North Wales in June, a bit optimistic?

It’s becoming a bit of tradition that a spring drought lets up enough to paddle the Upper Tees sometime each May, but we were being a bit optimistic in scheduling a whitewater paddling weekend in North Wales for the end of June – even in Wimbledon fortnight. However, the Tennis duly attracted the rains and instead of dam-release Tryweryn and low-water Dee playspots, we found ourselves with real rivers to paddle.

It rained all Friday night and was still drizzling on Saturday, so we made our way to the Conwy. Inspections of various rapids from the road showed a good level, and the gauge at the put-in showed 6-7 with the water brown and fast. It’s not an immensely technical river, but has lots of wave trains and playspots and a few harder rapids. Three of us were in playboats, and three in creekboats. We only had one upset, and that was playing in a really nice hole we found on the way down. A big blind S-bend rapid that we hadn’t checked from the road proved to have enough eddies to hop down maintaining line-of-sight, and Bryn Bas Falls was probably easier than we’d expected, but a pre-paddle inspection meant that we knew the line to take, which always helps.

Following Michael down Bryn Blas falls

A bit of a carry up from the take-out, and then tea, cakes and a wander round the Fairy Glen to see what fate awaits those who miss the exit. It’s fairly terminally awesome !

Sunday was to be hot and sunny, but a check showed that there was still just about enough water left to do the Llugwy down from Plas-y-Brenin to Ugly House. This is very varied, with flat bits, playful waves, a grade 4 section with a reputation (that most of us had not paddled before) and a very serious section which is a compulsory portage. At the level we had, Cobden’s Fall was technical, and the drop bigger than it would be in higher water, but we all ran it in fine style, and the kids went back for a second go. That left me needing to swim the rapid to get positions to take video… much to the amusement of a large group of spectators who watched us from the bridge, and then carefully walked round the rapid themselves.

Michael boofing neatly into the aerated water on Cobden’s

As to be expected in the sun in North Wales, the level was dropping as we paddled and it was getting a bit scrapey in places towards the end, but Forestry Falls provided one last bit of entertainment with some very aerated water to paddle up to reach a hard-to-make eddy, from which a grabby stopper provided side-surfing for those confident enough to go in.