French Alps 2018 paddling trip
Sometimes it rains on the last evening before departure homeward. It is inconvenient for packing up and (this year) BBQ cooking. Yet, at the back of some people’s mind, mine included, is one good thought; the Gyronde will be rising.
Saturday morning then, six of us have put packing aside, plus John Cooke who is kindly driving us up to the put-in at the start of the Lower Gyronde grade 3 section. The Gyronde has indeed risen, covering most of the rocks and promising a fast run through small stoppers and over and around the larger boulders, down to join the Durance for the final run back to the campsite.
Keith, Sara, Hannah and Michael put on below the bridge. Ron and I, squeezing every moment out of the river, seal launch in from just above. Giving each other a little room, we head off into the mist that blankets the river, helter-skelter through the frothing white-water.
Very soon, we are at the weir. Normally a portage, it seems different. The leftmost route to the normal portage point is choked with boulders and gravel. Ron and Keith lead us to an eddy just above the weir on river right. Keith scouts and guides us to a narrow line over the right hand of weir.
Now the river eases a little, still fast flowing but a little more open as it joins the Durance at L’Argentiere.
The Durance is also high enough to cover most of the shallows in this part of the river but gets considerably higher once re-joined by run-off from the power station. The river thunders into the slalom course and we follow Keith down, using the slalom gates as a guide to the line. In the midst of punching through a haystack and skirting a pour-over, I can just imagine Keith comparing it with the Sun Khosi (unfavourably, of course). Following Sara and Hannah into an eddy halfway down, I pause to gather my thoughts. Almost immediately, there is excitement above; “swimmer!”. Ron is out of his boat. Soon Keith, Sara and Michael are in hot pursuit of Ron and his gear. Following down, Hannah and I arrive in the bottom eddy just in time to find Sara helping Ron from the water. Ron safe and reunited with his kayak and paddle, our paddling is finally over for this year’s French Alps trip.
Somehow, ending on a high like that, my kayak seems lighter as I carry it back into the campsite.