One more safety oriented post for now: A little bit about jumping safely.
For canyoneers who have never descended a particular canyon before, there are definitely practices that will enhance safety.
If it is a canyon with published beta (or if you have received private beta), take certain things into consideration before doing a described jump:
- Do you trust the source of the beta?
- Are you certain that you are in the described location? Different jumps can look similar to one another.
- Is the beta explicit about where in the pool is safe to jump?
Keep in mind that in many canyons, pool depth can change. Logs, rocks, sand, or gravel can make a previously deep pool hazardous. In particular, be very wary about jumping into pools after a storm event, and especially early in the season, after spring runoff.
If you are uncertain at all about the safety of a jump or the size/location of the landing area, then one person should descend to the pool to scope it out. If there is an existing rappel anchor, great – otherwise they can rappel off of a “meat anchor”.
The first person down should move back and forth throughout the landing area, feeling for obstacles, and demonstrating the depth of the water to those above. A good rule of thumb, if you have difficulty communicating verbally, is to only ever point to the area that is safe. If you point to an area and shout, “Don’t jump there!” the words may be missed, and the next person could think that’s where you want them to go. If the person above points to a spot, asking if they can jump there, be very emphatic if it is not safe. Shake your head clearly, make a slashing “death” motion across your throat with you hand, or form a large X with your forearms. Then clearly point to the safe landing area.
If you expect to be scouting some landing areas in a canyon, consider taking along a pair of swim goggles or a mask. When viewing a pool using goggles or mask, the depth can seem very deceiving; try swimming down a bit, or bobbing in the water to see how deep your feet go.
I wish I could give a specific depth that would be required from various heights, but that is something that comes with experience. Never jump into water if you are not comfortable with the depth. If anyone tries to pressure you into it, stand your ground.
A cautionary tale to finish up…
Earlier this summer, after having considered it for some time, I decided to jump one of the rappels in Box Creek (the seventh). I had not heard of anyone having jumped it at that point, despite some discussion, but the landing area seemed to be an adequate depth for the approximately 5-6 meter jump.
My partner, Jeff, went down first and scouted the deepest part of the pool. It was at the far end, and reached to about the top of his head. I jumped far, and flat, and had no problems. It was exciting to be able to completely skip a rappel, as the lower portion works well as a jump or a slide.
Fast forward a couple of weeks or so, and we were again in Box Creek. There had been very significant rain a few days before, but despite the high flow that we were descending in, we had not seen any drastic changes in the canyon as yet.
We reached the seventh rappel, and I decided to jump it again. The black rocks in the pool are difficult to see, but the water appeared, from above, to be as deep as ever. I jumped to the same spot in the pool, and landed very flat on my back to minimize sinking. I was shocked to basically come to a halt on a bed of gravel right away. While surprised, I was completely uninjured. When I stood up, the water came to about my mid-thigh. Quite a change. I was very fortunate that the pool had filled with a very forgiving layer of gravel, and that I had jumped in such a way that I didn’t go deeper. Upon walking around the pool, there was a deep area off to the side, and that is where Jeff safely jumped.
Definitely a learning experience, and a reminder that pools can change incredibly quickly.