Scotland Bank holiday Easter Club Trip Day 3 by Kirk Williams
Haven’t paddled the Spean Gorge for a while and although levels were low, they were up a bit from Saturday and we knew people had a decent day then an intrepid team of John C, Ian B, Mark B, Jenny B, Chris T and Kirk decided to give it a go. Shuttle done so all cars at the get out (thanks Marianne) the put in at the Spean Bridge Woollen Mill was a bumpy bony experience but we managed to get moving without too much muscle strain. The first rapid of note is the Fairy Steps, a series of small but significant drops as the name suggests. The team managed to negotiate each step with no major problems but some nervous grins….
The river now moves into the gorge section proper and narrows significantly. We scouted and navigated a few more tight flows and small drops between the rocks, each providing interesting opportunities for practicing our river leading skills, line of sight etc We arrived at one of the key rapids on the river, the infamous Headbanger, and as usual portaged this after having a good look at it and talking confidently about how we would run it if we dared! The portage doesn’t remove all the fun as it comes with a tricky seal launch, either into a tight turn drop with a submerged tree or from pretty high up on the rocks. Both options were exercised, some with style! Much fun was had at a 1+ metre pour over/drop that managed to tail end a few big river boats, and Ian excelled himself by getting his nose stuck in an undercut, side surfing the hole and eventually pulling a 180 nose pirouette to successfully escape its clutches I can never work out which rapid’s which on this river from the guidebook, but either the Witches Cauldron or Constriction was also portaged our fat river boats would have been pretty difficult to lift/pull through the tiny gap past the pyramid rock in the middle with the tails in turbulent recirculating water behind…..
The last section of the gorge has a few interesting features, with multiple small drop rapids that at low levels have exposed rocks that make the lines quite technical, especially with typical visibility restrictions in gorges. We managed to navigate all with only an occasional loss of our normal grace and style. The run out from the gorge provided a relaxing mile or so of easy water to reflect on a great day on the river before getting out at the power station to get changed and make our way back to Kinlochleven.
After a Friday of scraping boats along the Lochy with a lack of rain, Saturday morning brought the promise of a proper whitewater paddle as the Garry was dam released. 15 paddlers set off early, aided by an impromptu fire alarm wake up call (thanks Neil), for the 90 minute drive to hopefully beat the crowds of other paddling groups. 11 paddlers (Richard, Liz, John, Roy, Kirk, Chris, David, Mark, Sarah, Jenny & Hannah) walked up to get on to the Upper Garry with Roy’s brief of “Ferry glide from here towards that rock, head down river towards the tongue and if you don’t make it …”
One by one the eleven got on and successfully negotiated the first feature, breaking out until the group was ready to reform and run the rest of the Upper.
A quick brief before each rocky feature saw the group
successfully reach the Upper get out where they were joined by Leanne, myself,
Neil and Aleksander. Roy’s brief for the start of the Lower Garry was
“This is a 3 foot drop but a quick paddle over should see you land flat and
you’ll be fine.”
All over the feature and a sense of elation at having landed
the three foot drop. Another technical feature and then the river flattened out
to give a chance to chat about the Upper and the start of the Lower. Back to a
couple more technical drops and an unexpected feature which didn’t have a left
A fantastic and safe paddle, a few successful rolls and
great company. Thanks to everyone.
Club Open Day at the Compound at the Docks. Try different disciplines, junior session, come and try it session for non-members, Sunday tour of the docks. Bring and buy sale for any canoe or kayaking gear. Pyrahna Demo Fleet.