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#213730 - 12/28/10 04:22 AM Crossing a small flooded river in winter
dweste Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Scenario: Your only way home is your vehicle parked safely on high ground across a small river in a mixed oak and conifer forest. None of the trees near the river is more than 50 feet tall and most are much shorter.

The river has unexpectedly flooded to about 50 feet across, more than 15 feet deep in the middle, and is flowing faster than you can walk. Occasional large debris floats downstream, some hanging up on shore rocks.

You are alone.

Strategies that circumstances have forced you to reject: waiting it out, calling for help, hiking upstream, diverting the river, or using explosives [Blast].

You have 50 feet of paracord, and know how to make cordage from a wide variety of materials. You have your EDC and PSK, but no other camping or woodcraft tools.

What are the options you consider? Of those options, what do you try first?

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#213732 - 12/28/10 10:09 AM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6083
Loc: southern Cal
I think I would try and build a raft, or better yet, a good boat, out of downed trees, etc. By the time I got it anywhere near finished, the river would have subsided to the point where I could safely walk across. Either that, or someone would have arrived on scene with resources (like a helicopter) that would offer some other, more feasible alternatives. Scouting up or down stream might offer some surprising options (although I realize you have ruled that out)

Real world situation, you get yourself comfortable and wait for better conditions. Been there, done that, and I have dealt with the consequences of the actions of those who, for whatever reason, felt they had to cross the river right away (one of these, evidently, was a gentleman who was missing the Super Bowl; we'll never know for sure because he drowned immediately).

There are few situations more deadly than dealing with flooded, rapidly running waterways. Patience, grasshopper; wait for better times.

By the way, even if I built my hypothetical raft to cross your hypothetical river, there is still a good chance I would drown my hypothetical @$$ in trying to cross.


Edited by hikermor (12/28/10 10:19 AM)
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#213736 - 12/28/10 12:49 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
paramedicpete Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland
STAY PUT!

Pete

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#213738 - 12/28/10 01:07 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
No, I would immediately wade in, wrap the paracord around my neck, and drown or asphyxiate from the strength of the current.

No wait. Sit down, and whittle a canoe with my handy pocket knife...

dweste, if you build a scenario with only one option - cross the swollen river without any adequate preps - you don't foster creative solutions, you force folks to panic and die. Most rivers can be walked up to an easier ford, a convenient downed log spanning the flow etc. Or you can wait til the flow goes down, which many rivers do on a daily basis. But if the evil bad guys are hypothetically blocking your movement, you don't have any option do you? Survival is all about options if you ask me...

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#213739 - 12/28/10 01:51 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
Dagny Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1912
Loc: Washington, DC
Stay put, stay dry, start a fire.

Fifty feet is no longer "small." Attempting to cross is suicide -- especially in winter.

Friends and I did a loop hike on Mt. Hood (near Lolo Pass) one warm July day -- starting up the mountain in the morning and coming off mid-afternoon. On the way back down we came to a small stream crossing we'd done a few hours earlier (when it was maybe 6 feet across). Using hiking poles, on the way up we had easily stepped across on a log that had been laid for a bridge.

In the intervening hours before we attempted to cross back over, glacial melt had swelled the stream to a deeper, raging, cold torrent. The log was no longer an option and so we waded in - water up to our hips. My dog (Samoyed) wouldn't go so I carried her. I faced upstream for the slow shuffle, stepping gingerly on the submerged river stones to get across, with a very narrow zone of balance keeping me from being swept backward.

That was just a small fraction of what you're talking about traversing and no way in heck I'd do it in winter -- unless the truck was a few feet away already running, heater on full-blast with towels and a change of clothes inside. I'd be hesitant to try that crossing again on a hot summer day.

Fast-flowing water is an incredibly powerful force.




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#213742 - 12/28/10 03:49 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
Teslinhiker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1325
Very implausible scenario...I cannot think of any valid reason (sane or insane) that would force me to contemplate crossing a river such as you have suggested.

Most river crossings are risky enough even at low water.

Attempting a river crossing(regardless of method used) in winter where the water and ambient temps may be in the freezing range is suicide. One fall into the river and without anyone to quickly rescue you, the ice cold water will immobilize your muscles within seconds..then you are a dead man/woman.
_________________________
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

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#213744 - 12/28/10 04:04 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
JBMat Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/03/09
Posts: 745
Loc: NC
I dunno, the choices are so muddled --

Stay put, make shelter, start fire - be semi dry and warm and wait for the water to recede. Boredom may set in, but what the hey, I carry an MP3 with radio most of the time. Time to study for "Don't forget the Lyrics".

or

Make a raft of some type, using the guts of the paracord, then use the outside of the paracord to pendulum across (I'm thinking this was the answer the OP was looking for) and if everything works out and I don't die of hypothermia or drowning I get home in time for whatever was so freaking important I couldn't miss it. Except I can't think of anything that important that I would risk my life in what is an obviously a suicide attempt to cross cold rushing water in the winter.

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#213745 - 12/28/10 04:11 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
dweste Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Seems to me you learn when contemplating the extremes, maybe even the most unlikely, implausible circumstances. That is when your experience and creativity get the most complete workout.

It is very hard for me to imagine no one has faced this scenario in the real world, but puzzles do not have to be "verifiably realistic" to consider their solution.

I do not mind if folks decline to get on the hook, or, having tried it on for size, decide to wiggle off. I do not mind justifications for declining or wiggling off - each to their own.

As I thought through this scenario, which popped into my mind while watching flood waters at a local park, solutions were not immediately apparent to me. So of course I decided to share it with the ETS brain trust.

My thought / hope was that there were some swift water rescue folks that could share an idea or two that might come in handy someday.

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#213749 - 12/28/10 04:56 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
raptor Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 04/05/08
Posts: 284
Loc: Europe
Either you make some sort of raft using SAK, fire and paracord or you just take almost all your clothes and shoes off, throw it across the river to the other side, jump in* and swim like Thorpe to get there.
Staying put won't work because it is not an option in this game wink.

*Maybe it would be good to take a dip first so you won't be in shock when you plunge into the cold water later.

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#213751 - 12/28/10 05:05 PM Re: Crossing a small flooded river in winter [Re: dweste]
Teslinhiker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1325
Originally Posted By: dweste
Seems to me you learn when contemplating the extremes, maybe even the most unlikely, implausible circumstances. That is when your experience and creativity get the most complete workout.

It is very hard for me to imagine no one has faced this scenario in the real world, but puzzles do not have to be "verifiably realistic" to consider their solution.


Many times, the best solution is to not cross the river in the circumstances you envisioned. For anyone who has done river crossings, has the experience and knowledge to seek out alternative locations that are much safer and easier. Case in point with a couple of my photos below which depict a river (in summer) but the same circumstances can apply in winter.

This first photo shows a river that is glacier fed (cold) not that wide but is flowing fast and dangerous. As you can see by the terrain and environment, there is nothing to aid you in making it across that river safely. You could try swimming it across and as you get swept downstream, you may be fortunate to reach the other side before the river heads further downhill and consequently gets more dangerous.



This second photo was taken ~ 1 mile upstream from the above photo. As you can see, the river flows through many small channels and is easily crossed here....even in high water. Many times people get too fixated on their immediate situation/area and do not stop to think and also look at their map (you do carry a map right?) for much easier and safer locations.
_________________________
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

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