April 4, 2009

This month has been hectic by any means, the Dissertation has been handed in, leaving just the presentation for after Easter, we won the Christie Cup  (despite losing our event) between Liverpool and Leeds and me and Ben entered C2 at a Slalom event in Stone.

img_9282K1 heat at Stone

Other kayaking trips have seen me visit the Conwy in N. Wales and the Leven and Kent in the Lake District. I also went to Pau Brasil, a Brazilian restaurant where they bring different meats to your table cooked to how you want it, I’ve never eaten so much meat in one sitting but it was well worth it, despite the rather expensive bill.

In the evening of my Birthday we began the journey up to Scotland for the annual canoe club trip to the Fort William area of the Scottish Highlands. We stayed in a bunkhouse just outside the little village of Laggan arriving just before 2am after a long 7 hour drive in the minibus (limited to 62 mph). On the first day we did the middle Spean, thinking that it would be nice introduction for the beginner heavy group we had with us, however the dam at Loch Laggan was releasing on 4/5 pipes turning this gentle 2/3 river into alpine conditions.

img_9319The dam at Loch Laggan

The group managed well and it was a nice introduction to alpine like levels ahead of the alps trip in June, apart from one section which caused 4 people to swim almost simultaneously which entail a interesting rescue but it was good fun. The next day we decided on something with much lower volume and did the lower roy with relatively few swims. This didn’t take very long and 4 of us decided to go paddle something a little more fun… We settled on the Arkaig which links loch Arkaig to Loch Lochy, this has one major grade 4 section which we had to inspect by climbing through the dense Rhododendron bushes on an island in the middle of the river, which felt like a tropical island due to the humidity and the sound of waterfalls either side. We decided on a line to the far left to avoid the nasty middle but when it came to actually running it none of us managed this and were forced right and after a few high braces before the drop I made it the right way up, the same cannot be said for Pete who took the middle line and got back looped when he hit the bottom, but he was fine, if not a little bit shaken.

On Monday we did the middle Findhorn and again a few of us did the top findhorn after the trip and a harder trip. However a trip to the Findhorn wouldn’t be the same without leaving a part of my hands on the river. This was the river that last year scarred my thumbs and this year was no exception, while running the top section I took a suspicious line into a nice big hole which ate me up and spat me out. After failing to roll I swam but still took a while to get my breath because of the very aerated water and being forced towards a nasty undercut, although this injury shouldn’t scar. However this was not the end of the Findhorn. the final grade 4 section at Dulsie Bridge where the rest of the group where waiting (and watching), after deciding to run it, the lead in was a large arc around a corner into a series of 3/4 big rapids, however the current in the lead in was larger than i expect and I went over at the top and despite very nearly rolling it up I continued to swim the whole thing which was interesting! I only swam twice on the trip and they were both on this one river, maybe next time I’ll get it right.

The next day most of the girls decided they needed a day off  so the remaining few of us headed off and did the Awe (which isn’t worth doing) and the Orchy. The Orchy was a lot better than I expected and had a few nice drops. Due to running out of time and needing to get back me and Dave sprinted the last section to pick up the vehicles, tackling the last drop by ourselves which Dave had to roll on, which fortunately I didn’t see. I managed it fine, only to go upside down afterwards while stationary and  talking, a prime example of losing concentration after a hard section, earning a unneeded eskimo rescue, we drove past the rest of the group in the minibus, dripping wet but with big grins on our faces.

We used Wednesday to work on skills at the SCA slalom site at Grandtully near Aberfeldy as most of the swims over the week were due to getting in and out of the flow of the water.

img_9401Me at Grandtully

While we were there the ambulance service we doing their swift water rescue training and although we gave them a few real rescues to deal with they left us to it.

On the last day we decided on the Spean gorge, a choice we turned out to not be ideal. Although low (none of the pipes in the picture of Loch Laggan were open) there was still enough water to make some of the rapids interesting. The ‘fairy steps’ claimed all bar 4 of the group (me included) and Tom hit his head on the a rock and started to feel worse after 5 minutes later. We had no choice but to extract and then began the long process of getting out of the gorge which involved of splitting up, getting Tom to hospital and getting the boats up out of the gorge which was a good 300m up steep cliffs, in the end Tom was discharged in less than an hour and fine after a bit of rest and all the kit was lifted up out after a well organised response from the group.

This trip has been a great week and has given me a chance to work on my river leading and given me lots of rescue practice, next it’s off to the alps and then Turkey!