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Major Trip Reports.…
Day 3a The Lower Guil
We had a leisurely start and headed up the Guil Valley under Mont Dauphin Forte. The road was a rocky gravel track which is closed outside the summer because of rock fall from the hillside above. On crossing over the bridge and into the car park we checked out the “scenes of crime”. We spotted the line of oil from James earlier grounding of his Volvo. This is a sad story of wow with his car having hit a rock and holed the sump pan resulting in it having to be posted home and James booking a flight. (The French main Volvo dealership could not book it in for repairs for another two weeks!)
The shuttle was soon sorted. Olesia and Nadia were going to follow us down the valley on foot following the valley path and gravel track. This was Oscars first ever river and we spent a little time at the start explaining what an eddy was, how to edge and carve a turn. He was also shown the basics of a ferry glide, a few river signals and what to do if he encountered a rock midstream or a overhanging trees on a bend.
We headed off down the picturesque valley with crystal clear water flowing from snowmelt higher up the valley. There were a number of other groups on the river and we leapfrogged each other between the rapids and eddies. We played for a while on a good little surf wave and honed our skills ready for St Clements Slalom site below.
As the Guil joins the Durance there is a wild and boily mixing of the two currents. We all took special care here but there were no mishaps and we soon drifted down to the wave rock with the massive undercut. (This was the scene of the raft pinning last year which took ten of us pulling on a throw line to pop the raft free). We kept to the centre until the las minute before taking the right-hand channel. About 2km of gravel beds led to the top of the slalom site.
We dropped over the first wave and started to surf it in turn. Aleksander stole the show with his very impressive forward loop and sky-rocket getting his kayak vertical and totally clear of the water. After a while and following repeated efforts we made our way down the rapids to the beach below. Here we returned for the car and picked up Nadia and Olesia to return for lunch in the sun. Just as we finished lunch a grey cloud drifted over us followed be a few spots of rain. This soon changed into a full-on thunderstorm and the car park soon flooded. Fortunately, we had the cars and vans to shelter in and just watched as the rain came down. It stopped as soon as it had started and within minutes the strong sunshine started to dry everything. Our boats were still on the beach and had to be drained of a few litres of water.
Day 3b The Lower Durance
After a leisurely lunch, and once the shuttle was completed, with the van going down to the Rab wave, we set off down the Durance. We encountered loads of big bouncy wave trains, Choo Choo! and many swirling eddies and boils.
This section of river is really wide and enjoyable. No need to take turns or go one at a time. We just paddled as one large group, swapping the lead as we pleased. The best rapids and wave trains were on the outside of bends and we all headed for the biggest waves. We pointed out the eddy that gave Craig and Martin so much trouble escaping its swirling grip. The largest rapid on the section is under some power lines but this just gave us plenty of air as we bounced over the massive waves.
Keith had been trying to wind others up with the famous “dead man`s eddy”. This is a massive (100m) eddy with many logs and trees trapped in its never-ending grasp. Well we all broke into it and were swirled around it but had no trouble ferry gliding back to the middle of the river and around the cliff to the raft get out. We exited here but not before looking at the famous Rab wave which we planned to run another day.