Monday, January 11, 2016

Welcome to the Grand Canyon Swim Team!

Grand Canyon, Travel, Adventure, White Water, Rafting, Bedrock Rapid

"A left run is not recommended"
Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

River Day 10 was a turning point for me in the Grand Canyon. I joined the elite Grand Canyon Swim Team.

Was this a group I wanted to be part of? Absolutely not. I'm really not a huge water person. I never finished swim lessons as a child. I don't like being wet and cold.

That fateful day on the river, Bedrock Rapid {a class 7 on the Grand Canyon 1-10 scale}, did me in.

The decision was made to not scout this rapid. "There's not much you can do about it" was the consensus from our experienced boatmen. 

You only need to make one move. It's only a class 7 and at this point we'd already done a few class 8's, including Hance and Crystal-- two of the "Big Three".


I was nervous, but not immensely nervous. It would be a game of follow-the-leader. Both kayakers ran the rapid first to act as downstream safety. Up next was our most experienced boat. Then Nick and I. 

Just as Nick is setting up, we see Duffy and his crew about to hit Bedrock while flexing the oars with everything he had. They highside the boat and are able to squeak through on the right side of Bedrock.

Nick and I were not so lucky.

There was not enough time for Nick to correct his position. I'm yelling "Push! Push! We're going to his the rock!"

Things seemed to happen in slow motion.

The mid-aft port side of our raft strikes Bedrock. I'm thrown from the front of the raft backwards into Bedrock and the rapid.

I guess I would be taking a swim through the unrecommended left Bedrock run. 

Grand Canyon, Travel, Adventure, White Water, Rafting, Bedrock Rapid

My swim was traumatic.

Let me pause here to mention that I was wearing a facemask and Evan's large waterproof gloves that were huge on me to keep warm. It was so cold that day.

I was thrown into the first hole on the left of Bedrock where the water splits. I barely had time to take a breath. The facemask was constricting my breathing. I had enough cognizance to pull the facemask down while I was underwater. 

While I was underwater the raft ran over me. I could feel the bottom of the raft with my hands above me. 

Somehow I got sucked out from under the boat {thank goodness!}. I think the current was pulling me towards the next hole while Nick and the raft got pulled into a strong eddy current. I came up for air at the bottom on the hole, then got pulled back under. It was the third and final hole in Bedrock Rapid. Supposedly it was pretty large. 

Grand Canyon, Travel, Adventure, White Water, Rafting, Bedrock Rapid
This is not one of my photos. It is a screen shot from a Bedrock Rapid video that I found online. But it was the best I could find to depict what happened.

It seemed like I was underwater forever. Things went a little dark {but maybe my eyes were just closed}. I had a fleeting thought about death.

Grand Canyon, Travel, Adventure, White Water, Rafting, Bedrock Rapid
Another photo screenshot from an online video.
The 3rd Bedrock Rapid Hole

Then I popped out the bottom of the rapid into calm water and Cody was to me in the kayak in seconds pulling me to a rock near shore. 

A few minutes later Nick had the raft over to me and was dragging me in {watching video of the event once we got home, we found out it took him 5+ minutes to finally get to me!}.

I was later told that the entire ordeal {including Cody reaching me in the kayak} took no more than a minute. It sure felt like a lifetime though!

The river gods must have been somewhat watching over us because there was a large sunny beach downstream of the rapid. I was soaked. My dry suit was actually a semi-dry suit because it had a neoprene neck. Great for on the boats running rapids. Not so great for swimming rapids.

I'm fairly confident I was somewhat in shock. Charlie {who is a certified Wilderness First Responder} took control of the situation. He checked me over for injuries, asked me a bunch of questions about what I remembered, if I hit any rocks, etc.

Modesty be damned-- I wanted out of the wet clothes asap. I didn't care that I had no cover. I just wanted to be warm and dry. Nick frantically searched for my clean dry clothes, someone put a hat on me, several people brought me food. JB, who also joined the Grand Canyon Swim Team on day 2, gave me a pep talk. 

The whole experience was surreal. Looking back now, I can laugh and joke about my swim, but at the time I was terrified to go through the next big rapid.

I am thankful for the team of people who had my back. I am thankful for my physical strength and health. I am almost thankful for the experience-- now I know what to expect should something similar happen in the future.


Bedrock Rapid video from the boat behind us. You can see us about to hit the boat at time slice 5:13, then the video turns because the boatman starts pushing hard right to avoid the same fate. At time slice 5:52 you can see Cody kayaking towards me, at 6:02 you see me bobbing in the water and at 9:30 Nick is pulling me into the boat.

"Wow, @amanda__maureen's swim at Bedrock Rapid in the #GrandCanyon looks intense! #whitewater #adventure"
   
Your turn! How would you handle an event like this {either as the swimmer or as a team member}? Have you ever had an experience where death crossed your mind?

♥AK