French Alps 2019 paddling trip
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.