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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 14

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 14 Gyronde

It was the last day and only 3 paddlers were up for the early morning challenge of a quick trip down the Gyronde onto the Durance and down to the slalom site. We were to be a team of 4, but the “Ford Custom” next door still had a sleepy spell. We drove out of the campsite at 8:30am leaving the others to start to pack away the camp.

We put on under the campsite bridge (the lower one!) and paddled off being pushed quickly along by the fast-flowing water. They were still working on the dam and HEP Scheme above so all the Gyr`s water flowed directly into the Gyronde making it a great level for paddling. It was even higher than earlier in the week.

It was an exhilarating paddle into the gorge with the water flowing over all of the normally exposed boulders. Richard was paddling well until he misjudged a corner trying to avoid a car sized boulder and got swept into overhanging branches. He tried valiantly to roll but after one attempt the fast-flowing stream and many boulders meant for a fast exit. He managed to rescue himself and the boat when about 75 metres downstream before Keith and Stuart managed to lodge it on some boulders near the bank. Richard soon collected his paddle and reunited with his kayak we headed on down the gorge to the weir. This is now well signed, and the potentially boat pinning boulders have all been swept well to river right by high floods. Without stopping we followed the flow over the middle of the weir and on down below. Keith did talk a line slightly over to the right and glanced one of the boulders, but all ended well.

Richard lead the last section though the mini gorge. No sign of the old embedded bicycle wheel and we were soon swept on towards the confluence with Durance. Plenty of water sped us down through the town and under the old Hydro Electric pipe that used to feed the power plant for the old Aluminium works. Without so much of a single breakout we then charged on down through the slalom course. A quick glance at my watch indicated that it taken us exactly 55 minutes from campsite to campsite, a great last day’s paddle.

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 13

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 13 St Clements to Embrun

At 10:30 the cars finally left for the river with all the paddlers, families, parents and white-water gurus. We finally got started paddling around 12 Midday. This was at a good level and more and more of

the team were starting to get more adventurous on the play waves. We set off down the main river towards the Rabioux Wave with many practising their rolls. We were paddling as one large group of 17 on this large river. There is plenty of room and you can paddle 3 or 4 abreast on most of the rapids. We enjoyed the giant wave trains as we had all paddle this section before. The youngsters including Sarah had to do the jumping in from the overhanging cliff again. Ollie and Ella drew on points with two “5.9`s” for their forward flips into the water.

On arrival at the “Rab wave” we met Maria and proceeded to swap parents and boats. Spectators moved to the beach below the Rab wave to watch and take photos. The remaining paddlers set off down the traditional left-hand route between the island. Following the previous paddle, we had all decided to take a line either in the middle or slightly right of main tongue this time. This should make for good photographs as the wave had changed again with higher water levels. One by one we set off. After two weeks paddling and

numerous rivers, we were all feeling more confident. However, with the roar of the water and anticipation of waiting your turn, the run always induces much more concentration and stress than it probably deserves. One by one we all made it down safely, now we could all enjoy our lunch in the sun watching the many rafts and kayakers attempt the same rapid.

After lunch Sarah took a team of daredevils to swim through the Rab Wave. Ella and Ellie wanted to paddle the grade 3+ rapid so we carried the boats up to about 100m upstream and set off following each other through the wave. We all made it safely and the juniors paddling, and confidence had come enormously over the time in the Alps. All are now very competent on large, fast flowing grade 2-3 Alpine rivers.

Steve and Maria had swapped duties and the group of 17 continued down the Sunshine Run. Large and frequent grade 3 rapids were tackled as one group with the juniors often taking the lead. Large wave trains, boulders and swirling bubbling eddies followed for the 14 km run down to Embrun. We kept well clear of the collapsing loose cliff just above “Pont Neuf” and paddled the rapid with style. The group were laughing and joking as we went and before long, we came across the new bridge at Embrun that marked the last play wave. The lake was rather high this year and consequently covered most of the rapids for the last 200m.

We packed up the kayaks into the waiting cars and vans, some visited the supermarket for last minute items for the BBQ later and headed back to the campsite.

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 12

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 12a Upper Ubaye

An early start for today (8:30am) as we had a bit of a drive via Col de Vars (ski resort) into the top of the Ubaye valley. Last time I drove this route it was very early in the morning and freezing cold at the top. Today could not be different, 100% deep blue sky, bright sunshine, and no wind. We stopped at the top to take photos and explore. The kids wanted to go to the top of a small hill. As we drove off, we nearly left Oscar who unknown to us had purchased a coffee and sat with the locals in the Col top bar as we drove off!

At the get in we met a group of German paddlers who were paddling the same section. We chatted a little. They had paddled this section earlier in the year with 10 times the amount of water – it was huge they exclaimed, and it surely would have been with massive wave trains. They paddled off as we got ourselves ready. As the three groups started their journey the water picked up and we could paddle down the river for a pleasant Grade 3- trip. There was more water than last year, probably from more snowfall over the winter months which had kept river levels high all week. Halfway along we met up under the old bridge and some played in the small play wave there.

The second half of the journey provided more fun but was relatively straight forward. The water quality is high, and this section is well deserved of its 3 stars. We all waited in the sun at the end for the shuttles, had a quick bite to eat before heading for the lake and bit of SUPing or for those brave enough for the Racecourse section.

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Day 12b Ubaye Racecourse

The Racecourse is a grade 4 white water wonderland. For those with the inclination to take on this river, they were all in for a treat. 10

LCC paddlers with our river leaders Keith and Stuart set off at 2 pm. There is no easy start on the river its straight to work. The features start straight away. I was in the second B team at the helm of my Large Machno (HMS Titanic 2) I radioed the engine room for more coal and off we went.

River feature after feature in 30-degree heat proved to be a fantastic run of this excellent white-water section. High water levels and outstanding scenery. A swim on Alpha team and an unheard-of Steer high brace were the only problems.

This river is worth a drive to the Alps just to paddle the last 300 meters. This is where it disappears down into a gorge with Roman bridges overhead and vertical smooth rock walls towering above on either side. Vines and plants break up the hard rock with bursts of green. 10 out of 10. The best day on a river I have ever had.

Stephen Hitchen

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 11

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 11a Glacier Blanc

An early start was made to try and avoid the heat of the morning sun. We rolled out of the campsite at 7:00am heading up the Vallouise Valley for the heart of the Ecrin Mountains.

We went for an amazing hike up Glacier Blanc on Wednesday morning. After a wriggly drive up mountain roads we arrived at the car park where Clara spotted a ‘mole-badger’ which Keith told her was a marmot, thereafter, known as a Marmite! The kids investigated the snow which was near where we parked.

The start of the path wound up through the trees and over a fast-moving river. The scenery was beautiful. We quickly split into two groups, with the Murphy’s, Oscar and Alicia moving faster and aiming for the refuge. Alexander was amazing and walked with the youngest, Clara who chattered, continuously without a breath the whole way up! Gabrielle and Clara played a bizarre duck game, and everyone was included in their duck family. We enjoyed incredible views and spotted many little flowers and succulents tucked into little gaps in the rocks.

After our hard work we arrived at the bridge for a well-earned packed lunch with the glacier in view and some geography lessons from Keith!

The older kids led off back down the path and were soon well out of view. Clara bounded down the path with Keith to help her. It was hot-hot with the sun on us. Gabrielle found some mountain streams and waterfalls to dunk caps and water bottles into. We finally caught up with the teenagers on a large erratic rock at the bottom, with some rather suspiciously wet trainers…

The biggest surprise was the snowball fight by the car park, where we all finally saw a marmite. An amazing morning out. Thank you everyone! From Amy

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Glacier Blanc (like 90% of the worlds glaciers) has been retreating (Shrinking) over the last 100 years due mainly to global warming.

Glacier Blanc is on the east side of Barre Des Ecrins the southernmost of the 4000 m peaks in the Alps. It is the largest glacier on the peak. The glacier began a sustained retreat after 1870, that ceased in 1895-1900 , 1915-1920, 1935-1940 and 1980-1990 (Cossart et al, 2006). The glacier has shrunk by 5-10% of the total glacier volume during 1981-2005 (Rabatel et al, 2008). The series of images below are used to examine the retreat over the last 12 years of Glacier Blanc. The first image is a 2008


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Day 11b Other activities around the campsite

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Day 11c Middle Durance to Airfield

While some when to Le Lac and the inflatables adventure others decided to paddle down from the campsite to the airfield where the gliders land. The paddle started with a really fast set of standing waves alongside the campsite. The river was a little high with all the meltwater from the day and hardly any rocks could be seen. The turbulent water was handled well by all as we paddle down to

grade 2 section after the first road bridge. The waves were really big, and you could paddle any route with all the rocks covered.

We paddled on past the Usine (factory get out) as this was little hard to spot amongst all the piles of gravel and workings. The river now opened up below La Roche-de-Rame with large sweeping bends. The old weir gave a little more white water and then on down negotiating some tree roots mid-stream. With a final few rapids we followed the gliders in on their flight paths to the bridge at the airfield. We quickly loaded the two pre-placed vans and headed back just in time to meet the returning inflatable slides group. A perfect end to a very busy day.

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Updated Covid 19 Guidance (paddling and Equipment)

We now allow more than one group on a session at one time. How will it work in practice:

A key holder Ruth has asked for an open boat paddle to be added to the calendar and is organising her group of up to 6 paddlers (via googlegroup).  A non-keyholder but qualified paddler Janet emails Ruth to ask if she minds her running a second group for a general docks paddle in kayaks.  Ruth replies no problem and Janet organises her group for up to 6 paddlers.   Both groups arrive at 10am.  Ruth opens up the compound and her group get on the water while Janet’s group remain by the cars.  Individual paddlers sanitise any loaned equipment – especially their hands and paddle shafts.  The padlocks are left “on the hook” but Ruth waits near the compound to see that Janet gets her group on the water and locks the compound.   Both groups remain separate and discrete using which ever area of the docks they want but all paddlers remain social distanced at all times (eg 2m apart).   Janet’s group return before the allotted return time of 12:30 and remain on the water. When Ruth returns, she opens up the compound and her group quickly put the equipment away.  They then move to their cars and leave.   Janet’s group exit the water and return their equipment.  Janet, overseen by Ruth locks the compound and all remaining paddlers leave the site.   Each group had a leader but Ruth had overall responsibility for the security of the compound.   Ruth found it so easy to do she asked for the paddle to be named a “Docks session” next week so that other non-keyholder sheltered water leaders could email her to ask to bring their own group to the session.  😊

All paddlers MUST be pre-booked with a leader and these details kept for a minimum of 21 days to aid track and trace.

Please see the full guidance on the main page of the club website.

Covid 19 Guidance (paddling and Equipment) Liverpool Home page  LCC Home 
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During these difficult times we are not doing any general paddles. To control numbers, every paddle needs to be pre-booked with a leader or coordinator or supervisor. Paddles are notified through the club`s Google Group. All paddling is in separate, small groups of up to six paddlers.

The club is now moving to Stage 3.5, where most paddles at the docks are using club equipment. You must bring your own hand sanitiser and spray and use it frequently and sanitise any loaned equipment (eg paddle shaft).

Liverpool Canoe Club Advice on Covid 19

Stage 1 – Promotion of club led trips on easy water currently with up to 5 others.
Stage 2 – Club led trips allowed to launch from Coburg Dock (but paddlers must use their own equipment as the compound will not be opened).  Parking is available on the top car park if the barrier is not open (£1 per hour)!
Stage 3 – If the named leader of these Coburg Dock trips is also a key holder and is willing, they can allow people in their group access to the compound to collect and sanitise a set of equipment. A full Covid-19 risk assessment will need to be consulted. LCC Covid-19 Risk Assessment
Stage 3.5 – A “Docks Paddle” will consist of one group but a “Docks Session” may have several distinct and separate groups paddling at the same time. All paddlers will be pre-booked with a leader. A full Covid-19 risk assessment will need to be consulted. LCC Covid-19 Risk Assessment
Stage 4 – Allowing a return to general paddles of more than 6 at any one time but this will depend on Government advice for mass gatherings.

The club has agreed the following protocols:

  • If you have any symptoms of Coronavirus, please stay at home and self-isolate.
  • All paddling will be in pre-booked groups with a maximum number 6 paddlers with a named sheltered water leader (A group with more than six will be able to paddle together if made up of ONLY two households).  Canoe Polo sessions will run under British Canoeing guidance notes and risk assessments with full social distancing.
  • All Club Paddles should be on the calendar and advertised to all in the club.  Please avoid forming clique groups during this time to ensure fair access for all.
  • Each group of 6 will have a named sheltered water leader who will be responsible for organising the paddlers both on and off the water. Sheltered Water Leaders and coaches
  • A Docks supervisor (key holder) can organise a Docks Session and ask for it to be put on the calendar. (email calendar@liverpoolcanoeclub.co.uk )  This is where they will open the compound at the start and end of the session and allow sheltered water leaders and their pre-booked groups to access the boats one group at a time and get quickly on the water and paddle off.  The next group will then move from their cars to access the boats with only one group allowed in the compound at any one time.  Each group will operate strictly as a distinctly separate group and leave quickly after they have returned all loaned equipment.  Each leader is responsible for coordinating and supervising their group including asking if the docks supervisor has room for their paddle.  When advertising a paddle please give details of specific craft or purpose (eg Stand Up Paddle Board paddle for 6, Open Boats paddling or “General purpose easy paddle” etc)
  • All paddlers should use their own hand sanitiser before, during and after each paddle and loaned equipment should be sanitised before its use by the user (paddles, buoyancy aid zips and boat handles etc.
  • The changing sheds should not be used – They will remain locked.
  • Members should be encouraged to select the correct equipment without trying multiple sets.
  • The club will supply antibacterial spray for use on the padlocks etc but members borrowing paddles should clean loaned items themselves and remove all cleaning products and waste.
  • We will continue the policy of NOT allowing members to hire club equipment for paddles away from the docks.  There simply is not the capacity to allow for this.   The exception would be for key holders who can use their own key to collect and return club equipment used solely for them or paddlers under their lead to participate in such club paddles.  If you need to borrow club equipment under this arrangement please contact website@liverpoolcanoeclub.co.uk for the new link as the booking form has been removed from the website.
  • If you are feeling unwell or are in one of the medium or high-risk groups you should continue to shield and stay away from club promoted paddles.
  • The changing sheds should not be used and will remain locked.
  • Members should be encouraged to select the correct equipment without trying multiple sets and it is their own responsibility to ensure any equipment is sanitised.   (Eg wipe down any paddle shafts etc).
  • The club will supply spray disinfectant for use on the padlocks and gate handles by a key holder but members borrowing paddles should clean loaned items themselves and remove all cleaning products and waste.
  • Children under 16 will only be allowed on the water with a paddling adult from the household (eg a parent).
  • There is absolutely no expectation that any members of the Stewardship group or keyholders group should run any sessions unless they expressly want to.  If you are still advised to shield, then please continue to do so.
  • People can help carry longer kayaks and still main 2 metres, but they should be encouraged to always use the same pairs carrying the same ends when getting off the water.
  • Paddlers should not pass anything to others eg a camera etc

Sheltered Water Leaders and coaches

Guidelines for club Paddles and Trips

Template for google group email advertising a club trip……

If you have an idea for a paddle, would like help or advice to organise it, please email website@liverpoolcanoeclub.co.uk

FAQ – Club promoted trips.

What are the current guidelines:  Social distancing must take place at all times along with frequent hand washing or hand sanitising.  Currently no more than 6 people may meet for exercise at an outdoor venue.

How do I organise a club paddle:  Contact website@liverpoolcanoeclub.co.uk to add the trip to the calendar.   Brief details are then sent around by google group email – Members are then free to reply confirming they would like to take part and give brief details of experience etc if not known to organiser. Coordinator then confirms place (or not) on the trip and time / meeting place etc

What if someone brings a friend without confirming with the organiser meaning the group is now larger than 6 – both will be asked to go home and not paddle with the rest of the group. (absolute maximum of 6 people – including children). Only people booked on should attend and only people from the same household in the same car or boat.

What if another group is accessing the compound The second group must wait on the water or by their cars until the first is finished. We want to minimise the time spent in and around the compound to absolute minimum.

What if I do not have my own equipment – Most dock paddles are advertised as allowing members to borrow club equipment but you CANNOT hire club equipment for trips away from the docks unless the trip leader has indicated that he or she will be present to open the compound for you to collect and return the equipment.  The only exception is a key holder who pre-books a kayak for themselves or trip members for a club trip and can return it the same day with their key!

Can the trip be A to B with a car shuttle – Social distancing guidelines say no car sharing for members outside a household, so these kinds of trips are unfortunately not advised at the moment. However the government has issued advice if you need to car share……

What if a paddler drops out – this may result in others being turned away and should not happen – only reply to an email about a trip if you are 100% certain you can make the paddle

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 9

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 09a St Clements to Rab Wave (Lower Durance)

Learning that we had two parents who now wanted to paddle a river but with no river experience at all we adapted our plans and decided to run the St Clements to the Rab section again. The wide river with easy rapids that slowly builds would provide some confidence and a chance to explain the basics of a break in, ferry gliding and how to cope with the boils.

While the cars were shuttled to the bottom some of us practised edging and carving a turn while breaking in. It was great to see, Ellie, Ella and Poppy teaching their respective parents and demonstrating how to carve a turn while edging and looking downstream. After 20minutes of practise we were ready to head off in two large groups.

We were swept along in a beautiful valley with folded rock strata above. At first the current was slow and deep and some of us tried a roll or two to cool off. The first rapid was a large right-hand bend but we took a shorter channel to the right. Soon after we found a pebble beach and climbed the cliff to a jumping off place into deep water. Dangerous Ellie went first followed by Ella and Poppy. Sarah was showing us were to jump. As Poppy surfaced,

she cried “it`s Cold!”. Soon all the others in the group wanted a go followed by three raft crews. The trio went up again, on their own this time and jumped in.

Poppy cried “it`s Cold” again!

Further on there were larger waves and we all bounced through laughing and joking as we went. Aimee and Steve followed and seemed to have no trouble. We then came around the corner to the largest rapid. Poppy could not be seen at times disappearing in the wave troughs. This was great paddling. We watched the other group come through and then Keith tried to wind us up with tails of “dead man’s eddy” and trees that had been stuck in it for 100s of years. Ellie picked the route and we all went to the right side. In another 200m we eddied out and carried the boats up to the cars. We all then went down to watch as some of the group ran the “Rabioux Wave”. This was a massive hole with large amounts of white water below. Most made it through or had to roll. One swimmer made it safely to the bank and his kayak was rescued by Stuart and Sarah.

This had been a great day

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Day 09b Upper Guisane

We set off for the get in at Le Casset, a small sleepy town with a large wooded picnic area which is popular with walkers and mountain bikers. We had lunch and parked up the cars. Three rafts then arrived and proceeded to get ready we waited a while and one raft departed. The other two were still briefing the clients and unloading a raft. We walked onto shingle bank and got ready to seal lunch in as a six and a five. The river ran shallow and swiftly here with few eddies or stopping places. Half of the first group set off and then a second raft came down behind splitting the group – not ideal I thought. After a few bends we eddied out or at least got out of the main flow to let the raft through. Shortly after the raft guide did his usual trick of ramming a large boulder which narrows the river and stopped dead blocking the channel. The timing was poor as we had then drifted down on top of the raft. Keith managed to squeeze through under the overhanging boulder, Craig was not so lucky, he was swept through between the raft and boulder upside down. He managed to get out of his boat in the rocky stream, but the raft was then swept down running him over, a large screech of “ouch” was heard. Meanwhile Richard was also swept into the overhanging boulder while he was trying to avoid the carnage. Fortunately, he managed to roll. We recovered the kayak and let the raft go by with some perplexed stairs and checked that Craig was ok. He decided to run back for the van – only 200m back upstream and meet us at the get out.

We continued on as two groups of five, being swept along by the fast afternoon flow. Through the town of Le Monetier-les-Bains where a long and bouncy grade 3 section always gives some fun and requires a paddler to concentrate. The gravel beds below the town led to the portage around “S-Bends”, a long and difficult rapid that pinned one of the rafts in front for 5 minutes or so. Most portaged joining the river just before the house some 400m below.

One back in our groups we proceeded past the raft get in on river right and over the two weirs (this time with no mishaps). The sections below have many small eddies and are ideal for practising breaking in and out. The picturesque town of La Salle-les-Alpes has many riverside cafes and restaurants with many colourful blooms on every balcony and bridge. Claire was here taking photos, but we suspect she had also stopped for refreshments in one of the beautiful cafés along this stretch.

A wooded valley section led to some interesting features, including Nadia’s famous 360-degree spin rock. The get out was opposite the swimming pool at Saint-Chaffrey.

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 10

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 10a Lower Gyronde

After a short drive ten of the group readied themselves to take on the River Gyronde. This is a fast river not unlike yesterday’s Guisane but with a few more eddy opportunities and bigger rocks and small boulders to navigate. We got on at the middle section in the centre of the campsite. Keith gave us a brief demonstration of how to tackle the broken weir using a couple of stones standing in for boulders and then we were off.

Keith led the first group which consisted of Stuart, Alexsander, Oscar and Neil. The “Murphy” group went next led by Chris with Oliver, Charlie, Steve and Sarah. The second group started off well but there

was to be an early incident for Charlie not long into the paddle. Steve managed to get his large Machno sideways trying to avoid a couple of large boulders and unfortunately Charlie was a little too close to avoid “Titanic 2” and he rolled in. It was at this point that we realised that Charlie had not inflated his air bags (or is that his Dad’s job?). The boat chase was on for Chris and Sarah whilst Ollie went after the paddle. After several attempts we eventually managed to get the very full Mamba into an eddy, but Charlie predictably ended up on the other bank. It took another couple of ferry glides to get his kit back to him before we could set off again.

As we rounded the next bend, we saw the broken weir with Keith standing pointing the way to paddle. It didn’t look much like his scale model I have to say! We all shot the weir safely and carried on through the bottom of the wooded section and into l’Argentierre. Before we knew it, we had reached the top of the slalom section at our campsite. Sarah took an impromptu roll after losing an argument with an eddy line even before we had set off, but the rest of the slalom was attacked with style. Oscar was especially pleased to roll on the first wave as he had asked Olesia to take his picture! We headed back to the tents and chilled for the next couple of hours before this afternoons paddle.

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Day 10b Upper Durance

We set off from the put in on the road to Briancon down the river previously known as the smelly river. The 15 paddlers who set off were split into 3 groups of 5. The first was led by Chris, the second by Keith and the third by Stuart. On the first section one boat ended up pinned against a rock mid-stream; Alexsander broke out behind the rock and successfully managed to empty the boat. Stuart then threw a line with a carabiner across the river to him. Alexsander was able to attach the line to the boat which enabled Stuart to bring it to the riverbank.

Near the end of the stretch of water (before the dam and get out) all the paddlers grouped up before a 400m eddy hopping hot zone. Keith set everyone the challenge of hopping in and out of 20 plus eddies on this section of the river. There were lots of rocks mid-stream and along the riverbank which provided plenty of eddying opportunities for the group to take full advantage of. Some people even got 40+! We paddled to along the finial section of the river to the

get out by the dam. After a day of paddling we were getting ready for the short drive back to the campsite however some French workers had another idea.

The tunnel that led to the main road had been previously closed to cars but open to pedestrians which allowed the paddlers to get to the main road. Today however the tunnel was impassable due to some heavy machinery digging its way through the road inside. This proved a problem as the drill covered the whole passage and the only other exit was a 1 kilometre walk up a steep hill in full kayaking gear. After almost an hour of waiting, thankfully the workers finished for the day which cleared the way for us to pass through the dusty tunnel. The shuttle run was completed soon after all the boats were carried to the other side. We all escaped the incoming storm in the nick of time and to cap it all off some of us witnessed 3 gendarmes chasing and rugby tackling a criminal alongside the main road.

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 8

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 08a The Lower Guil

Day one for many on the river today and an ideal first river in the Guil Valley below Mont Dauphin Fort. We all arrived at the get in along the gravel track and carried our boats down to the water`s edge where the newcomers got used to the wizardry of whitewater kayaking.

Everyone practiced edging their boats while others rolled and surfed in the clear blue water. We split into groups and set off downstream making sure to avoid the rocks and enjoy the scenery. We arrived at a

wave where some of us had a short play before setting off again downstream practicing breaking in and out as we went.

Soon we passed a pretty waterfall on the left and turned around to see a rock formation in the shape of a hand. More eddy hopping and we soon arrived at the convergence with the Durance. The water here was a bit confused, so we had to concentrate and keep our balance and joined the main flow. Alexander made the mistake of dipping his paddle to check the water depth. And we all know it’s just the law to do a roll after making such a signal.

Before we knew it we arrived at St Clement where we or I was a bit nervous in my new boat so we paddled straight through the Slalom course to the get out on the beach. Here we all practiced swimming down the rapids and then tried to safety people with our throwlines. Everyone’s throwline work was really good this

year so everyone must have been practicing!!

The non-paddlers met with us and enjoyed lunch on the riverside including a big cute dog that was eyeing up everyone’s sandwiches.

The kids played with their buckets and spades in the sand while we waited for cars to arrive.

A great start for everyone.

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Day 08b St Clements to Rab Wave (Lower Durance)

After lunch on the beach at St Clements some of the crew decided to paddle down to the Rab wave as they had heard that it was “just a wave train” this year. We set off as one large group of 11. The river began to pick up speed and waves

and eddies grew in size. We all headed for the best waves playing and bobbing as we went. The largest set of waves were below a set of powerlines on a large left-hand bend. The mood in the group was good with most laughing and joking as we went.

We paddled around the large rock wall dividing the current with a large recirculating eddy on river left and headed off on river right. This signalled the run in to the Raboiux rapid. We passed through two sets of large boulders standing as gates to the left-hand channel. Most rafts and inflatables take the main flow to the right of the island.

We stopped about 50m about the Rabioux rapid. There is a large triangle shaped rock on the left just below the main wave. Keith and Stuart went first. Then one by one we paddled out into the centre of the current and lined ourselves up for the rapid. As we dropped in there were two waves which funnelled everyone into the main vee, fortunately we all managed to make it through in one piece. This was not the easy wave train produced by the higher flow of the week before. The river had dropped and had produced a steeper hole with a difficult double wave.

Grateful that we had survived with three and half rolls and one swim, we loaded up our kayaks and headed back to the campsite for the rest of the days sunshine.

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 7

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 7a The Ubaye Racecourse

Racecourse – Martinet to Le Lauzet

The Ubaye Racecourse is the classic Ubaye run. A consistent stretch of class 3+ to 4 whitewater with fun big and bouncy rapids and surprisingly warm water. 15 rapids in quick succession, including named rapids like Dent de Requin (Shark’s Tooth) and Rouleau de Printemps (Spring Roll) make this section a must for your kayaking bucket list. The scenery is outstanding with views over the wooded valley, and at the end of the descent the river narrows through a sheer sided gorge. Put-in at the rafting base just past Le Martinet. Take out below Le Lauzet at La Source campsite.

Class: IV. Gradient: 15 m/km. Flow: 30 m³/s.

Paddling time: 2 hours. Distance: 8 km. Best months: May to July.

With everyone else deciding to take a well-deserved rest day, Keith and I departed the campsite early and made the 1 1/4-hour journey over to the get out. On the way we passed the massive lake Serre

Poncon, it really is a wonderful turquoise blue. As we approach the lakeside road it always reminds me of the Mediterranean Sea. The road winds around the lake for some time, giving amazing views of yachts, wind and kite surfers.

Upon arriving at the get out we found a suitable location to secure Keith’s bike. The plan was when we had dropped of the car at the get in, and ran the river, Keith would cycle back to the start and collect the car. We put on the river with minimum faff, as we had arrived early, we virtually had the whole car park to choose from. The get in is very impressive, as you paddle under an old stone bridge and straight into a full-on boulder rapid. We occasionally stopped to play on a suitable wave. To spice things up a bit we decided that on every island we met we would pass it only on the left. We would run the river again then pass the all the islands on the right.

We made our way down the river at a fairly fast pace, passing the occasional raft or other kayak group.

One of the main sections “Shark Fin Rapid” seemed different this year, some of the larger bolder had moved position.

Almost at the end of the river we approached the spot we would usually take a group photo. It brought home how different this year’s trip has been, being just two of us. We made it to the get out and carried our boats up the steps to the road. Keith bravely set of find his bike and cycle to pick up the car.

Whilst he was gone, I was taking to a river leader and her two clients. The two young English girls were on a freestyle paddling tour of Europe. Their farther was driving them to whitewater courses in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and the Alps, wow.

Keith returned and we drove back to the top of the river and had lunch, we repeated the previous run, only this time passing islands on the left. We ran the various sections again without issue. Towards the end of the river this time we noticed that five cars had fallen from the road some time ago and were resting on the riverbank.

We returned to the campsite, looking forward to meeting the new arrivals here for the next week.

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Day 7b The Slalom Course

Neil went on the slalom course with Sarah, Steve, Olie, Charlie and Chris. They were strongly advised to warm up on easier sections first. After practising rolling on the lake, they spotted a sign saying slalom course closed. Blindly ignoring this they proceeded to give it a go anyway. The group safely made the first two eddies and then the water was going the wrong way “says Steve”. Three attempts at righting the mighty Machno were not entirely successful. Paddler went river right, the paddled went to river left while the mighty Machno proceeded downstream followed by the chasing paddlers. Sarah managed to usher it onto the stone beach below the campsite. The session ended with the paddlers walking back onto the campsite via the reception desk and front entrance!

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 6

Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Day 06a Upper Guil

We headed up the Guil Valley stopping briefly at Mont Barton Bridge and Triple Steps to view the water levels. Passing Chateau Queyras we headed for the get in at Aiguilles and on the way tried but failed to peer over the edge and into the gorge section. I am sure it will be ok said Stuart. A quick car shuttle and we were away, going with the flow over and around every boulder in sight. Soon reached the start of the gorge, the river steepened and disappeared around a corner. Time to eddy hop. Signals were being passed along the line and paddlers dropped into an eddy and then the next.

The river had very sharp rock strata and the step walls had collapsed in several places giving difficult routes around blind bends. On one tight sequence Craig had made all the difficult moves but was unsettled by a nasty boulder. He soon got himself and paddle to the edge, but the swift current sped his boat over the next few rapids before Keith managed to wedge it tight against some rocks. It took a few minutes to sort the boat and re-establish contact with the rest of the group. They had portaged around the tricky rapid under Stuarts guidance. Once on our way again we encountered several nasty bends, a few overhanging walls, and another long portage for most. This is where good soled trainers or river shoes are a must and make scouting and portaging on difficult ground that much safer.

A few more pour-overs and pour-throughs saw us the end of the gorge. The valley opened and after a few kms of boulder riverbed we saw our first sighting of the castle on the hill (Chateau Queyras). One difficult rocky weir saw a few of us temporarily pinned but we managed to free ourselves before arriving in the centre of the town. A quick shuttle to fetch Oscars car and we could all then enjoy a well-earned lunch and discuss our various bruises and bangs!

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Day 06b Chateau Queyras

After the Upper Guil and tricky gorge section, Stuart and Keith decided they wanted to run “Chateau Q”. This is a narrow ravine with 50m high vertical cliffs which sports the Via Ferrata along one side. There is only one way out and the river channels down to about 2.5m wide in places and swirls and twists its way down over several large boulders. It has been described by many like being “flushed down the loo.”

The two paddlers dropped down to the bridge and then paddled off over the drop and around the corner. As Stuart followed, he spotted four rafts following down. Neither of us fancied being run over by a raft in the ravine so we had no time to stop and chat. We paddled on from the single eddy (a well-known collection point for swimmers / paddles / boats and paddled on over the final drop in the gorge, past the waterfall cascading down on our left. Here the valley opened up and has numerous large boulders in sight of the final exit bridge.

we were overtaken by the rafts who were carrying on down Guardian Angel Gorge. We carried the kayaks up to the bridge and Stuart return for the car which was a short 1km away. Joining the others, we enjoyed not one but two boules of Ice Cream and freshly pressed Orange Juice.

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Day 06c Via Ferrata – Chateau Queyras

After the group had finished their morning paddle, Neil and Kayleigh, inspired by Keith and Stuart kayaking the raging torrent within the gorge, decided we would scope out the best lines from above, just in case we were ever silly enough to run it. So, after Neil parted with 8 euros for the hire of equipment, off we went.

Due to Neil’s knees shaking, Kayleigh starting to traverse through the gorge by clipping and unclipping on the safety wires swiftly followed by Neil. Through the route there was a variety of rock holds, metal fixings, eroded slippery rock, followed by two tight rope walks over the gorge. Although prior to the first tight rope, there was an escape option which Kayleigh was pleasantly surprised that Neil didn’t take, due to the blinding white colour of his knuckles, but he persevered. We both proceeded to traverse the tightrope in turn and after this our speed picked up. The next difficult section was a curved route, followed by an additional ten-metre tight rope walk, which was definitely a little shaky for us. The final stretch of the Via Ferrata was an overhanging cliff face over the gorge, which was quite tough, but it felt really exhilarating and we definitely gained a sense of achievement.

The approximate time to complete the overall course is 1 hour 30, although we made it through from start to finish within an hour!

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