I grew up around water with oceans and rivers. I’m a decent swimmer and have good common sense when it comes to how to handle myself around a body of water.
Crossing a stream or river in the Sierras with a heavy pack and tired legs is a whole different experience and challenge.
Personal safety is not something to take likely in general and is even more important out in the backcountry. There are some things I would wing like packing a new type of dehydrated food or a snack I’ve never tried. There are some things I would absolutely not attempt without research and practice.
Thanks to technology and the Internet, I have access to some great resources from the experts that I plan to refer to, internalize and hopefully practice before we head out on the real deal.
- US Fish & Wildlife Alaska blog post on How to Cross A River
- Amazing Community led Social Media groups like Yogi’s PCT Class
- Backpacking guide – How to Cross A River Without Drowning
Some big “A-ha!” things for me :
- The rivers/streams are stronger in the afternoon. Plan to cross big ones in the morning.
- Face the water, lean forward a bit and side shuffle/step to get to the other side – I naturally face the other bank and think I’m steadier if the current only hits one leg but this technique makes more sense.
- Don’t cross legs – I stone hop and so will just step where the next stone is. Not a good idea. Crossed legs = instability.
- Keep 3 points in contact with the bottom at all time (2 feet + 2 poles) – I focus on one foot but makes sense to also extend this to my poles.
- Don’t lift poles out of the water – current will push you off balance. Shift to the side like you do legs.
- Unbuckle – don’t get swept away with your pack. Pack can be replaced. Don’t get killed.
- Clip the GPS Emergency unit to your body not your pack.
- Plan, review, plan before you step in the river – lots of good information in the links about how to choose launch point, how to assess current and conditions. There is no rush to cross a body of water in a hurry and take unnecessary risks.
- I also learned about eddying and the #eddytrain (see this video below)
I’m sure everyone else has their own great tips and things they’ve learned. I look forward to learning more as the trip gets closer.