Rafters rescued in Tassie.

From Tasmanian Air Rescue Trust

On Thursday 19 December 2013 the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was tasked by AUSSAR to search for an EPIRB activation in the vicinity of the Gordon River. The helicopter flew to the area where they located two males stranded on the side of the swollen river.

The two males were winched from the remote location and transported to Hobart.

The males had walked the King William Range before rafting the Denison River. The Denison River flows into the Gordon River and this is where the two males struck trouble. One of the males lost rafting equipment in the swollen river and spent sometime in the water before making it to the side of the river. Once both made it to the river bank they activated the EPIRB.

Both males were experienced and well prepared for the walk and rafting expedition.

Video footage of the winches is located at Rotor Lift.

Any more on this Steve?
PM if its easier.

Ditto. Would love to know the facts from those involved as I know from experience that online news reports are rarely 100% correct and only tell a very limited part of the story regardless. Always good to learn from the adventures, epics and incidents of others - safer that way. :slight_smile: I know that I have changed my emergency plans recently with the purchase of an ultralight and ridiculously compact PLB which I will now be carrying in my PFD on most of my trips. It is incidents such as this, the lucky rescue of the lone sea kayaker at Fortescque (who was luckily found despite being separated from his kayak) and the rescue of 2 stranded kayakers from the Franklin earlier this year (after losing one of their two boats in high water I believe) that highlight to me the need to assume that there is a strong possibility of losing all of your gear in certain conditions. Likewise whilst sea kayaking early in spring this year I was unexpectedly stuck on rocks at the base of a remote cliff for two days and two nights beyond our expected return time. Luckily we were able to seal-land onto the rocks but there was always the chance of having to swim ashore and losing a kayak or both. Fortunately we each had PLBs and waterproof VHFs in our PFDs plus a SPOT device between us so even if we lost the kayaks, food, water, tents and satphons we would have been alright particularly as we were wearing drysuits. It was though a valuable lesson for me.

OK, this one sounds like an adventure ! What was the story mark?

Its a long story and even though I will try to keep it short it never seems to happen. It is always a challenge for me to tell a complex story simply. I don’t like hijacking threads but since I am asking others to share their near-miss experiences I certainly have no issue in sharing mine.

As part of a reconnaissance for a multi-pitch climbing activity that we wanted to incorporate into our two week Year 9 ‘Island Challenge Expedition’ a colleague and I sea kayaked from Coles Bay to Schouten Island. The forecast was for strong winds for several days so it started with an initial wild ride south. With winds gusting over 35 knots and breaking waves we called it a day at Cooks Corner. Even with the additional poles my Scarp 2 was getting squashed significantly in the gusts there. The next day we paddled and crazily sailed to Schouten and then undertook the climbing reconaissance. After the two nights out we were to head back on the third day, a Friday. With a W shifting to NW wind of 20-30 knots predicted for later in the day we decided to return via the outside (eastern side) of Freycinet. We felt that if we returned via the inside/western shoreline we would not make it back in a single day as intended and we were both keen to get back to Hobart for the weekend. We were confident that if we left early we could beat the predicted winds and that most of the way we would have reasonable shelter from the W/NW.

We were on the water by 6am and travelled well alongside and under the imposing cliffs that dominate the east coast. As we approached Lemon Rock (the final point before entering Wineglass Bay) we were hit by numerous wind bullets that came straight down on us from the cliffs above. They pretty much flattened us as we could really only brace and hang on for the 30-45 seconds that they hit us. Whilst the average wind strength was only around the predicted 25-30 knots we were experiencing gusts much higher than this (felt like localised 45+ knots) to the point that it made it quite challenging to turn our kayaks. Yes - I am aware that gusts may be up to 40% stronger than predicted wind strength. The bullets were pretty amazing in that they came from all over the place and were quite different to 40+knot winds that I have kayaked in before.

We took shelter close to the cliffs and re-assessed our options. Option A - have another attempt at getting around Lemon Rock; Option B - head south with the wind and return back some or all of the 18km distance we had come and ultimately head back up the western side of Freycinet. Option C was to try to land near where we were and wait it out. We looked at suitable landing spots and were confident we could get onto the rocky shore despite the numerous cliffs surrounding us. Option A was very risky if one of us capsized or if we got blown too far off-shore and the risk got larger the later in the day we departed as finding us in the dark would be extremely difficult, Option B meant accepting that we were out for another day at least and it still meant dealing with difficult conditions on the water for considerable time and distances whilst Option C seemed to leave us with the chance that we still might make it home that day given that it was only 10:30 am and we only had 6km to go to Sleepy Bay carpark.

We were surrounded by cliffs but with climbing gear and with my colleague who is a climbing machine I was sure we could climb out if needed. So we found a suitable rock to land on and both got in okay although my colleague nearly had his kayak washed away after landing. We then spent the next 6 hours assessing conditions, making satellite phone calls and constantly re-assessing our options including leaving our boats and climbing then walking out. The problem with this was that it meant we would have to come back the following weekend to collect the boats anyway and getting back might be more of an epic than getting lout.

We looked at various scenarios but everything pointed to the fact that we were going to be stuck there for another day or so. In retrospect this conclusion seems inevitable but at the time we spent a huge amount of energy looking at all our options, cut-off times and creating back up plans. In the end though we had to camp on a 3mx3m rock several metres off the ground (we used climbing cams for anchors) for two nights and stay at the base of this cliff for 36 hours or so. It was an extremely good lesson in patience and humility in dealing with Mother Nature. Sunday morning we were finally able to re-launch and make it around Lemon Rock and then back to Sleepy Bay without incident.

Lots of lessons learnt for both of us on the trip and I think lots learnt too for staff back at School who were supporting us. In 20+ years of working in the outdoors I have never had an additional night in the field that wasn’t optional. I have walked all night to get out of places, have often skied in the dark and occasionally paddled or climbed in the dark but I have never been ‘stuck’ anywhere for an extended period of time. We were lucky we had 2 days spare food and water - both were very low when we finally left! Likewise I will certainly opt to wear a drysuit more whilst sea kayaking as I did on this day and will again carry safety gear on my body rather than on my boat as I have often done in the past. It also convinced me to sell my personal fibreglass sea kayak and buy a plastic one like the work one I had on this trip. My personal boat may not have survived the seal landing and launching and I have decided l like to keep this as an option in Tassie. Likewise I bought a new ultralight PLB to go with me everywhere on water.

It was also really good to learn more about how local topography effects local winds. Although the wind was manageable elsewhere on the east coast that day, due to the shape of the land and cliffs above us the bullets we were getting made paddling almost impossible. Others have suggested that perhaps going much further off-shore rather than trying to hug the coast at Lemon Rock would have been okay as we would not have got the bullets out there. It sounds good in theory but I am not sure I want to be the one to test that idea.

I’d post a photo of camping on ‘the rock’ but I couldn’t get it to work/upload. No footage of this adventure but if you are interested in the ‘Island Challenge’ you can check it out at: https://vimeo.com/81707095

A great (cautionary) tale Mark! Thanks for the telling.

Thanks Mark. It’s always good to read debriefs when things become marginal. Cheers.

Thread on this event: http://www.bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=15879