July 20, 2008

White Water: River Rafting on the Elaho

2 hours drive to the base camp. One hour bus ride to the starting point. 5 minutes in the river until flipping the boat, being submerged underneath it, battered by rocks, and eventually pulled to safety by the guide. Part 1 of a 3 part mini series.

My first weekend outing with ResponseTek was an unforgettable experience. 11 colleagues, 10 of whom were eagerly awaiting the excursion, made their way to the base camp on the outskirts of Squamish, British Columbia. After signing waivers absolving the adventure company which was organizing the river rafting of any responsibilities, everyone pulled themselves into form fitting wetsuits and booties after considerable groaning and grunting.

My coworkers told me that I had worn my wetsuit inside out so I took it off and reversed it, only to be told I had been misinformed. We collected our helmets and life jackets, before boarding the yellow school bus that would take us to the starting point where we would be "put in" to the mighty Elaho River.

Before our aquatic voyage began, participants were given an opportunity to relieve themselves against the bushes. I enjoyed this part thoroughly. The lead guide explained all the principles of safety and what to do in an emergency. The boats had a safety rope encircling the perimeter, and any man overboard was to try and grasp this, while someone on board would pull them up by their life jackets after they had stopped laughing. If he could not reach it immediately, then someone on the boat could offer a paddle to him and pull him in. If the victim was still to far away, a rope would be thrown, and if he was out of reach of the rope he would be best served putting himself in the safety position on his back. Two kayakers would follow and provide any assistance if needed.

The worst scenario would be if the boat flipped and everyone went overboard including the guide. Everyone was to try to hold on to the perimeter line, until the guide could flip the boat and haul everyone back in. Statistically speaking, a boat flip happened once every 3 weeks, with around 2 people falling overboard accidentally per trip.