Alps Alternative Week 2 Central and Southeast Scotland. Day 5, 6 and 7

Alps Alternative Week 2 Central and Southeast Scotland.

Day 05 River Garry

Although a long drive to the Inverness-shire River Garry, as it was releasing it was definitely worth it. We set off early to drive up the A9 and across to Spean Bridge and up to Invergarry. This was across the highlands of Scotland and was a beautiful drive and in total contrast to the wide, lowland valleys of Perthshire. We arrived at the car park and already there were a few other boaters there (Rafting companies, open boats and kayakers). We organised the shuttle and decided to do the lower section first. Nic, Ella and I scouted the first section along the new path that had been put in since I was there last. We spotted the line on the couple of drops on that section.

We put in at the bridge just below the large wave on the corner and paddled down as a group. Taking the main drop on the right we followed two chutes into the eddy below. Good lines by all made this look easier than it was. The river then had a few large bouncy rapids running over a steepish section. Below here the river is quite sedate with the occasional grade 2 rapid or section. We paddled under an old footbridge, chatted and relaxed.

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Towards the bottom, the river gets more serious and comes to a large natural ledge with a 1m pour over. We paddled over this one at a time, Ella let out quiet a large yelp as she dropped over the edge as it was considerably larger than she thought. Immediately below this feature some of us got out to inspect the rapid and steep bend under the old road bridge. This is now half-collapsed after the floods and is cordoned off from the road. There were no trees blocking the way and I briefed the group about the line. “Swing right of middle and then back left to follow the water down and flare right as the water piles up against the gorge wall on the left. Make sure you do not break out too soon on the right as this is a very large and boily area”

We headed off giving about 10 boat lengths between each of us. I went first, followed by Ella and then Nick, Oscar and then Stuart. Ella appeared upside down and we collected all the bits in the calm water below the bridge, not before a small branch from a tree capsized me, forcing a roll. We used a throw line to drag the boats up the steep sides of the gorge below the bridge to road where we could load them onto the cars. This had been a great section of the river and well worth the drive.

We returned to the car park for a spot of lunch. Here we decided to run the upper section down to the bridge and then picking up Ella would run the lower section again. We started just below the dam looking into the tunnel for the overflow channel. The upper section consisted of about 5 waves or drops which were all good fun. The last, is a good play spot with a large wave just above the middle bridge. We went over this, one at a time with Stuart punching through the large wave train above the bottom wave.

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Ella was waiting at the bridge and led us down most of the upper section again. This was an enjoyable section with us working on several skills at various parts along this section of river. We all shot the ledge before the broken and damaged road bridge. The final rapid around the S bend into the gorge proved a lot of fun. Both Nick and Oscar had to roll here but would not come out of their boat. Good effort.

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Day 06a River Tay to Grandtully

No releases today so we thought we would pop up and do the 2km section from the Scottish Canoe Association field. This gives some good grade 2`s down to Grandtully which we could run a couple of times. Many had gone home already expecting rain, which didn’t really materialise. We met several open boaters in the field access point, but we headed off quickly to make the most of a late breakfast on our return. Richard was sneaking in a last-minute paddle while Amy, Ella and Poppy packed the car ready for the journey home.

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We made the most of the rapids on the way down, trying different routes from the previous day. Eventually we came across the slalom site at Grandtully. We shot the two stage rapids and made the most of our time trying different lines and manoeuvres. When we had finished, we carried back up to the campsite for a shower and late breakfast. It had started to rain slightly, and we watched as many of the campers pack up in the rain. Fortunately, we still had the club gazebo that Craig had kindly left for us. This would make the final two days much easier given the forecast.

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Day 06b River Tay Stanley

After lunch we thought we would drive down to Stanley Pools for a final surf on the wave at the weir. The A9 was delayed with roadworks so “google” took us along the backroads, saving 25 minutes. As we arrived at the car park next to the river the sun came out. Nick had talked about the largest waterfall (by volume) in Europe at Campsie Linn, a short way up steam from the get in. We paddled up and then portaged around the rocky outcrop which forms the Linn. This was difficult but surely worth it to paddle the biggest waterfall. Well – what a disappointment. There was a small green wave where the waterfall was supposed to be. It was hard to get on and only Stuart managed it. After 30 seconds or so we decided to drift down to the weir.

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At the weir we played and surfed for an hour or so. All four of us perfected the technique of dropping onto the face of the wave and surfing back and forth. We then carried around the weir and paddled back across the flat water above (the Linn Pools) to the cars. That evening we were unable to book a restaurant again as it was very busy, and Scotland still had COVID restrictions in place. We had a BBQ and take-a-way, a traditional way to end any Alpine Paddling Trip.

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Day 07 River Tummel

We had packed up early, loading all the tents etc into our cars for the journey back South. The river Tummel was still releasing so we had one last chance to paddle on the final day. Oscar was keen to paddle the sections that he walked around on the first day, so the three of us headed up to do the Tummel. We dropped off Oscar’s car at the hydro station car park on the way up the valley. We unloaded the 3 boats and carried them to the foot of the dam. Here we got on the river, clearly the first paddlers of the day and well before the commercial rafts. The rapids gradually increased as we descended the river. Towards the end the Z-shaped rapid proved a little tricky and then we took on the Linn Falls at the bottom. Oscar still needs to return to do a clean run of this section but at least we were a little closer to his goal.

This was good alternative to the annual Alps trip but let’s hope that we all meet up in L’Argentière-la-Bessée next summer.

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A person in a kayak in a river

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION of the Tummel from Rivers Guide UK: From the dam the river is easy grade 2, the difficulty slowly increasing. The first grade 3 is Sawmill falls, a long bouncy rapid with an awkward slot at the end. A few more easy rapids follow before the big flat bit at Coronation Bridge – a white suspension bridge. After this flat bit is the run in to the top of the grade 3+ section. Constriction is first up, a tight turn into a narrow slot. After this there is a large eddy on the right to grab any pieces if you’re quick. Straight up next is S bend, a technical rapid with an enormous pool at the bottom to catch any carnage. Inspection/portage is easy on the right. A few more grade 2/3 drops bring you to the Linn of Tummel (grade 4). A double stage fall, it’s easier than it looks. There is a ledge below the second drop on the left, visible when Loch Faskally is low, that should be avoided. Inspection/portage is easy on the right, though beware the very slippery rocks! Rescue at the bottom is from the Loch, so no stress there. The rocks on the left below the Linn give some great cliff jumping opportunities.