Steamboat Springs A Steamboat Springs man died while kayaking with friends Wednesday on the Colorado River in Gore Canyon, upstream from State Bridge.
Christopher Delaney, 34, flipped upside down in his kayak while running the Gore Rapid at about 3 p.m. Wednesday. The river section is about 3 miles west of Kremmling and about 65 miles by road from Steamboat. Grand County Coroner Dave Shoenfeld has not determined the cause of death.
Grand County Sheriff Rodney Johnson said Delaney apparently remained upside down in his kayak for some distance downstream before other kayakers could reach him. They initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation and continued for about an hour, Johnson said, but could not revive Delaney.
Delaney worked as a bartender at two Steamboat Springs restaurants, the Ore House at the Pine Grove and the Slopeside Grill, according to friend and coworker Tyler Bunner.
"Let Steamboat know we lost a really good person," Bunner said.
Delaney taught Bunner to tend bar and had just showed him how to kayak this year.
"He was a good teacher. He was really patient," Bunner said. "He really made you feel good about what you were doing."
Two of Delaney's brothers, Kier and Alex, live in Steamboat. A third, Eric, was flying here Thursday, friends said, as the pained family and Delaney's longtime girlfriend, Michelle Quinn of Steamboat Springs, came together to grieve.
Delaney was the second kayaker to die in Gore Canyon in as many days. Matthew Classen, 27, of Greeley was originally reported missing Tuesday evening, after attempting to run Kirshbaum Rapids. Friends saw Classen's boat overturn in the whitewater, but when the kayak surfaced, he was no longer in it.
Classen's body was found at about 10 o'clock Wednesday morning, about 600 yards downstream from the Pumphouse boat launch.
Veteran Steamboat kayak instructor Barry Smith said Thursday that Gore Rapid is widely known to be a dangerous Class V rapid. The Class V designation means Gore is among the most challenging stretches of water in the sport; a Class VI rapid is considered un-runnable, Smith explained.
Smith said Delaney was a very competent kayaker.
"He was a strong paddler and he was a strong guy," Smith said.
Paddler magazine Editor-in-Chief Eugene Buchanan, who was a friend and paddling partner of Delaney's, said that Delaney had run Gore many times and he was extremely competent in strong water. He said Delaney was a solid member of the local kayak scene, made up of many high-ability boaters.
"It was a run that he had done a lot of times. It was not over his head," Buchanan said. "It was just one of those fluke things. It could have been any of us."
Buchanan said Delaney was the first local boater to die kayaking since Olympic kayaker Rich Weiss perished while boating in Washington in 1997.
Drew Brilakis said he was stunned by the death of Delaney, one of his best friends. Brilakis was injured in Gore Canyon last year himself, suffering a head wound that required stitches.
"It's a nasty little rapid; it's one of the most complex rapids I've been down," he said.
Brilakis said the death of Delaney was felt especially hard by a group of 10 to 15 guys who boat together.
"It's a little brotherhood that just got shattered," Brilakis said.
One of the dangerous aspects of Gore Rapid and others in the narrow stretch of canyon between Kremmling and State Bridge is that there are sharp boulders in the current, Smith said. He said they tumbled there when the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad were built.
Sheriff Johnson said access to the canyon, aside from floating through the dangerous rapids, is difficult there is no road and the railroad tracks are squeezed against the river bank. It was a representative of the railroad that notified Johnson's office of the emergency.
"We rely totally on the railroad," Johnson said. "They stopped all their operations for two hours."
Rescuers used a "high railer," a specially modified pickup truck that can travel on the railroad tracks, to reach Delaney at about 6:15 p.m.
Bunner said Delaney was an avid telemark skier and they skied together with a group of friends almost every day.
"He had a crazy little smile that still rolls in my mind," Bunner said. "You could talk to him about almost anything. That's what I'll always remember."
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org