Big water versus tiny water; ratings debate
Both of these streams are rated class III-III+, but are high and nearly exceeding their suggested ratings. Which do you think is more dangerous and difficult to boat? Length of swim, probability of swim, loss of gear etc, etc . There are a couple of good rapids missing in the Renventazon vid. that were on scale with the first one.
This is something we have debated and has came up again.
Really think about rescue, scouting avenues, etc. I am interested to hear from others about this subject. These are just two good examples there are 1000's of others. What about pool drop water versus continuous water of the same cfs, how much does that alter a rating?
Anyway, ratings puzzle all of us sometimes and will always be good campfire conversation.
River or Creek Classification and Subjectivity
Originally Posted by mark oathout
You raise some good questions here.... highly likely the answers run into the grey areas of classification, character, boater's skill-sets, equipment (boating stuff to what people wear), air and water temps, as well as subjectivity.
Outdoor videos often rob viewers of the true extent of challenges. Depending on cameras, angles, distances, lenses etc. --- everything appears like lesser gradient and smaller waters without firsthand experience or gaining perspectives such as seeing/knowing boat sizes running lines through the waves, holes, trees, and rocks etc. Also important to look at elapsed time can be key on known distances.
My take on this is more leading to the subjectivity hazards/dangers of boaters underestimating both the creek and river filmed ---> while overestimating their skill-sets and gear selections. Neither of these runs is difficult from a seasoned professionals standards or competent/physically-able whitewater boaters, yet they do indeed beckon the free-dogger lacking in some areas of expertise or gear (not to mention the rusty boater that is not in ideal mindset or fitness level).
I'd say the creek presents the greatest potential for problems over the river video, but would also give the ratings their respective class.
The Creek is in likelihood more dangerous to boaters:
a.) Smaller/intimate side-creek invites inner tubes, to smaller boats like all the one person cats, rafts, and pack-boats. Many of these boaters will not dress for success like dry or wet suits, helmets, shin/knee/elbow/forearm protection, gloves, rope-lines, hardware, etc.
b.) Always changing... like high and low waters really change the whole run... depending on boat and boater could go either way and often there is a happy sweet spot.
c.) Again always changing like wood down in the river.
d.) Entrapment along the river bottom terrain will always be a nasty risk on this creek and can happen to the best of boaters even on a small class III. A mishap around a blind turn could be life-threatening.
Why the River presents little risk other than a tip, flip, or recirculation hole:
a.) Routes are well defined... it is important for the seasoned boater to break up any puzzle, mellow out, then nail the line.
b.) Wave trains are defined as are bigger hydraulics. Visibility is good throughout.
c.) Looks like a fun run that may not be all that remote with any hike in.
d.) I do not see trees down presenting an issue at the given water level or entrapping terrain.
e.) Water is probably not frigid cold. A swim is not going to be fun (in fact exhausting), but chances of a baptism killing somebody here is unlikely.
Hope this lends a hand to your thread,
Interesting topic. You are correct in your summing both rivers as being on the upper end of the III rating, (the 14' raft disappearing into a trough is telling). It seems to be a comparison of high volume vs high velocity. My gut feel for the safer run is the first video, the Ren. Clearer line of site (around bends, not necessarily over waves) for sure. Wide, open banks certainly feel safer. Wooded, bouldery banks like the Moose make me leery, especially in rescue situations. Handling ropes in that terrain can be a task. The large volume rivers also tend to flush their wood, whereas the smaller creeks tend to build snags and strainers. Shallower faster water may also entice a boater to attempt to stand, which can be reflexive, causing entrapment dangers. I also see more frequent and friendly eddies and shallows in the big river, places of safety and relative calm. The smaller high velocity water is more of a chute, and can require more commitment, and a longer swim in a mishap. I look forward to more input on this thread, it is great to hear other's perspectives and experiences.
International ratings scale and suggestions
Many rivers and creeks are over rated in Alaska, if you boat rivers elsewhere you will see this. Embick tried to add remoteness and the effects of ultra cold water into his ratings, while others have tried to rate a river based on the craft used. These thoughtful ideas only lead to confusion, and have been disregarded by the contemporary boating community. In other words class III is class III.
As Brian pointed out ratings are based on subjectivity, which in the case of a guidebook, is usually the opinion of a group of experts. To aquire that ability requires boating many, many different rivers of the same class, in different regions, then the picture becomes increasingly clearer.
Both examples I showed to start this discussion, in fact, have about the same risk level,in different ways, as well as difficulty, and both are very questionable class III+, probably class IV- Both video clips do not show the hidden hazards and are good examples of how video usually only captures the tops of the features when looking up or downstream.
This not only has an explaination of ratings but also contains some safety suggestions, which are being seriously violated by many boaters.