Alpine Paddling Holiday 2015
Austria, Slovenia and France

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Alps 2015 – Austria, Slovenia and France
This years road trip saw a deviation from our usual formula where we usually base ourselves on the campsite in Le Argentiere la Bassee.  We formed two groups, the minibus and two cars heading to Austria and the Imst Gorge and John Cookes team who went straight to Slovenia for week 1.  The plan was to spend a week in Slovenia before driving across the top of Italy and into France to Briancon.



This year’s group included: Keith Steer, Sara Bergqvist, Dom Buckley, Pete Thomas, Carole Thomas, David Brockway, Fiona Barry, Sarah Gille, Nick Coughlin, Sam Preston, Leanne Murray, Helen Siertsema, Mark Garrod, John Cooke, Sue Cooke, Kirk Williams, Gerry Williams (Flying), Chris Murphy, Stuart Toulson, Kurt Toulson, Mark Benson and Marianne Benson.


Photographs……….              More information on the trip……..



Day 1 Alps 2015 - Austria – River Inn (Imst Gorge)


After an early rise we set off to the Imst Gorge however in our haste to reach the river before the folk of rafts, we missed our turning and headed through what felt to be a 6 mile long tunnel. Once we corrected ourselves and eventually making it to the put in there was already a number of rafts readying themselves for the river. In the guidebook the river is described as a ‘big volume class 3 and a good warm up for the Grand Canyon of the Colorado!’ I believe this statement massively overestimates the river as for the most part the river was tame apart from the odd wave train causing trouble. However the water was huge compared to UK rivers with this section averaging 250 cumecs at this time of the year (20 x volume of the Tryweryn).


Sam was in his playboat cartwheeling all over the river.   We paddled in two groups with some of us missing the big holes and large waves while others paddled into them.  There were a few odd swims but they were far and few between as the majority managed to navigate down river with relative ease to the take out were the minibus was reloaded and we set off to Slovenia.


David Brockway                                             More Photos…..




Day 2 Alps 2015 – 02 Soca Kortinica to Trnovo Slalom Course

After a very hot night we awoke to a very hot morning. In daylight we could see the beauty of our surroundings and if we listened carefully could hear the whisper of the river from the edge of the campsite.   With the mercury rising a few of us headed down for an early dip and we where met by the crystal clear water of a small pool which would later be our get in point.  Sara the instigated of the early morning expedition took the first dip soon followed by Leanne.

The river certainly cooled us down, no wonder the river bank was strewn with bottles of beer, milk and other fridge based goods. My it was chilly.


Once all re-United we soon gathered at the get in boats and B.A.'s at the ready. Some braving the cag-less approach while others were a little less optimistic!

Any how we soon set off into the clear crystal water with white rock beneath and made our way around the large boulders and rocks. Soon we reached a large flat section where I managed to break my camera mount trying to take an aerial shot by throwing my camera in the air. It seemed like a good idea at the time!!!

After a long winding section we saw a huge slap - Slovenian for waterfall to our river right.  It was spectacular as it fell down the white rocks in the distance.

After this we reached another bolder type section, great practice for us all the wind in and out of the rocks. After this point we reached the 'slalom' course. Apparently a grade 4/5 in low water I heard it was a grade 3.  A few clever souls left at this point and headed for pizza and beer, but for me the prospect of a nice open river with a few features to hop around or play in was quire enticing.   This was far from the truth, we where met by a large fast flowing bolder garden, for me not far from the limit of my ability.   After a few silly errors ending in a swim it was advised to be more aggressive and decisive as to where I was going and what I was doing. The advice woke me up and we made it through the get out. I'm so glad I never knew about the siphon after the get out.

After a hard climb out of the river we were re-united with the others who had found a bar, pizza and many beers.


A good day was had by all.


Sarah Gille                                            More Photos…………


Day 3 Alps 2015 – 03 Soca Bunkerji to Cezsoca


Today started off with a quick recce, Keith, Sara, Chris,  Sam and myself set off to scout out the upper Soca, The put ins were mainly down long steep paths but each one looked very welcoming with the beautiful colour off the water. After a couple of hours we arrived back at the campsite with a plan for the day’s paddling. The cars were loaded and the minibus was ready so we set off to the first drop off.


At the put in we split into three groups of five and set off. We had entered the river mid way through a tricky grade three section which John C quickly made look a little harder as he fell out just as we started (Editors note, John was apparently just trying to tickle a nice fish he’d spotted for tea, and it was only a technical step out….). Although the water was low and the grade of the rivers are running a half grade lower than normal, the boulder gardens are still difficult in places because they become more technical as you really have to work hard to position the boat in order to negotiate the drops without slamming up against the next wall of rock. Eddie hopping our way carefully we continued our way through stunning valley all the time marvelling at the turquoise waters. Eventually we came to a constriction where we dropped through a narrow slot one by one. Sarah somehow managed to mount the rock too far on the right and ended up pinned at a precarious angle. Both Sara and Keith tried to free her until Keith decided to dump her on her head and let her fend for herself, which she did admirably with a nice roll up in the pool below. However, flush with all the excitement she was struck with indecision at the two possible lines past the looming large bolder and decided to try one rocky roll too far….Mark, who was a beast all day, watched on intently, just in case his rescue skills in his borrowed German style full face helmet required the opportunity to practice another chin roll, this time with protection (Editors note again, Mark said remember, he was a beast….)


The next major feature was the entrance to a grade 4 gorge. Although a little more forgiving in these levels it was still a committing drop into pushy boily water with a slight undercut thrown in. One by one everyone stepped up (eventually) and successfully negotiated the drop. There was quite a bit of indecision at the top looking at rocky line in to a fast flowing drop into the turbulent water with the rock faces either side waiting to grab the unwary but with a bit of limbo and puffed cheeks even Kirk made it through without pulling the ejector loop (and spent the next ten minutes in mild hysteria at his awesome skills….). Waiting for us at the other end of the gorge were Peter, Caz and Dom to start the next section. But we then realised we had managed to send Leanne off solo down a riverside path with numerous forks and a very optimistic (short) estimate of distance. Search parties mobilised but struggled to find her, until reports filtered up river of a young woman teaching German paddlers the lyrics to Hey Jude. Safely reunited, the team set of on the final scenic section to complete another great day.


Kirk Williams, Chris Murphy and John Cooke                                                      More Photos…….


Day 4 Alps 2015 – 04 Soca Otena to Tolmin


Today’s paddle started with a bracing walk in the baking heat to the start of a great section of the river just below the most dangerous section on the river. Without doing the walk I you’d never understand why people would choose to run the dangerous section above, but after struggling down the narrow, very steep path in sweltering heat for what seemed a very long time even the most timid where entertaining crazy thoughts of “how hard can it be….”. Still, emerging at the bottom to an idyllic pool above a nasty rocky looking opening feature was a welcome relief. The advance party decided to take the opportunity for cooling swims, rock jumps and general lazing around content in the knowledge that only fools would attempt the bolder strewn drop. We kept quiet about putting in below it when the shuttle party arrived and all styled it one by one without any inspection. Mark, obviously, was still a beast.


We then set off on one of the best of many beautiful and scenic paddling sections on a great river, full of testing but enjoyable rapids for the full range of the group.


This was the distance paddle of the week, with a super long flat water paddle down to Tolmin, with only occasional minor features to break up what was quite a test of endurance, if a very relaxed and scenic one.

Breaking up an otherwise sedate section, Fiona decided to fall in over a rock about the size of a sandwich box on a really flat grade 0 section. Amidst our howls of laughter and shouts of encouragement (some misinterpreted as sarcastic), Sarah jumped out of her boat in rescue mode to help her friend in dire need. Unfortunately, in all the excitement of preventing any further damage to the diamante bling on Fiona’s helmet, Sarah’s boat made a break for freedom with only Kirk in hot pursuit in the mighty trickle. Eventually, Keith stepped in with his sling and karbiner to drag the boat to safety, although his threat to drag it down to the bottom to “teach her to keep hold of her boat” seemed a tad harsh. Especially as Sara was far more magnanimous when she found the karabiner he had inexplicably dropped in the heat of the action. 


Kirk Williams, Chris Murphy and John Cooke                                                        More Photos…….

Day 5 Alps 2015 – 05 Soca Kortinica to Trnovo Slalom Course


After much debate on Wednesday evening, Chris finally got the team to understand Keith’s plan for today, and it turned out to be an earlier replay of Day 2 with a campsite put in and run down to Trnovo. The target start time was an ambitious 9am in order to allow for an early finish and return to collect gear & food for a BBQ up at the beautiful paddling restricted (ecological reasons) gorge on the upper Soca above the Lepenja confluence. As the clock ticked past 9am, a few tardy paddlers were still eating breakfast and messing about, resulting in the expected barbed comments. However, Chris and Kirk were experienced enough to know that they would still beat Mark on to the water, even with a mini 100m shuttle from Marianne for his gear to the river. We had another brew, put on some sun tan cream and the got on the water to wait…..


Mark was a beast again today, but we also saw a new side to the Silver Fox. An eventful rapid provided the opportunity for him to give a demonstration of advanced rescue techniques so he set of with a cheery “I’ll just go and help these out” to Nick. His delivery of psychological comfort and “it could happen to anyone” support was much appreciated.


Meanwhile from an eddie further down the river we had a perfect view of carnage corner from where we saw three unmanned boats floating past. It turns out it wasn’t just the Fox that had got his tail wet as Fiona and Leanne threw themselves out of their boats in sympathy. Pete and Carol had done brilliantly up to this point and were feeling very chuffed that they had survived this tricky section. Pete had inspected the river bed from close quarters on a couple of occasions but Carol remained swim free until the final hundred yards. This boulder river centre also caught out Pete but in truth it was Kirk who led him down a crap line. Pete’s last act before he disappeared beneath the water was to reach up and push Kirk back upright. Selfless to the last, unlike Kirk who didn’t give his saviour a backward glance.


We carried on to the top of the Slalom course were we met the overworked support crew who had had another busy day doing not very much at all really. Chris, Keith, Stu and David carried on to run the Slalom course. This toughest section on the Soca wasn’t without incident as David somehow managed a swim out of view of the rest of us. As we didn’t see what caused this I’m afraid we will never know for sure what happened. You will have to ask David! After another lung gasping walk out we were more than ready to hit the road and get ready for an afternoon BBQ.


After the shuttle back to camp and a quick trip to the supermarket we set off for the BBQ up at the Eco gorge. Sara set off on her bike and we passed her on the way.  The fires were loaded with coals and we went off to jump, dive, attempt a high five and generally mess about at the Gorge.  After the food, including two wasps, we walked up the gorge to get some photo’s. First of all was the boys then the girls then Kirk feeling Gerry up! Just before it was time to leave a sudden gust of wind blew my umbrella into the river and without hesitation Captain Kirk flew in to action and a successful recovery was made  All through out the evening the thunder was rumbling and on the way home Sara was caught out in the rain. 

Back at camp it was off to the bar to have a pint in celebration of Kurt’s birthday.


John Cooke, Kirk Williams, Chris Murphy.                                                                   More Photos………….

Day 6 Alps 2015 – 06 Soca Velika (Eco Gorge) to Cezsoca


This was to be our final paddle in Slovenia! Starting off at the Eco Gorge, where we had a bbq the previous night. We got on the river for 11:15, we had been blessed with another amazing day of sunshine! It was a shame that Nick and Mark couldn't make it. (They took the day off to do laundry!)
 Before we set off we split into three groups of five. Ours the second was lead by Chris; which contained myself, Helen, Pete and Leanne. Progress was slow and a scrape but we soon got going. The first major rapid we encountered was a grade three boulder garden with little pool drops. We had a few swims and bashed knees here and there, but everyone was still smiling! The rapids continued for about 500 meters, everyone was down in one piece.
 Around the next bend we found a slide that was going off the top of gorge wall. The Silver Fox thought this to be the perfect opportunity to show off his silky skills! It was a good eight foot drop onto unbroken water and some seemed a little anxious at the thought, while the rest couldn't wait to see the Fox swim. Kirk and Sam had to help in the process as foxes aren't that strong. He ended up styling the drop with his assistants jumping in after to add to the effect!

Shortly after the heavens opened up which laid a think layer of mist over the river, which added a new element to the paddle. Making everything seem more interesting. Out of nowhere a dog appeared floating towards us, this mysterious hound turned out to be a part of the mountain rescue team! (Also smashing zip lines on a regular basis!) We ended the day on an Ice cream from the page 3 hut, never to return again!


Kurt Toulson        More Photos…….


Day 7 Alps 2015 – 07 Venice

Once upon a time, there was a city far far away. A city of amazing ice cream, pizza, coffee, water ways for streets and spectacular architecture. This city, is of course, Venice.


After our last visit to the supermarket in Slovenia, Keith, Mark and I studied the route to France. We discovered that we would be driving a few miles away from Venice. This was surely too close to not visit it. After some gentle persuasion Keith agreed we could go!!!


 We left the camp site at 6 am and drove to Venice. We parked in a car park at the edge of the city intending to get a water bus. We were approached by an Italian dude (who also clearly enjoyed the local cuisine).  He told us he could take us in a private water taxi to St. Marks square if we were willing to pay a stupid amount of money! After some negotiation (some may say flirting) we agreed a price cheaper than the public water bus. It was like something out of a James Bond film, amazing!!!

 We arrived close to St. Marks square which is by the way, stunning! We walked around taking in the atmosphere, ice cream, coffees and churches. We then took a gondola ride around the “streets” where we saw houses where Marco Polo and Caser Nova once lived and of course we sang “just one cornetto”.  Well I did!


We got the water taxi back to the car park and were away, all in about 3 hours! This is by far the best “services” we have ever stopped at on an LCC journey. A truly magical experience that now seems serial and to quote Pete “Did we just dream that??”  Loved it, I’m now working on Paris for the way home!


Fiona Barry                                            More Photographs…….

Day 7 Alps 2015 – Le Argentiere la Bassee

When we arrived we set up camp in the usual spot – site numbers 1, 2 and 3.  We had just managed to make the supermarket before they shut so were all set for evening meals and breakfast.  There was the annual Le Argentiere la Bassee sport climbing competition in the town and some of us wandered into town to watch the finals.  The photograph on the right shows the presentations to the winners.

Day 8 Alps 2015 – 08 Le Argentiere la Bassee to St Clements


A relatively leisurely start gave us time to head for the supermarket to sort out lunches and our evening meal but, for those who already knew the lay of the land, a visit to the near-by bakers kicked the day off with decent coffee and pan aux chocolate and then a second breakfast back at the campsite.


Some of our regulars headed up to the start of the slalom course above the campsite while the less intrepid moved boats to a decent vantage point to watch the fun and games. Although the river was running faster than most of the sections we had run in Slovenia, it wasn’t a match for the Imst Gorge that we ran at the beginning of the holiday, so I felt reasonably happy pushing off from the bankside and into the glacial till laden grey water. A stiff back gained after a bit of an upside down tumble on one of the drops in the upper Soca Gorge a couple of days earlier, soon began to loosen up and I started to enjoy the river.


We were a large group so were split up into more manageable sizes but, at grade 2, the river was mostly a cruise and we all began to relax and mingle with other groups when sitting in the large eddies.


Perhaps one of the trickiest sections was a meandering kilometre or so that was lined with ugly looking strainers formed from fallen trees and shrubs. Leading our group, Stuart did a great job of keeping me out of harm’s way in this stretch and I was conscious of him placing himself frequently between me and the trap hazards. Thanks Stuart!


Bend after bend, wave train after wave train, we eventually reached another section of slalom course where Keith separated out us green horns and got us to run each feature and eddy out immediately afterwards to watch our more experienced paddlers play on them. It looked like a lot of fun and I was very tempted to get stuck in but my nagging back pain gave me an all too easy excuse not to push too far outside of my comfort zone. Maybe next time!


The get out was immediately after the slalom section but a handful of the team took advantage of the impressive man-made small canal built alongside the river, to get back up to the start of the course. Sarah managed to run it 4 or 5 times before finally packing in once the shuttle had arrived.


A great introduction to the delights of French rivers and, despite the water not being as beautiful as in Slovenia, we all enjoyed the great views and each other’s company.


Once in the bus, we headed up the valley to Le Lac du Roche le Rame where we spent a happy 30 minutes chilling out before heading back to our camp in Argentiere.


Pete Thomas                                            More Photographs…….

Day 9 Alps 2015 – 09a Le Casset to Chantemerie  Upper Guisane 11km  grade 3


We set of for day 9 paddle at 9.00, and headed for Le Casset which is the put in for the Upper Guisane, which according to the guide book flows in a classic U shaped valley with huge cliff faces and hanging valleys, I did miss some of this as I was concentrating on the water in front of me and Keith’s back as I followed him down the fast flowing river, at least it seemed fast to me.


We had split into 3 groups of five and headed down river fairly quickly as there were very few places to eddy out, after a very enjoyable run and with confidence building I did manage to look around at the fantastic mountain scenery, and for one second thought it would be great to be walking up there on the tops, but quickly concentration back to the river, we were approaching the S bends which is the hardest section of the river and can take paddlers unawares (says the guide book and any swims can be long rough and cold).


We got out just before the start of the S bends, 4 of us were going to portage and the rest of the team were going to run it, while we were sorting the portage, Doms` friends from Phoenix Canoe Club (Cork) caught us up and started the run before us, causing a little delay as 2 of them had a swim, and as I stood at the get in below the bends 2 empty boats a paddle and a throw bag went passed at a fair lick, Sara who had just finished the run set of to rescue what she could.  Keith ran it last and back in the water I followed down to a gravel bank where we all re grouped.


Setting of for the next section, Keith put me in front for some of the way this was good but I needed to concentrate in case something unexpected presented it self, we finally came to the get out at the lovely ski village of Chantemerie, where we all got out for lunch.  The better paddlers of the team were then going to run the lower Guisane, which is another story.


Pete and Dom who were having a day off meet us with the bus, and after 2hours of relaxation we set off to pick up the lower Guisane team.


We finished the day with a visit to the Grande SuperMarche where Fiona spent a huge 98 cents!! As we were all going to have Pizza only to find on arriving back at the campsite that it was shut. What were we going to have for Tea ???


A great confidence building and enjoyable paddle for me.


Carole Thomas                                            More Photographs…….

Day 9 Alps 2015 – 09b Chantemerie to Briancon Lower Guisane 8km  grade 4


“The insane Guisane”

Our run of the lower Guisane started by our selecting teams. Keith was to lead with Sara, David, Mark. Our team had been boosted by two top Irish paddlers , Connor  who is in the Irish surf team and Rooan. We decided that Kurt should lead our team as he has a super human ability to avoid boulders and pick clean lines. My super human ability to drink a bottle of beer without getting wasps in it may have been needed later.


Keith's team led through Shelobs weir, this is a concrete sectional bridge that forms a long dark tunnel full of rubble and concrete.  All went well with team one until Mark decided he needed a little " Me time " against a boulder. 


Continuing on brought increasing wave trains and boulders, before the mandatory portage of the weir at le Pont Carle.  Rejoining the river brought continuous rapids of increasing furry now grade 4, at this point I decided do throw in a few rolls (all that time in the Widnes pool had worked). We eddy hopped down the twisting lines and blind corners, often resorting to the odd cuss brace.


Finally the river mellowed out a little as we wound our way through the houses of Breancon and to the get out. A fantastic paddle!!


Paddlers: Sara, Keith, David, Mark G, Kurt, Connor and Rooan


Stuart Toulson                                            More Photographs……

Day 10 Alps 2015 – 10a Upper Ubaye


An early start on the van leaving the campsite at eight am saw us start our long drive to the get in on the upper Ubay.   We made an early stop to buy baguettes and view fancy French pastries in a patisserie best known for short changing Chris Murphy on a previous visit.   Lunch bought and change carefully counted we continued on our way.  Near the get in we passed a village called Barcelonette which some believe gave the world cantilevered underwear. At La Condamine we split into our groups and started our descent. The trip was approx 11 km of grade 2-3 to the get out at Jausiers.


We took turns in leading down the river avoiding rocks finding eddies and generally moving round the river with some style and elegance, no swims towering mountains sunshine and great companions all meant we had a brilliant experience and everyones paddling had improved loads after our week in Slovenia. Soon we rounded the final bend and reached the get out and lunch .The afternoon was to be the Ubaye racecourse which would be a horse of a different colour.


Thanks to all our team. Sarah Gille, Pete, Thomas, David Brockway and Mark Garrod


Dom Buckley                                            More Photographs……


Day 10 Alps 2015 – 10b Le Fresquieres to Le Martinet


Grade  5  2.5km   time about 1 hour


“A powerful section; big water; enormous stoppers. The first rapid has changed a lot as a result of a landslide in recent years and has some very jagged rocks so this section is not really to be recommended.”  Alpine Playground…..


Keith and I were keen to run this section again so Stuart dropped us off at Le Fresquieres bridge and watched as we paddled off between many of the giant boulders near the start of this steep and powerful section.  The level was fairly low but the pour-overs still powerful enough to hold you if you got it wrong.  At the first really difficult drop we were a little cautious with only the two of us so we carried over the large boulder and put in avoiding the difficult first drop.  This still gave us a difficult run out rapid with some powerful waves.


A little further on and we were below the road and we ran the next drop on-sight through some difficult boulders and channels.  This led to the short 500m run down to the raft get in at Le Martinet and the rest of the group sunning themselves on the beach.  A great run but does need some confident paddling.

Kurt Toulson                                            More Photographs……


Day 10 Alps 2015 – 10c The Ubaye Race Course


Following a lazy lunch of cheese and tomato baguette, the first bouncy ride down the Racecourse is always a bit of a jolt to the system. Levels seemed lower than in previous years but it was still wise to be switched on for the initial bounce. The Ubaye was disappointingly grey and murky due to a lot of silt which was being deposited as dark silky mud all over the place.

A weird line around the first huge boulder was taken, could have sworn river left was much more straight forward - meh! Once we had all settled down, it was a pleasant bounce around the never ending bends of the Ubaye with a few rafts getting in the way. despite the grey colour of the water, a glance behind you revealed fantastic views of the rising peaks in the valley.

More continuous rapids and then the "Sharks Tooth" is soon upon us.  This was very straight forward in these levels and everyone got through without any nonsense. A few gnarly members of the LCC entourage didn't waste any opportunity for a spot of playboating whilst waiting for everyone to get through.

We stopped for our usual photo opportunity just before the rapid which takes you under the Roman Bridge and into the gorge. This is a straightforward drop into a bouncy rapid which everyone nailed with ease.

A few more bends and rapids and we were soon at the get out in Le Lauzet. A final haul over the rocks and a snarl at cocky raft guides and their silly hair.


Helen Siertsema                                            More Photographs……


Day 11 Alps 2015 – 11 Lower Guil to Rabioux


Whilst waiting for the shuttle we recognised a familiar boat on the opposite bank. This was Sara’s boat to which she said early she wasn’t paddling but obviously after discussion back at camp with Aid she decided to paddle with him and friends. So we waved her on by as she passed with her favoured group of paddlers for the day. After a long wait we got sight of Tony and Keith crossing over the bridge. As they met us on the river bank everyone geared themselves up.


We all got onto to the river and some of us braved the cold water to practice some rolling. Sarah with the normal roll for most however Sam with his nifty back deck roll. As we navigated on down the river as one large group we eddy out in order to then practice our break ins and outs. Then we carried on further on down river until we made another large eddy to where we could continue to practice doing our break ins and outs ready for Clements.


As we reached the end of the Guil it merged to join the Durance to which the group then drifted on down to St Clements. This to where Sam showed us how to style the play waves in his Jackson shame it’s not a Mamba though! After quick stop for some lunch there we then got back on and drifted down the big and bouncy waves trains to eventually reach the Rabioux wave. We eddy out near to the top car park to where Tony, Pete and Carole got off.


The rest of the group then paddled on down the usual left fork of the river and eddy hopped on down the left bank to a suitable place to shoot the Rabioux from. One by one we were signalled down and on the whole we were successful. Plus we needed to be with the two eagled eyed sea paddlers of Pete and Carole Thomas on the banks watching our lines. Once we all got down we all got out and watched a number of rafts, hotdogs and hydro speeds run the Rabioux.



David Brockway                                           More Photographs……


Day 12 Alps 2015 – 12a  Château-Queyras - Via ferrata


The day began in the minibus as usual as we went to scout the upper Guil. The plan was to run the upper Guil, stop at Chateau Queyras to do the Via Ferrata, lunch then run Chateau Q and some of the middle Guil. Unfortunately the upper Guil, which flows down from the mountains on the Franco Italian border, was very low and especially for myself as one of the "porkier" paddlers, would have been too much of a scrape.

It was therefore decided that we would do the Via Ferrata before lunch then paddle afterwards. I have never done any Via Ferrata before as I went for lunch in a nice restaurant last year [Plat du jour 15 Euros with wine] and missed all the fun. All of us without our own harnesses went and hired the relevant equipment and after a little safety briefing from Keith, off we went with Sam leading the way.


Our timing was out as we managed to hook on just after a family of mother and two sons. The younger boy was obviously part monkey but his older sibling had all the climbing ability and sure-footedness of a half hour old foal. As we began to edge along the rocky gorge everyone who had done it before noticed that the route had changed, with both the bridges over the gorge decommissioned.


About half way along a couple of the new bits involved edging along a bridge consisting of three steel cables, two as handrails and one to walk on. I did look back to see how Helen, who is not keen on heights, was coping but she seemed OK so I set off across after Stu and Kurt. There seemed to be a bit of a tricky climb to get off the bridge and "foal boy" was struggling thus causing a bit of a backlog with more and more people stepping onto the bridge. I did have a little prayer to the French god of epoxy resin as that was how the bolts were fixed into the rock but all was well, unlike some later not as important bolts pointed out to me by Stu. After another bridge and a bit more climbing we reached the end and walked back down the road to the start, disappointing the people who had been looking forward to an ice cream from the shop at the top [who's owner is now probably destitute]


Nick Coughlin                                           More Photographs……


Day 12 Alps 2015 – 12b  Château-Queyras Gorge


I had been looking down into the Chateau-Queyras gorge as I climbed and thought "that doesn't look too bad" as lots of things do when you look back upstream at them so when asked if I was going to run it I said yes.  Note to self: next time attempting something like this have little warm up paddle first.


I got down the first half OK and without incident but then came to a narrower section that was a bit like a corkscrew under an overhanging rock, now I know you're supposed to "love" the rocks and lean towards them but at the speed I was going I didn't fancy smashing my head against it so leaned away, flow to the edge and over I went. I can see from my camera footage that I tried to roll three times but every time the boat got halfway up I was banged back against the rock wall. I only swam down the next drop and was rescued by Kurt [again, Thanks Mate] and back in my boat. Then managed to get stuck on a rock after breaking out but was pushed into the flow by a passing Sarah [Thanks Mate]


There was a tricky bouldery bit at the end because the levels were low but everyone got through OK.


Thanks to my fellow paddlers; Sarah, Helen, Sam, Stu, Keith and Kurt.


Nick Coughlin                                             More Photographs……




Day 12 Alps 2015 – 12c  Middle Guil


Well at this point in time, I shouldn’t be paddling as my poor dagger nomad had gained an extra drainage hole.  Unfortunately this was on the hull and no bung would fit this beauty, as it is very useful to empty the kayak, it was not as useful as staying afloat while on the river! Thanks to a very kind member of the club, they let me borrow their very unique pink Pyranha burn (as it was the mark 3, I thought a test drive would be good). I was very eager to get on the water and was suited and booted within minutes, being the last one to get dressed and the first on the water surfing the… eddy!


Shuttle done, we started by the gauges at the road bridge and we split into groups with myself leading the first group. Later on I realise that Carol was leading the way with style, positioning herself perfect for every rapid. With some tight and technical lines to find with few eddies, we progressed smoothly down the grade 2/3 section. This section of river was certainly less shallow so I could afford to play around a little without damaging the ‘£1500’ boat I was in.

As we approached surprise drop, we eddied out and waited for the following group. This is where some paddlers got out to consolidate their awesome skills just performed on the previous section… “Don’t touch that boat Pete!!!”

From here, Keith, Sara, Sam, Stuart, Kurt and I continued on down the grade 4+ section. At this point I had made my mind up with what boat will have the pleasure of ‘the beast’ for the foreseeable future, when funds allow! This made it relatively easy to play down this section with the odd boof here and there (without leaving any plastic behind). A really enjoyable section of rapids with small drops, stoppers and waves only managed to trip up one member of the group, but we won’t mention their name, no it wasn’t Keith, Sara, Sam, Kurt or myself.

After a quick self-rescue came a long wait for Kurt to empty his full boat as he tried to help with the rescue. Continuing on, we approached ‘staircase’ but as we were short on time, we jumped off at the top and picked our line for next year, then got back on below. A bit further down river we could see the tunnel where the rest of the gang were waiting for us, cameras at the ready! We all styled the last rapid as that would be unprofessional to mess it up on camera, before getting our boats chauffeured up to the minibus… “Pete! Leave that boat alone!!!”

Great section of river, thoroughly enjoyed by all, now im off to find a good deal on a new Pyranha Burn Mark 3… See Ya!!

Mark Garrod                                             More Photographs……


Day 12 Alps 2015 – 12d Mountain biking from the Col Du Galiber to Briacon

After initially failing to get a bike for the day due to being there too early I (David) decided to return to camp and I went back an hour later. On my return to the shop it was really quick and easy to secure a bike so I was soon on my way back to camp. Once back camp I rode around a while to test out the bike and eventually I bumped into my fellow biker for the day Mark Benson. We discussed a plan of action for the day which was to drive to Col Du Galiber and ride the track down the valley and along the Guisane to finish up in Briancon.


The plan was to set off around half 10 however we were going at the steady speed of Mark so we got away at 10 past 11. He drove whilst I took up the co driver seat and Marianne took up the rear seat. On our way up to the Col we were taken aback by the scenery of the towering mountains. Once at the Col Du Galibier we endure some difficulty with one of the bike racks so some force by Benson was needed to get his bike off the rack.


Eventually when we got under way it was just gone 12. We searched for the put in and off we went on our decent. It was steep and rocky decent which meander on down. Occasionally we made a break out in order to capture the surroundings which including a glacier among many cows and the odd donkey. Once we reached the road we had to ascend in order to reach Col Du Lautaret were Marianne met us for a sport of lunch.


At about 10 past 2 we searched for out next put in which did take us a while. This decent was more gradual than the previous one as there were fewer rocks to dodge. However about half way down this decent is when I realised to why my arms were taking a pounding and it due to forgetting to unlock my suspension from ascent just before lunch. After the correction my ride down the track took much less of a strain on my body.


Soon enough we reached the source of the Guisane. Then on from there we started to come across many small villages, It was in one of these villages that we stopped for an ice cream in which I kept it original with vanilla and Benson went for strawberry. As we ventured on from our ice cream at Le Cavallion bar we carried on the track following the Gusiane and as we did the area became more familiar with recognising the river (S Bends).


Finally we were nearing the end of our ride as we crossed the river at the put in for the lower Guisane and carried on the track mostly along the left bank of the river, Once we reached the take out at half 5 there was no Marianne and it turns out she decided to do a quick shop. So worried about time I left Mark and headed off back to the bike shop as I needed to get the bike back by 7. I managed to do an hour’s ride in just over thirty minutes even seeing off a road bike on the way.


Cheers to Mark Benson for a great ride down the Col’s!!!


David Brockway                                           More Photographs……


Day 13 Alps 2015 – 13 Lower Durance (Sunshine run)


We ran the Sunshine run in one large group of nine- some paddlers needed a day off to recover from the two weeks worth of strenuous paddling and non-paddling antics and some simply wanted to utalise their last chance to soak up the rays. We started our paddle at St Clement slalom course. While Carol, Dom and Pete took the opportunity to show off their stylish breaking in and out skills the rest had a go at surfing. Fiona and Nick surfed across the waves stylishly and with no carnage. Sara showed off her play boating skills in Sam’s boat- while Sarah took photo footage to teach Sam a few tricks. Fiona (aka Mark in Fiona’s boat) and Keith demonstrated to the group how surfing is done. David had a late arrival to the water after buying his new shoes but surfed effortless. Mark Benson was so skilful that he was able to chat on the phone- I think while surfing!


After playing on the slalom course we drifted down the river enjoying the wave trains, sunshine and the no so enjoyable confused water before arriving at the Rab Wave. While Keith prepped the group well ensuring that we were positioned in a good eddie and advised us of the best line many of the group still appeared anxious. Keith, David, Mark and Sara taking a left line all wizzed through without flinching. Sarah then smashed through the middle with no problems, skilfully positioning herself in the closest eddie to take photos. Pete then bravely bit the bullet and volunteered to go next. Testing the LCC tradition he asked Ms Rab’s permission to let him through which seemed to work as he floated on through with little effort- I think the wave actually parted to let him through.


I went through next with less success but luckily got T-rescued by David who was waiting to pick up the carnage. Dom styled the Rab with a slight roll afterwards but gained enough gloating material to end his white water career on a high. Nick also styled it with little effort and enthusiasm to have a second run. Carol followed bravely but took a swim but enjoyed her first experience of taking on the Rab. Carol and I have vowed to ask Mrs Rab’s permission to let us through next time! Mark Benson smashed straight through- I think while still on the phone. Keith and David really showed off their skills by surfing the Rab, Sarah and I decided to swim through while the group enjoyed a sunny lunch while watching all the carnage of other kayaker’s and rafters.


After lunch we then set off to take on the wave trains down to Embrun. Sarah styled the waves by going down backwards to snap the rest of the group who put a bit more effort in to remain upright. Meanwhile the seasoned sea kayakers made the wave trains look like flat water paddling! Sara and David maximised every opportunity to surf every stopper possible and gave us good viewing at the two surf spots.


Overall it was a really enjoyable sunny paddle and a great way to end a fabulous two weeks of paddling. We ended the day off with a BBQ with our Cork allies while Dom was able to recall how he styled the Rab wave.


Thanks to all involved in this paddle and all paddles during the trip- the river leaders, those who picked up the carnage and simply those that made the paddles great fun!


Leanne Murray                                             More Photographs……

Day 14 Alps 2015 – 14 Departure Day – The Gyronde


The weather forecast had been showing a damp departure day and sure enough the rains came on the Friday evening and carried on through the night. By morning the Durance was running fast and brown. I had been hoping that the rain would make for a good last day run on the Lower Gyronde, but maybe there was now too much of a good thing.   Not everyone was up for a last minute paddle, so it was just Keith, Sara, David and I making our way up in the direction of Vallouise, courtesy of Pete supported by Sarah (thanks both!). 


The van pulled over and now came the first surprise for me; it’s been a couple of years since I was on the Alps trip and it turns out that the “normal “get-on is now at the top of the harder (Gr IV) section by Les Vigneaux;  I was expecting enough of a challenge for me with the Gr III section almost 2 Km down-river!  Oh well, a hike down the path was to ensue. In fact, the whole team portaged the first 750 metres or so, as the upper part of the river was looking too risky considering this was supposed to be a drama-free quick run back to camp. 


Leaving the rest of the team to put-in, I kept on portaging along the track following the river down to the road bridge. I arrived just as Keith appeared in an eddy, closely followed by Sarah and David. 


At last, if with a little apprehension at the speed of the water flowing past the eddy, I was in my kayak and ready to launch.  Following Sara’s lines helped me avoid the initial two or three larger pour-overs as I got used to river and started to enjoy the first of the many wave-trains created by the high flow conditions.


Keith led the eddy-hopping to control our descent, especially as we approached the weir. This we sneaked around, well away from the main flow.  Now the river eased, and we enjoyed the conveyor belt to the Durance confluence and on to the top of the slalom course which by now was running black on one side.  The swirling slabs of water provided a final challenge or entertainment, depending on the paddler, and all too soon we were at the get-out and hauling our boats towards transport home.    A good end to a fortnight of varied river paddling.


Mark Benson                                             More Photographs……