The worst trip in the world ever – Jan 2008

And another old article…

The worst trip in the world ever – Jan 2008…

… or, how I became known as JK “b*****d of the Usk”.

It all started at a committee meeting where it was decided that we weren’t running enough trips for beginners.  I immediately decided to leap into action, and thought a nice trip down the Usk would lure some beginners from the post-Christmas fog.  Alas, no.  Though I did managed to lure out Harvey and his topo.

In the end eight of us headed for the Usk.  With no beginners there was a lot of moaning that we should head for the Upper Dart instead, but I thought we should stick to the original plan. There had been plenty of rain, and the fields in Wales were looking decidedly waterlogged.  However, our hopes of a nice high level were destroyed when we arrived in Crickhowell –the river was actually low-medium.  We got changed amidst much grumbling, and then headed for the get in.

As soon as we got on the water it became apparent that it was a little bit on the windy side.  The river was high enough to be steadily moving even on the flat bits, but the wind was so strong you didn’t actually go anyway without paddling.  As we battled into the wind I became aware of a few unhappy faces.  At one point, looking far down the river, I could see spray being lifted off the water.  The spray gradually got closer and closer and eventually an almighty gust of wind hit us and nearly knocked a few of us off balance.  The faces were now very unhappy, and several suggestions were made that I may not make it to the end of the trip.

We got to Mill Falls, which had a definite line to hit and a few bouncy waves. Colin had a minor boat separation incident at this point after bravely trying to roll for most of the rapid. We put him and kit back together and then carried on.

Luckily the river escaped the wind for the middle section and I started to feel a bit safer.  There were plenty of decent waves for people to try and catch, and a couple of the weirs provided interesting lines. 

Safely back at Crickhowell, we decided to head for a decent café that Ray and a few others had found on a previous trip to enjoy fine slices of pie – though that didn’t stop them moaning about the trip and suggesting I probably shouldn’t organise another.  Miserable buggers.

Llandysul weekend – Jan 2008

Here’s an old article I found…

Friday night… with KENT FORD!
The club’s annual Llandysul trip had been carefully timed by Martin to coincide with nationwide flooding. And we managed to end up in the one part of the UK which had been flooded more than anywhere else.  The river Teifi outside the canoe centre in Llandysul was stonking along and was still rising as the rain poured down.

Myself, Ray and R-J were first to arrive on the Friday night and promptly decided to head out for curry and beer as the local scouts were still using the centre to practice for their cookery badge (cookery badge indeed, what’s the world coming to!).  We scoffed the food and then a few others started turning up – just in time to enjoy a video we’d found, ‘The river runner’s edge’ with Kent Ford.  The sight of all that eighties fluorescent kit was a true sight to behold.  Popular radical boat tricks from this era were: front surfing, back surfing and throwing your paddles away (it seems having a moustache was also a popular move).

A few of us headed to the pub rather than suffer the kayaking video ‘Kajak Balkan’, which seemed to consist of Italian paddlers going down not very hard rapids.  A few beers and river discussions later, a slightly inebriated bunch headed back to the canoe centre to marvel at the glowing kettle and disagree further about which rivers we may paddle in the morning.

Saturday… big day at Buriel Chamber
I’m woken up by Ben saying I have 10 minutes until my breakfast is ready (he suddenly becomes my favourite club member).  A fine fry up later, and we’ve still not made any decisions on where to paddle.  The Teifi is now even higher.

Eventually, we half form a plan to head for Llyn Brianne to have a look at the famous slide at the dam.  We drive through water-logged roads.  The fields all around are under a few feet of water. Eventually, as we get closer to the dam, we start to see the surrounding rivers – tiny tribs that would normally only be trickles are raging.  The dam and slide are huge – there’s a foot or so of water going down the spillway, and the stopper at the bottom is phenomenal with about 20ft of tow back.  Surprisingly there are no takers to run it today.

We head down to the get in for the Tywi at Burial Chamber bridge.  The river here is a nice class II bimble … usually.  In flood, it was a different game.

We get on and start floating down the river. It feels fairly friendly – fast flowing, boiling and no eddies, but it’s easy going and the 15 of us stretch out into a few groups, chatting and joking as we speed along. This goes on for a few ks and, just as boredom is beginning to set in, I notice RJ and Ben making some fairly fast moves ahead.  A pourover is taking up most of river left, a sizeable stopper is taking most of river right, with just a small green tongue on the far right… but straight into trees. RJ and Ben make for far river right and then paddle quickly away from the tree behind the stopper.  Everybody else tries to follow… except for Rich S, who piles into the pourover.  I just have time to see his boat throwing ends as I turn to concentrate on the line.

After a couple of circulations, Rich S manages to roll and the boat pops out of the towback.  We gather ourselves in an eddy before pushing on.  Rich explains he quite fancied the look of the left line – a new club probe is born!  (Later he reveals he’d actually forgotten his glasses.)

It’s a slightly more nervous group that heads off from this episode, as there are a lot of blind bends and not a lot of time if an ‘interesting’ feature appears.

We enter the first gorge.  The water boils and swirls against the sheer sides, and we hit our first big rapid – a series of waves on river right, including a decent-sized stopper that puts Neville over.  A decent roll means he’s up quickly and we carry on.

The second gorge is a little thinner.  Rounding a corner, I see Ben and RJ heading for a tiny eddy and signalling – there’s a tree across the river.  15 people into such a fast-flowing small space isn’t a great idea.  Luckily, there’s just enough room under the tree to thread through – ducking low against my deck, I feel the thick trunk of the tree scrape the back of my buoyancy aid… gulp.

We speed on, looking for the get-out bridge.  Eventually, after some small rapids, we see it.  Beneath the bridge lurks a big, car-eating sized hole.  Running the shuttle, we couldn’t see underneath the bridge, but at water level a couple of huge holes form behind curling waves. Luckily we all get through and make the get-out eddy.  A quick change and then back to the centre in Llandysul for tea, jaffa cakes and dodgy kayaking videos.

16km in 55 minutes.  No stopping.  Some hairy rapids.  And great fun.

River rating (chase boating)

Given the amount of chase boating in France [ 2008 ], I thought this deserved a re-write; (courtesy of JK)

Class I, Easy. Fast moving  water with riffles and small waves. Boat chasing is easy and fun. Boat  immediately rescued and emptied on bank. People chat about how refreshing the  water is.

Class II, Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without  scouting. Boat chasing relatively simple, a few eddies are missed and some rocks  hit, but boat is quickly on the bank. People joke about rescue beers, and that sadly Lou hasn’t lost her sunglasses.

Class III, Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. Several  people set off after boat. Eventually there’s just you chasing the boat. You  wonder why those big eddies at the start of the river are nowhere to be found  now. Afterwards people talk with wide eyes about how the river isn’t usually this high and seek refuge in bar whilst shuttle takes place. Zoe wishes she’d  brought her racing bike.

Class IV, Advanced. Intense,  powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise moves in turbulent water.  Chase boating becomes of paramount importance when swimmer reveals car keys are  in boat. Throwline and other kit decide to abandon ship and make their own way  down the river. Boat eventually extracts itself at bottom of large cliff. Afterwards, people wonder where Brian is and what that tiny speck is at the top  of the cliff.

Class V, Expert. Very precise  lines required. Boat automatically takes the hardest line. Chase boaters  quickly become chase swimmers. Everybody is silent afterwards until eventually someone suggests mountain biking may be a good option tomorrow.

Class VI, World Class. Sunshine run anyone?