Day #9: Monday, September 15-The “Gems”

We camped last night at Schist Camp (96.5 mile) not far below Hermit rapid, but far enough from the menacing sound of continually crashing waves. Schist Camp is considered by many to be one of the nicest, with big sandy beaches and polished metamorphic walls.  The smooth rock, worn down over millennia, radiates heat from the day long into the night.  Below Schist Camp we enter the “Gems”:  Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby and Serpentine. Lonnie and his guide team, Seth and Chris are tuning in their system with each rapid, and they love to recount who flipped and where after. Now that we have the radios figured out, we might start keeping score!

Erik and Harlan Taney testing out the radios before starting the “Gems”.  Photo credit: James Q. Martin

Early in the trip we struggled with the communications unexpectedly cutting out, and of course usually in a rapid. Of the 6 units (man packs) we have, only two seem to work with any consistency. So, we tried different configurations of the man pack units, different headsets, on and off sequences, and whether they worked just seemed random. For the radios to work, they must be loud and clear, since garbled and barely audible communication is almost as bad as none.

Desperate for a solution and some security in case we have any issues going forward, we made a satellite phone call to the company in the UK, Neptune Waterproof, to have another set of radios overnighted and then hiked down at Phantom Ranch. By the miracle of modern technology and global transportation, we now have two sets of working radios. After days of troubleshooting, we discovered that the silty river water, exacerbated by the rainstorms in the first few days of the trip, was clogging the microphones.  The river water was so loaded with sediment that it coated everything, including the smooth plastic of our kayaks with a thin film. The river is now much more clear, but we have sealed the microphone with a small balloon like rubber cover and sealed the opening with tape. Radio problems solved . . . for now.

Erik showcasing the new and improved microphone with the small balloon rubber cover. Photo credit: James Q. Martin