The Mighty Russell
Date: Monday, 29 July 2019
River: Russell River.
James and I were guiding, James’ friend Tom was scouting on his kayak. I had Peggy and Yvette in my raft, and James was R2ing with Sascha (Who is brand new, both to the club and the country).
And wow. From the get go, it’s 3/3+.
It’s probably mostly 3, but I was having some difficulty as the bowline almost immediately came loose and wrapped around my paddle. So I had limited steering, but couldn’t stop steering to untangle.
My salvation then appeared, all I had to do was get around the next bend (with its complimentary log) and I’d have a chance to untangle. However, there was no way we’d make that corner cleanly.
So, solution, aim for a bump assisted turn off the log, which worked perfectly, except it bumped Yvette out.
So now I’m trying to rescue Yvette and untangle my paddle. After some effort, all was accomplished, my raft was fully operational, and thus (I thought) our troubles were over!
I was wrong.
The main reason Russell is difficult, is that there is virtually no stopping, it’s staggering how many corners a river can have devoid of eddies. Tom had warned us that there were several major log jams (Tom had kayaked it recently)
And one big rapid about halfway.
Now when people say things like ‘one big rapid’ I’m used to them referring to either big features, like the drop on the Whyte, or long stretches. This was… both.
Come around the corner, and see the river drop away, there is no eddy that a raft could possible get in. If you wanted to stop, should have done that 5 mins earlier.
So I take the best line I can and get ready to run it.
It went quite well, at first.
About… 1/5th of the way down this section, there was a drop about a third the height of the one on the Whyte.
Simple enough right?
The stopper at the bottom was MEAN!
It grabbed us and we started to flip, Peggy and Yvette jumped forward, and for a fraction of a second I thought we’d make it, but no, we just didn’t have the mass.
the raft sailed for the sky and we all got wet, swimming the rest of the 3+/4 rapid (not the most pleasant experience) Yvette and I managed to self rescue at the bottom at one of the only eddies on the whole bloody river, Peggy and the raft went on an adventure (with Tom in pursuit).
I was thinking “Well, I did the best that I could, but there was probably something really obvious that I missed and James is going to think me a fool for not seeing.”
Looking up the river, I see James’s raft making it’s way towards me, empty.
“Or maybe not.”
That stopper managed to chew me up and spit me out, and James, having seen what I’d done and learn from my mistake, got chewed up and spat out. (Sascha has been in the country for less than 10 days, and we’ve already managed to throw her down some serious whitewater)
The stopper of doom, was threatening to stop the trip. We were safe and with only minor bruising, past the biggest feature. But while I had grabbed James’s raft, mine was nowhere to be seen. Neither were Tom or Peggy.
We were also down to 2 paddles.
The river had, however, calmed down somewhat. So James and I R2’d down (with Yvette and Sascha sitting in the middle) until we met up with Tom and Peggy.
So we had everyone back together!
Time for a emergency lolly break.
James deliberated with Tom about our course of action while I compelled everyone to empty the snack bag James had brought
(I had also brought snacks, but they were with my raft)
We continued on, very cautiously.
However, Russell was letting up on us, and we managed to find the raft and one of the paddles (combined with the spare we had strapped to the raft, we were up to 4 paddles!)
So, I started R’2ing with Yvette. and James with Sascha.
Peggy needed a break after her mammoth swim.
The river wasn’t quite finished with us though.
Mainly because she was quite tired (at this point, so was I) Yvette wasn’t really locking herself in as much as was necessary. Eventually I found myself R1ing a blue sotar down a river that seemed intent on our destruction!
Yvette managed to get to river left and get on the bank, the problem, the only places to conceivably put a raft were all river right. Still, she was safe and secure, so we could take our time with the rescue.
Plan A was, Yvette start swimming and we throw bag her into one of the eddies.
Yvette didn’t like this plan as she wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold onto the rope against the current.
So we tried … a few other plans (Not sure how deep into the alphabet we got, that river wasn’t helping AT ALL)
We eventually had to go with Plan A (ii)
Yvette would start swimming, and we would collect her in a raft we had carried upstream.
That went quite well.
Yvette and Peggy swapped on the paddles, and the rest of the trip went quite smoothly.
It’s an incredibly fun river, that really needs bigger rafts (and probably heavier crews) to run.
Now I’m home, and my legs have stopped working.
[Relayed to myself and Janina sentence by sentence over the course of half an hour. We were on the edges of our seats the entire time.]