19 November 2006

In search of water...

Today was suppose to be another day at Halton, whilst the canoe club I'm a part of ran an introduction to moving water for some beginners. However, the rain gods blessed us this week and threw down some moisture to bring the levels up at Halton so that it was just not practical to take some newbies onto the fluffy white stuff. Therefore plans were hatched to take them else where, and I hatched plans with a couple of other dedicated soles to go in search of something harder and that is what we did.

After rearranged boats, kit and people a van and car left the main group of people, who were going to do a section of grade 1/2 on the Lune, to take a look at the Clough. I was in this group and we flew up the motorway to Junction 37 and Sedburgh, the center of the Howgills where there are some real grade 3/4/4+ gems, and one of these is the Clough. With good conversation in the van time soon flew by and we were at the get out for the Rawthey and then in no time at a bridge over the Clough, where one of the gorges were. It didn't look good; the river was empty. It needed another two foot of water; we were downhearted, but it was back into the van to the get out for the Rawthey for a regroup. When we stopped again we moved boats around a bit and it ended up that we had four boats on the van and four people, in a two person van, heading for the get in for the Upper Rawthey, another gem which flows out of the Howgills. The other car was left at the bottom with our dry gear.

We pulled up again at a suitable spot to scout the Rawthey and again it didn't look good; the river was empty. It needed a couple more inches of water; we were even more downhearted, so downhearted in fact that my heart may have dropped out of place!!! So it was back into the van and back for the car we had left earlier. There was a bit of people swapping before we were heading off to scout another river. This time it was the Upper Lune. We got to the take out and rearranged people again so that the van could head to the top and the car left at the bottom for shuttles at the end. I may just add that during all this driving we had been passing many cars with boats on the roof giving us waves and the odd person giving us a thumbs down sign to indicate that the water levels weren't good. What camaraderie?

We pulled up again and it looked good; there was enough water in the Upper Lune. The last time I had done this river there was a shingle bank fully exposed at the get in, and this time water was flowing over it. It wasn't just flowing over it, but it was actually flowing over it sufficiently enough to float my boat. It was on!!! We pulled boats and gear off and out of the van, moved the van into a better parking spot and got on the water. I probably didn't stop smiling for the whole time I was on the water. It was just great, continuous grade 3 rapids with lots of water coming down the river. The gorge sections were high, so high in fact that nasty looking boils were forming on eddy lines ideal for tail squirts and other slicing-your-end-under the-water type moves.

The main attraction to this river is near the end and so it was with great excitement that we headed on downstream. Our day was perfect, it was good paddling, in a fine location, with good mates. Then it happened. A shout came from the bank: "you can't canoe on here!" Great, then when looking at the culprit of the shouting it was no other than the farmer's son. We, needless to say, ignored the child and headed on downstream after exchanged some conversation where we pointed out that you couldn't actually fish the river either, which they were doing. Just after this we came upon the main attraction on the river, The Strid.

The last time that I paddled The Strid there was a rock in the entrance to the gorge that made the line some what more difficult to get, but this time it was just one mass of falling water, with a current which was falling, perpendicular, to the other to create a kind of folding fall. I ran it first, making two eddies to check out the river below the fall before I paddled into the abyss. I got the line spot on, I dropped off the top folding layer of water and flared it slightly before hitting the hydraulic at the bottom. My bow spat up, I threw myself forward to tame the spitting bronco before placing the bow rudder and making the eddy. Good stuff. I gave a thumbs up to the others and they followed on down. The river now eased off slightly, with stuff that was pretty similar to what we had already descended.

The bridge where we left the car was soon upon us, and out we got to get changed. One member of the group and myself were then left at the bridge with the boats whilst two of the group went and got the van back from the top and came to pick us up. During this period I had made a couple of phone calls to find out where everyone was - in the pub and this is where we headed.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

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