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Fording the Bridge River # 3901

Below is a description of the photograph you were looking for, and the circumstances surrounding the photo.
Date: 2003.05.23
Vantage Point: From west bank of Bridge R, just above confluence

Caption: Gwen starting out across the Bridge R, clipped into rope. Laurent belaying on far shore. Canyon wall starts upstream.

PhotoDescr: From the Lillooet Icecap, we had descended to the point between the N and S branches of the Bridge River. Above this point, the North bridge goes into a deep canyon, which was impossible to cross, so our last chance was just above the actual confluence of the two branches. I forded the river first, trailing the rope which you can see in the picture. We then set up a fixed rope across the river. In the picture, you can see the rope into which Gwen is clipped, and you can see Laurent belaying one end from the far shore. At the time the picture was taken, Betsy was belaying the other end, and I was stationed downstream in case an emergency recovery of someone's pack was necessary, before being swept into the confluence which is just downstream of the photo. The best way to do these crossings is at a 45 degree angle downstream, such that there is less force on your leg as you move it. Once you've got the leg firmly planted on the bottom, you can at least balance on two legs. While on one leg, the force of the current has a real good chance to spin you around. Bare feet are usually advisable, because there is less surface area. Poles are always necessary. In spring, ski poles are used, but in summer you have to cut your own pole. In the event someone is swept away, the main concern is to make sure their pack is not lost downstream. You can usually assume that the person themselves will somehow swim and thrash to shore.

Rivers can rise wildly after a few days of sunshine, and are often significantly higher in the evening. Fortunately, we had mostly whiteouts on our traverse, so the river was still crossable, even at the end of the day. Had it not been, we would have had to try first thing in the morning. It looked like an innocent green stream when we inspected it from the canyon wall, but when we got down there it was tough enough. The next day (May 24) there was a HUGE downpour, so I'm glad we got across when we did. A couple of weeks later, this would be totally unfordable. The deepest point was 2/3 of the way across, when everybody plunged in above their waist. One good thing about a deep hole is that the current is usually less forceful. See Bridge River Headwaters Ski Traverse. For comparison purposes, the Klastline R had much more water, but the crossing was on a huge gravel bar, so it was easier. The actual conditions at the point of crossing are far more important than the amount of water.

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