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Major Trip Reports.…
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.
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.