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Major Trip Reports.…
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
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.