The Alps with MUCC

July 19, 2009

After the stress of the May/June exams a trip to escape away from it all was much required. After months of careful planning we all met up outside stores to leave Manchester in search of sunshine and good boating in the Alps. From here we set out on the epic journey to L’Argentière-la-Bessée in Southern France in a convoy of two minibuses and one big van with all the boats in for the 22 hour drive.

The VanTaking a break from driving

After arriving and setting up camp a few of us got on the slalom site and not quite knowing what to expect I ended up getting a slight beating on my first run but managed to stay in my boat. The following day we started properly with the whole group and began with swimming practice at the slalom site before heading down the Durance to St Clement where there is another slalom site. A few of us then headed down to the wave at Rabioux.

IMG_0429On the Durance, Photo: Dave Perry

The next day we decided on a much lower volume river, the Lower Claree, to allow everyone to get used to their boats before the first of our coaches, Dave Brown, arrived. With Dave Brown here we first did an excellent flat water session which broke down all the aspects of strokes and paddling into their component movements before going back to St Clement to try out these skills on the slalom site.

The next day we did the Upper Durance in the morning before the Upper Gizane in the afternoon. This was a nice grade 3 with one grade 4 section which I ended up being far more nervous about than I should have been and did fine. The next morning after everyone was feeling confident after the Gizane we got on the Durant which was a very rocky boulder bash. After claiming 2 paddles and as many swims a few of us decided to walk out and the rest got picked up later on. In the afternoon we returned to something much easier and did the sunshine run on the Durance although even this was not without swims.

Not content with the ease of the rivers so far a few of us woke up early the next morning to go paddle the Onde, described by the guidebook as a grade 3+ similar to the Tryweryn in North Wales. We actually got on the Gyr by accident which is a 4+/5 “lightning fast, toboggan run”, I ran one of the grade 5 sections but we ended up walking about 50% of the river and to quote Chris “My arse is this grade 3”. We then spent the rest of the day at the slalom site  “providing safety” for the rest of the group as they got on with the coach.

IMG_0801At the Slalom site, L’Argentière-la-Bessée, France

Then as if yesterday morning’s run wasn’t enough a few of us decided to wake up early again to run Briançon gorge before packing up and driving to Slovenia for the rest of the day through Italy. As we had a competent group we could run it without inspecting and managed to do the whole gorge in 5 minutes.

Slovenia was the most beautiful place we visited, all of the rivers we went on were crystal clear and with the usual mountainous backdrop it couldn’t be much better.

IMG_0973Tom Barlow on the Soča, Slovenia

On the first day after a bit of a lie in and a late start we got on at the campsite in Bovec onto the Soča, a nice 2/3 bimble. Running the shuttle at the end I got into my first bit of trouble on the trip and picked up a speeding ticket through a tiny village which cost me €40, but luckily no points on my licence. The next day we did and easier section of the Soča, to give everyone a little break before we picked up our next coaches when we went to Austria. In the afternoon the minibus got a flat tyre so we had a lazy afternoon off around the campsite and the town. The next day was the last of our short stay in Slovenia and we decided to push ourselves a bit more and did the Kornica down to the campsite. A much narrower river but great fun which pushed our ability and our river leading around its narrow bends.

IMG_1096Me on the Kornica, Slovenia. Photo: Phil Mayer

In the afternoon we did skills before setting off to Austria via Germany to pick up Chris Smith and Jo Mackin our coaches for the next few days. On the way we got directed in to a weighing station where the van came in overweight at a hefty 3650kg, however our ignorance, lack of documents or inability to speak German got us let off €550 fine as long as we redistributed the weight at the next service station.

After we finally arrived in Prutz, the small town in Austria where we would be staying. The first river we did was the Inn, starting with the Pfunds section for everyone before some of us did the harder Tösens section where I took my first swim of the trip, ironically on my final river after getting stuck in a hole. I then took the next day off to wash and dry my kit before driving to Munich airport through a thunderstorm to fly to Istanbul the next morning to start my kayaking in Turkey.

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