Eggleston Burn – without the carnage

Heading past the critical landmark rock leading up to the slot drop which gets everyone

Although things could occasionally have gone better:

Damn – meant to do the slot forwards…

But, overall, things went very well (I did roll up from that first time) and we were down the river and off in an hour and ten minutes.

Tiring the dog out

Sarah having come home for the weekend to pick up all the internet-shopping parcels of shiny mountain biking clothing, we had to go out and try it. All the family was going, but Mary discovered that her front wheel was buckled and the only spare we had was a narrower-rimmed wheel with a less chunky tyre, so she sent the dog to deputise for her while she did gardening. The dog had neither wheels nor shiny new clothing, but was very well behaved and didn’t run off into the woods (it was all she could do to keep up, most of the time).

Sarah on the Grove Link section of the blue trail

Ten miles in Hamsterley Forest did just what it says on the tin. Fern is very low geared, and couldn’t keep up on the downhills, especially the long gentle one where we probably hit 50 kph. We did wait for her, though…. as we did for Michael who was having trouble getting the lowest range of gears.

Every picture tells a story…

Having set out with some trepidation about whether I would be able to keep up, I have to say there’s few things as rewarding as hearing your kids ask “How can you be so damned fit?”

Aft helmet-cam view about ¾ way round

Glenmore Lodge – the rest of the week

My side was so sore on Wednesday that even after Ibuprofen gel and oral painkillers, it was still painful just to ride to Glen Roy in the bus, so it did seem sensible not to paddle. Mary paddled the Upper, and, with Jutta, skipped the gorge, to rejoin the group for the Lower, whilst I walked down and took photos – mostly of the scenery as the river is not very accessible, though I did get video of everyone on Rooster Tail on the Upper.

Mary on the Upper Roy: Rooster Tail

I also got a lot of nice scenic photos and a few more squares for geograph.

Looking down the Upper Roy above Rooster Tail

Autumn Colours on the Roy gorge

Dulsie Bridge Gorge. Photo: Giles Trussell

On Thursday, I’d recovered enough to paddle providing it wasn’t anything too hard to run or difficult to walk out, so the Upper Findhorn was a fortunate choice. I did hurt on the Dulsie Bridge gorge when a strong right brace was needed, but got down the rest of the river OK, by portaging the short hard bit on Levens gorge, and avoiding any significant amount of playing on waves.

On Friday, I was definitely sore again, and decided that I should not commit to the Findhorn Gorge. Mary wasn’t keen to paddle this either, so we had a more leisurely start and simply drove home in daylight. So – a bit of a disappointing week in terms of my own paddling, though I coped well with all that I actually got on, and hopefully by avoiding pushing it too hard, I’ll recover more quickly and be back on the water soon !

Part of the Orchy

Temperatures dropped, and with them the water levels. We put on to the Orchy down at the top of Big Rock rapid to avoid the slow flat section from Bridge of Orchy. We warmed up on Big Rock (I ran it three times) while shuttling was arranged, then on to Chicken Shoot. I smelled a rat as soon as we eddied and took our river right (from where one cannot see the left hand chicken shoot line which gives the rapid its name). Mary set off following Giles whilst everyone else looked on and estimated their chances.

Mary styling the main line (rather than Chicken Shoot, which is off river left)

Andy on the main line of Chicken Shoot. Photo: Giles Trussell

I got the line pretty well nailed, too (rather to my surprise) and although I didn’t see anyone else run, everyone was the right way up at the bottom. I believe there may have been the occasional roll involved… a comment which definitely applied to the end of Sheep Trolley Gorge, although, again, my own line went pretty well.

Coming to the end of Sheep Trolley Gorge

Unfortunately, on the long flat stretch to Eas Mor, I was assiduously practicing my trunk rotation and pulled something below my left ribs (the place I’d whacked very hard at the end of the Etive last week), and could no longer paddle, so had to get off the river, missing out Sawtooth, Rollercoaster, End of Civilisation and the Witches Step. Some of the group ran Eas a’Chathaidh (not necessarily with complete success), so I missed this opportunity too, which is really annoying :-(. Owing to the cold, Mary and Jutta took off too, and we all walked down to the bus at Witches Step.

Spean Gorge and the Arkaig (again)

Spean not high – probably about zero on the gauge under the bridge at Spean Bridge (although the water didn’t quite stretch to the gauge) – but a lot higher than the last few times we’ve run it ! Fairy Steps was bouncy, but didn’t seem to be chucking anyone into the rock or random eddies, and proved easier than I expected.

Andy on Fairy Steps. Photo: Giles Trussell

Everything else also lacked the tightness of lines we are familiar with, and was generally easier, though I did manage to whack into the rock on cauldron and have to roll…

Tight and technical when low – something of a breeze today

Seal launching below Headbanger

We chose to portage headbanger (it did look quite hard, even without the siphon) and also the Constriction, but the rapid after this we had to portage last time as too rocky was fine and easy this time, and the one after that with the tree in the eddy was also very straightforward with the tree well below the water. Indeed, the trip went so well that we adjourned to the Arkaig.

A look over the bridge showed the level much lower than both trips last week, which was a shame as I’d already decided to paddle it in the Flirt, which is fun in big water. In fact, the main event was a lot different. Michael’s line of last week was blocked by a large pointy rock downstream, and almost any boof line on the left looked a bit rocky. Most chose to go right and head centre, avoiding the hole (or, not, as the case may be). I chose to go left, then boof off the central rockslide into the main tongue.

Going for it … right boof stroke would have been better. Photo: Giles Trussell

Unfortunately, I did this a bit aggressively, and probably with the last stroke on the wrong side, which accelerated me nicely right across the tongue and into the edge of the hole. Just a quick spin and out, upright, flat on the water, but looking back upstream – not quite what I’d intended.

The Garry and Nevis – a suitable winding down

Rather than take any risks with uncertain and perhaps rapidly changing levels, we had always rather planned to have Thursday as a playboating day on the dam-release Garry. Mary elected to have a confidence-restoring day on this known river, in her creek boat, while Mike tried out his new Jackson All Star and I was in the Flirt. It proved to be a somewhat bigger release than we were used to, but this was only really noticeable on the final wave. The third capsize off the top wave netted me my 200th whitewater roll, and another three followed on the bottom wave – I never did manage a flat spin this time 🙁

Heavy rain meant rivers up again on Friday, and we rejected the idea of paddling the Loy, having seen it on the Sunday of Wet West – the thought of it rising to that sort of level while we were on was just a bit too scary for a day when we didn’t really want to have any kind of epic before driving home. So we went to the Nevis instead ! OK, the Lower Nevis, which gave us the option of running the falls at the start.

Michael and Lowri did, whilst Mary and I camera-hounded. Unfortunately, the better viewpoints were very spray-lashed, whilst the one I picked, where the spray (and rain) was being blown away from the camera, didn’t give a great view of the bottom of the drop (and Lowri had already almost fallen in here on the slippy rocks, so I wasn’t getting near the edge with the big DLSR).

Michael was keen to ensure that this descent was recorded, so he took a GoPro, too:

What a long way down into seething watery hell !

Below the falls, there is a short section of rather good rapids, but the river rapidly flattens out to become a bit dull. For quite a long way. We were encouraged to know that there was one good rapid just before the end, but this proved to have a large tree blocking the obvious line, and the line which would be unavoidable in the event of a capsize or indeed any loss of perfect control. This was a bit of a disappointment, but did mean we ended with a fairly early start for the long drive back, and not in the usual state of physical and mental exhaustion !

If you could guarantee to get the left eddy, the tree was avoidable, but even then, the stopper would want to feed you back to it… nasty !