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Accident Report: little Kern, Californi a

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by, Aug 25, 2004.

  1. A friend of mine wrote in a post recently something to the effect of "at least we are doing something more than just sitting around and sucking up oxygen wasting our days away." No matter what God or Gods you believe in.. to just sit around and do nothing but take up space in life seems pitiful.

    I think your friend Angie lived a full life in her short stay of 35 years on this planet. Much more so than most people of 100 years of age. A Teacher, a rock climber, a canyoneer, a wife, a friend. I am sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for the report.

    -----Original Message----- From: Paul [] Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 11:10 PM To: Yahoo Canyons Group Subject: [from Canyons Group] Accident Report: little Kern, California

    Little Kern Canyon, Tulare County, California July 2 – 3, 2004 Account written by Lynne Siodmak In loving memory of Angela Lorraine Roth. November 15, 1968 – July 3, 2004

    I came to Ventura seven and a half years ago to design textiles for Patagonia. In the spring of 1998, Angie and I were introduced by our mutual friend, Mike Hobbs, on a rock climbing trip to Joshua tree. Since Angie and Mike were close friends, she was very happy when he and I later got engaged. Angie and her fiancee Tom were about to get married too, so everything seemed to be falling into place. We introduced other friends to each other, growing a tightly knit group connected by our love of the outdoors, family and home. We met regularly for dinners, hiking, running, rock climbing, kayaking, and back country skiing. Three and a half years ago, just before Angie and Tom’s wedding, Mike passed away suddenly from a heart condition, thus the Roths became a larger support in my life. The warm home Angie created and Tom’s comforting presence were always open to me in times of need. On June 30th, Angie and Tom invited me over for dinner at their house in Meiner’s Oaks with good friends Don Wallace and Chris and Rebecca Nybo. The Roths bought their house last year and had been renovating it together in preparation for starting a family. Earlier in the week Chris mentioned that he and Angie were planning to canyoneer the Little Kern Canyon over the July 4th weekend. They were both on vacation from their teaching jobs in Oxnard. Chris had often spoken of how beautiful the canyon was. He had canyoneered it three times, most recently with our friends, Nico and Cheyla Tripcevich, two years ago. During dinner, Chris asked me if I wanted to join he and Angie that weekend. I had enjoyed a canyoneering trip on the North Fork of the Kings several years ago so enthusiastically accepted. The entire group at dinner contemplated going, along with Steve Morando, but none could join us because of work obligations. The Little Kern is located in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sequoia National Forest and drains the Mineral King area from the North, converging with the Kern River at the Forks of the Kern. The creek has been run in kayaks, but isn’t common because of the narrow creek bed. Canyoneering entails traveling small drainages, usually in a downstream direction, on foot, and by swimming, climbing and jumping into unobstructed pools. You use teamwork to negotiate features and apply rock climbing techniques when necessary. It is done when the water is low, usually during the summer months or dry season. Average flows for the Little Kern can be 1000 CFS March through June, although recent years have been abnormally dry, resulting in an earlier run-off and reduced flows. Over the July 4th weekend, the creek had dropped to an estimated 120 CFS which was an acceptable level to attempt the canyon. We anticipated the character of the Little Kern in this area to be slow moving pools connected by small waterfalls. Angie had never been on a canyoneering trip, but was eager to try it. She had rock climbed for 10 years so had good rope skills and was comfortable in water. Angie had a sense of adventure and always wanted to try new things if they seemed safe. Chris and I are experienced white water kayakers and we all have substantial experience in the backcountry. We planned on going into the canyon with appropriate gear and applying our collective skills for a safe journey. Angie was excited about the Honda CRV she had just bought from her sister and offered to drive to the Kern. On Friday, July 2nd, Chris and I met her at 5:00 a.m in Meiner’s Oaks,. She had just returned from a road trip to Boulder where she and her friend Heather ran the “Bolder Boulder” 10 K. Angie was planning on returning to her third grade teaching position at Brekke School in Oxnard on July 6th. She loved working with the kids and was the type of teacher who always gave more than required. We took a beautiful route from Ojai north up Highway 33, through Taft and Bakersfield to Kernville. Chris and Angie were having an animated conversation about teaching while I napped in the back seat. I am aware of what valuable work they did by being positive influences in their students’ lives and often commended them for their work. At 7:30 a.m. we stopped for breakfast in Bakersfield at the 24th Street CafÈ. We were excited to be embarking on a beautiful trip together in the backcountry. We planned on stopping in Kernville at the James Store for final provisions and packing our gear at my cabin in Kernville. Chris said if we started our hike into the Little Kern that afternoon we would be in good position to finish the canyon the following day. At 10:00 a.m. we arrived at the cabin and packed for an hour. Angie was amazed how much the place had improved since she last saw it. Mike passed away while we were in escrow, so she, Tom and the Nybos had helped me shortly after I got it. The cabin had been in terrible shape, but now the garden is thriving and the house restored. As we were leaving, I pointed out a tiger swallow tail butterfly floating over the lavender bushes. Together we marveled at the fluttering grace of the yellow beauty. We left the cabin at 11:00 and had driven 20 miles north along the Kern River when Angie realized we needed gas. Chris and I had forgotten to tell her there were no gas stations on that section of highway, so we returned to Kernville to fill the car up. Once underway, we all felt relieved to leave the holiday bustle and head for the high country. The road traverses the rim of the Kern River Canyon, looping underneath the Needles and dead ends in a remote area 23 miles past the Johnsondale Road. We arrived at our destination, the Jerky trailhead near Lloyd Meadow Creek, at 2:00 p.m. with plenty of time to hike in and begin the canyon. We all carried medium size packs, light sleeping bags and pads, short sleeved wetsuits, dry tops, tennis shoes, river sandals, sun hats, and warm clothes for night time. We shared a stove, water purifier, food, first aid supplies, a river throw bag, several carabiners and nylon webbing for climbing. The temperature at the trailhead was about 80 degrees with wispy clouds overhead. We were prepared for rain since it’s common to have thunderstorms in that part of the Sierra during summer afternoons. The trail gains a hill for about two miles through ponderosa forest and then descends to a stock bridge which crosses the Little Kern. During the first mile, we met a lone fisherman from Bakersfield on his way into the Coyote Lakes. At the top of the hill, we could see the high peaks of the Mineral King area to the north forming the headwaters of the Little Kern, and below, the granite canyon heading south to its’ confluence with the Kern River. We began the canyoneering section just below the stock bridge. We had something to eat on the rocks and changed into our wetsuits. The water temperature was about 65 degrees. We all wore Capilene underwear, wetsuits, dry tops and river shoes. The rest of our supplies were stored in dry bags inside our packs except for the climbing equipment, drinking water and a waterproof camera. Dry bags, common on river trips, fold over on top keeping things dry and provide flotation by trapping air inside. The packs Angie and I carried were light since Chris volunteered to carry most of the heavy gear. At the put-in, the Little Kern is a pristine place of pine-covered cliffs flanking the creek bed. Our plan was to take two days to follow the Little Kern seven miles downstream to its confluence with the Kern River. From there we would hike two miles up the Forks of the Kern trail where Chris would run the five mile shuttle on foot in order to bring Angie’s car back to pick us up. Chris is a great athlete, so covering that kind of extra distance is common for him. We expected to finish our trip on the afternoon of July 3rd and drive back to Ojai for 4th of July celebrations with our families. Chris described the canyon as having 3 distinct sections, the first and last flatter and wider, with a central more technical section which has steeper gradient and narrower canyon walls. We entered the first pool at 3:30 and planned on going between 2 to 3 miles before camping that night. We were excited as we made our way downstream. The water temperature felt brisk, but we quickly got used to it. As we made our way through the pools, we could usually touch the bottom so just walked through the water. In deeper areas, Chris showed us the most efficient way of moving which is standing straight up, making a running motion with your legs, and breast stroking your arms in front to propel yourself forward. The air inside your pack holds you up, so you don’t have to tread water at all. We all laughed as we moved through the beautiful clear water. The character of the creek is described as “pool drop”. The pools become shallow on the downstream ends because the current deposits gravel there. At the end of most pools, the water usually flows with more velocity as it drops into the pool below. We worked as a team, looking at each section to plan where we would walk or swim. We waited for each other before any difficult move, such as climbing out of the water or stepping over boulders, to give each other a hand. Because of the low water flow, the current was gentle making it easy to swim away from any obstacle. Chris was very good at describing what to expect and checked in with us repeatedly to see if we were comfortable with the situation. At numerous points you can hike back upstream or climb side canyons to exit the canyon. After several miles Angie had a good idea of how technical the travel was and expressed her desire to continue on to finish the canyon the following day. As we made our way downstream, we came to several places where you had the option of down-climbing large boulders or jumping into deep pools. Above the biggest jump of about fifteen feet, Angie surprised us by choosing the jumping option. She said to me in the pool below, “I often surprise people by what I’ll do!” At 7:00, after completing about two and a half miles, we camped on a series of wide granite ledges above a deep pool on river right. Some of Angie’s clothes had gotten wet because one dry bag wasn’t sealed completely, so we shared our extra clothes with her. There was plenty of driftwood, so Chris chose a safe spot and got a small fire going. Angie sat close to the fire in her down sleeping bag and I used the stove to make hot cider followed by rice topped with cheddar cheese soup. Chris busied himself catching fish to supplement our dinner. Angie and I were impressed with Chris because he quickly reeled in three beautiful golden trout using his collapsible rod and spinners. I recall looking at Angie’s face in the twilight and picturing her as a beautiful older woman. I looked forward to knowing her then. After eating our rice and soup we were all full, so we decided to save the trout for breakfast. We were happy to be in such a exquisite place together and touched on many subjects before turning in at around 10:00 p.m. Angie made a comfortable nest with her down bag and the next morning said she slept well. I had a lighter bag and wasn’t quite warm enough, but we all got plenty of rest. Saturday we woke up later than usual because the canyon walls blocked the sun. We made another small fire to grill the trout and prepared tea and oatmeal on the stove. We were grateful for the delicious fish and spectacular setting. We sat telling stories and planning other trips as we waited for the sun to hit the water. It was 11:00 when we started downstream. As we were leaving, Angie asked me if I could take a picture of her for Tom before we left. She was so proud of herself, and as always, was thinking of him. Because the day was warm, Angie suggested we leave our dry tops off and wear only long sleeve Capilene and wetsuits, but it quickly because clear as our extremities went numb, that we weren’t going to be warm enough. We stopped after fifteen minutes to put our dry tops on in order to warm up. Dry tops are made of waterproof nylon and have rubber gaskets on the neck and wrists to keep out most of the water. With the extra insulating layer, we all warmed to a comfortable temperature as we started moving. That morning in order to bypass two small waterfalls, we used the throw rope to down climb rock ramps of slight gradient. If you’re near moving water, it’s important to be able to free yourself from the rope, so we used body belays instead of tying directly into the rope. The belayer sits down in a safe spot with the rope passing through the control hand, behind their back, through their other hand and down to the climber. The belayer’s control hand acts as a brake by regulating pressure of the rope against the body. The climber positions themself below the belayer, passes the rope behind their back in the same manner, and slowly lets the rope feed behind their body and through their brake hand as they back down the rock. In both cases, the down climbs were very short dry ramps of about eight feet with approximately thirty degrees of gradient. We all felt comfortable as we down climbed and helped each other safely through. I remember thinking how carefully Angie placed her feet as she backed down. On the trip we often discussed our safety since we knew we were in a remote place with no easy exit. At 12:45 we stopped on a flat rock to have a lunch of power bars, dried fruit, nuts and carrots. We were content with our progress having completed about a mile and half in less than two hours. We were well into the narrow, more technical part of the canyon. We felt we could complete the remaining three miles of canyon that day, the final two being easier than the section we were currently in. Just after lunch, we came to a narrow section with granite walls rising one thousand feet on either side. We floated through the slow moving pool to the backside of a large boulder and climbed up on it to look downstream. Chris immediately recognized the spot. The boulder we were standing on was about five feet in diameter sloping slightly on the downstream side towards three rocks five feet below. The water flowed around the central boulder into an eight foot wide channel. About 1/3 of the water flowed on river left of the central boulder through a narrow chimney, down four feet and into a small intermediate pool before continuing past the three rocks into the channel. The main flow passes the central boulder on river right, down a narrow ten foot waterfall ending in a small hole at the bottom. That hole looked like a “keeper hole”, one a swimmer cannot get out of, so we ruled that route out as an option. The polished granite canyon was magnificent, so I took a picture from where we were standing looking downstream. Standing together discussing our options, Chris related to us that the first year, with less water, he down climbed the narrow chimney on river left, but he wouldn’t attempt it again. Angie and I looked at it and agreed, it was too difficult. Two years before, on the trip with Nico and Cheyla, Chris said they opted to jump from the large central boulder into the channel below, but there was twice as much water. Even with more water, Chris felt it wasn’t a clean jump since they had to run down the sloping face of the central boulder and jump out to clear the rocks below. Looking down, he said the three rocks below us were more exposed, than the previous trip. Thus far, every jump we had done had been more straight-forward, just down into an unobstructed pool. This looked more dangerous. Chris suggested we down climb the sloping central boulder so we could stand on the rock directly below and then step down the remaining two rocks into the eight foot wide channel. From there we could float to a gravel bar 20 yards downstream and wait for the others. We all agreed that looked like the best plan. We decided that I would go first, and when I got to the gravel bar, Chris would throw the packs to me so we wouldn’t have to carry them while down climbing. Chris would belay the two of us from behind the large boulder after which he would make the jump since there would be no one left to belay him. Angie sat on top of the central boulder so she could watch me as I prepared to lower myself. The face of the boulder was steeper than our other previous down climbs, so I didn’t feel comfortable regulating my own descent with the body belay. In that situation, my weight seemed like too much for me to control without a harness and conventional belay device. The height of the rock face was only five feet, and I’m 5’5” tall. I took an extra wrap around my body to serve as temporary harness, and when I was ready, kneeled and stretched my legs out behind me. From his belay position, Chris lowered me one foot until my feet were on the rock below. When my feet were firmly on the rock, I unwrapped the extra wrap from my waist, held the rope in my right hand, turned towards river right, walked down the rocks below and got into the water. The current carried me slowly to the gravel bar where I climbed out and waited as Chris tossed the packs down. They floated to me as planned. I put all three packs on the gravel bar and concentrated on Angie as she prepared to make the same move. Angie did exactly as I did, she knelt on top of the central boulder, facing upstream as she prepared to have Chris lower her. She was taller than I, so stretched out, her feet were about six inches above the rock below. Chris lowered her until she could stand on the rock. She looked solid as she stood with her back towards me. I watched as she unwound the extra wrap of rope and held it in the normal body belay position as she prepared to turn. Her right hand was her brake hand. The rope passed around her back, through her left hand, and up the boulder face to Chris who held a light tension on it. Suddenly, Angie’s right foot slipped towards her right pulling her two feet down into the small intermediate pool on river left. She was towards the front of the pool, behind the second rock, three feet downstream from the small four foot waterfall. Her body faced towards river right so I could see the profile of her hat above the second rock. Her left hand stretched above her, holding the rope and I imagined her right hand to be in the regular brake position but pulled up under her armpit because of her body weight. Judging from the height of the second rock, I felt her face was above water and her body in up to her ribcage. I immediately left the gravel bar and moved up stream to shout encouragement to Angie. I wanted her to “stem her legs out” to get purchase on the rocks so she could pull herself up the rope. I saw a crack which I thought she could get her hand into and called out its’ location to her. I was able to move 5 yards up the channel, but after that, the water was too deep and the current was too strong for me to get closer to her. The sound of the water falling wasn’t very loud. I felt Angie could hear me, but she never called out to us. Chris could hear my shouts and kept a steady tension on the rope, increasing to a strong pull as I got more and more concerned. He could not budge the weight on the rope. I remained encouraging, giving Angie different instructions so she could pull herself onto the rocks to her left, but she never moved from her initial position after she went into the water. Chris could not see her because he needed to stay in his belay position behind the big boulder as long as there was weight on the rope. I shouted to Angie for approximately four minutes and then I saw her left hand release from the rope and her hat profile disappear from my sight behind the second boulder. I was desperate as I instructed Chris to move down from his belay position. When he felt her weight leave the rope he stood up and briefly saw the back of Angie’s blue dry top on the surface of the intermediate pool five feet below him. It disappeared under the surface and we never saw her again. The pool she went into is about 3 feet in diameter flanked on river left by a sheer wall. Water flows into the back of the pool with the outflow mostly blocked by the second boulder. He checked his watch. It was 1:15. Leaving the rope, Chris jumped the central boulder into the channel below, hoping Angie would come out below the second rock. I checked the area near the gravel bar and to see if there was any chance Angie could float by me, but it was like most on the Little Kern, so shallow on the downstream end that each pool is self contained. I was fairly certain Angie was in the rock sieve below the spot she went in. I was very concerned, but had hope she would come through. Both of us moved quickly to get close to the site last seen. After he jumped into the water, Chris went to the rock wall five yards below the second rock on river left where the current eased and I swam up the channel to join him. I’m a stronger climber, so he asked me to go first to climb out of the water and up the cracks on the 5.7 rock face to get close to the spot where Angie disappeared. We kept our eyes trained on the water in the channel, hoping she would flush through so we could try to revive her. Chris asked me to stay focused and concentrate on what we had to do. We both climbed the wall vertically for five feet and moved upstream as far as possible until there were no more features to use. We were walled out, but we were above the intermediate pool and could see into it. There was no sign of Angie, only white, aerated water. Somehow, we needed to reach to pool so we could search it. Chris looked across to river right and felt he could climb the rocks on that side to return to the site from upstream. He asked me to stay where I was and jumped into the channel, crossed downstream to river right and climbed higher up the cliff, traversing until he was above the upper pool. The wall was very steep with few features, but he down climbed that section and was able to reach the central boulder again from upstream. Approximately twenty minutes had passed when Chris reached his original belay spot. He tossed the rope into the channel, put it on belay and asked me to jump into the water, pull myself upstream on the rope and feel for Angie where I saw her go in. I was really scared, but followed his instructions. We knew we had to keep ourselves safe while trying to find Angie. I jumped off the wall into the channel and pulled myself upstream on the rope and climbed to the second rock where I sat and felt into the intermediate pool for Angie. The water was white and aerated. With my arm in up to my shoulder, I didn’t feel a strong downward pull, and tragically, couldn’t feel Angie. I kept myself secure by holding the rope on belay as I put my legs into the pool, stretching them down as far as possible hoping to feel her. After several minutes, I wanted Chris to try the same thing. I felt he could reach down farther since he’s taller. I stood on the top rock and climbed the face of the central boulder by tensioning the rope and using my feet. I got to the top and we switched positions. I belayed from behind the central boulder and he jumped down into the channel again. Using the rope, he pulled himself up the current. He searched the channel downstream from the second rock, and then climbed up to the second rock to feel into the intermediate pool as I had done. After thoroughly searching without success, he climbed back up the rope to join me. We were determined to think of every possible way to locate Angie before we went for help. Chris’s focus was admirable. We looked at the watch and approximately an hour and forty-five minutes had passed since the accident. I was standing behind Chris, looking downstream in total despair when I saw a tiger swallow tail butterfly, just like the one in my garden flutter towards us. It circled his head and ascended as it made its’ way downstream. For a brief moment, my heart uplifted and I felt Angie’s spirit soaring. I watched in silence as the butterfly returned, circled us and fluttered downstream again. I didn’t speak, but I felt Angie was telling us it was okay to go – that we needed to leave her to get help. Chris and I stood on the central boulder and discussed several options of what to do next. We considered whether one of us should stay there in case Angie floated free, or go out together. We thought about whether we should leave the rope at the site, or take it with us. We decided that with three miles of canyon still to negotiate, it was safest to stay together and take the rope. It was very difficult to contemplate leaving her. Chris felt it was important to wait for at least two hours before departing in case there was any way we could help Angie. We packed the rope and prepared to jump off the central boulder into the channel. I had not done it yet, while Chris had already jumped twice in the rescue attempt. It took concentration, but I ran down the rock face, planting my foot on the edge, and jumped out to clear the three rocks below me. I made it, bumping the wall on river right slightly after I went in. We floated to the gravel bar and sat there holding each other and weeping for our friend. Chris said a prayer for her. Before we left, Chris found a ledge 20 feet above the gravel bar on river right to stow Angie’s pack in plain view. I had one picture left in my camera, so I took a parting shot to document the site from below. We left the spot at 3:30 and Chris made a cross from stones for Angie just downstream. It was emotionally difficult, but we concentrated on moving steadily, through the next technical mile of the canyon. We never had to use the rope again, but were able to climb and jump our way down the creek bed. I felt numb, occasionally gasping in despair, but felt in control. Gradually, the gradient eased and we started seeing deciduous trees of lower elevations marking the proximity of the Forks of the Kern trail. At 5:30 I was feeling weak, so we stopped briefly to eat something and I changed into my dry hiking shoes. Chris continued in his wet running shoes. We picked up the Forks of the Kern trail at 6:00 and steadily hiked the two miles to the top. With the canyon behind us, panic overwhelmed Chris and he gasped with each breath. I tried to calm him, asking him to focus on taking care of himself until we found help. It was unfathomable that our beloved Angie was not with us. We were anticipating the devastation of calling Angie’s family to tell them what had happened. At the top of the Forks trail there is a campground where we hoped to see someone who could drive us to Angie’s car. When we arrived, it was deserted. Chris asked me if I would rather wait while he ran the five mile shuttle, or go with him. I felt too exhausted to run, so elected to stay put. He emphasized if I saw anyone after he left, I should ask them to could give me a ride to intercept him on his way back to Angie’s car. We felt every moment was critical. I was watchful for mountain lions since there had just been an attack in the area and paced in misery around the camp picking up bits of trash. I saw a movement in the parking lot. It turned out to be a hiker loading his dog into his truck. I approached and told him we had an emergency. His name was Randy Smith and he was very helpful. We loaded the packs into his truck and he drove me towards the Jerky Trailhead. By the time we caught up with him, Chris was soaked in sweat after running four miles uphill and was almost to Angie’s car. We picked him up and Randy took us the rest of the way. Friday, on the way to the trailhead, Chris, Angie and I had passed a sign on the road designating the Pyles Boys Camp. Now it was our first hope of finding a phone, so we drove there. We arrived at 7:30 and found the camp directors, Pam and Sean McEnulty and explained our situation. We couldn’t have asked for kinder or more competent people to help us. They had a phone, so Sean, a retired CHP officer immediately contacted Tulare County Sheriff to notify the search and rescue unit. Pam gave us warm clothes and food. At around 9:00 p.m., Sergeant Brian Minor of the Tulare County arrived at the camp and took a report from us. He acted as the main liaison as the Search and Rescue team was mobilized. Sean advised that the phone lines remain open to speed communication, so we weren’t able to start contacting the families until 11:30 p.m. We still had moments of hope, since we were never able to locate Angie, but as the hours passed we became more and more certain she had drowned on the Little Kern. At 1:00 a.m., after Chris contacted a few key people, Sergeant Minor drove me to the cabin in Kernville so I could meet Tom, friends, and family as they arrived. Chris stayed at Pyles Camp to help the Search and Rescue team. Our friend Don Wallace notified Tom in person at his house and brought him to Kernville early Sunday morning on July 4th. Cheyla and Rebecca arrived shortly thereafter. We were joined later that day by Tom’s brother Dave. The rest of Angie’s family gathered at her parent’s house in Ventura. Those days were the longest of our lives as we waited for news of Angie. At 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, Chris did a helicopter fly over with the CHP to identify the spot using GPS. He waited the rest of the afternoon at Pyles Camp because he was told there was a chance an additional support team would go in by mule train in case the helicopter was called away. He was hoping to be able to help in some way. That was never necessary since Sergeant Mike Klassen of Tulare County Search and Rescue was able to fly six rescue personel into the canyon that day. The section of canyon is very narrow and deep. In order to fly safely at that elevation, the doors had to be taken off the helicopter to lighten it. Each rescuer was flown in individually and lowered to the accident site down a one hundred and fifty foot cable. They worked the rest of July 4th rigging the area so they could so they could safely conduct their search. On July 5th, using a plate and sandbags, the team diverted most of the water away from the river left waterfall and swift water rescue diver, Jim Franks, searched the water for Angie. Early in the evening on July 5th, Sergeants Klassen and Minor came to the cabin with news. They were able to locate Angie’s body, but could not retrieve her because the force of the water in the hole, even after diverting it, was still too great. The water continued to flow under the rocks, pulling hard from downstream. The rescue team had a three-point mechanical advantage pulley system set up above the hole, but the team could barely pull Jim out of the water. The water beneath the surface would tear the regulator off his face making it impossible for him to breathe. Sergeant Klassen told us they could feel Angie’s body about six feet down in a horizontal position, but because of the force of the water, were not able to safely secure ropes on her to pull her out. He communicated to us that as the summer months passed, and the water level continued to drop, they would be able return to the canyon and retrieve Angie’s body. As they spoke to us, we knew they had done everything possible to bring Angie back. They are an expert team of committed people who showed us great compassion. Tulare County Search and Rescue’s policy is to return a loved one’s body to the family if it’s possible, even if it takes repeated efforts. We are fortunate since not all County Search and Rescue Agencies will go to those lengths to find a person. We expressed our gratitude towards them and gave them our support in their continued effort. We stayed in contact with Sergeant Klassen since July 5th. His aim was to analyze the water flow and dimensions of the site to plan a successful mission. He felt with reduced flows and proper engineering, they would be able to safely reach Angie’s body and bring her out. Tom, Chris and I drove to Visalia to meet with Mike on July 23rd. He told us the water had dro­pped significantly that month and he planned on flying into the canyon on Wednesday, July 28th to take measurements for a temporary pipe that would divert the water around the waterfalls. We spoke to him on July 29th and he reported the water had dropped by 75%. The flow was only twenty-five cubic feet per second, lower than he expected. With that low flow, he determined they would not have use pipe to divert the water, only sandbags. After clearing the plan with his captain, he expected to fly personnel into the canyon on July 31st to bring Angie’s body out. At 5 a.m., July 31st, Mike and five team members mobilized to fly into the canyon. The water level was so low, they didn’t have to use any sandbags and were able to retrieve Angie’s body. They had her on the helicopter by 9 a.m. and contacted Tom shortly there after.

    Everyone who knew Angie is deeply affected by this tragedy. During her life, Angie served as an example of a life exquisitely lived and was a role model for many people. We wish peace for Angie, her family and friends as we honor her memory. This is very difficult since we all miss her so much. I learned since her passing, that her family has always thought of her as their butterfly. Without Angie, seeing a butterfly reminds us of her gentle soul and the inspirational way she touched us. I would like to express our gratitude to Tulare County Search and Rescue for their dedication in this effort. Many of their members are volunteers who risk their safety to help people in need. Angie’s family and friends are going to create a 10 K memorial run/walk in honor of her. This will allow those close to Angie a way to keep her memory alive and for her nieces to know who she was. The event will take place each November to celebrate Angie’s birthday and raise money for the causes she was passionate about. Some of these causes include music, education, the environment, and now one that is dear to us all, the Tulare County Search and Rescue.



    It would be great for this to be passed to a canyoneering group. Here is a little more insight. In retrospect, if ever confronted with a feature like that (a seive on one side and a flowing passage with a bad hole on the other) I would find another way around. If Angie had slipped to river right instead of river left, she probably would have been okay....most likely she would have flowed through with the current, although the hole on that side looked unpredictable. The biggest problem here is seive potential. I would never risk going near one again if there was potential that something could go wrong, like a slip. Mike Klaussen, the rescue team leader said they would have used prussuks in order to secure themselves to the rope and carry a knife to cut out if needed, but we were not prepared with knives to do that...we could have made prussuks. I know think it would be a good idea to carry a knife on you when canyoneering.

    Mike Dorey, another friend, decided a number of years ago to climb up and around this spot when canyoneering that section. It is the most narrow part of the canyon and the climbing isn't easy at all on the walls above. It involved 1 rappel, an effort now, that I wish we had taken. Chris, our team leader, made the recommendation to downclimb that spot because jumping was too risky and Angie and I agreed. It didn't look hard at all, but with a seive lurking right below, now I see it was a very bad idea to risk going near it. We were all seeing "the way to go"....toward the gravel bar downstream, rather than focusing on what could go wrong. It was clear to us to stay away from the holes below us, but we didn't see or think about that particular potential disaster...someone slipping into a seive that they would not have been able to get out of.

    It is hard to understand why Angie didn't pull herself up at all. She didn't hit her head and was in the water up to her ribcage. Chris and I have more upper body strength, so I think we could have pulled ourselves out of it, but it's impossible to know what forces Angie was dealing with and whether we would have been able to fight against it either. The rescue team did confirm that with their bodies in the water, there was huge force pulling downwards. I wanted Angie to pull her legs up to relieve the pressure so Chris could pull her out, or she could pull herself up and out, but from my view downstream, she wasn't able to move. The current was pushing her against the downstream (second) rock. I would really like to go in there and look again at the site in very low water to understand the features under the water.

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