Crossing moving water

10:39 p.m. on March 12, 2012 (EDT)
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My latest video offers some tips for crossing streams/rivers/creeks.  As always, I value input from you regulars.  Thanks!

2:59 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Well done! Overall, this is a quite a professional video. One point you might want to emphasize is that it's best to step on smaller stones or loose gravel rather than larger rocks as the latter are more likely to be slick with moss. Foot placement is everything!   

3:04 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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nice

5:17 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice video, nice weather ;-)

Can you get a microphone for the camera - when you turn away, it is difficult to hear what you are saying. Or voiceover?

As for what's missing, I am hoping someone will lay it out nicely for us.

I would have demonstrated how important it is to reconsider the crossing, reconnoitre the up and down areas, even not cross at all, and so on. And never jump across a smaller stream if you can help it.

Some written stuff and video here for more info on this topic:

BMC page with good pdf

Video showing how to 'not cross at all'

Page with article

6:00 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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By the way, this is how I cross streams:

Video showing something crazy

10:46 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Great video! It's well-produced, clear and fun to watch. Trailspace published an article on this topic last year that had some great discussion too: http://www.trailspace.com/articles/how-to-cross-streams.html

One of the more interesting thing about this discussion was that it revealed the differences between different region's "standard" practices with respect to streamed crossings.

11:46 a.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice video, Dan. The group crossing using two or three people is one that is very stable. I would add a couple of things. Narrower sections of a stream may not always be the swiftest and may in fact be the slowest, though as well, the deepest if it is a pool/drop stream or river. Avoid crossing above hazards, such as low head dams, waterfalls and sweepers. Facing downstream is a no-no. Large rocks represent more of a foot entrapment issue which is very dangerous. If you do swim, do so with your feet down stream and your feet high. Use a back stroke to ferry to the nearest safety area, whether that be a bank, a rock or a gravel bar. Do not stand up until your butt hits solid bottom and the water is no more than mid calf.

3:30 p.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Interestingly enough, recommendations from SAR and governmental resources are contradictory on some of the river crossing techniques. Here is one from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The video is particularly interesting. Here is another from Gates of the Arctic NP. Another from New Zealand and here. The links I give are pretty much in agreement with one another, but disagree with several recommendations in the video. Note that the links recommend having the group lined up sideways to the current and tightly together, bracing each other, strongest person on the upstream side, not the loose triangular grouping in the video.

An important point in the links (and elsewhere) is to NOT use a rope unless you have thorough training - the majority of people attempting to use a rope do not know how and often end up in deep trouble.

There has been a lot of discussion on the pack question. The New Zealand water safety people have done a lot of study and experimentation (because there have historically been so many drownings in river crossings in NZ). It is very instructive to go to their websites and read what they have found out.

6:11 p.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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That Alaska video download was good, Bill. I liked the part where he was doing the backstroke feet first, never actually seen that.

The NZ links are not 'safe' according to my browsers, something about a certificate. What did they conclude on packs?

Edit: I found a link in the comments on Seth's article from last year.

7:00 p.m. on March 13, 2012 (EDT)
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The "certificate" is a method of guaranteeing a website. The links I gave all had valid certificates, according to my browser, hardware firewall, and security software.

Seth's article and the followups by Tipi, Ed Whome, trout, and izogi do a good job of filling in the gaps.

As Ed noted, the pack is a double-edged sword. The NZ government and SAR types note that your pack can be a flotation device, IF it is waterproof or lined with a drybag (note - this means everything in the drybag, not leaving space that can act like a bucket). It also adds to your cross-section for drag from the current.

One thing not really covered in Seth's article that is in the Alaska and NZ links is that crossing in a group, edge-on to the current, holding tight to help each other's balance seems to work best. Alaska and NZ have some rather fierce streams to cross, and in both places the SAR people have tried about everything. If you are solo (and even in groups), placing the pole upstream and leaning on it (trekking poles work well), shuffling one foot at a time appears to be the best method under most (but not all) conditions.

Ropes all too often end up by dragging you under the water, both using it as a belay line and trying to use a rope strung tightly across the river as a handline. Lots of brush on the bank makes it worse, as many have found in Alaskan glacial streams.

1:13 p.m. on March 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Bill, it is interesting how different organizations recommend different techniques as better. In Swiftwater Rescue courses, the tripod method is the one most recommended for safety when needing to cross rivers to reach an injured person or a pinned boat.

As an aside to the note about a pack acting as floatation, this is very true. While some flatwater canoeists prefer not to tie gear in, nearly all expedition paddlers tightly strap gear into their boats. The idea is, even for things like canisters of fuel, they displace water and are lighter than the latter, so, unless you are carrying kegs of nails, most things will be lighter than the water they displace. Unless you are going for a long swim, almost any tightly packed backpack will provide some floatation.

8:15 a.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I enjoy wading streams in fishing for trout. Necessarily, sometimes you need to work your way slowly into a position in very fast water that allows you to cast to a particular fish.

Some things I have learned through this is to place my feet on the downstream side of large rocks. The eddy caused by the rock will often deposit sand behind the stone which makes for good traction; as well the force of the water is reversed, gently pressing your foot/leg against the rock.

I usually cross with my side to the current; it provides the least surface area. I seldom place my (collapsible) wading staff - which I always carry when fishing - upstream. Any kayaker will tell you, "Never put your paddle in on the upstream side when perpendicular to the current; the current will push your blade under your kayak, tipping you over." [I've had this happen] In placing your wading staff downstream, the current will try and lift the staff, so be sure you have it set well before placing any weight on it.

Watch out for black silt. On Michigan sandy-bottomed rivers like the Manistee, areas of fine black silt may collect. Stepping "onto" this sometimes leads to plunging crotch-deep in quick-silt. If this happens, slowly, very very slowly, raise the trapped leg. Fast motion creates a vacuum that holds your foot in place. If you can't use the other foot to lift yourself, lie back in the water and let your buoyancy gradually pull you free. Better wet than trapped, IMO.

In crossing slow-moving water where beavers reside, beware of placing your feet in a jumble of horizontal sticks on the river bottom. Often these crossed sticks can come together, locking your foot in place. If so, don't struggle, just slowly extricate yourself.

Just some thoughts, YMMV. BTW, my avatar is not typical of my wading performance. :)

8:58 a.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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great suggestions, OVM.

I have never found walking broadside of to the current effective either. 

9:24 a.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, gonzan.

One more thing. When wading very fast water, if you start to slip, slap your wading staff - or fishing rod - hard and flat onto the water on the downstream side. The pressure of the water and the resistance against the staff will usually be enough to push you upright. It is amazing that anything as thin as a staff or trekking pole can actually provide sufficient surface area to support your weight, for a few seconds, but it really works.

I am still practicing this technique for crossing water:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuSZzFr1AMc

10:02 a.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Great!

12:03 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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One of the common links about this thread is that current can be deceptively powerful. Do not fight it, but use it and understand how it flows around and through objects. Overmywaders, be wary of foot entrapment even on the downstream side of large rocks. Here in the NW we have drownings each year on the area's rivers. Several years ago, a kayaker lost his life when he flipped and exited, and his foot became entrapped. He was facing down stream. Though the rescue team was able to hold his head above the water for a period using a throw rope, rising water and swift current eventually forced his head under and he drowned.

1:19 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Here in BC, we have a "few" little streams, the odd mountain and even some water......I have been solo wading these, often with a heavy pack for well over 50 years. I simply try to edge, slowly on a slight angle, upstream to a carefully chosen spot on the opposite bank and I wear my boots with a pair of socks specifically for this usage.

I will not step into water I cannot determine the depth of, have almost drowned in Beaver dams twice and now am hyper-cautious about them and I take my time crossing. I also have waded into some creeks and then slowly reveresed as the water scared me....and, I am not a man who is very often nervous in the bush.

I think that, if you are a long distance or time trekker and real wilderness explorer, you should PRACTICE stream crossing as one might self arrests with an iceaxe and thus gain some experience-skill on just how YOU do it best.

Go Slow, life is short, enough.

2:14 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Maybe a good analogy to stream crossing is technical climbing. You wouldn't just walk up to a rock face anywhere and start climbing; you would stand at a distance and plan your route, choosing possibilities by the shadows cast by projections.

In the same way, as a fisherman, I look at the current and try to read the stream bottom from the "v's" and slicks that form on the surface. Even stones that are not visible often betray their presence. So, like the climber, we choose the safest, not the shortest, route before we get our first foot wet.

Just my approach, but I am a timid fellow.

3:11 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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One theme that has bothered me in water crossing threads is all the talk about how certain stances, styles, and reactions while crossing enhance control or increase the chance of a recovery, should the hiker get swept.  Yet little is said a about avoiding a risky crossing altogether.  As Pathloser and Dewy allude, the best prevention against getting swept is looking elsewhere for a safer fording point.  If you are anywhere near a beaver damn why risk getting your feet ensnared?  Go find another safer crossing, even if it means a huge detour.

Dewy suggests practicing crossings.  This benefits SAR types, who practice frequently and whose options are limited when compelled to cross.  May I suggest the lesson most likely learned by the rest of us, including most intrepid trekkers, is not skills that make us more capable, but wisdom that makes us more cautious to cross only when there is enough margin of safety that skills are not the crux of safety, where the likely worst case scenario is a dunking and wet equipment.  If you are earnest in practicing stream crossings, you will realize control is very limited when pitted against hydraulic forces, especially when slip rocks, uneven bottoms, and submerged obstacles are added to the mix. 

May I suggest the most valuable stream crossing skills I have used are those relied on while bushwacking to a safer crossing that doesn’t place me in a position where I need floatation assist or slapping the water with my staff to affect a recovery.  The thing is, it is almost impossible to remain clearheaded when you are fighting to keep you head above a current of freezing water.  Having been swept, I can tell you all the tricks in your bag are good for about three seconds; after that the go-to action for most sweepings is swim like a rat.  So go ahead and learn all of the tricks and secrets folks are willing to share, but realize stream crossings that have any element of risk are survived as much as they are managed.

Ed

3:26 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed,

Good points. Since I’m almost always solo, I try to be duly diligent in evaluating and hopefully mitigating my risks. I’ve had to re-plan entire trips on the fly due to high water that was too risky (almost every place I frequent requires some crossing: two last weekend).

 I go the Smoky Mountains a lot and the main cause of death in the park is drowning. Here is a Backpacker article from 08 citing the Abrams Falls hike (one of the most popular in the Park) as one of the 10 most dangerous in America due to total fatalities (from drowning): link

Not sure about current stats but here in TN we hear of drowning deaths in our rivers and lakes every year without fail.

 

4:49 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Great thread. One thing, in my limited experience with crossings, that I have found is that unless you practise on dry land, it can quickly turn to crap once you are in the water. Case in point: when I did the line astern/single file, no one listened to the commands of the front person, they just found their own rhythm and some people got 'pushed' across. The tripod version might give people more control, if there is a choice between the two types with a large group and some weaker members etc.

I agree with what is mentioned about caution all round as well. Fear has done a great job of keeping me alive so far.

And then there are peat bogs - look what happened to Sherlock Holmes.

5:50 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed,

Crossing any stream with a flow of 100 cfps or greater will involve risks. We can look over the area beforehand and prepare for most eventualities, but we never catch them all.

For example, you mentioned avoiding walking on beaver dams. Of course, but even where there are no dams, but plenty of beaver - either in lodges or under the banks - there is danger. Beaver wedge fresh aspen and poplar poles underwater for storage. These poles may be far from their dwelling; so there may be no sign of beaver. If the water is cloudy, you won't know the foot traps are there until you step in one. How do you avoid that? You don't, you learn what to do when it may occur. The same with silt traps and quicksand - safety lies in preparedness as well as avoidance.

Fine, Ed, look for a safer place to cross. However, if you don't wish to learn about recovering your balance you may be in greater danger wherever you choose to cross. Six inch deep water running over cobble can put you down a lot faster than waist deep water; OTOH, fast six inch deep water over pea gravel may allow you to slide-step across by going diagonally downstream.

So, you find a nice looking crossing point and decide to go straight across. However, if the water is fast, you might be better off planning to come out one hundred feet downstream of your starting point -- not fighting the water but cooperating with the flow.

And sometimes, Ed, you can walk for miles and find no better crossing point than the one you first avoided. This is known as "Trying to get in the fastest checkout line"; only to watch the line you started in zoom on through. : )

7:27 p.m. on March 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, obviously, different people have different methods of dealing with moving water where they hike and one must do what seems to work best for oneself. I also know from wading the Kootenay River below Nelson, BC, which is the outlet for the entire Kootenay Lake-river system into this little "crick" called "The Columbia", with my flyrod and no flotation device, that circumstances differ and people often do in respect of their responses.

I hav waded water to my armpits and lots of thighhigh spring freshets fed by glaciers in very steep country, I was young, we were "macho" and, yup, some of ua drowned. I now WILL NOT cross water UNLESS I am very certain I can cope with that specific flow and I am glad that Ed brought this aspect of the situation up as it had occured to me, as well.

I have done my share of remote wilderness SAR, with among the best "pros" on Earth, the CanForce SAR techs out of Comox, BC and spent a lot of time alone in northern BC, far from any assistance in an accident. I stress caution because none among us, me included, is as "bulletproof" as our egos sometimes tell us we are.

Nothing I have seen has quite the same pathos as a drowning victim, they look so small and quiet and forlorn........

1:31 a.m. on March 16, 2012 (EDT)
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overmywaders said:

..And sometimes, Ed, you can walk for miles and find no better crossing point than the one you first avoided. This is known as "Trying to get in the fastest checkout line"; only to watch the line you started in zoom on through. : )

Perhaps, but if no better alternative crossings exists it doesn’t make the crossing one already deemed as unsafe any more safer.  I once made a thirty mile detour rather than attempt an unsafe crossing.  And that is my point.  The notion we must ford a dangerous crossing is a falsehood, except perhaps the remotest, wildest, rivers on any given continent where no rescue can be expected.  There is almost always the option of not crossing at all and terminating a trip, or if stuck on the wrong side of a stream, waiting for SAR to bail you out.  This is known as not making getting home a life or death proposition.

Ed   

1:40 a.m. on March 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Stream crossings, and being swept off a stance and find yourself floating, are, as Ed says, situation where it comes down to survival. However, even if you are a hiker only and never going to venture onto white water, Swiftwater Rescue skills can save your life. As with any emergency situation, being able to respond from experience, rather than reading about what to do, helps. The first time I swam a rapid, I was scared., I gulped mouthfuls of water, I couldn't see, let alone grab the throw rope. Having done it now, both in practice and real world situations, I am much more comfortable and able to effect a self rescue and assist others. I am still scared, but not in a state of panic. I think about foot entrapment, the sweepers, or whacking my tailbone on the rock, but I swim all the time.

Whatever type of outdoor pursuit we are on, avoiding dangerous situations is utmost. However, being prepared for an emergency should also be a prime tenet. It may not happen to us, it may happen to someone in our party, or someone on the trail. Knowing what to do in emergency situations, should be as important as which tent is lighter, or which sleeping pad is more comfortable.

10:49 p.m. on March 16, 2012 (EDT)
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plenty of moving water around here today

11:47 a.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed and Erich's last two posts sum up what I have tried to say here and an approach to this issue based on these will, IMO, tend to make such crossings more enjoyable and keep people safer.

Look at the water crossings as an enjoyable aspect of your hike and a challenge, not a fearful obstacle to be dreaded and endured. Attitude plays a major role in bush skills and performance.

Erich, very good point about gear, etc. btw; in our gear-laden world with new "goodies" offered every day, sometimes we forget that physical-mental conditioning and outdoor skillsets are the REALLY important things.

1:13 p.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, Dewey. And we definitely don't want to take any moving water/paddling tips from Bear Grylls. One of the few times I saw the show, he found an old canoe on the upper Yukon, repaired it and made a rudimentary paddle. Then he proceeded to demonstrate some of the worst paddling swimming technique in moving water I have ever seen.

4:04 p.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Erich said:

..we definitely don't want to take any moving water/paddling tips from Bear Grylls...

 I always got a gas how the first thing Bear does in a survival situation is somehow, purposefully, get every stitch of clothing he has soaked in near freezing conditions.  Entertaining, but entirely wrong.

Ed

6:04 p.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Who or what is Bear Grylls? Is he another incarnation of that eastern US journalist, Bradford Angier, who conned millions of gullible people into believing that he was an actual "old time" BC mountain man, back in the '60s and '70s?

I know that there are a lot of TV shows that purport to be done by master bushwhackers and "survival experts", but, I never watch such tripe or very much TV, at all. So, enlighten me, perhaps I am "missing" something, eh?

6:24 p.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Dewey said:

Who or what is Bear Grylls? Is he another incarnation of that eastern US journalist, Bradford Angier, who conned millions of gullible people into believing that he was an actual "old time" BC mountain man, back in the '60s and '70s?

I know that there are a lot of TV shows that purport to be done by master bushwhackers and "survival experts", but, I never watch such tripe or very much TV, at all. So, enlighten me, perhaps I am "missing" something, eh?

 This may answer your question.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Grylls

7:00 p.m. on March 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeppers, about what I expected and, btw, I am not very impressed by people who must film their rather "outre" exploits for sit-at-home wannabe "adventurers" to get their vicarious kicks from. Perhaps, I am a bit too "old school" and have become far too curmudgeonly in my incipient dotage, but, this guy strikes me as a lot of flash and little thunder.

2:01 a.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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FWIW, Discovery Channel just severed their ties with Bear Grylls so no more Man v.s Wild.

They should hire Dewey!  I would watch that.

Cheers.

2:15 a.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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How very kind of you, however, I am a bit too elderly and far too realistic about outdoor pusuits, especially those in high latitudes, remote wilderness. and alone.

I am not really into stunts, displays of rather questionable behaviour in the media and I actually made my living in the wilderness for quite some years without trying to pretend that I was/am a "discoverer" of the remains of Sir John Franklin and his crew...something accomplished quite some time ago, sans the egotistical claims of this chap.

He was an auxiliary cadet with 22nd.SAS, so what? This means jacksh*t in the real world among people who lay it on the line every day in, for example, northern Canada. I know, I worked with these people and never heard of this Grylls person.

That said, I wonder WHY the Discovery Channel severed their connection with him, perhaps my scepticism has a basis in fact?

9:43 a.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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I share Dewey's, Ed's, and Erich's sentiments here regarding Bear Grylls, and any of the other showy outdoor survivalist types not only as it relates to water crossing, but wilderness travel in general .

Here is my opinion, which changes as I get older and continue to learn:

Other than mild entertainment, these people are next to useless in credible instruction. The part I fear is that the huge numbers of people who watch these shows (and read some of the books) often incorporate these antics into their own "skill set" and will head out into the wilderness falsely thinking they have learned something useful.

Often what is presented through these "stunts" isn't realistic survival technique, but rather a convoluted circus act.

Useful survival knowledge (often boring & not entertaining) is a small subset of the base of knowledge you should develop for wilderness travel; although very important, it is not a daily outdoor living skill set.  People seem to have a romanticism with rubbing sticks together to create fire. Okay..you learned to start a fire by rubbing sticks together, are you going to do that every day? Can you do that if you are hypothermic?

The word "survival" is a money making buzz word especially when used by people who fail to teach, make the audience or students aware of, or even mention the other 90% of knowledge one needs to know that will keep you from finding yourself in a "survival situation" to begin with.

If the only skill set someone develops is "survival" they had better be very good at it.

Stream crossings require real skills & experience, it is not a TV show and you are not on your couch. You need to do it some, starting with easy crossings and learning as you go what works; and by reading the advise offered by knowledgeable folks.

Mike G.

1:39 p.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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It would appear that some believe that Caution and Preparedness are antithetical. I look at them as complimentary. Assess a situation, determine the best and safest approach, understand that there is always risk, and be prepared for adverse events -- because they will occur, if not today, some other day.

Perhaps some don't want to know what to do if they encounter a near accident in fast water, fine. However, I don't think the majority of the members of this forum wish to avoid knowledge of that or other self-recovery techniques. I also don't think that practicing concepts in order to develop skills is wrong - such as how to prevent a fall in fast water or extricate oneself from silt or foot traps. But these are simply one opinion, YMMV (it may vary a lot more, as you are swept downriver because you were either over-confident in your risk assessment or unable to correct for errors because you never expected them to occur).

2:13 p.m. on March 18, 2012 (EDT)
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As I only receive one antenna channel (The Fox channel, uck!) I have never seen Bear Grylls nor his show and in fact never heard of him till yesterday. I read his Wiki bio and he sounds like an accomplished backpacker/etc. that has merely cashed in on the utterly ridicules reality TV that America has become accustom to and hooked on, living ones dreams vicariously thru TV characters.

We must remember that he has a whole crew accompanying him along with all the transportation that it takes to get him and all there gear there. If he were to get caught in a crossing do you think the crew would let him drown, do you think they would show any real mishaps one his show? Do you think they would leave him out in the wilderness to see how he survived waiting with baited cameras at the end of the logging road to see if he could claw his way out? I think not. I'm sure that he is not giving bad advice but long before there was reality shows, the internet, personal computers and the such many of us here figured out how to cross moving rivers, streams, etc and I know for myself that each encounter with a crossing is a new learning experience in which one must use all of ones combined experience along the ability to use caution and know when not to attempt a crossing. Most would say all of this is ever so more important when one is out solo.

2:54 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Dewey, I have a well worn copy of "On Your Own in the Wilderness". While I would not advocate that Bradford Angier, or Townsend Whelen, were BC pioneers, they did inspire me. They were, I think, no less than RM Patterson, or before him, Warburton Pike, in terms of the city bred person going into the natural lands and inspiring others to seek.(A side note, MSR introduced a tent several years ago that is a duplicate of a Whelen Lean To.)

All,

The moral/ethical question is whether people use these exploits as inspiration or instruction. Bear Grylls for all of his bravado, has some timeline hiccups when it comes to his membership in the SAS. He's like an applicant in the SEALS who might have made it but for an injury. His father being an MP didn't hurt. But the comparison is similar to "Into the Wild" and "One Man's Wilderness", what one person aspires to and what one person knows. 

RM Patterson wrote about the Nahanni in a lyrical way, in the same mode that Archie Belaney wrote about the need to preserve the natural lands. Both had a foot in each world, which allowed them to inspire others.

Dewey mentioned Franklin. Franklin was IMHO, much like Scott, 70 years later. Scott perished, because of English arrogance, and a belief in the supremacy of technology. Amundsen survived, because he used known methods. Steffanson, who was supremely gifted and used evolved and tested methods, abandoned his companions on the Karluk and was crucified for it.

Dewey, I would love to hear more about your involvement with Franklin. Obviously, despite your admitted age, you're a bit young to have accompanied Sir Dr. John Rae. The fate of Franklin's Expedition is one of the great mysteries of the 19th Century.

10:31 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Ah, yes, that naughty ...English arrogance..., eh wot?

Bloody good thing we of the British Commonwealth had it in 1914 and 1939, eh, Erich?

 

1:00 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi Dewey, I'm not dismissing the contributions of English explorers, or writers like Patterson. John Hornby was greatly responsible for establishing the Thelon Sanctuary. Yet it was his arrogance that he could live off the land, that ultimately was responsible for his death, along with the deaths of his two companions. And the English certainly have no monopoly on expeditions gone very bad and relying too much on technology to get them through(S. A. Andree's balloon expedition). At the same time, there are less heralded explorers who go about their trips with much less fanfare, and accomplish more in terms of their contributions to science and culture. And that list includes many great English people. John Speke was credited with finding the source of the Nile because he presented his rather cursory notes to the Royal Geographic first, while Burton took his time with his very detailed reports and yet was overshadowed by Speke. Beryl Markham was certainly a better pilot than Amelia Earhart, but she didn't die until at a very ripe old age. And book ending with Patterson, I've read all his works and enjoy them. And certainly "Dangerous River" is a great tale. However, it is now known that it wasn't Patterson who helped Faille, but the other way around, and Patterson took some license when recording that he reached Virginia Falls on his first trip up. He combined several attempts into one in the book.

Tell us more about your involvement in solving Franklin's mystery. Were you part of the expedition to Beechey Island in the 1980's?

3:32 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Despite our collective inclination to belittle book smarts as a substitute for in-field experience, I would suggest the unquestionable wisdom of the two of you, Dewy and Erich (and others of this forum), is due to a dedication to excellence, as an esthetic, as well as for self preservation purposes, and that your efforts to be proficient includes a fair amount of arm chair time learning vicariously from other's exploits, as documented in prose.  Of course the trick is being a critical reader, and knowing when a source has value for the information imparted versus as mere entertainment.  I personally have enjoyed studying Bradford Washburn.  He has managed to do some interesting jaunts in his time, was mostly understated when relating these exploits, and lived to a very ripe old age.  Washburn also has an account of one of the most hairy river crossings I have read, one that should make anyone reconsider a questionable water crossing.

Ed

4:10 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed, I've always enjoyed reading the late Brad Washburn's writings, and he had the experience and wrote factually. I always enjoy reading a good story. And to be fair to RM Patterson, whose writings inspired me to paddle the Dease River, he was inspired to travel the Dease and write "Trail to the Interior" after reading Warburton Pike's "Through the Subarctic Forest". Pike may have been inspired by reading Robert Campbell's journals of the same area. And Archie Belaney was inspired by reading The Song of Hiawatha. 

As you say, having a critical eye is important if you are reading the material for instruction, or enjoyment, an account of one person's experience. My comment about the arrogance of some explorers comes down to how and why different personalities explored. Even though Franklin had been in the North before, he persisted in doing it as an "Englishman" and resisted "going native" as the common vernacular of the time noted it. Scott perished while Amundsen did not. Yet Scott is arguably much better known, and as the Victorian's of the time might have said, "But Amundsen ate his dogs, man, he ate his dogs."

I apologize to the moderators for taking this so far off topic. If you watch Bear Grylls as pure entertainment, that is fine and I don't have a problem with that. However, if you watch such sensationalized shows as expert instruction, which some may do, you could be putting your life and the lives of others at risk.

August 23, 2014
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