New Year in Fort William

January 7, 2009

For some reason we thought it’d be fun to go to Scotland kayaking over new year and despite the sub zero temperatures, we set out two days before new year for Fort William where we would be staying. When we arrived we were greeted with a thick frosty reception and quickly got inside to the warmth.

Due to the lack of rain and freezing temperatures, none of the rivers were running high, however we found the lower Orchy was paddleable with a nice few technical rapids. you could see the ice coating the rocks and on the get out there was a sustainable few inches covering the side of the river.

img_8240Photo: Dave Perry

We spend new year’s eve in the hostel where we saw it in with the other guests, it was nice to spend it in such a relaxed place by the fire. On new year’s day we powered through the hangovers and set out for Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK) and as if right on cue, the clouds disappeared and it was the nicest day that we were in Scotland albeit a little fresh. We climbed about half way until the ice became so thick over the paths that it wasn’t safe to carry on, but before we turned around we took a while to enjoy the views.

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On the way back down we found a lake that had completely frozen and that thick enough to stand on to a significant distance out, which provided some entertainment and some excellent photo opportunities before heading back to the warmth of the hostel. In the evening we checked out which rivers were high enough to paddle the next day on http://www.wheresthewater.com and one river stood out from the rest as having a high flow although a 2 hour drive away. 

img_8387Photo: John Hartshorne 

The next day we set out for the Findhorn, near Nairn and joked from inside the warmth of the car about the form of the water in the river, little did we know that when we finally arrived we would find the river completely frozen over. Never the less it was impressive to see and we had a nice little picnic by the side after playing on the ice. 

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The next morning was our last morning and we set out early from the hostel, not to get home early, but to go find another river on the way home, this time we headed to somewhere that we knew there had to be water, the river Tay SCA slalom site near Aberfeldy. Despite the sub zero temperatures, most of us got on and did the short section over and over. It was a perfect little confidence builder and nice end to the trip, despite having to crack the ice off my kit as we got changed.

I look forward to heading back to Scotland/Fort William when it’s a little bit warmer and there’s water flowing and will be heading up there at least once over the easter break. Until then there’s BUCS slalom, 2/*3* assessments and probably Wales to enjoy