Tom McEwan’s first run on the Upper Yough came on a bitterly cold spring break trip with his brother Jaime. They sat around the fire the night before, warming their boats so they could patch them, as the thermometer hovered around the zero degree line. Finally, around 2pm the next day, the temperature warmed to a balmy thirty-two and they decided to put on. With little knowledge of what lie below, they painstakingly scouted and eddy hopped their way down the run. Arriving at Double Pencil Sharpener at dark, they slowly crept their way down the rest of the run, the glowing fire of their waiting friends was the only signal they had reached the end. It was 11pm.
Now, a couple of years later, Tom had run the river several times. He always liked to explore new routes and see the river from a fresh perspective. Most people didn’t run the left line at what is now known as Tommy’s Hole. They had long fiberglass boats, and the current that whipped through the narrow channel before careening right didn’t look particularly inviting. But Tom convinced his group to follow him down this one time. As he disappeared around the corner, I doubt any of them imagined what would happen next.