Expanded Opportunities – Skills Required.
Rather than trying to convince you to follow dogma sideways, I’d like to provide some concrete examples where line capture can speed the deployment of rope based systems for professional rescuers and boaters alike;. Entrapments…or “where the full weight of the flow has you stuck.” This includes foot entrapments, pins, sieves, keeper-hydraulics, catchermitt-type holding eddies, undercuts, large re-circulating erosion pockets(rooms of doom) etc. Rescue options here are often doomed to dim. Why? Two dead batteries can’t start a car. Entrapment is the most extreme urgency in the need for rapid location,( where are you?), access, airway support ,rope deployment (usually requires access to both sides of the river), secure attachment, and the rapid application of vector forces to extricate. Its a lot to do in a very short period of time and rarely is the tyranny of circumstance on your side. The full Reach System, a team based system of integrated harness/jettisonable throw-bag AND Reach, equipping each member of the TEAM was designed to jolt enough charge into each of your safety batteries to jump start the rescue as soon as a remote connection is made. It’s that simple. No Guarantees, but just having such quick and functional options at every stage of the rescue land great prospects for good fortune on your side. Example 1: You find yourself in a horrendous storm, with massive flooding and you are called out with your swiftwater team. You are now carefully wading through a flooded city street at night, ‘mined’ with debris, in minimal current, searching for the stranded. You are in egress phase of the flood. Suddenly there are only two of you-your teammate has vanished. You notice a small whirl on the surface and Immediately suspect a storm drain. Your partner is completely submerged 25ft. away, in the center of it. He is wearing a jettisonable throw-bag . He is able to jettison his bag with one hand. It floats to the surface and there is enough current to float it downstream. He is now located and a line is already attached to him for attempting extrication.You grab your bag off of your harness, grab a Reach and quickly cross clip the floating line remotely, all from a safe distance away from the vortex of the storm drain. Your protection system has COMPRESSED TIME. Your victim expanded his profile, extended his tag line, defined his position, aided in his own search/location/access. His teammates quickly located and captured the extended line remotely and..started applying vectors to support and attempt to extricate. All elements of this rescue were accomplished within seconds. Two 1/3 charged batteries connected to spark the rescue…the other charge comes from the tension field created when working in harmony. Nice…..
Example 2. An Upper Cherry Creek kayaker runs a huge drop and flails at the base, wet exits but get sucked into a large erosion pocket (room of doom) and recirculates visciously. He is unable to grab onto several throw-bags, thrown from very sketchy belay positions, high above the erosion pocket with 25ft vertical granite walls on all sides. He cannot cross the eddy fence-just too strong. He jettisons his wearable throw-bag and is able to direct it across the eddy fence downstream. It courses downstream on the surface within easy cross clipping range of several of his safety team-even though they are well above the slick granite channel. The team cross-clips his tag line and immediately hauls him across the powerful eddy fence. Once clear he decides it’s ‘best thinking’ to aggressively swim out without a line attached to him. He pulls the rope-to-webbing quick release and aggressively swims out the next drop. This is an altered outcome to several high profile expert kayaker drowning that have occurred here in California. I truly believe they were preventable deaths. Example 3. Attempting to shallow water cross to a submerged car, the lead rescuer has fortuitously used his/her belt harness system to play out a belay line set safety for the crossing, freeing the hands to focus on paddle placement to improve their chances…foot jams in a lateral ledge below the murky surface and the rescuer instantly flails, inverts head downstream…not visable from shore. Typical position for stripping a QRHS enhanced PFD…head down, arms down, PFD flushed. Having attached the belay to a separate belt below the rib cage, (still jettisionable) your teammates are quickly able to apply force from any angle to free the leg. Note…if attached to the QRHS for belay, there is a limited degree of angles of force that can be applied that will not help strip the PFD.
Example 4: Establishing cross-river lines. Swimming lines is not easy, generally it takes over twice the width of the channel-which is to be crossed- in rope played out to reduce drag on the swimmer, and even more in stronger current. With line capture and a streamlined waist throw-bag designed for aggressive swimming one can swim unencumbered to the opposite shore prepared to use a Reach to capture a thrown line. This greatly reduces the need for weighted cross-river swims. If there is already a rescuer on the opposite shore…then even better…there may be no need to swim at all; Just use line capture to remotely connect to a thrown line. Wide/Large volume channels can be crossed in this manner. Rarely does the line gun need to be deployed. (remember with a line gun, SOMEBODY has to get to the opposite bank). In extreme cases the Reach can be used to safely manage the deployed line to minimize rescuer exposer at the rivers edge. It’s worth emphasizing that even at flood stage crossings there is a tremendous benefit in quickly establishing initial lines and managing large diameter-up to 1⁄2 inch static line. In flood stage testing on the Merced in Yosemite and the Tuolumne both at over 10,000cfs with channel widths over 150ft., this technique works beautifully. In fast high-volume channels its best to have the line, to be captured, thrown upstream approximately 25-50ft (depending on current speed), then letting it arc downstream. Those on the opposite shore then deploy their Reach, aimed 10ft or so from the throw-bag,towards the opposite bank, just as the bag approaches their position. This allows the two lines to cross with enough opposing velocity to capture effortlessly. If thrown accurately the river will do the work…if thrown too far past the speeding, floating line you will need to rapidly haul on the Reach to insure.capture. With practice this fundamental skill will become fluid and intuitive. This direct crossing method is the basis for developing the skills, previously mentioned, which are necessary for fully leveraging the lifesaving skills of the Reach in a wide variety of applications. Practice, Practice, Practice. Direct Crossing is THE remote capture skill that not only speeds deployment, it reduces rescuer exposure at the rivers edge and greatly reduces the need for line swimming or line-guns. It insures that you will keep your capture skills finely honed for when they’re really needed. I acknowledge that this is just the tip of the berg, but in interest of brevity,(and to avoid taking medication for book dust allergies), I’ll group the next set of applications under a single heading. Example 5 Snagging: Necessity is the mother of invention and what a mother! It Transforms lack and weakness into opportunity. Upon examination, it turns out that the perceived fear of snagging on the bottom of the river, easily avoided with vigilance, and can be harnessed to earn the Reach a first class ticket on the rescue truck or guaranteed space in every downriver rescue rack..or best yet ON YOU 24/7 when at risk. This capture device has been volunteering to perform in desperate circumstances, to save face, prevent tethered swims and retrieve gear/boats in nasty places. Honestly I get more reports of tremendous appreciation and gratitude lumped under the category of snagging/retrieving/gaining access than from any other application. Expedition rafters, kayakers and professional rescuers alike have reported many, many examples of the Reach being used to access wrapped boats otherwise inaccessible without risk, to retrieve kayaks stuck in hydraulics or pinned. This prevented dangerous tethered swims or resorting to complex high line systems to retrieve them. My personal experience is that in one season on the upper and lower Tuolumne alone, I used a Reach 4 times in 3 dangerous wraps and on one Sotar stuck in a room of doom. It was locked and inaccessible across a 60ft steep drop. I was stuck on a rock in the middle of the Cherry Creek, alone and screwed, my boatmates flushed downstream. It would have been desperate as there was no way to access the Sotar without hours of technical rope work. BUT, I pulled off my wearable throw-bag, attached a Reach. My first throw bounced off the bottom of the boat, the second throw landed beyond the raft. So, I pulled it back gently and clipped the flip line. Result: I got the Sotar back to me within 10 minutes of the initial carnage to the slack jawed amazement of my boating partners. It was Slick, quick and there was ‘0’ risk. Nice…