Wet West Paddlefest 2008

SOC had planned a trip to the Wet West Paddlefest in 2007, but the evening entertainment seemed so much orientated towards drunken students in fancy dress, that we were put off. Stuart is made of sterner stuff, however, and motivated a trip to this (now annual) event in 2008. Stuart and Francis (with Chez and Rob from the Newcastle Uni. club) were up a few days early when they discovered why the locals don’ t paddle the Etive when it is very high. They got a bit of a beating on the Orchy, too, but a random paddler was to hand not only to lend Stuart a paddle to finish the river, but to sell it to him so he could continue the weekend !

Andy joined Stuart at the Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis (the others were slumming it in the van up-valley) and as levels dropped we went off to the Roy Gorge on Friday, finding it remarkably low in contrast to the previous day’s epic. Andy managed to roll up in a grade 4 bit, doing much for his confidence, only to dent it again by carelessly capsizing whilst drifting down barely grade 1 water on the Lower river, and failing to roll up even slightly.

On Friday night, there was entertainment, a bar and food at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven, which, being nowhere near where a lot of people were staying, resulted in a degree of sobriety necessitated by the drive back along winding roads to Fort William. Saturday was the first paddling day of the Paddlefest itself, with guaranteed water from a dam release on the River Garry. Most people were doing just the top section from the dam down to the footbridge, often several times, as the shuttle buses worked overtime to feed people and boats back up to the top. It was also possible to paddle on down to a takeoff through the trees and into the back of the shinty pitch where all the trade tents and demo boats (and a ready supply of excellent bacon butties) could be found. Stuart and Andy did this to get away from the crowds and found one or two exciting bits that they hadn’t anticipated. However, the attraction of the top section was a series of big playwaves, as shown in the video:

On Saturday night, the party was conveniently within walking distance up at the foot of the walkers’ path to Ben Nevis, and was a very hot and noisy affair in a rather overcrowded venue (drinking outside would have been ideal, but the drizzle wasn’t driving away the midges…). Having reccied the Sunday river, the Moriston, Andy decided that with a dam-release pumping down it, it was going to be too fearsome, so drove home after midnight and paddled Cotherstone-Barney on Sunday ! The others paddled the Moriston, not entirely unscathed, I understand.

It’s a good crack, and if it doesn’t clash with anything else, I expect we’ll be back !