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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Listening Point - General Discussion :: Psychological study in risk assessment
 
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WhiteWolf
05/24/2022 01:11AM
 
EddyTurn: "Wearing PFD, carrying PLB etc. have became a mantra that replaces skills - including a necessity for basic knowledge of the enterprise one chooses to persuade. Obviously, it's not popular to take moving water or rescue courses, or to learn basic strokes, or exercise to keep one in shape before a spring trip. After winter hiatus many paddlers face the most difficult trip of their season in their worst physical shape. Watching youtube canoe videos I never cease to be amazed by how many people learned to operate sophisticated video editing software, but still can't perform properly a J-stroke."


Well stated. Agree 100%.
 
A1t2o
05/27/2022 09:23AM
 
I think the Swiss Cheese Model and people being bad at calculating actual odds goes hand in hand. How do you eyeball the difference between 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, and 1 in 1,000,000? Even if you could correctly identify what the exact risk is of one situation, what about around the point or the next bend? At that point, you are
emotionally committed and might not be able to turn back. River or lake, turning around can put your boat in a bad position.


This is where the layers of preparation kick in. First, you have your skills to rely on to read the weather/water and paddle your way to safety. Next we have our PFD and extra paddle, just in case. Then there is our pack which should keep everything dry and together. Just in case we lose our pack, or it is carried beyond our reach, we should have a ditch kit that may or may not have emergency supplies like a PLB. Lastly are our survival skills, knowing what to do in an emergency.


It takes multiple failures for someone to die. Even in situations where there was one lapse in judgement or an unforeseen circumstance where you couldn't have known, the PFD is the second layer that should save someone from drowning. In my case, I always have a canoe partner who could bail me out, or me him. So being bad at telling if the risk is closer to 1 in 100 or 1 in 1,000,000 is mitigated by these different layers of protection and rescue.
 
scotttimm
05/24/2022 09:26AM
 
My son and I had been planning on doing the Border Challenge last year - had been planning and training for a year. That plan literally went up in smoke and we were both devastated. He just graduated high school, and this was going to be a big culminating event for us both - so we decided to put in this coming weekend without the rest of the group that does it each Fall. After talking with outfitters, seeing reports, pics and videos on FB, and good advice from Grandma L - we've decided to push our plans back until July...slightly scared (or scarred) some other disaster (fire, zebra mussel takover, flooding...weather, what else?) might stop us again. It was a really painful and hard decision. But not worth a family tragedy. These high school kids have dealt with so much disappointment and risk assessment in the last couple of years, it was really difficult to come to that conclusion with him last night. I wonder how all these tough events and experiences will affect kids' lives for years to come?
 
jeffw89
05/27/2022 10:18AM
 
EddyTurn: "Wearing PFD, carrying PLB etc. have became a mantra that replaces skills - including a necessity for basic knowledge of the enterprise one chooses to persuade. Obviously, it's not popular to take moving water or rescue courses, or to learn basic strokes, or exercise to keep one in shape before a spring trip. After winter hiatus many paddlers face the most difficult trip of their season in their worst physical shape. Watching youtube canoe videos I never cease to be amazed by how many people learned to operate sophisticated video editing software, but still can't perform properly a J-stroke."


100% This. There is such a wide range of skill sets between canoers in the BWCA. Some will tip a canoe on a calm day and others will run rapids without ever tipping.
It's downright terrifying seeing some peoples lack of canoe control coming into a portage sometimes. The BWCA is not a place to learn how to operate a canoe, but many treat it that way.

Assessing whether or not it's safe to enter requires balancing the conditions, your skill level, and your familiarity with the area.
 
hobbydog
05/27/2022 08:52PM
 
Age probably has a lot to do with risk assessment. I was immortal at 20. Prefrontal cortex thing. At 65 I think I can better understand the risks and consequences. As a solo paddler the risks go up. Each one has to assess their own risk tolerance and it can vary widely among individuals. I’ve always been a risk taker but I pick and chose the risks I can accept and that comes easier with age.
 
Northwoodsman
05/24/2022 09:37AM
 
scotttimm: "My son and I had been planning on doing the Border Challenge last year - had been planning and training for a year. That plan literally went up in smoke and we were both devastated. He just graduated high school, and this was going to be a big culminating event for us both - so we decided to put in this coming weekend without the rest of the group that does it each Fall. After talking with outfitters, seeing reports, pics and videos on FB, and good advice from Grandma L - we've decided to push our plans back until July...slightly scared (or scarred) some other disaster (fire, zebra mussel takover, flooding...weather, what else?) might stop us again. It was a really painful and hard decision. But not worth a family tragedy. These high school kids have dealt with so much disappointment and risk assessment in the last couple of years, it was really difficult to come to that conclusion with him last night. I wonder how all these tough events and experiences will affect kids' lives for years to come?"
I know you both put a lot of time into the planning and preparation for this trip, and it sounds like you both put a lot of thought into the decision to delay the trip once again. I'm really glad you did. It shows the mutual respect and trust and respect that you have for each other. The BWCA will always be there. When the trip does happen it will be really special.
 
sueb2b
05/27/2022 01:22PM
 
I have a brother who’s always telling me I’m going to be killed by a bear in the BWCA. I told him if he was concerned for my safety, the bear’s not my risk. Biking in Chicago is riskier. Driving anywhere is riskier. Camping in bad weather has risks.


I was up in the BWCA last week. I had my initial plans, and I had the trip I took based on conditions. Not the same, but I was good with changes I made. I got rest I realized I needed, but also had challenges along the way from both high water and high wind.


I consider myself fairly cautious. I had maps, compass, GPS, spot, occasional phone service, etc. I did absolutely no j-strokes, because I was using a double-blade; but I did have an extra paddle. I do what I can, plan as I can, to minimize risk. But the fact that I can’t totally control the environment is what gets me put in the woods and what I expect to keep bringing me back.



 
ockycamper
05/28/2022 01:35PM
 
like you, I am 66. I have paddled the Gauley River (The Gauntlet) five years in a row. However I was in my 30's at the time.


Now I am not in as good of shape, and have a wife, 3 kids and 7 grandkids that depend on me. I also am a trip leader for 14-18 men and boys that we bring up each fall.


There have been years on Seagull that wind and waves came up, and based on the weather forecast, we cut the trip short and hugged the bank paddling all the way back to the outfitter.


Our criteria now is based on the weakest paddler in the group. If they are getting scared or feel the can't paddle an area. . .we don't. That's when we typically base camp and ride it out. However if conditions get worse (as they did two of the 15 years we were up there), we ask for input. If there are any members of the group that really don't want to go on and are truly concerned. . .we don't.
 
Canardly
05/28/2022 10:04PM
 
I think this might be the best thread I've seen on this board.
 
ockycamper
05/26/2022 04:33PM
 
The decision also changes when you are responsible for the group. When I take up the men each fall, the route, where we camp and what lakes we paddle on and when are based on the weakest paddler with the least experience. We never let the experienced guys try to push the inexperienced into something they are not comforable with. Also after 15 years, we have seen all kinds of weather and have had many capsizes. Now we basically pack and plan with the mantra "how to we pack and plan knowing we may capsize?"


One last thought. . . last summer and early fall many trippers changed or cancelled their trips due to the fire ban. We are willing to cancel or change for a comfort item. Maybe we should be more careful of the items that fall into safety category and more willing to change/adapt
 
Michwall2
05/22/2022 10:20PM
 
I did not want to hijack anyone’s thread on good news of self or assisted rescue from the raging flood waters, but I did want to ask if anyone knew of study(ies) on the psychology of those who choose to venture into areas they know or should have known were “extremely high risk” environments?

How do they come to the conclusion they have the skills to survive virtually anything?

Other questions that need asking:
In one case, did the availability of a PLB, give a false sense of security?
What part does the lack of permits during the rest of the summer play in the decision to press ahead during a less safe (reckless?) environment?

On the other side of the coin, we don’t see the posts of those who chose to cancel/reschedule a trip due to the conditions being too “extreme” for their skill set. We celebrate the successful rescue of those who venture out, but do we celebrate the successful decision to wait for a more appropriate time. Or do we simply sit at home and feel our decision (and disappointment) unworthy of a post and further discussion?

Some are asking here about alternate/less risky trips. At least exploring that possibility. Hurray for them!





 
straighthairedcurly
05/26/2022 07:59PM
 
EddyTurn: "Wearing PFD, carrying PLB etc. have became a mantra that replaces skills - including a necessity for basic knowledge of the enterprise one chooses to persuade. Obviously, it's not popular to take moving water or rescue courses, or to learn basic strokes, or exercise to keep one in shape before a spring trip. After winter hiatus many paddlers face the most difficult trip of their season in their worst physical shape. Watching youtube canoe videos I never cease to be amazed by how many people learned to operate sophisticated video editing software, but still can't perform properly a J-stroke."


I love that you said this. A lot of people might think I take a lot of risks in my lifestyle. But I have always carefully built up the skills I needed whether it be whitewater, rescue rope work, or other. I became a canoe instructor in order to improve my own skill level. I always refused trips if I felt I was jumping over the development of necessary skills. Even the length of my trips followed a pattern of steady growth. I actually view myself as a pretty cautious person. My coworkers might disagree :) They think I am crazy.
 
OgimaaBines
05/25/2022 10:25PM
 
Soledad: "I think you would really enjoy a book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales "


Love that book. It really drove home the idea that complex systems of safety are only as good as those who use them. Also that even with great safety gear, know-how, planning, and grit; accidents and nature still kill people with all of the above every year.
 
Michwall2
05/30/2022 06:53AM
 
Soledad: "I think you would really enjoy a book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales "


I have ordered myself a copy. Thanks for the suggestion.
 
A1t2o
05/24/2022 11:19AM
 
To me, risk is a part of life. Everything has risks. You could stay inside and try your best to avoid all those risks, but that affects your physical and mental health, which presents it's own risks. It's all about the risk-benefit analysis. If you ignore the benefit side of things then it is too easy to focus on all the negatives. That's no way to live.


Now, I'm not suggesting people shoot through rapids shouting "YOLO", but I'm also not going to cancel my trip because of a little high water. Granted, my trip is in 3 weeks, not today, and we are mostly traveling on lakes. We are going to be on that one section of the Royal River though, where that one guy capsized and shared his self rescue experience in an interview, so I will be careful, but I don't think the conditions are going to be the same by the time I get there. Maybe I'm just downplaying the risk, but I do think there is big difference between mid May and mid June.
 
LaVirginienne
05/28/2022 01:10AM
 
I loved it! One of my favorites.
 
LaVirginienne
05/28/2022 12:51AM
 
Hey michwall2,

Thanks for this interesting thread.

There’s a whole cottage industry built on the psychology of risk. Two of my former climbing partners are Ph.Ds who study this topic: Richard Celsi and Brian Treanor. Both teach in Southern California. You might search for papers under their names.


A book I read recently and loved on this subject is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales.


Regarding the ability to properly assess hazardous conditions in the mountains (avalanche risk), there was a famous and well respected study done a few years ago regarding party size. Big takeaway: party size matters. Keep parties small for safety. Parties of greater than three people were at much higher risk of fatalities. The researchers blamed it on “group think” and peer pressure to follow a leader and conform to other people’s perception of risk. If I’m not mistaken, there was a review of this study in Outside magazine several years ago, following an avalanche that took the lives of skiers in a large party.

There’s a lot in common between avalanche risk and high water risk. Both can be measured reliably to describe overall (but not specific) risk levels. Both risks are known to exist before travelers set out into the back country. In both cases, terrain awareness is needed to evaluate specific risks. route navigation is the key to managing the risk. Specific skills and procedures can be learned to mitigate risk, but in both cases, getting caught up in the flow involves forces that people tend to underestimate. In both cases, getting caught up in the flow can be fatal.

So seems to me, reading about avalanches is good off season cross-training for flat water paddlers. As David Epstein writes in Range: “breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. Transfer is your ability to take knowledge and skills and apply them to a problem or situation you have not seen before.”

My own backcountry mantra has always been: “Getting there is optional. Getting home is mandatory.”
 
jwartman59
05/28/2022 01:10PM
 
We started at baker entry last week. Did the first portage and I had seen all I needed. Scrapped our plans and base camped. I’ve had quite a few trips in the bwca where I turned a trip into a base camp. No one ever drowned in a base camp, this was a trip where I could see drowning on a portage was very probable.


I’m getting old, trips I took in Canada we were totally on our own. Limited research on remote rivers meant we had to deal with the conditions as they arose. Many times the nearest people would be hundreds of miles away. As a result being extremely cautious was always on our minds.


After doing long river trips in Manitoba and Ontario we felt up to a bigger challenge. Hubris maybe but we felt confident in our skills


Based on a passage in an older book we decided to skip the nahanni river and go to Labrador.











What could go wrong? We’ve paddled all the whitewater rivers in Wisconsin and basically lived at banning park.


The caniapiscau dwarfed anything we had paddled. After being dropped by float plane we were committed. I’ll add that the Canadian Mounties were really against our trip. Apparently they were tired of searching for drowned canoeist.


So it was scary but knowing when to portage is a learned skill. We spent entire days portaging raging rapids. We survived, almost didn’t. I remember thinking as I was swimming down a class 5 rapid what a horrible place to die.
 
carbon1
05/26/2022 05:37AM
 
With 60 plus years of outdoor experience behind me. Hunting, fishing, trapping. camping, back packing, canoeing, rock climbing. Frist trip into the BWCA in 1968.


I learn that bad things happen really fast. To Trust one's gut feeling/sixth sense.


If you think it is dangerous it most likely above your skill level.


Knowing it is dangerous one takes the proper actions precautions.


Saying no is not a bad thing.


Be safe.
 
LindenTree
05/26/2022 08:32AM
 
KawnipiKid:
Compounding errors – Many bad outcomes are the result of small factors rather than one big mistake. I was tired, forgot my rain shell, should have stopped for lunch and more water, felt rushed, didn’t think to look at the map again, blah, blah. No one thing is horrible but the chance of finding horrible is compounded as you add them together.
"



KK,
I was a firefighter for 30 years and you are very correct in this, we called this the Swiss Cheese Model in our training.

"If you stack a bunch of random slices of Swiss, the holes don’t usually line up all the way through. A failure in one aspect of the system isn’t catastrophic because other aspects of the system will catch it. This is a “defense in depth” strategy; many layers means many opportunities to prevent a small issue from becoming a major issue."

Swiss Cheese Model James Reason

Wiki Swiss Cheese Model may explain it better for some.
 
OgimaaBines
05/25/2022 11:16PM
 
Good post KawnipiKid! I think a lot about thinking (and other people's biases), so appreciate your examples as well (psych degree and counseling career). I'm most guilty of the Optimism Bias, though I like to imagine I'm a realist. I've said "Man, this lake looks a little hairy, but I'll be careful on the water and be in that bay in no time." I've gotten a lot more careful than I used to be, but still am still a bit of a risk-taker.
 
Soledad
05/23/2022 11:21AM
 
I think you would really enjoy a book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales
 
Northwoodsman
05/23/2022 04:38PM
 
In my opinion the level of risk does not change with the distance you live from the BWCA, the time and money you have invested in your trip, your ability to fit the trip into your schedule, or your your luck in getting a permit. For me the only risk factors are personal skills and your physical condition compared to environmental conditions. What changes is your willingness to take these risks or bet against the odds.

 
missmolly
05/23/2022 04:35PM
 
"I do this to learn from them, how they survived or died, or what drives them."


This sentence struck me, as someone who interviews people and tells their stories. The ultimate interview wouldn't be someone famous and accomplished, like Charles Lindbergh, but rather who someone who tried and died, like Robert Scott.


I know bones can tell their tale, but it's a tiny tale. I'd love to hear the expansive interior tale of how the explorer made the decisions that led to their death and how that realization reverberated in them.

This is from the linked story and it's close to interviewing a dead man that one can get:

Four men were riding a Muskeg tractor and its sledges near the Heimefront Mountains, to the east of their base at Halley Research Station in East Antarctica, close to the Weddell Sea. The Muskeg was a heavy-duty vehicle designed to haul people and supplies over long distances on the ice. A team of dogs ran behind.

Three of the men were in the cab. The fourth, John Ross, sat behind on the sledge at the back, close to the huskies. Jeremy (Jerry) Bailey, a scientist measuring the depth of the ice beneath the tractor, was driving. He and David (Dai) Wild, a surveyor, and John Wilson, a doctor, were scanning the ice ahead. Snow obscured much of the small, flat windscreen. The group had been travelling all day, taking turns to warm up in the cab or sit out back on the sledge.

Ross was staring out at the vast ice, snow and Stella Group mountains. At about 8:30, the dogs alongside the sledge stopped running. The sledge had ground to a halt.

Ross, muffled with a balaclava and two anoraks, had heard nothing. He turned to see that the Muskeg was gone. Ahead, the first sledge was leaning down into the ice. Ross ran up to it to find it had wedged in the top of a large crevasse running directly across their course. The Muskeg itself had fallen about 30m (100ft) into the crevasse. Down below, its tracks were wedged vertically against one ice wall, and the cab had been flattened hard against the other.

Ross shouted down. There was no reply from the three men in the cab. After about 20 minutes of shouting, Ross heard a reply. The exchange, as he recorded it from memory soon after the event, was brief:

Ross: Dai?

Bailey: Dai’s dead. It’s me.

Ross: Is that John or Jerry?

Bailey: Jerry.

Ross: How is John?

Bailey: He’s a goner, mate.

Ross: What about yourself?

Bailey: I’m all smashed up.

Ross: Can you move about at all or tie a rope round yourself?

Bailey: I’m all smashed up.

Ross tried climbing down into the crevasse, but the descent was difficult. Bailey told him not to risk it, but Ross tried anyway. After several attempts, Bailey stopped responding to Ross’s calls. Ross heard a scream from the crevasse. After that, Bailey didn’t respond.



 
straighthairedcurly
05/23/2022 01:24PM
 
Actually I've seen a number of people mention they are changing their trip due to high water concerns. You bring up an interesting question though. Humans are notoriously bad at assessing actual risk. For example, a child is much more likely to die in a car crash than be abducted by a stranger, but ask a parent their greatest fear and guess what comes out on top.


I have been enough places and seen enough people almost die due to not being able to assess their skill versus the risk. I have been lucky enough to be in a position to save some of them. But maybe I have also been one of those people, but had luck fall in my favor, so I do not judge. For myself, I try to learn from reading and analyzing decisions gone wrong for other people (one of my favorite books is Death in the Grand Canyon) and then I try to avoid making the same mistakes.


My analysis of our upcoming South Kawishiwi trip:
Decided to rent a larger canoe so we would have more freeboard
All 3 of us have extensive whitewater experience and are conservative about scouting anything we can't see.
We all know how to forward or back ferry a fully loaded boat in strong currents.
All key gear for warmth and food is packed in dry bags inside Sealline dry packs.
Everyone carries a compass, whistle, and other ditch kit items on their person
Everyone wears a PFD on the water at all times
Canoe is rigged with bow and stern lines, and we all have canoe lining experience (in case the current is too strong at a portage entrance or exit.
All of us have experience with swimming through whitewater using proper technique.
 
EddyTurn
05/23/2022 03:02PM
 
Wearing PFD, carrying PLB etc. have became a mantra that replaces skills - including a necessity for basic knowledge of the enterprise one chooses to persuade. Obviously, it's not popular to take moving water or rescue courses, or to learn basic strokes, or exercise to keep one in shape before a spring trip. After winter hiatus many paddlers face the most difficult trip of their season in their worst physical shape. Watching youtube canoe videos I never cease to be amazed by how many people learned to operate sophisticated video editing software, but still can't perform properly a J-stroke.
 
Speckled
05/23/2022 01:46PM
 
I think in many circumstances it's hard to know. In the capsizeing cases posted to the board recently, none of them were at the EP. So you start your trip and everything looks manageable and at some point further in you encounter an issue.


Could be not adequately assessing or understanding the risk/situation? maybe? could it be a desire to push on to a certian destination lake? maybe? Alot of effort just to get to the EP in the way of travel, time off, coordinating schedules, permit procurement. Hard to know, hindsight is 20/20. If I were to guess, i'd say the permit availability issue is the biggest driver.


I personally have adjusted plans three times in the past. First was maybe 15 years ago. We arrived at Snowbank on fishing opener, looked out at the lake, big waves, whitecaps. My partner was ready to go. My call was no way. We went back and forth a bit, but it wasn't worth it to me. We decided to wait to see if the waves died down, he thought they did and was ready to go. I thought they didn't and wasn't. His travel time to the BW is three times mine. Does that play a part? Probably. We ultimately went to a nearby hike in lake outside of the BW and camped and fished and had a great long weekend.


The next two change of plans were this year, but I had options and the ability to be flexible. I wasn't locked into an overnight permit. Looking at the South Kawishiwi on opener. My buddy hadn't been in a canoe in a long time and even before that, not much at all. Because we were entering on a day permit, we had flexibility. I went for plan B before even looking at the south kawish. I'd seen the rivers and creeks on the way up Hwy 2, and said no way. The current in the river could possibly be difficult. We'll hit up a little brookie lake. And finally - I typically do an ice out paddle on a river and lake chain - even today, the flow is still way too high for me to be comfortable with it. Again, I have the flexability to do this paddle, pretty much anytime...so i'll just wait until is drops to the right level.
 
Minnesotian
05/23/2022 02:31PM
 

Like straighthairedcurly above, I also read a lot of rescue and tragedy stories, and also stories of people doing amazing things without any rescue needed, like crossing the Atlantic in a row boat, or free soloing rock faces. I do this to learn from them, how they survived or died, or what drives them.


There is a lot that goes into risk assessment. An accumulation of skills, past harrowing situations, getting comfortable with dangerous activities. But I think the thing that really comes into play, and especially how much time, money and effort you have put into it, is the term they call Summit Fever.


Two examples from my life: The BWCA is basically my backdoor, it's only 4 to 5 hours away from where I live. That means I can look at the weather and drop any investment I may have in that trip pretty easily as I can get back to the BWCA fairly easily. However, I live 18 hours away, by car, to Glacier National Park. That means I am more likely to tough through conditions that I normally wouldn't tough through in the BWCA, because getting to Glacier is so much more an investment in time, money, and effort.


And that is the basis for Summit Fever, especially for Mt. Everest. After $30,000 to $100,000, training for two years, flying there, staying at basecamp for 6 weeks, and then having to be told, 300 yards from the summit, that you shouldn't go on because it is too dangerous? That is when summit fever kicks in and you think that because of all the time and money, you DESERVE to reach the summit. Damn the danger, you are here for the summit!


There are a lot of other things, like overconfidence, or thinking because you are good at one thing makes you automatically good at another thing. But sometimes it is possible to commit no mistakes, access the risk correctly, and still lose.
 
KawnipiKid
05/24/2022 04:08PM
 
Good thread.


I read and thought a lot about risk assessment after realizing that some of my fears are irrational. I learned that we are generally not very good at assessing risk. No offense but even experienced risk takers, me included, can use skewed calculations. We don’t just misjudge risk because of a lack of important data or good judgement. We can also misjudge it for less obvious reasons:


Optimism bias – We tend to think bad things are more likely to happen to others than to us. This bias affects why I still eat and drink wonderfully bad things despite knowing the risks. Heck, I'm pretty sure my liver likes gin as much as I do.
Sense of control bias – Our perceived level of control can make situations feel more or less safe than they really are. Flying often feels more dangerous than driving even when you know the opposite is true.
Confirmation bias – The idea that we subconsciously gravitate toward confirming hoped-for results when we think we are being objective. While looking out at whitecaps or doing a Google search, asking “how can I get from A to B?” generates different results than asking “what are the risks IF I go from A to B now?” Safety seems implicit in the first question but isn’t. Wanting to go or going being the default is implied. Balancing risk drives the second one without assuming you will go.
Exposure bias – We naturally gain confidence and comfort through experience even when the experience is always normal. Years of normal experience isn’t good training for the first real emergency.
Compounding errors – Many bad outcomes are the result of small factors rather than one big mistake. I was tired, forgot my rain shell, should have stopped for lunch and more water, felt rushed, didn’t think to look at the map again, blah, blah. No one thing is horrible but the chance of finding horrible is compounded as you add them together.

Looking back, each of these factors has played into clouding my own risk assessment. I’m careful but still marvel at just how dumb I can be and still make it. Luck is a factor too, but I’m hoping to rely on it less because it should have run out already.

 
justpaddlin
05/26/2022 09:03AM
 
According to the report below the main causes of paddling accidents are:


Dangerous Waters
Operator Inexperience
Weather
Alcohol
Operator Inattention


My take is that all of these risk factors are always present (except perhaps alcohol).


I live on the St Joseph River and paddle it often. The current varies from 2 mph to 8 mph. The level varies by more than 10 feet. When the level is so high that trees and people's docks are cruising downstream then it's fairly obvious that it's dangerous, but in reality the river is NEVER safe for beginners or weak swimmers; the last two deaths were on calm summer days during low water levels. It seems much harder to find guidelines for river currents than for cold water or wind...I think people simply underestimate the danger of river currents out of inexperience.


report
 
Michwall2
05/23/2022 10:36AM
 
greywolf33: "I've been visiting the BWCA since the early '90's and consider myself a reasonably competent paddler. I am the main planner and organizer of our annual trips that range in size from 2 to 6 paddlers who have varying levels of canoeing experience. This week, our group was scheduled to travel the Granite River. After all of the recon and stories from paddlers and outfitters, I decided to cancel our permit. My primary concern is for the safety and well-being of my group. I owe it to the loved ones of my fellow paddlers to return them home safely. I have a healthy respect for cold water and canceling (Actually we are postponing) this trip was the only option for us. Live to paddle another day. Everyone please take care of yourselves out there! Peace."


Thanks for sharing your analysis and decision! A successful postponement.



 
greywolf33
05/23/2022 09:56AM
 
I've been visiting the BWCA since the early '90's and consider myself a reasonably competent paddler. I am the main planner and organizer of our annual trips that range in size from 2 to 6 paddlers who have varying levels of canoeing experience. This week, our group was scheduled to travel the Granite River. After all of the recon and stories from paddlers and outfitters, I decided to cancel our permit. My primary concern is for the safety and well-being of my group. I owe it to the loved ones of my fellow paddlers to return them home safely. I have a healthy respect for cold water and canceling (Actually we are postponing) this trip was the only option for us. Live to paddle another day. Everyone please take care of yourselves out there! Peace.
 
SummerSkin
05/23/2022 11:01AM
 
Michwall2: "I did not want to hijack anyone’s thread on good news of self or assisted rescue from the raging flood waters, but I did want to ask if anyone knew of study(ies) on the psychology of those who choose to venture into areas they know or should have known were “extremely high risk” environments?


How do they come to the conclusion they have the skills to survive virtually anything?



I really doubt most people actually think that way. My guess is that most who find themselves in that situation never thought it would happen to them in the first place, or failed to properly assess the risk.


What part does the lack of permits during the rest of the summer play in the decision to press ahead during a less safe (reckless?) environment?


It's not JUST that. You have to remember that not everyone has the luxury of reorganizing their calendars and schedules for a different trip date. For many visitors, their BWCA trip is something that has been planned months in advance, with PTO scheduled by multiple trip members and family schedules adjusted to accommodate. Furthermore some people fly / drive all day to get to BWCA, so rearranging travel is a huge hassle.
 
bfurlow
05/23/2022 05:45PM
 
I'm pretty naturally risk averse regardless of my skill paddling, etc. There are crossings that seemed 'OK' that I waived off because of a bad feeling, etc. Not that I lack confidence, just that I don't think my life, or health, or the impact to people I care about is often enough to risk it. That being said, I have made bad decisions that turned out OK in hindsight, and I am very glad about that.
 
nooneuno
05/23/2022 06:54PM
 
For some it’s history and past experiences with no problems, some are misjudging their ability level, for some its naivete, and to others it’s just plain stupidity.
I cancelled my first trip this year because the ice was still ever present, cancelled my second, for this upcoming Thursday, due to the water levels. I paddle rivers in WI year round so I have no lack of experience with moving and cold water, I go to the BWCA to fish, relax, and recharge, the overcrowding of late magnified by soggy and underwater campsites leads me to believe I would come home less than happy with the expierience.
 
KawnipiKid
05/23/2022 07:07PM
 
Soledad: "I think you would really enjoy a book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales "


+1
A great book that made me think and that changed my thinking about risk.



 
KawnipiKid
05/26/2022 08:49PM
 

"




"If you stack a bunch of random slices of Swiss, the holes don’t usually line up all the way through. A failure in one aspect of the system isn’t catastrophic because other aspects of the system will catch it. This is a “defense in depth” strategy; many layers means many opportunities to prevent a small issue from becoming a major issue."


Swiss Cheese Model James Reason


Wiki Swiss Cheese Model may explain it better for some. "


LindenTree, This is great stuff. Thanks!