Our 18-foot inflatable raft palpitated against a big rock, where the frothy force of the Colorado River threatened a flip.
With hands in fists around frosted straps, I watched friends throw rope from a shore 50 feet away. The throw-bag flew about 10 feet, far short of us, and dropped like a rock into the blue-green channel.
It was supposed to go much farther. The rope was frozen.
It was mid-January, a mile deep in the Grand Canyon, with the sun's warmth locked behind a towering rock wall. A stream of adrenaline spiked my blood for an hour as efforts - hopping, moving and restrapping gear, watching and waiting - were exhausted to free the boat stuck perpendicular in the river.
At roughly 2,000 pounds with gear and four people, the raft wasn't going anywhere.
"When you practice for emergency rescues, you run through every possible variable so that when you're actually doing a rescue, you're ready for anything," said Jay Berkes, a professional raft guide who paddleboarded the Colorado River when he wasn't rowing or rigging a rescue line.
"Frozen rope on a rafting trip has never once crossed my mind as a legitimate concern. I remember seeing everyone on the rock put their heads down and laugh. That was pretty funny."
Temperatures had dipped toward record lows. Hypothermia was a few minutes of submersion away.
Robert Allen previously worked for the Summit Daily News and now reports for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. This story was printed with permission from the Coloradoan.