Hypothermia in the Uintahs

This report is of a somewhat perilous trip with two other packrafter friends into the Uintah Mountains. It was not any ones fault alone, but group misjudgement. We hiked in for about 6 miles up Uintah Canyon and attempted to float down the small river which was cliffed in for the upper two miles. It was mostly cloudy, a little drizzle, the air temperature was about 50 to 60 degrees, while the water was about 35 degrees. The river was moderately low flow class II to IV-, 150 fpm with wood issues. I had my whitewater deck, but the other two lacked decks. We had to stop every minute or two for emptying their boats. I, and one other lacked splash jackets and splash pants. We had rain gear with insulative clothes underneath. The third paddler had a splash top and a wetsuit. I got wet, but for the most part stayed warm because I had my whitewater deck, thermal undergarments, and my fleece pants and fleece jacket. But the other poor fellow had to keep empting his boat and got weak from hypothermia. Because of the weekness of his physical and mental state due to hypothermia, he was not able to paddle his water filled boat aggressively enough to avoid being swept into fallen trees and other obstacles. He also lost some lace on shoes in the river, but fortunately brought an extra pair with him. We had to continue in this perilous float until we could find a place to hike out of the cliffed in river. It could have gone a lot worse.

I would have to say that this peril was everyones fault not just his. We hiked along the river and saw that it was cliffed in with fallen timber and consistant rapids. But we had invested so much into this trip thus far that we chose not to turn back. From previous experiance, I knew that the other packrafters would have to empty out their boats often, we should have did an inventory of everyones clothes that they would be wearing, and picked a different stretch of river since it was the first time that the hypothermic packrafter had been on small river with that kind of gradient and wood issues.