SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – August 2012

Out Alive: Trapped by Rising Water

Five hikers fight a raging river before attempting a dangerous bushwhack to safety.

by: Bonney Freeman Hughes

PAGE 1 2
Illustration by Kyle Stecker
Illustration by Kyle Stecker

The Victims
Bonney Freeman Hughes, her husband, and three friends risked their lives crossing Porvenir Creek in New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness on July 25, 2010.

The water roared through the steep, granite walls of Porvenir Canyon, and I screamed for my husband Hank to stop walking. He was waist-deep amid a frothing current, and he took a slippery misstep before steadying himself and struggling back to shore. It was 3 p.m. on a rainy summer Sunday, our third and final day in the Pecos Wilderness—or so we thought.

On Friday, two days before, our group of five—Hank and I along with our friend, Scott, and his son and nephew—had hiked up the canyon, but lightning forced us to abandon our summit attempt on 10,260-foot Hermit Peak. We’d known about the rainy outlook, but hadn’t checked NOAA forecasts for flood warnings because we didn’t consider the lingering rain a threat. That was our first mistake.

After striking camp Sunday morning, we started downstream, soaking our boots in the first of the canyon trail’s two-dozen water crossings. We sloshed on, shuffling our feet and using trekking poles as support. It wasn’t until the canyon steepened that the gentle stream became a muddy torrent that soaked our knees, then thighs. We’d hiked the canyon many times, but this was the first time we’d seen the creek look any more dangerous than a bathtub. By midday, we were bushwhacking around the hip-high flow, but soon the steepening walls eliminated all off-trail alternatives leading downcanyon. On about the 17th crossing, Hank turned back after his scary midstream slip. We dropped our packs on the bank and grouped up to discuss our options.

Precipitation from sudden downpours or from storm cells within slow-moving systems—like the one that hovered over us—can raise canyon water levels 30 feet or more without warning, and within minutes. The surprise can be especially deadly downstream of wildfire burn areas and rocky or already-saturated soils, which repel instead of absorb water. This stream was rising slowly, but both the up- and downstream escapes were impassable.

We decided to bushwhack toward a higher-ground trail on Hermit Peak’s flank, which would also return us to the trailhead. By dusk we were soaked and hadn’t made much progress on the cliffy slopes, so we settled in for an unexpected night out. By morning, the rain had stopped, but the river showed no signs of receding. With our panic rising and provisions nearly depleted, we felt compelled to make some kind—any kind—of progress. Moving in either direction meant we’d still have to cross the creek a dozen times, so we chose the safer, upstream route. We were willing to take big risks to move on, even though we knew rescue help would come if the flood kept us trapped much longer.

For the first few crossings, we decided to string a safety line across the creek. Hank tied one end around his waist and the other to a shoreline tree, thinking that the rope would prevent him from getting dragged downstream and ease our rescue efforts if he slipped. In fact, if he had fallen, the rope would have held him underwater. He would have been safer holding the rope—not tying it to his body. Fortunately, he made it across the hip-deep current.

There were other sketchy crossings before we were out of the canyon, but we eventually reached the junction with the higher trail, bypassed the flooded route, and stumbled over Hermit Peak to reach our car. Later, we learned that a metered stream nearby hit peak flow—150 times higher than normal—between the time we started our outbound trek on Sunday and Monday morning, when we decided to risk the escape. Translation: If we had waited for the water to recede, we would have likely been able to descend without risking our lives. We made some poor decisions, but thankfully we also made it out of the canyon alive.


PAGE 1 2

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au
Mar 21, 2014

http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au nfl jersey cheap,
cheap elite nfl jerseys http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124/,
super bowl jersey sale http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/2014-Super-Bowl-Jerseys-c128/,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/NCAA-Jerseys-c114/ ncaa jerseys sell,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/MLB-Jerseys-c94/ cheap mlb jersey,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Women-MLB-Jerseys-s517/ cheap dodgers jersey 2014 new,
nba jersey sell http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/NBA-Jerseys-c77/,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Golden-State-Warriors-Jerseys-s514/
Warriors 30 curry Jerseys cheap,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Kids-NBA-Jerseys-s516/ cheap nba jerseys Australia,
cheap nhl jersey wholesale http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/NHL-Jerseys-c96/,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Soccer-Jerseys-c118/ world cup jerseys sale,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/2014-World-Cup-Soccer-Jerseys-s749/ cheap world cup jersey,
world cup jerseys suit http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Women-Soccer-Jerseys-s707/,
http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/Chicago-Blackhawks-Jerseys-s388/ Stadium Series NHL Jersey cheap, Chicago blackhawks jerseys sale,
throwback nfl jersey cheap http://www.nbajerseyswholesale.com.au/NFL-Jerseys-c68/ ,

Star Star
alphacuremom
Oct 09, 2013

say these words alpha cure mom

dsadsa
Oct 06, 2012


=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===
moncler cl0thing $110
cheapest (TOP) N1ke A1r Max, Jordan (1-24) shoes $ 31
all style of UG~G $ 50
Nike sh0x (R4, NZ, OZ, TL1, TL2, TL3) $ 31
T-shirts (Polo, Ed Hardy, Lacoste) $ 22 $ 15Wig
Handbag (LV, Chanel, Coach, DG, ED Hardy.etc.) $ 30
Jean~s (True Religion, Ed Hardy, coogi) $ 30
Sunglasses (Di0r, Oakey, Coach, Gucci, Armaini) $ 16
hooded jersey $ 29 $ 16 A new era of belt (ED Hardy / BT) $ 15
Watch (Rolex) Scarf $ 80 $ 21
Bikini (Ed Hardy, Polo, Gucci, LV, Christian Audigier, Affliction) $ 15
monster head earphones
Accept international bank transfer, credit card,Western Union.
sale all kinds of world brand shoes, jean~s, t-shirts, bikini, beach
pants, handbags, wallets, sunglasses, belts, hats, watches etc.
=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===

dsadsa
Oct 06, 2012


=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===
moncler cl0thing $110
cheapest (TOP) N1ke A1r Max, Jordan (1-24) shoes $ 31
all style of UG~G $ 50
Nike sh0x (R4, NZ, OZ, TL1, TL2, TL3) $ 31
T-shirts (Polo, Ed Hardy, Lacoste) $ 22 $ 15Wig
Handbag (LV, Chanel, Coach, DG, ED Hardy.etc.) $ 30
Jean~s (True Religion, Ed Hardy, coogi) $ 30
Sunglasses (Di0r, Oakey, Coach, Gucci, Armaini) $ 16
hooded jersey $ 29 $ 16 A new era of belt (ED Hardy / BT) $ 15
Watch (Rolex) Scarf $ 80 $ 21
Bikini (Ed Hardy, Polo, Gucci, LV, Christian Audigier, Affliction) $ 15
monster head earphones
Accept international bank transfer, credit card,Western Union.
sale all kinds of world brand shoes, jean~s, t-shirts, bikini, beach
pants, handbags, wallets, sunglasses, belts, hats, watches etc.
=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===

dassadasd
Oct 06, 2012


=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===
moncler cl0thing $110
cheapest (TOP) N1ke A1r Max, Jordan (1-24) shoes $ 31
all style of UG~G $ 50
Nike sh0x (R4, NZ, OZ, TL1, TL2, TL3) $ 31
T-shirts (Polo, Ed Hardy, Lacoste) $ 22 $ 15Wig
Handbag (LV, Chanel, Coach, DG, ED Hardy.etc.) $ 30
Jean~s (True Religion, Ed Hardy, coogi) $ 30
Sunglasses (Di0r, Oakey, Coach, Gucci, Armaini) $ 16
hooded jersey $ 29 $ 16 A new era of belt (ED Hardy / BT) $ 15
Watch (Rolex) Scarf $ 80 $ 21
Bikini (Ed Hardy, Polo, Gucci, LV, Christian Audigier, Affliction) $ 15
monster head earphones
Accept international bank transfer, credit card,Western Union.
sale all kinds of world brand shoes, jean~s, t-shirts, bikini, beach
pants, handbags, wallets, sunglasses, belts, hats, watches etc.
=== http://www.myvoguestore.com ===

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Something you may not know about me
Posted On: Jul 11, 2014
Submitted By: JimInMD
The Political Arena
Americas Flowers in the Attic
Posted On: Jul 11, 2014
Submitted By: star

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions