River Trip 2010

Members of the Shetland Canoe Club took a trip to the Scottish Mainland to do some river kayaking in October.

Ruby Price was one of them and here is her personal account of the fantastic trip, taking in a wide variety of river paddling, spectacular scenery and the paddle sport annual show for 2010. Read on!

One of the beautiful rivers the Club members paddled.

Ten days on the mainland saw three Shetland Kayakers seeking out some fun on six rivers across Scotland. Myself, having only started kayaking thisyear with majority of it being sea based, I was keen to have a go at some faster flowing river paddling. Accompanied by Jonathon Swale and Deborah Lamb the three of us headed south managing to kayak on the river Spey, Findhorn, Awe, Roy, Garry and also the Tay. Staying in a flat in Laggan for the first week and a cottage in Perth for the following weekend, we were pretty central for easily accessing the rivers without the journey being too long. For many of the rivers we were joined by a few of Jonathon’s paddling friends: Mark Stroud, Claire Chapman, Stefan Janic and Lisa King, as well as one of Marks friend Graham. As well as the paddling side of it all we also enjoyed some beautiful scenery throughout Scotland, found a nice collection of Chanterelle and Hedgehog mushrooms, enjoyed some good food (mostly cooked by Jonathon), visited a climbing wall in Aviemore, surfed at St. Andrews and also visited the Paddle Show 2010 in Perth. It was certainly a jam packed ten days and I am now looking forward to the next time I get a go on the rivers.

To get into the flow of being on the river, we started out on the Spey: a nice calm scenic route with a few faster flowing rapids. If I saw what I would be tackling only a few days later on some of the other rivers I would never have believed it. However although starting off with a nice gentle part of the Spey I quickly progressed to some more challenging rapids in the following week.

Joined by Mark Stroud and his friend Graham, the five of us enjoyed a nice paddle on the Findhorn on the second day. We had some great weather and a brilliant paddle with some good challenging rapids. When we arrived at Logie bridge, there was a group of students from Glasgow getting into the water, so we watched them as they descended down the first rapid, resulting in a couple of them with a swim. I was slightly nervous before doing the first rapid as I wasn’t too sure what to expect,  but was glad when I came through and never capsized. This was only a small taster of what was waiting further down the river. At several points in the river Deborah and I got out to inspect the rapids and see if we could manage it, although Deborah opted to portage a few of the rapids, and had the job of taking some excellent videos. Myself, on the other hand was very much up for every challenge the river had set for me. ‘Wall of Death’ and ‘Carnage Corner’ were the biggest challenges  on the Findhorn. The ‘Wall of Death’ looked particularly scary with two small fast flowing drops. Before running it, I hovered at the top nervously thinking this may be a little too advanced for only being my second river. Jonathon had pointed out a good line to try and take and despite my best attempts to take the line I still made it through without capsizing, which I was quite pleased about. Later on in the river we were met by Carnage Corner. Once again like the ‘Wall of Death’ both Deborah and I decided to have a look at it before deciding to run it. Seeing the drop, I thought it was nothing compared to the ‘Wall of Death’ and decided to go for it. And I nailed it, even better is that Deborah filmed it as well. After Mark, Graham and myself had run Carnage Corner unscathed, it was Jonathon’s turn and Deborah still had the camera rolling. Unfortunately Jonathon’s run wasn’t a smooth as ours, he got stuck on a rock and fell in. However the film ends with him successfully rolling back up again. Not only did I have a very enjoyable time on the Findhorn I even learnt a few useful strokes as well, like using a draw stroke will pull you away from any obstacles in the river, which definitely came in useful later on.

Despite the very long drive to the river Awe on the Sunday morning, the run was certainly worth it, even if it was quite a short run. The Awe consisted of a few flatter parts in the river as well as a lot of bouncy rapids with the great feeling of the water splashing up in your face as you flow down the river. I don’t think there was anything too challenging on this river but I definitely enjoyed it and would like to do it again some day.

On the Monday, joined by Mark and Claire we decided to do another part of the Spey, starting at Ballindalloch and finishing up at the place we at previously started at on the Friday, Knockando. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this part of the Spey very much. With the previous days on the Findhorn and Awe, the Spey was just a little to calm for my liking. Plus the fact that the river wasn’t very deep, we got stuck on rocks quite a few times.  At one part in the river we were practicing some breaking in to the rapids, however on my second attempt I got slightly stuck on a rock and because I wasn’t leaning downstream I ended up capsizing. Although I managed to hold onto the boat, I let go of the paddle and so Claire had to chase after it. Once we had reached a safe spot for me to get back into the water, I was absolutely freezing. Even with a milky way and a hand warmer kindly given by Claire I was still very cold and was glad to get out the river about ten minutes later and warm up.

Like the Spey, the Roy was cold and generally not enough water in it. Both Deborah and I had a swim or two after getting stuck on a rock and going in. Fortunately both Jonathon and Mark managed to avoid the rock. Seeing Deborah get stuck on the rock, I tried my best to avoid it. Fail. The rapids had other ideas and I too went into it and didn’t quite manage to keep my balance. Other parts in the river there was so little water that we had no option but to get out the boat and walk it. I would certainly be up for doing the Roy again but would hope that there would be more water flowing down it the next time.

The Garry has got to be the most adrenaline rushing river I did of the week. The complete opposite from the nice calm Spey I started out on only six days earlier. This was not a river you could stop and take pictures on as it was fast flowing rapids all the way down.  With the odd flat parts to gather your thoughts before descending down the next rapid. I was definitely nervous but excited when I got into the river, this was the highest graded river I did of the week at grade three. I’m surprised I made it down twice with only one small swim at the very end of the first run. On one of the first rapids, it seemed as if all three of us might have ended up with a swim. Jonathon went down first and unfortunately capsized resulting in his one and only swim of the week. I then went down, thought I too was going to end up with a swim but luckily somehow kept my balance. Next it was Marks turn, at one point it looked like it was only me that was going to run the rapid unscathed, fortunately Mark too was just able to keep his balance and made it to the flat water. After running the river twice, Mark taught me how to use a throw line, which is useful to know. As well as telling me how to swim in the river, staying on your back with your feet pointing downstream. All three of us had a turn of jumping into the river, swimming a bit, then trying to catch the rope and being pulled into the side. We even watched some rafters as they too came down the last rapid. Despite the river being so short, I had great fun on running it twice and can’t wait to do it again. Would certainly recommend to all adrenaline junkies, like myself.

The final river of the week was the Tay descent. After running the Garry a few days beforehand, this river felt extremely flat, with not enough fast flowing water. However I still enjoyed the opportunity of joining many other kayakers on the first Tay descent. It was great to see all the different types of kayaks there are, from racing kayaks to the put it together on the day inflatable kayaks. I think for this stretch of water it was more the sea kayak I needed rather than the white water boat as mine had a tendency to spin around in circles every time I took out my camera. As it was so flat, I even resulted to kayaking backwards just to amuse myself. I think if they have the Tay descent next year I will be going for the race and a longer distance rather than the short five mile tour. After being on the Tay, we visited the Paddle Show 2010 at the Bell Sports Centre. It was certainly a good opportunity to inspect various kit such as helmets and bouyancy aids as this is likely going to be my next investment. During the course of the day at the show and later at the dance we bumped into a few familiar faces, Dave Phillips happened to be at the Coastguard stand, along with Audrey Smith at the Surf stand. As well as a few people I recognised at the dance: Fen and Jaap along with Ansgar and Antje who I met back in July at the Symposium and Unst weekends. So it was good to catch up with them.

As well as river paddling I also got the chance to try out some surf kayaking. Joined by Mark, Lisa and Stefan we headed to St. Andrews instead of the original plan of going to Carnoustie as the surf wasn’t quite as good there. Instead of using the Attak, I  had a shot of the Necky as Deborah wished to use the Attak. Having been used to one boat for a while I didn’t really like the Necky, plus it didn’t fit me very well. Once I did eventually get onto the water, Stefan helped show me the basics of Surf kayaking, such as using a low brace against the wave. I also learnt that before the tide washes me ashore and I get stuck on the sand I should remember to turn my boat around into the surf. Despite capsizing numerous times, and not taking to the surf as much as the river paddling I am still keen to give it another go and hopefully next time in a more comfortable boat!

After my ten days away, I learnt quite a bit and I’m surprised at how quickly I took to the rivers, descending rapids I would never of imagined myself doing on my first time on the rivers. I very much enjoyed myself on the rivers as well as the company and I’m definitely looking forward to my next time on the rivers. Next year, if I’m around in Fort William and not too busy with course work am sure you will see me joining those who head for the rivers trip next year.

One last thing is I would like to thank a few people:
Mavis, for lending me her drysuit, muchly appreciated and certainly kept me warmer than if I only had my wetsuit.
Jim for letting me use his Attak boat, I quite like it now. P.S If you ever need to sell it, I’ll buy it!
Jonathon, for organising the trip.
And all those who were good company: Jonathon, Deborah, Mark, Claire, Lisa and Stefan.

By Ruby Price, November 2010

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