uncontrollably into a logjam or a sweeper. This is to be =
avoided if at all possible.  But if it happens, your best bet is to turn =
and swim hard AT the log and at the last moment put your hands on the =
log and try to lunge up on top of it - I'm told its a timing move. If =
you are swept underneath, there is a good chance that the branches under =
the water will simply hold you there. So what you're trying to do is go =
OVER, not UNDER.  This is another good reason for losing your pack =
immediately if you swim.  Sweepers and logjams are particularly common =
during high water and right after floods.
3.	By yourself: Face upstream and put your walking stick out in front of =
you to form a braced tripod (your two legs and the walking stick.) Move =
sideways carefully, trying to keep two points braced while you move the =
third.  Watch especially for sudden dropoffs. If you find one, go back =
and try a different section of the river.
4.	With two or more people: you can expand on the tripod idea by having =
people lock arms over shoulders - the more brace points the better. Go =
side by side with two people; put the big strong person upstream if =
you've got three people. Alternatively, you can put people in a line, =
all facing upstream but one behind the other and bracing on the person =
in front. The people in front break the current for smaller people in =
back. Make sure everyone understands the plan and how people are going =
to move before you start out into the river. Practicing on shore is not =
a bad idea.
5.	My understanding is that ropes are good. The trick is to NOT place =
them at a 90 degree angle across the river. If you do, then the rope =
sags and stretches downstream when you get out to the middle and you =
have to fight your way back upstream to continue across. So what you do =
is to set them at a 45 degree angle to the current, sloping downstream. =
That way the person doesn't have to fight any more current than they =
have to. For the rope trick, you want two big, strong people: one to get =
the rope across and the other to bring it over at the end.=20

If either of them falls while hanging onto one end of the rope, then =
they should: a) lose their pack, b) flip over onto their back, feet =
pointing downstream,  with the rope held in both hands against their =
chest (HELD, NOT WRAPPED!) and the line feeding back over their =
shoulder. The back of their head will break the current and make a =
little air space for them to breathe.  If they are hanging on facing =
upstream and belly down, they break the current with their face (really =
hard to breathe) and they also tend to "porpoise" through the water. On =
their back, they will be much less likely to submerge.
You don't have to haul them in, generally - just hold on. Usually what =
happens is that the current will pendulum them into the shore. If there =
is a swift current between them and the shore you may have to be a bit =
more active - either hauling, or letting them go downstream a little to =
a more congenial landing place (people on shore keeping a good tight =
hold on the line and not rushing and  tripping on rocks or underbrush.) =
Whoever is holding the line on shore should ALSO not wrap the line =
around their wrist - it's tempting, but you don't want to get pulled in =
too if you lose your balance.=20


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