Alpine Paddling Holiday 2019 – The Full Write Up


Alpine Paddling Holiday 2019

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Major Trip Reports.…

Each year the club runs a trip to the Ecrin National Park in the South of France. We paddle many of the exciting rivers, walk up to local glaciers, watch the Tour de France, cycle, Via Ferrata and explore the local villages, towns and culture.

This year’s full account can be found in the trip reports section of the clubs website…..

French Alps 2019 paddling trip – French Alps 2019 paddling trip

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 14 The Lower Gyronde by Keith

It was the last day and only 5 paddlers were up for the early morning challenge of a quick trip down the Gyronde onto the Durance and down to the slalom site. We were to be a team of 6, but the “Welsh Wizard” was still under a sleepy spell. We drove out of the campsite at 8:00am leaving the others to start to pack away the camp.

We put on under the campsite bridge (the lower one!) and paddled off being pushed quickly along by the fast-flowing water. They were still working on the dam and HEP Scheme above so all of the Gyr`s water flowed directly into the Gyronde making it a great level for paddling.

It was an exhilarating paddle into the gorge with the water flowing over most of the normally exposed boulders. We stopped in only two eddies, just long enough to catch our breath before heading on down to the weir. This is now well signed, and the potentially boat pinning boulders have all been swept well to river right by high floods.

Without stopping we followed the flow over the middle of the weir and on down below. Ian did talk a line slightly over to the right and glanced one of the boulders, but all ended well.

Hannah lead the last section though the mini gorge. No sign of the old embedded bicycle wheel and we were soon swept on towards the confluence with Durance. Plenty of water sped us down through the town and under the old Hydro Electric pipe that used to feed the power plant for the old Aluminium works. Without so much of a single breakout we then charged on down through the slalom course. A quick glance at my watch indicated that it taken us exactly 30 minutes from campsite to campsite, surely a record for the traditional last days paddle.

More photographs……….

French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 12b The Ubaye Racecourse by Martin Aldridge

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 12b The Ubaye Racecourse by Martin Aldridge

Off the Upper and the shuttle complete, we all stopped for some lunch in the glowing sunshine. I on the other hand, returned to patching my boat, which to be fair had been holding up surprisingly well all things considered, but needed a bit more TLC to protect the crack.

A choice was then offered – people could paddle, or people could relax at the lake, get some rays and play on the SUPs. Some chose relaxation, whilst others chose crazy paddling instead 😊.

Boats loaded and then on the road we went, for what seemed like ages. At the get in, boats unloaded and off to shuttle again, as a very nice man (who should have been paddling) offered to bring us back without the need for a shuttle at the end.

Groups sorted, on the water we went for my boats retirement paddle ☹. Then I started seeing things, I was sure I could see a Helen doppelganger, but wasn’t she back at camp? Thankfully it turns out it was Helen, who had magically appeared with a different group – I’m being told there’ll be a separate write-up, but we’ll see.

Even though the water levels were lower, you still couldn’t see the rocks, the water being the same colour.

Sarah: “what did we do today”; Martin: “hit a lot of rocks”

Our illustrious leader took point and meandered his way between the rocks. An amazing river and well worth the paddle even if low, we all got to the get off having successfully navigated our way down, to then enter the actual carnage of the day, the raft get off.

What a palaver. Absolute chaos, with idiots parking and even bigger idiots being impatient. Nevertheless, the crack team of trailer movers came into play and unhitched the trailer, reversed the bus and rapidly throw the boats in.

So at this time as it’s my last day, we should probably tally up the leaders curse. So far, in chronological order:

  • Kirk: Swim
  • Nikki: Swim
  • Martin: Broken Boat
  • Keith: Broken Boat
  • Sarah: Swim
  • Helen: Swim
  • Ian: Hmmmmmm – me thinks tomorrow will be interesting

We all then headed to the lake, to relax and play on the SUPs. A perfect end to a perfect day.

More photographs……….

Skin On Frame Christmas Kayak by Roger Colman

Skin On Frame Christmas Kayak.

C:\Users\roger\Desktop\SOF 4.jpg C:\Users\roger\Desktop\SOF 3.jpg When my eldest lad gave me a Christmas card endorsed ‘do not open until Christmas Day’ and no actual pressie I thought, ah must be a voucher – better yet, cold hard cash.

I was wrong.

He had written inside that he was going to build me a Skin On Frame (SOF) Kayak and would source and buy all the material needed to do so. And he has.

It has taken a while, life happens to get in the way at times, but on the 1st November I took ‘Romeo Charlie 1’, as she is affectionally known, on her maiden voyage. In truth I was somewhat nervous about this. (I was concerned that with all the time, effort and cost he had put into it even if it was crap I would have to keep it.) I should have had more confidence in Russell, who really enjoys woodwork in his limited spare time and has already made a number of really nice, top quality pieces, although of course nothing like this.

C:\Users\roger\Desktop\SOF 6.jpg She paddled straight and true, seemed fast and turned beautifully on an edge.

C:\Users\roger\Desktop\sof 8.jpg For those of you who are interested, after a lot of research Russell chose to follow the main instructions, initially, by Native Waters on the Instructibles website. However these were modified quite a bit to suit the keyhole cockpit that I wanted. We also looked at Kudzu Craft Skin Boats and Cape Falcon, among others, and this helped when deciding on how to do the skin. He used Spruce for the keel, gunnels and stringers and oak for the ribs and cockpit. Initial steam bending of the ribs was time consuming, wasteful and basically a failure. Further research, building a new and better steam box and experimenting with the amount of time soaking the oak before steaming paid off. The boat is skinned in polyester, we decided against ballistic nylon for the reasons explained by Kudzu and the coating is oil-based paint.

Why is ‘Romeo Charlie 1’ chocolate in colour? My grandchildren insisted.

Why does it have a keyhole cockpit? I insisted.

Now I know many of the Greenland style purist kayakers will be horrified. It should of course have an ocean cockpit but it is my kayak and I need to get in and out of it. So a keyhole C:\Users\roger\Desktop\SOF 7.jpg cockpit is what I asked for – End of!

Building the kayak was a new and exciting challenge for Russell. One he has learnt a great deal from and found to be a joy. (Not so Karen, my daughter-in-law, who had it stuck in her dining room for over two months – Sorry about that Karen.) He took the opportunity to experiment on a few things, there are three different stitching techniques used on the skin for example, and would do some things differently. But from the trial run it is a great C:\Users\roger\Desktop\SOF 5.jpg success and he is keen to try his hand at another, possibly the F1 by Cape Falcon.

I have no idea where Russell got his woodworking skills, certainly not me. I am currently trying to put in a seat, seat back and thigh braces which I am finding all a bit much. Still if I get stuck I can pop it back to Russell, he will sort it for me. Anyway once that is done you may well see me in my SOF kayak down at the docks. If so and you are have the urge you are more than welcome to poke your head in my cockpit – if you know what I mean!


(Now I should really sell one of my other three kayaks as I need the space. I will probably get rid of the Quest LV.)

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the Swellies – Brian Green

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the Swellies – Brian Green

On Saturday I enjoyed a cracking SUP trip on my new (to me) Red Paddle Board Explorer 13’2″.

As I’m a sea kayaker first and foremost and know the Menai Straits really well I decided to make this the venue for my first long’ish stand up paddle board trip.

Setting off from Moel y Don with easy parking just feet from the Anglesey shore I took the last of the flood tide heading north past the stunning National Trust property and home of the Marquis of Anglesey Plas Newydd House and Garden and onwards under first the Britannia Bridge, then through The No photo description available. Swellies and under the magnificent Menai Bridge.

As the tide had already begun to ebb as I reached the bridge it took some very determined paddling against the strengthening flow to make it through the first arch and into the quieter water beyond. Using some back eddies took me onwards and exploring of the small islands around Ynys Gaint was followed by lunch and a brief stop for an excellent ice cream at the Red Boat Ice Cream Parlour near the slip way in Menai Bridge.

My return took me back through The Swellies which were by now in places a mass of boils, whirlpools and grabby eddy lines which led to some ‘interesting’ paddling. Having survived The Swellies without a swim the next challenge was to remain upright on the board while negotiating wakes from the numerous high-speed power boats providing fun for the thrill seeking tourists.

All worked out well and I was soon back to my start point, deflating the board and re-packing the van for the journey home.

Ten miles, three and half hours and no swims was a pleasing result and will be just the first of many progressively longer trips I plan to do. Maybe a long way from the accomplishments of Cal Major – Paddle Against Plastic and my friend Roger Chandler, but hey you’ve got to start somewhere . . .

If anyone is interested in joining me on some longer SUP adventures give me a shout.

Brian Green

Contact members of the Canoe Club………

Llyn Padarn Peer Paddle – Saturday 3rd August 2019 Martin Eley

Llyn Padarn Peer Paddle – Saturday 3rd August 2019 Martin Eley

While a large number of the club were enjoying The Alps a group of 21 paddlers decided to opt for the more sedate waters of Llyn Padarn in Llanberis, North Wales.

The day started at 10:30am with people arriving and immediately thinking about food, after a few packed lunches were raided and bacon sandwiches consumed we were ready to get on the water.

Heading North West the conditions couldn’t have been better for a leisurely paddle to the top end of the lake and back.  There was hardly any wind and, while it was overcast it was lovely and warm.

After a break for lunch we then headed off to the south eastern end of the lake to explore some of the small inlets, bridges and the river that flows into the lake, then made our way slowly back.

After arriving back at the put in, a brief rolling/rescue practice session broke out.

The group consisted of a mix of hardened sea kayakers, regular paddlers, novices, one SUP and a couple of juniors who did incredibly well covering the 7k distance!

Llyn Padarn, is set in beautiful scenery and has Snowdonia as its backdrop and proved to be an excellent venue with some of the group commenting that they would certainly return.

All that was left was to pack up and make our way to Pete’s Eats for a well-earned dinner!

Thanks to everyone who came along.

Martin Eley

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 13 L’Argentière-la-Bessée to Embrun 2019 by Stuart and Kurt Toulson

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 13 L’Argentière-la-Bessée to Embrun 2019 by Stuart and Kurt Toulson

We departed the campsite on what was to be the club’s penultimate trip in the Alps this Year at 10am.

Most departed from the beach, whilst a few carried up to the top of the slalom course, a great cure for a hangover!!

The weather was perfect for this long paddle, we had a steady head wind to keep us cool in the scorching sun.

This being the second week of the trip, everyone was working together well as a team. This would be tested later in the trip.

Rounding a gentle bend, we were astonished to whiteness Helen at full flight. With the speed of 1000 gazelles she caught her boat, just before it drifted off on its own!

The next incident occurred at the undercut cliff, the location of one of last week’s swims.

As we approached, I thought I spotted a kayak wedged in the undercut. As we neared the cliff face, I saw it was a folded raft wedged fast. Luckily the crew were safe downstream.

We made contact with the raft guide and offered our services. A line was attached to the stricken raft, from the other side of the river a large team of us (10) tried to free it. We needed to try the pull from 3 different directions but finally managed to free it using a direct pull. Once free its buoyancy fired it vertically up the cliff and out into the flow of the river where it was pendulum it into an eddy. A very relieved raft guide thanked us, but I think owing to an international salvage agreement the club is now owed a lot of beers!!

We next arrived at the slalom course; Kurt broke out into an Eddie just below the first wave right on top of a French play boater in his carbon craft. Many of the team surfed the top wave and did some posing for Martin with the camera.

After a relaxing lunch we set off again into the wind and started to ride the increasing wave trains.

The next obstacle was the Rabioux wave, all went through with no swimmers, great effort!!

A little while later Kurt was relaxing and enjoying the sun with his legs out of the boat. A few paddlers tried to unseat him without any success. Sarah finally laid the smack down. – “Swimmer”

A short while later we arrived at the get out in time for BBQ shopping and final evening on the campsite.

More photographs……….

French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 12a The Upper Ubaye by Martin Aldridge

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 12a The Upper Ubaye by Martin Aldridge

Another “early” start (the definition of early varies throughout the group and has a strong correlation to the previous evenings activities). Whilst we’re on the subject of the previous evening, it was the groups evening out the night before. We ventured into Briancon old town and had a lovely evening with good food and a fewbottles of alcohol (one bottle of wine each in some people’s case – despite to say, early was any time before the afternoon really).

Off we went up to the Upper Ubaye, dropping off SUP’s and people at the lake at the end of the race course.

Having less water this time than last and considering we broke two boats last time, Keith decided to park the shuttle car a little sooner before the shallows. We also used the new get in, the fisherman friendly one, and to be honest a much easier access point. It was like a completely new river!

On we got for a rather shallow start, but the water picked up and we could float down the river for a pleasant G3- trip. Many boulders later we arrived at the “green” bridge, which was decidedly brown/rusty and marked the end of the trip. Many played in the boat killing wave whilst the car shuttlers scuttled off to do their duty.

Bring on lunch and then to the Racecourse…

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 10a The Middle Guil by Kirk Williams

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 10a The Middle Guil by Kirk Williams

A happy bunch of paddlers set of from the campsite around 9:06 am, somewhat later than the announced start due to the driver looking for his keys. Or just being late. Or something. But

definitely not texting. It just needed mentioning.

We headed up the Guil valley, peering over the edge at each opportunity to see the river looking a little bony to say the least. A final inspection from the get out layby confirmed we were going to go for it but from the raft get in rather than the usual bridge further up. We split up into teams of four and set off in slightly staggered intervals to give each other space on a rocky technical river but keeping contact between the teams in convenient group eddies when they presented themselves.

The paddling went well with everyone relaxing into what can be a daunting trip, especially for first timers, with teams working together to make our way safely down a classic Alpine river. It was a bit harsh that the Toulson Trio decide to give Jake (not paddled for a decade…) the playboat to tackle the rocky road ahead, but he had the sense to realise his dad/brother had set him up and bail out early (hope the thumb is just a sprain…!) The rest of the team worked their way carefully down the river, negotiating some tricky sections without too much drama, finally arriving at Surprise Drop with few mishaps to find it was more of a surprise chute at this level.

A couple of the group departed for the road at the raft get out above the Staircase rapid, with the rest choosing to brave the daunting portage (better than daunting rapid….!!) to take in the challenging but great section below. This was where the main drama of the run came with one of the team deciding to take lightening his boast a little too far and sending it down the entry to Staircase alone. Luckily the paddler was lined before it got too serious and the boat pinned high up the rapid allowing some decent kit rescue practice in gnarly water. You’d think Kurt would have

had enough of fish in work without wanting to be live bait, but it seems not.

The rapid after the portage is interesting at any level but with the water slightly lower it was actually more intimidating to see all the boulders to avoid. The team’s morale was boosted by Keith pretending to broach a rock and then throwing a causal 360 before bobbing on down. The rest of us decided to try to go around it, mostly successfully (thanks for showing us the wrong line

Keith!). Some excellent paddles by the team, especially those who were running it for the first time and managing that nervous “unknown” feeling, and everyone got down safely.

The last rapid before the get out at the Tunnel is interesting and can easily catch the unwary out. The whole group gathered above, with the breakaway Twingo Tourist team visible in the distance waiting to help us at the get out, and our hardy canaries (Keith & Kurt) headed down to signal the group safely down the final few drops. Everyone acquitted themselves well on a tricky section, but special mentions must go to Helen S “I can tail squirt a machno” and Sarah G “it’s too easy if you don’t take the undercut line”. Go girls!

Everyone pulled together moving the boats up to the layby while the shuttle drivers retrieved the minibus/trailer and we set off for Chateau Queyras. We stopped off at Triple Step just in time to see a couple of hard paddlers make it look pretty easy. Sadly, it was a bit late to give it a go but there is always next year.

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 11a Upper Durance by Michael O`Rourke

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 11a Upper Durance by Michael O`Rourke

A leisurely depart time of 10am saw us waving goodbye to John on his journey to see his sister/avoid the minibus journey home. We were re-joined by Stuart and Dom after their previous day’s excursion to the Chateau Queryas in Dom’s hire car the Duck Egg. A modest 10 Euro entry fee into the Chateau seemed well worth it according to reports. Stuart was back to minibus door duty, it’s a tough job, but it’s no opening and closing window job. Stuart had to be remined on self occasions how to perform his duties.

We separated into our now usual groups and headed on down the Upper Durance. Keen to avoid the leaders swimming curse Ian quickly delegated the leader’s role to Stuart, Myself and Hannah and we all took it in turn to lead. We took turns leading, selecting eddies to break into, hand signalling and the choo, choo full steam ahead signal with added sound effects.

Hannah carefully navigated us through a set of rapids that curved around and under a bridge with a very colourful skull graffiti piece on then inside. After this we were given free reign to break in and out of as many eddies as we could. We let the other groups run though, not because we were slow, but we thought the more people there were down the bottom, the more people there would be to help us with our boats. Kirk`s group were also doing a significant amount of eddying and it seemed to become a race who could make it down the river the slowest.

Eventually we all made it down to the bottom and once again Ian had avoided the leaders swimming curse. Unfortunately, we had left it so long, no one was around to help us with our boats, so we hauled them up the now well-trodden slope in anticipations of the minibuses arrival to take us to our next river

More photographs……….

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