French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 10 Upper Guisane by Nick Coughlin

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 10 Upper Guisane by Nick Coughlin

Twenty-two intrepid LCC paddlers set off at the leisurely time of 10am to tackle the Upper Guisane. The Guisane is one of my favourite rivers and this was the second time we had paddled it in the past seven days. It is a pretty fast flowing river going through pine woodland and then eventually through the village of Le Casset.

We left a couple of less experienced paddlers lower down the river and split into four groups of five to do the first part. Our group had a fairly uneventful first part, but we passed Dom after about 200m and he seemed to have got out of his boat to check the hydraulics. The level was slightly lower than last week so there was a lot of avoiding or bouncing off rocks which did cause a few mishaps.

Forty minutes later we arrived at S-Bends and all got out of the river to prepare to tackle the rapid. Some of the group decided to walk around and so set off on the path. The rest of us then split into groups of three and Graham, Keith and Kirk positioned themselves at different points to provide some safety cover. I was in the first group with Helen and Keiran. As usual Helen set off like Tim Brabant hurtling down at top speed, Keiran and I tried to stick together. Unfortunately, Keiran`s faulty boat forced him to abandon ship halfway down, but he managed to get to the side [which incidentally is never more than 2m away] I managed to get his boat and sent it over to Hannah and Mike on the opposite side. Keiran was soon re-united with his boat and we set off down the river. Most of the rest of the group got back on here and we all continued paddling. A little further we picked up Sarah and Charlie and headed towards the village. There was a little bit of trouble at a tricky weir but when we were all back in our boats we carried on. I like the part through the village and always look out for a large globe on an outdoor shelf which I first spotted Four years ago.

After a few bouncy wave trains and a few small features, the river begins to level out just before the get out. We normally get out and sit on the grass in the sun, eating our lunches and waiting for Keith to do the bike shuttle. Unfortunately, there was a change in the weather so it wasn`t as nice as last week but it still didn`t spoil a day on one of my favourite rivers.

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French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 9 The Ubaye Race Course by Steve Hitchen

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 9 The Ubaye Race Course by Steve Hitchen

An early start for LCC saw us setting off just after the bread delivery at 8am. With a second quick pit stop for pastries we were underway. The drive takes us along the Durance which runs past our camp site. We reach the lake at Embrun then head up the mountain on a switch back road giving us stunning views.

We all put in on the upper Ubaye at Jausiers which is the grade 3- section. The river is perfect for newer paddlers and offers great practice for the rest. The paddle took around an hour and all paddlers had a wonderful time. The sun was blazing and the water warm. The Ubaye is a great river and after lunch it got even better.

After lunch we headed for one of the finest white water stretches of river this paddler has ever been on, the Ubaye race course which is grade 3-4. Or Ebay as a few called it. With features from the start it was nonstop fun.

20 of us set off split into groups of 5.

A Grade 3 rapid to start. Followed by la Salle à Manger, a grade 4 rapid. With slow moving sections which let you catch your breath in between. 3 more featured rapids followed at grades 4 & 3+ before flushing out under the stunning Roman Bridge. A few swimmers and a few rolled back up. This author managed his first river roll!

If you come to paddle in this part of the alps this river is a must. Possible to paddle twice in one day LCC opted for beer and chips at the lake adjacent to the get out. With tales of the spills and thrills of the Ubaye Race course.

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French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 9 The Upper Ubaye by Ciaran Fahey

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 9 The Upper Ubaye by Ciaran Fahey

Earliest start of the trip so far for the clubs 2018 Alps trip, at an on the bus time of 8am. The destination for today’s trip was the Upper Ubaye a grade 3, despite the early start the long drive to the river resulted in getting on at 10am, a slightly later time the planned due to the placement of a boulder in the usual get on point. So, instead of a quick jump into the boats they had to be lowered down a steep embankment and herded across a small stream to the river. This wasn’t a total inconvenience as we got a good view of Fort De Nournoux built in 1843 into the cliff face above the river.

We split into the groups of 5’s for this river led by Keith, Helen, Kirk and mine was led by the Silver Fox, John. We had a fun bouncy journey down this river as even though it looked low there was still ample water in the main channel. The run has more than a few class 3 rapids including long wave trains that the whole group bounced down. During this enjoyable run we took the opportunity to practice frequent eddy hopping and even a good bit of surfing. I even got a few tips from the club’s playboating coach Graham on how to ride a wave for longer durations. Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away surfing and got caught sideways with water gushing over my hip and forcing me over, luckily there was enough room for a quick role up again.

The final stretch of the river had an interesting section with several boulders across the river to avoid. At the get out we climbed out of our boats some less graceful than other as my dad Dominic crashed into the water on his back as his boat floated an extra 6 foot down the river from him before being rescued. After the boats were all loaded up we headed ff to the second rver of the day the infamous Ubaye racecourse.

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Polo Practice Session run by Richie

Polo Practice Session run by Richie

On Saturday I went to canoe polo practice organised by Richie. There were not many people there, probably due to the rain, but we still went ahead with it with only 4 people (Callum, Luke, John and myself). We first did some passing around and then did some dribbling for a bit and throwing. At the end we did a whole game with many other people from the club who were in white-water boats and we even had open canoes taking part! At the end our team won in a “next goal wins” and we scored in 10 seconds after they said that.  A huge thanks to Richie for running the practice even though after 3 hours I was shattered it was great fun.

Aleksander Ford

 

French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 8 The Upper Gyronde by Stephen Hitchen

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 8 The Upper Gyronde by Stephen Hitchen

Lunch over our intrepid LCC members put in just below the barrage at Vallouise. 16 this time, so four groups of four with a skilled leader in each. Group A-with Keith, B with Graham, C with John Cooke while the D’s had Kirk. This river is the opposite of the previous one. Not many eddies to hit and some tight rocky features. Hidden boulders meant the LCC paddlers needed Shakira hips to ride the boulder (singer who had great hip flicks while singing and sang about them Keith)

Even at the put in there were casualties. Hidden rocks and low water flipping two onto their sides. One bailed while one was righted by an LCC member jumping from the bank to affect a rescue after direction from Keith. What a brave soul. 😜

Paddlers now all in boats proceed down the grade 3 river. Fun features with small, fast wave trains kept us all busy. Plus a few scrapey bottoms.

A few swimmers along the way meant we had to find the sometimes hard to get eddy’s. But we all made it in one piece to the main feature on our part of the river. A technical feature at low water with a switch back entry followed by a fast shoot with a boulder at the bottom.

Even a river leader came to grief, but he was the first to run it.

With safety up and running the LCC paddlers made their way down, with a helping tug from Graham to point some in the right direction. The rock at the end of the shoot acted more like a brick wall for most. Some swimmers but on such a technical river that’s no surprise.

A few more drops took us to the get out and a well-earned rest best for heading for the Slalom course at the campsite for a few runs down.

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French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 8 The Upper Durance by Stephen Hitchen

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 8 The Upper Durance by Stephen Hitchen

9am start for day one, week 2 of LLC’s Alps Kayaking trip saw 19 of us enjoy the upper Durance, which is a grade 2 river and perfect for the newbies who arrived Saturday to stretch their legs and also the for those who need a bit more practice.

Put in just outside Briançon saw two groups get in at either side of the ramp. Keith leading group one, Kirk looking after group two. The river is wide and bouncy and offers great opportunities for practicing hitting eddy’s, breaking in and out. Plus playing on a few waves. It’s kind of like a longer, cleaner Dee. Great to build up confidence. Both groups did this well. Hitting eddy after eddy, then breaking out into the fast-moving water before bouncing along in wave trains.

On only a few occasions did she catch out LCC guys out. Due to a few unseen underwater boulders. But all swimmers were straight back in their boats with a smile on their face.

The get out a Preller came all too soon for me, I would happily have gone around again I had that much fun.

Kayaks loaded and off to river number two, the Gyronde. Before we started though a spot of lunch and some criticism of this authors Kayak fashion sense. Shin Pads and neoprene shorts, not a great look I will admit.

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French Alps 2018 paddling trip Day 7 The Durance by Helen Siertsema

French Alps 2018 paddling trip

Day 7 The Durance by Helen Siertsema

Sunshine was elusive for our run of the Sunshine run today despite promises of sunny weather by the Meteo. Previous rainfall had kept levels nice and bouncy as we had a lie down and snooze in our boats. Some of us were hitting the “Wall” and were glad of this relaxing run.

Meanwhile, the skies were darkening and hopes of any sunshine appearing evaporated like droplets in a hot pan. As we approached St Clement the heavens opened and the mountains disappeared into a threatening cloak of blackness. Thunder and lightening ensued and we paddled like stink to avoid being turned into crispy bacon.

The sun started to shine as we left our damp lunch spot at St Clement and we were soon bouncing around on wave trains. On arrival at the Rabioux wave, Keith decided to ring the changes and we took the right- hand channel which was a lot bouncier than the usual left one. Rather than peeling off one by one to run the wave, we ran it in convoy. Yet again it was a 100% success rate with no swimmers. Some folk practised ferrying across the huge waves in the rapid with differing rates of success.

The final leg of the Sunshine Run saw the black, rainy clouds disappear as we enjoyed the wave trains in the blazing sun again. It had been a long day, but the paddle was finished off by a bit of rolling practise by the get out. However, Helen failed to partake in this as she was up those get out steps like a rat up a drainpipe and was threatened with all manner of consequences by Keith.

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Nepal Sun Koshi Expedition – Day 4 (4th April) by Darren Bohanna

Nepal Sun Koshi Expedition – Day 4 (4th April) by Darren Bohanna

It was easily the trickiest day of the expedition. The Harkabur rapids awaited. The day started out much like the others with a generally pleasant bob down the river up until the river bent sharply round to the left with the volume of the river being compressed through a small (small for Nepal) channel. Approaching Harkabur 2 you could hear the rumble of the river intensify as the guides raced ahead to make sure that we all got out way before this beast.

We left our boats while heading over to inspect. We did that thing, where you look at the death muncher far river right, the half river sized boulder centre river, the big hole near the boulder, and the route which tight ropes between all of the hazards. We all get together pointing out where you would go if you were ever to run it, pointing out that if you ended up far right that there was nothing anyone could do for you. Straight away I decided that I wasn’t going to run it, telling myself that you’ve got no insurance and it’s in the middle of nowhere. I hear that Keith had said that he wasn’t running it and that he hoped that I wasn’t either.

We then spent the next hour or so unloading all of the rafts and portaging the kit around the beast. Like a team of worker ants, we moved back and forth. The guides put us to shame carrying really heavy items, strapped to their heads, while bounding nimbly from boulder to boulder. We’re about to start putting on beneath the beast when Naresh (sounded Norris) says ‘are you running it? I’ve seen you skills, you are good enough’. The seed of doubt comes in and you fight with your demons, it would be the ultimate, but you’ve got no insurance, but the video will be awesome, what would Roy do? Aghhhhhhhg. I asked, ‘Norris, what if you ended up on the far side? His reply, ‘You must not end up on far side, you must make it’. That made my mind up, thank god that Roy wasn’t here otherwise the demons might have battled harder. I portaged with the rest, 3 of the guides ran it and made it, 1 made it look doable, the other 2 made it look a bit more desperate.

We all got out before Harkabur 3, I went a little closer with Steve to help him portage. By the time I got back to the top everyone else had already been taken down by the guide. I had a look at the line that I wanted to take, getting in the zone, Steve’s got my camera, it’s going to be awesome. Little did I know that most of the English group had swam and had been mopped up while I was in the eddy at the top. One final run through in my head visualising the line, and we’re off. I break out into the flow and instantly regret not carrying back up to give myself an easier run. I make it onto the tongue, but not the side that I visualised in my head, then what looks like a little ripple from the bank, now looks like a house sized hole to the left. Get away from the hole, get away from the hole, ohh f@&k. Water rushing past my head, hold on and let your boat settle; it’s not settling, I must be in the hole, when’s it going to settle, I’m not swimming, this is on camera, wait for it to settle, I’m bouncing round but it won’t friggin settle. Oh frig, eject, eject, eject. Sunlight, big breath, thank god I’m not in the hole (and was probably nowhere near it), grab what you can and swim to the side. Tail between the legs, I was gutted as I’d been paddling well up until the mind f@&k of these rapids. The footage looked awesome, but it took a couple of days to get my machismo back.

I told Keith, his words were ‘you don’t wait for your boat to settle in big water because it never will, you take a half roll to break the surface and then you go again’. I wish that he told me that beforehand because those words came in handy the next few times when I capsized and then rolled later in the trip. The Sun Koshi, the river that keeps on giving.

When we got to our next campsite on the riverbank we were well into our routine. The main difference this night was the mountains treated us to a tropical storm. The lightning could be seen flashing down the valley in stages as it approached us, the rain drops were the biggest that I’d witnessed anywhere other than Cuba. The lightning struck a couple of hundred meters away, it then passed over our heads as the flashes and thunder continued down the valley. It was a bit muggy but still boiling hot. Check out the Instagram and Facebook footage of those who came as most of us have got some great footage.

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