The Upper Durance is a good little warm-up river and confidence builder for the less experienced at paddling white water. Lots of easy bouncy rapids with more quieter stretches on which to take in the spectacular scenery. Today, was particularly enjoyable as the sun was out and the water blue.
The get out at the barrage by the tunnel was “barred” but we still wanted to run the lower section which has fantastic eddy sequences for about a 500m section. We scouted on foot through the barriers and tunnel and noticed the tunnel was indeed blocked on both sides, but we thought we would be clever and drive the cars to the other side of the tunnel. However, the road was also blocked about 1km away, so we had to leave the cars there and do a double shuttle at the end of the trip.
We bounced down the rapids opposite the commercial centre, under a footbridge and then the road bridge to the commercial centre. We all took turns to lead and find breakouts. On one tricky section Kayleigh followed Craig over a large rock (boof) but this proved a little unbalancing and the inevitable happened and she took a short swim. Kayleigh managed to self-rescue dragging her boat to the bank. This was a great spot and we all surfed the little wave in the centre of the river while Kayleigh sorted her boat out.
After about 3 km we made it to a railway bridge and the start of the main rapids. These all had a good level in them and provided a great playground for us to play as we made our way down through. The stinky bridge at the bottom (possible exit point) will have to be renamed as the authorities have now mended the broken sewage pipe. The remaining 3 km section has 50 or so expertly placed boulders left and right that are a dream to break in an out of. It is easy grade two and would make a fantastic natural slalom course. All of us became too tired to utilise all of them.
Once at the barrage we carried out boats up to the top and then through the tunnel (well-lit but void of all traffic) to the other side of the barriers. We had a short wait while the three cars navigated the temporary roadworks in Prelles.
After a short lunch Aleksander, Keith and Stuart head off in search of the mighty Gryonde but with the water at bankfull and not a boulder in sight we decided to give it a miss as it was so late in the day.