10 December 2006

One car, two paddlers and no real plans

It was Thursday when I sent an email out to everyone I paddle with on a regular basis and I only got a few replies back, and all of them, mark one, were a no for a paddle on the coming Sunday. So on the Saturday night I texted the person who had replied yes and at quarter-to-nine the next morning we were on the road heading for the Lakes and the Kent. As we only had one car the plan was to pull up at Seathwaite Bridge and get changed in the hope that some more paddlers had turned up and we could hitch to the top with them.

It didn't look promising when we pulled up. Well the river looked good, it was the best level I had seen it at, but the chance of hitching a lift didn't look promising. However, as we started getting changed a car with a boat pulled up and out popped one of the chaps I had paddled the Ingleton Greta with. They were heading up to the Brathay Pool and had just called in to have a look at the rapids under Seathwaite Bridge. They kindly offered us a lift up to Sroggs Weir and we politely accepted it. So we now had a means of getting to the top of the river and could still leave our dry gear, in a car at the take out.

Loading up the boats at Scroggs Weir

Once on the water we headed off downstream catching the odd wave and eddy before entering the first of the gorge's found on the Kent. The lead-in to the gorge was a fairly simple drop which had a bit of a powerful pile of water at the bottom, which buffered the boats about a bit.

Paddling through the first gorge

After this first bit of gorge the river opens up for a bit before the banks start getting steeper and form the second gorge of the river. This gorge is a bit more demanding when compared to the first as there is a more of a lead-in to the first drop and then there is a series of river wide stoppers to avoid/play in. In the level we were paddling it today the stoppers were OK for playing in, but in higher flows they start to form nasty holes of the highest order.

Looking up the second gorge

The river starts to widen out again and there was the odd wave to catch and some breaking in and out to do. We then came up to a weir. This weir has been run, and I have run it in low flows, but it just wasn't worth it today. It would be marginal whether you would get through or not, so we cut our losses, shouldered our boats and walked around it.

Walking over the footbridge whilst portaging the weir

The river once against enters a gorge near the take out and this is probably one of the most interesting sections. The gorge starts with a drop into a totally inescapable section for a swimmer with some fairly meaty waves before dropping over an l-shaped weir. The river then widens out before dropping over Force Falls. A two/three meter fall which marks the end of the trip and the take out.

The lead-in to the third gorge
The l-shaped weir
Force Falls

At the bottom of the river we came across the managers of UK Canoes and Paddlesport and a couple of other people, one of which is a member of my club and I had been paddling with them the week before. In fact they were the person who rescued my All Star when I was in the Eskimo Topolino Duo and the river started rising, almost taking my boat with it.

As it happened the manger of Paddlesport and two of their friends were carrying on to do another river so we teamed up with them and headed off to the Duddon, which they had never done, but the two of us had.

So it was a case of loading up the cars and heading along the west coast of Cumbria and heading up the Duddon valley to Ulpha to get on the river. This was the second time I had been on the river and it looked to be a similar level. If anything it looked like the river would be rising whilst we were on the river.

Walking the boats down to the river

The five of us got on the water and headed downstream. It wasn't how I had remembered the river, but that was over a year ago, and if anything it has improved the memories I had of this river. It was a real blast with lots of continuous grade III rapids with some pretty lumpy waves and holes.

We eventually came to the main rapid of this section. I ran it first and nailed the line, then four more paddlers came through, and one was swimming. I scrambled out of my boat, made a bit more difficult by my Happy Seat/Thruster Combo, and grabbed my thowline but it was too late they were out of reach. However, the swimmer managed to get themselves to the bank shadowed by the three other paddlers, which was a good job as there looked to be a pretty nasty weir soon after. I got back in my boat and ferried over to where they were on the bank starting out on the portage of the weir. I jumped out of my boat once again to discover that during the swim we had lost both the paddle and the boat. Shit.

Plans were made and implemented. The swimmer walked out from the river and headed for the road with my bivvy bag and pogies to keep warm whilst the remaining four headed downstream, after portaging the weir, to look for the boat and paddles. It didn't look that promising that we would find them as the river was moving at a fair speed. However, not long after getting back in our boats to go kit chasing I broke out into an eddy to find the paddle right next to my boat and that was only about three hundred meters from the weir. We carried on downstream looking for the boat and came upon that, wrapped around a tree, tree hundred meters from the take out. Ropes were attached to it and it was removed by the manager of Paddleworks and myself whilst the two other paddlers headed back to recover the paddler that had walked out.

All in all, when considered, it hadn't been a bad day. There had, at the beginning, been two paddlers, one car and no real plans and it had finished with us paddling two rivers and meeting up with three paddlers, of which I had met one of them on a previous occasion as they sold me my All Star and I am sure we'll be paddling with them again at some point.

More pictures can be found here.

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

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