French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 10c The Guil Valley by Nadja Ford

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 10c The Guil Valley by Nadja Ford

On the 10th day of the Alps tour a group of five people, the three Twingo Boys and two Fords, made a detour from the rivers and went off site seeing. The morning promised us a glorious day so away we went. First on are list was Mont – Dauphin. From the car park hill our eyes opened on a magnificent view of the mountains, waterfall and we looked down at the River Guil, water of which run from the Queyras massif to maintain torrent. It hollowed out a canyon in the morainic sediment, having two plateaux of similar height face to face.

After we indulged ourselves with the view and a bit of history we went further, deeper into the bastion, which looked spectacular from the main road. Skipping down to the bastion, Dom give some guided tour about how it’s built and how people of the bastion defends themselves from the invaders We passed double gates of defence, with some elements still intact. Walking down the street with old buildings, with little shops in it, and some consulting rooms and I believe family homes. Down the alley there was a monument which had been put there in 1921 to commemorate people who defended the bastion numerous times.

Down we go past the old armoury buildings, old arsenal building and a Catholic Chapel. Outside the Chapel a gipsy circus was setting their performance place for later and we are making are way back to beginning of are tour. Passing living area, with old French houses and new twists on living. After short rest in the shade we make are way back to cars with some family stories about WW2. When we get back, we spot some paddlers down on the River Guil, but it wasn’t our group. Because they were making their way down the river middle Guil near the tunnel. We jumped in the vehicles to make our way to meet up with the rest of the paddling group

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 10b Chateau Queyras by Kirk Williams

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 10b Chateau Queyras by Kirk Williams

We headed up to Chateau Queyras after a great morning on the Middle Guil. There was a bit of talk in the minibus about plans for the afternoon, mostly about ice cream, a little about Via Ferrata, and a few whispers about the “toilet flush”. We arrived at a beautifully sunny quaint mountain town and the chips were down. “Whoever’s paddling stay in your kit cos we’re going now and then eating ice cream all afternoon, who’s in?” The answer, a team of 8 for the paddle, a few more just for the spectating and the ice cream was the answer.

Chateau Queyras is not that technical, but it is intimidating, so kudos to everyone who went for it, and encouragement for next year for those that didn’t. You can probably split it in to 3 main sections; a tricky, rocky lead in that can unseat a few and unsettle you for what follows; the central “toilet flush” that narrows and fires you through some balance challenging water features at pace; finally a more measured but still interspersed with rocky drops section to lead to the get out before the bridge section.

We all gathered in the eddy at the top bridge to agree the approach and running order as once you set off that’s pretty much it. We basically decided to run as two teams of four in a bigger team of eight giving each other enough space but staying together. Work that one out if you can! So we set off one by one and entered to increasing flow realising that know it was hold on tight, stay loose and keep it straight, or else….Well there was no or else, everyone nailed it and we even did a round of hand slaps at the bottom just to show how nervous we weren’t

The drama of this section actually came off river. Some of those not fancying a “Harry Potter” experience we were mooching round town and checking out the local café bar. One of the taller members of the group, wearing his hat at a jaunty angle, sauntered into a traditional old establishment straight into one of the low hanging beams. Most of his fellow paddlers, and the local staff, tried hard not to laugh too much. Luckily, he consoled himself with an ice cream and seemed none the worse for a bang on the head.

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 9b The Upper Gyronde by Aleksander Ford

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 9b The Upper Gyronde by Aleksander Ford

The Gyronde was alpine great volume grade 4 – river which started from Valloise to Les Vigneax . It is formed from the Gyr and Onde which meet at their confluence at the barrage in Les Vigneax where we got on and set off. The Gyr and Onde water is normally taken off through the hydroelectric power station and re-enters the river Durance some 11 km downstream. They had been doing work on the barrage and consequently all the water down comes down the Gyronde and when came out of the raised dam barrier it was lot faster.

There were ten people on the river in two groups of five today. The first group was Keith, Aleksander, Sarah, Neil and Ian. The second group was Kirk, Ron, Mark, Aaron and Helen. The start was at the Barrage which had an enormous wave which was right next to the weir. We had a difficult river with lots of hidden rocks.

When we got to the most difficult part of the river there were two ways to go. Our group went first. The left side of the river you had swerve past a large boulder and immediately go river right to avoid a rather smaller boulder, which everyone missed but Mark choose to go over the rocks a different way and go back river left. The other way was down between two rocks and you could carry on straight and go left. This route was called the chicken chute which Aaron and Kirk took.

When we came to an eddy after the bridge section there was a `boulder choke` in the middle of the river. Keith confidently described the route for the next part of the river; ‘Go right of the largest boulder then left around the corner’ but on setting off he made a sudden decision to go left as there were too many boulders on the right!!!!

When we all got through safely our group carried on and there was continues rapids which were a bit easier.. There were a few rocks we had to dodge but overall it was fine. We had to prepared when our get out was insight as there were only few eddies to stop. If we missed, then it as all the down to a grade 6 rapid five hundred metres ahead. Everyone was fine but I got a little lost and needed some help from Ian. Afterwards we went to a little café in Valloise next to the river Gyr and the waiter there made my mum order in French. The waiter asked if we kayaked and asked which river we had paddled he was very surprised when we said the Gyronde.

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 9a The Upper Durance by Hannah Bellamy

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 9a The Upper Durance by Hannah Bellamy

Monday was to be a two-river day, and in the morning, we headed to the Upper Durance. It was to be a warmup for those who would be paddling the Gyronde in the afternoon, and with plenty of opportunities for eddy hopping and mini wave surfing, an all-round nice river for everyone. We unloaded the trailer in our now well polished fashion, and in our groups (today our group adopted John), we set off down the river. Ian took the opportunity of this friendly river to give us all an opportunity to lead (some might say that he was delegating to avoid the leaders ‘curse’ that has unfolded over the week…!). During our turns leading, he reminded us all of four key points of leading;

  • C=communication – to communicate clearly with your group using a combination of speech and river signals
  • L=line of sight – as the leader you should maintain line of sight with the rest of your group
  • A=avoidance of hazards (rocks/weirs/trees/even forgetting kit)
  • P=position – as a leader you should position yourself where you are most useful to the group, be that at the front, in the middle or at the back depending on the river features/bends etc.

In our group we took it in turns to lead, signalling into eddies frequently

until we were about 1km from the end – then we eddy hopped and surfed our way to the get out, a bank just before the dam where we sat in the sunshine and waited for the shuttle to the afternoon river.

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 9c The Middle Durance by Jake Toulson

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 9c The Middle Durance by Jake Toulson

So the Toulson brigade arrived yesterday with a little warm up session in the lake Kurt playing assistant coach to Jake, and got him warmed up for today’s paddle on the river Durance.

Setting off around 10am with beautiful blue skies we headed down river after Jake eventually got his Cag on. Head coach dad (stu) taught Jake how to break in and out followed by some ferry gliding we got off to a good start. That practise had to soon come into action as Jake was stuck onto wrong side of the river with a huge tree coming his way. He did the best he could to avoid missing the trunk and luckily only hit a few leaves! Leaving Jakes and dads arses both nipping. Some beautiful scenery was observed along the way. As we floated down we spotted an eagle and a white water duck who was showing off his skills on the rapids.

After about an hour we stopped for a break got out our kayaks Kurt thought he’d let some water out of his kayak losing his draining bung downstream; never to be see again. Dad (Stu) was ready to improvise with a stick and a bit of tape which saved the day!

We headed back onto the water for the second half of our journey passing a group of French kayakers to which one shouted ALREET! (Geordie slang for hello) to which Jake replied with ALREET MATE! after further discussion with the group it turns out he wasn’t a Geordie at all he was simply saying salut! Which was a bit embarrassing for Jake but he blames the noise of the river for the mistake.

We then had a steady paddle/float down to the river eventually getting to the slalom course where we were instructed by dad to follow his lead which this time happened and with some unorthodox low braces Jake managed to get to other side without capsizing or swimming on day 1; something that was haunting him all the way here.

We then got out all had a beer and a steak panini in the sun and reflected on what a great first day paddling in France!

Aaaannnnd Relax !!

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 08b Lilo Race Slalom Course 2019 by Neil Jones

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 08b Lilo Race Slalom Course 2019 by Neil Jones

Return of the famous Lilo Race not for the faint hearted, only for the stupid!!

So after a nice leisurely morning paddle down the Durance with a bit of tasty surfing to finish off at St Clements we returned to the camp were the crazy 8, inflated their children’s toys and headed off up to the start of the L’Argentière-La Bessée Slalom course.

Quick brief from Keith, basically condoning our stupid antics and the best line to limit casualties. He lined us up…..sort of…..and we where off!!

I just imagined total carnage from the off but we were all doing pretty well. Keith must have thought the same as he instructed the first race photographer to set up at the first drop. But first fence…drop, was taken well by all and we continued down Couse. This must have been the fact that the first 4 across the line would hopefully receive one off the four throw lines set up at the bottom to catch us??

I cleared the second fence… drop and was beginning to lead the field with Sarah a very close second. As for the rest…..who knows what the other riders where going through; all I knew me and my trusty Pegasus was in with a shot….

As we approached Becher’s Brook, it was me on the flying Pegasus and 3 times regular French Alps Lilo racer Sarah on the stable cactus neck and neck with the experienced river runner Ian in 3rd ridding his new Spiderman camp bed. Also going strong was Nickki, riding “Terry the Turtle” very well indeed for her first time. As for the rest they were a thing of the past… (may not have still been alive, never mind in the race)

Well, Becher’s Brook does what it does to flying horses….and I was off! The next couple of fences….drops where a wee bit of a blur for myself but then again so was breathing at times. To my surprise as we came to the last fence…sorry drop, I was alive AND was in the lead with the spidery rider close second.

One fence…..drop, to go. Pegasus was now with a deflated and broken wing, but still holding in there….with the experienced of Ian moving river right? As we took the last, Pegasus and I dropped into the stopper where the experienced spidery-rider, Ian took the tongue to the finish line.

As anticipated by the wiser competitors in the group. The first over the line will receive the best safety cover. As for the rest, they had a long walk back, or maybe a pickup from Embrun later in the week.

Race two

2 new competitors where talked into running the race as no harm was incurred to the riders, other than trying to drink the Durance during the race.

The race was going steady with Ian again taking a good lead and Nickki running second, Arron and Kirk where going well until they got up close and personal. A steward’s enquiry was called but then a random kayaker took Aaron clean out…so the enquiry wasn’t required.

Pegasus took the same line on the last, straight into the stopper dislodging his new rider Mike…. All finally crossed the line with no further serious injuries to riders or children’s toys.

Think the Annual Lilo Race will be back for the less sensible LCC French Alps paddlers !!!

Race results

First race Second race
1st Ian Bell on his spidery camp-bed Ian (cheating sideways on his Spiderman camp-bed)
2nd Me on the flying Pegasus Nicky on the beloved Terry the turtle
3rd Nicky on Terry the Turtle Aleksander on his crazy croc
4th Aaron on his campsite airbed Aaron on his bed as usual
5th Sarah on the spiky cactus Kirk with Annie the unicorn
6th Aleksander on his crazy croc Mike on the wigless Pegasus
7th Craig on his stable diet of pizza Hannah on her cactus to which she is bidding to take home as she got on so well with it
8th Captain Kirk on his unicorn Non-runner (sarah was too tired)

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 08a Middle Durance 2019 by Mark Benson

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 08a Middle Durance 2019 by Mark Benson

After a full day and night of rain and the prospect of a chilly wait for some, the group decided that discretion was the better part of valour and the Middle Guil was left for one of the warmer days expected for the rest of the trip. Instead, we reverted to that old standard, campsite to St Clement, starting on top of the slalom course.

It was a late, relaxed start, so plenty of time for the customary leaving of kit behind in the tent. This time it was Ron’s honour but luckily, chauffeur-driven transport was on hand to help and, in the time it takes for a chrysalis to transform into a river-butterfly, Ron and the rest of the rear-guard were bouncing down the slalom course to join the rest of the group.

The river was a little higher thanks to the aforementioned rainfall. The Fressinières rapid did not disappoint and, making the most of the revised itinerary, some put in eddy practice, whilst others let the river take the strain. So we continued in like manner, on a pleasant paddle to the top of the St Clements slalom course. There Keith encouraged us to venture into the top wave, some meeting with more success than others.

All in all, not the drama of the Middle Guil, but a good choice for the group, given the weather.

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Congratulations to Dave Gentle for his winning Photo of the Month for August

Photo of the Month

Please send any photos to website@liverpoolcanoeclub.co.uk

August 2019

Click here to see the photos and to vote for your favourite.


# 1

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Fiona paddling Serpents Tail by Dave Gentle

17 votes (25%)

# 2

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Junior Club Weekend based at Anglesey Outdoors Amy Newnham

12 votes (18%)

# 3

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John Fay on the Arisaig Sea Kayaking Trip

11 votes (16%)

# 4

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Andy Garland Paddling around Ramsey Island during the Pembroke Weekend

10 votes (15%)

# 5

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Open Day 2019 Ella Clews

10 votes (15%)

# 6

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Ian Bell on the River Dee

7 votes (10%)

French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 07 The Lower Durance by Ian Bell

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 07 The Lower Durance by Ian Bell

After the late finish yesterday on the Ubaye we had a lazy start today. The plan being to have some time on the campsite and then leave late morning to do the Sunshine run later in the day even though the weather forecast was suggesting that it would be in the rain rather than the sun.

Repairs - John RasquinhaThe morning was spent on the campsite, for some this was a chance to rest whilst others visited local shops for supplies. More importantly there was a significant amount of time spent repairing boats. The most serious being Martin`s which required a major weld to the hull. Fortunately, Dom had all the required equipment to do the job. This was also a useful opportunity for others to learn how to do these types of repairs. They will be examined on this later in week to see if they hold. As we approached departure time, an amendment was made to have lunch on the campsite and then paddle. This gave some members opportunity to play a rather competitive game of Pictionary, which was won by Keith and Hannah.

At 12:30 the bus and cars finally left for the river with 14 potential paddlers. Only 13 finally paddled as one member who shall remain nameless forgot some key items of his kit. He went on to spend the afternoon in Embrun sightseeing. We finally got started paddling around 2pm with a warmup on the slalom course at St Clement. This was at a good level and more and more of the team were starting to get more adventurous on the play waves. After the slalom course we set off down the main river towards the Rabioux Wave. On arrival at the “Rab wave” Keith tried to test some of the group on the line to take and then informed us that we would go on the right of the island for a change this time. All 13 paddlers successful negotiated the Wave. Sarah added to the entertainment by side stuffing the wave. John and Ron both cleared the wave but rolled after, keeping potential rescuers alert.

Once we left the “Rab” the lower river was entertaining with a number of large wave trains and bouncy rapids to keep us on our toes. A couple of people decide to practice their rolls which the resulted in some rescue practices for some of us.

We arrived at the final feature of the river, the Embrun Wave. Again some of the group became adventurous with their playing. Neil unfortunately took a swim but failed to beat Helen Siertsema’s long swim record from a couple of years ago; although it was at same point of river. Just after that, we reached the get out to find Stuart had returned from his sightseeing and very kindly lead the loading of boats while most of group got changed. An obligatory supermarket stop on the way back to the campsite for what is likely to be a damp evening under the tarp; as thunder is forecast for this evening.

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French Alps 2019 paddling trip – Day 6b The Ubaye Racecourse by Ron Wood

French Alps 2019 paddling trip

Day 6b The Ubaye Racecourse by Ron Wood

After lunch we headed over to the racecourse section of the Ubaye, an exciting and technical river which today was a series of pretty constant grade 3-4 rapids.

Overnight rain must have churned up the silt turning it to a mushroom grey colour to give it an uninviting look and covered the rocks just enough to catch-out even the best of kayakers.

After a nervous wee and an eiree silence in the eddy under the bridge. Groups of 4 set off down the first drop in sight of the get in – John did a speedy self rescue, putting the rest of the groups at ease of not being the first swimmer of the day and helping to focus the mind on the task ahead.

The next victim of the grey mushroom soup was Sarah who had had a flash back to being back on the minibus and had fallen asleep. Another broken go-pro to add to her list!!

We took the rapids one at a time, regrouping at the bottom of each. Suddenly in front Helen seemed to succumb to river leaders curse. She had dropped sideways off a rock and ended lay flat on her back deck with her face grating against the hard river bed. Safe out of the water we realised her paddle was missing. Strong and hard as nails as usual and with a bleeding lip Helen was composed enough to indicate where her paddle was left. With luck after a few minutes it popped out and was quickly recovered by Nikki, and we were on our way again.

Stuart found some cracking lines at the infamous “sharks tooth”, running one rapid masquerading as a submarine and later on he managed to squeeze through a small gap between two rocks like ‘The Knight Bus’ on Harry Potter.

It was a long, but really enjoyable day and we finished off with food and drink at the café by the lake.

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