25 February 2007

Back to river stories

It's been a while since I last posted... well yesterday, but it's been a while since I posted about an actual day out on the water. So let this be it, and it will also be the last post of February I should think.

Today the canoe club was running a trip down the River Crake. However after talking to the contact for the trip and hearing who had contacted him about it something else more interesting was definitely on the cards, especially as the past week had been the wettest for a while. So I was dropped off at Fulwood Leisure Centre and from there I scrounged a lift up the motorway to the Kent. Here we looked at the lower stretches of the river and to be honest it looked a medium-low level. I was a bit disappointed that we were going to be getting on this river seen as I have already done it three times this season and it had been at better levels than this tourist level! However, the group had other ideas, so it was back to the M6 and off at the next junction to head for the Upper Lune.

Walking down the lane from Beck Foot to put on the river.

Once changed and a shuttle organised we started moving boats from the side of the B6257, down the small lane, under the viaduct and to the small shingle beach by the river right bank. It wasn't an overly long carry, however it was slightly inconvenient; if there had been a bit more water you could actually paddle down to the put in for the Lune as Low Gill runs parallel with the road.

Low Gill in extremely low water, with a bit of extra water this "gives an entertaining start to the Lune" [White Water Lake District, Stuart Miller].

Once the group of eight had been reunited after the shuttle the briefest of briefings were had. It was a club trip so formalities had to be done for it all to be kosher. At this point I actually realised I was the most qualified paddler on the river. With being over 18 (just) and the only qualified BCU Coach (Level 2), I was therefore responsible for near enough everything that would happen on the river. This is slightly daunting as 40% of the group were actually older than myself. However, it was never a major problem as most of the group were experience paddlers with sound skills and knowledge of the river.

One of the flatter sections of the Lune, with the Howgills in the background.

The Upper Lune is one of the classic stretches of white water in the area with many class 3 gorges that are spaced fairly close together. This gives the river added depth as it is not just a case of whacking out endless paddle strokes on the flat sections to get to the next point of interest. However, these gorges, by nature are filled with lovely boils and swirly eddy lines. These in themselves are not much of a problem, however when you are trying to get a good photo whilst bobbing around and cruising around an eddy with one hand on your paddle and a brand new camera in the other it adds an extra challenge to the day.

The 'group leader' in one of the first of many gorge sections found on the river.

Another gorge section with a paddler being dwarfed by the water.

Like most of northern England the river is littered with reminders of our past industries and engineering dominance. At many points the river is crossed by an ancient viaduct, iron in construction supported by towering stone pillars, that is now disused. It is sad really, and sometimes upsetting to see such feats of engineering laid to waste with little purpose, but to remind those of us who visit the places they lay of what Britain used to be.

The disused viaduct which runs, several times, over the Lune. This particular section of the viaduct is a popular haunt for Outdoor Centres.

There are two notable rapids on the river and one of these is known as Pillar Box, or to other paddlers 'the-one-with-the-rock-in-the-way'. When I first descended this river I took a swim at this point and that was over two years ago, when I had little experience and come to think of it this river, at the time, was the biggest undertaking I had taken in my paddling career. Today, I ran the rapid first, laying down the line for others to follow. Luckily, I managed to hit my line and broke out sweatily lower down to set up camera and take some pictures of the rest of the group.

Pillar Box rapid.

An over-exposed shot of the same rapid, but shown just because of the style shown by the paddler.

The next notable rapid on this section of river is known as the Strid, as are many rapids in the surrounding area. Basically any rapid known by the name Strid can be characterised by its narrow nature and the one on the Lune is no different. The river, that has probably been averaging 15-20 meters narrows to just a few meters and therefore the water is naturally powerful, full of boils and aerated. All the group got out to inspect the constriction, as once you've committed yourself to your line there is no chance of breaking out or stopping if your way is blocked by a lump of wood.

Inspecting the Strid, the most daunting prospect which can be found on the Lune.

Our 'group leader' showing us all how it is done.

Another paddler, in a defensive position, in the Strid about to collide with the rock wall.

Sat at the bottom of the Strid looking up into it's bowels.

Once through the Strid the river continues to wind it's way through more bedrock gorges until eventually you come to the end, marked by Killington Bridge. It may be added that in this last stretch there is the added danger of several strainers in the form of two pinned trees. To the best of my knowledge these have been in the river for a considerable period of time and in higher flows can pose a great difficult to many paddlers as was seen on the 3rd January.

At the end of a good day on the river.

More pictures can be found here.

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

24 February 2007

Should I be worried...

The charred grasses of "the grassy area, off Maude Street, Kendal" where the chair was destroyed.

So this morning I got up at my usual early time of 6:15am, after a night spent watching Rainman on Film 4, and headed out to deliver the morning papers and earn a crust to pay for the boat that's on order (it should have left America yesterday[!]). I then got home and settled down to a half-hour or so on the net and then breakfast accompanied by The Times newspaper. I got to the fifth page to be greeted with the headline: "Office chair set on fire - news that made the world sit up..." Obligingly I read on and then once finished with the article I headed back to the Internet to check out what was said in the article.

Basically The Times article was an apology to its readers because it failed "to report an earth shattering event in Cumbria last month". I was intrigued. The aforementioned event was the burning of an office chair "in the middle of a grassy area" by a delinquent and this was first reported on the Westmorland Gazette here. Why did The Times feel it necessary to apologize for not reporting this event? It was what followed the reporting of the event, which was what was so astounding and what The Times felt necessary to apologize for.

To date there have been over 70 comments on the article about the burnt chair and these have been posted by concerned individuals from every corner of the globe and Kendal. Such a large amount of comments obviously proves that the reporting of the burnt chair was of great importance to the population, and The Times, as a leading broadsheet, should have picked up on this story and given it the column inches it deserved when it first occurred back on that Friday in late January. I however, forgive The Times as they have now brought my attention to the worrying fact that Kendal is rife with gang warfare, with such notorious gangs like the Standard Lamp Posse of Kendal operating on the streets at night!

Should I be worried by this fact? I spend a large proportion of my spare time around that area and in a couple of years time I'll be spending even more of my time up there when I head to university. I don't really want to get in with the wrong crowds (Standard Lamp Posse of Kendal) and it seems that they take no prisoners if you don't join them. However, I am not a piece of furniture and it seems their grievances are with furniture not people. Maybe I'll just tread carefully when I'm in Kendal and not let on that I sometimes like an office chair to take my weight.

Recently there has been a follow-up article posted to the same website, Westmorland Gazette.

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

20 February 2007

Boys and there toys...

Last week, after selling my Eskimo Kendo, I mentioned what I was doing with the money and since then I haven't really mentioned what has happened to it. Well on Wednesday the Olympus MJU 725 SW arrived through the door as I was sitting my driving theory test (I passed) and ever since then I've been playing around with it. I have been limited however as I had no memory card for the camera so I've been running it using the internal memory, which was pretty lacking. With the limited memory supply I have only got some snaps of random objects that are of no real importance or interest and have just ended up being deleted. However, after yesterday's morning post I've got a rather large 1GB XD card which allows me to get a large quantity of photos.

I have also been playing with a Photoshop like piece of software just for a bit of fun and the results have been quite interesting.

A sequential image of one of my paddling chums running the drop after the Brickchute Weir on the Leven.

A black and white image with a paddler, in colour, laid over the top. Quite effective me thinks. The paddler in question is on the GB Junior Ladies Freestyle team.

One of my all time favourites. By making the background black and white and the paddlers colour a certain ambiance is added to the picture.

All of the above 'Photoshopped' images were created from photo's taken on my mum's Olympus C-460 Zoom camera. The below images were taken on my Olympus MJU 725 SW camera.

A bit of 'Photoshopping' madness - there are six of me all in one room at the same time.

In the post I mentioned about selling my Kendo I also mentioned about buying a new boat and that has been sorted as well. Today the order was finalised, and deposits made at UK Canoes for a 2007 spec. Jackson Rocker in blue. I won't be getting my hands on this boat just yet as it is still sitting in a container over the pond waiting to be shipped on Friday. However, if all goes to plan, it will be with me the weekend before I leave for some classic Scottish boating on the 14th April.

More 'Photoshopped' images can be found here.

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

15 February 2007

Have you noticed...

That the last couple of posts to the blog have featured a little banner at the bottom saying 'Get Paid to Review my Post'. This banner is provided by Pay Per Post in the hope that I can generate extra traffic to my blog, thus increasing my readership, whilst making a bit of money on the side to fund all the kayaking gear I want/need. Today, Pay Per Post just released a new segmentation system which will award bloggers that have high traffic with more money. Basically this means that if you want to make money blogging and have high viewing stats you can earn more than others.

Unlike other sites Pay Per Post only charges a 35% service fee meaning more of the money earnt through your blog goes in to your pocket. This means Pay Per Post makes sense for both high traffic and lower traffic bloggers alike. If this scheme sounds rather nice perhaps sign up to it (this can be done by clicking the 'Pay Per Post Affiliate' button on the right) however it must be remembered that disclosure is required on all posts that will make you money.

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

14 February 2007

Himalayan Paddling

Looking down on Manchester airport before flying out.

Looking out on the Himalayas from the aeroplane.

Stood at the foot of the mountains about to get on the river.

Running one of the many drops on the Chenab.

Walking out from the river after coming across a death defying rapid. Can't wait to be home.

It may be pretty obvious that I have not actually just got back from a Himalayan expedition the main reason being that I posted yesterday at 2:38pm saying that I had just ordered a camera and since then I have got a plane, flown to the Himalayas, planned an expedition, implemented the expedition and flown home. There just isn't enough hours from when I posted yesterday to now, when I'm posting again. However, there has been enough time to go to a talk by a guy that has got a plane, flown to the Himalayas, planned an expedition, implemented the expedition and flown home. This "guy" is Allan Ellard, an infamous expedition paddler. His talk entitled 'Mountains High and Rivers Deep: Living a Wild Wet Dream' looked back at some of his previous Himalayan expeditions in the hope to inspire and educate us in expedition boating. He definitely did that by using copious images and videos all narrated by the man himself. In fact he did it so well I may just click 'Publish' and go start researching for my own expedition.

If you've not seen Allan's talk and you want to, don't fret, there are still four more dates left:
  • Wednesday 14th - Liverpool University
  • Thursday 15th - Strathclyde University
  • Friday 16th - Stirling Canoes
  • Sat 17th - Fort William Film Festival

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

13 February 2007

Follow up to 'It's gone'

Yesterday, when I said there were three options available to me in regard to the money I made on the sale of my boat I was wrong. There is in fact four options:
  • Leave it in the bank to gather interest.
  • Buy another boat...
  • Buy my own digital camera...
  • Buy another boat (Jackson Rocker) and a digital camera (Olympus MJU 725 SW).
Today after many hmmms and arrrs, and after a bit of financial analysis - if I spend x amount of pounds, as well as y amount of pounds and then another z pounds, I'm still in the black - I have decided to take the fourth option. So today the order was placed on bestcameras.co.uk where currently there is a tasty offer on the Olympus camera and then this was followed up with some XD memory shopping on mx2.com. Hopefully in a couple of days I'll have both items and be snapping some rather lovely shots. The order for the Jackson Rocker will be going in soon, maybe Saturday, if we head to Lancaster and the friendly people of UK Canoes.

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

12 February 2007

It's gone

You may remember that a while back I was advertising that my Eskimo Kendo was for sale. Well today I eventually managed to shift it. After putting it under the hammer twice on eBay with out much success I turned to the members of the local club. Luckily a beginner's course had just finished and one of the participants was looking for a boat. Que my sales pitch and hey presto, a couple of days later, I had parted company with my trusty Eskimo Kendo, but increased my bank balance considerably.

The Kendo on the car ready to be taken to its new home.

The Kendo has served me well. It has got me from being a lowly beginner with little experience to a competent paddler that can tackle a nice grade 3/4 river whilst keeping an eye on other members of the group. However, what should I do with the money, I have three options:
  • Leave it in the bank to gather interest.
  • Buy another boat. The Jackson Rocker has taken my fancy.
  • Buy my own digital camera so I don't have to borrow my mum's every time. The Olympus MJU 725 SW has taken my fancy.

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

11 February 2007

Low water, broken paddles and assessment galore

Today was the day the teddy bears had their picnic... no actually it was the day that I lead my very first, official club trip. It had been put on the calendar, on the back of the bi-monthly newsletter, and it was to be held on the Kent. Great, a river I knew well and was comfortable on. The only problem being that there wasn't any water in the river; there was probably more in my bath at home. Perhaps I should have taken the hint when on Rainchasers, over the previous days, it has said the Kent was dry! However, I think youthful optimism got the better of me and I made plans for a group of four to paddle the river. As we hit the M6 at Broughton I got a phone call from some paddling chums who had decided to go to HPP; it was closed so they were now hot footing it back up the M6 to meet us at the Kent - that added an extra four to the group.

When we got to the take out for the Kent, the above two pictures is what greeted us. A nice low level that was lower than the height restriction barrier for a NCP car park when you have uprights on your roof bars. The second picture shows the L-Shaped drop, on the previous occasions that I have paddled this river water has been dropping off the far side of the rock slab running at the top of the river. This was a sure sign that I wouldn't be getting on the river and when the hot footers arrived they also ruled the trip out. Phone calls were made to a group of paddling chums who were headed to the Leven for a 4* Assessment, where a Level 3 Assessment was also taking place. There was some water over there, so this is where we headed and when we arrived it seemed that all the paddlers in the North West area had decided on the same option. When I say there was "some water over there" I write this with great difficulty; there was not that much more water when compared to the Kent, but maybe it was the better of two evils.

Isn't it funny how I had never paddled this river until a fortnight ago and here I was again, getting changed to make the second personal descent. Admittedly there was a different group of people and it was a different level, but still it was funny. Not funny, laugh out loud, my sides are splitting, so funny a little pee came out, in fact it might not actually be funny as after the trip I'm not sure whether I should have bothered getting on in the first place. It wasn't that low to make downstream progression impossible, but it just didn't make the trip as enjoyable as last time. In fact I may go through this post without even mentioning the cheeky boofs (there was one on river right of the drop after the Brickchute Weir) and cheeky surfs.

Playing[!] in the Brickchute Weir.

The Brickchute Weir was totally different to the previous time. The chute between the two brick wall pontoons didn't produce an alright surf wave, and the river right slab of the weir did not make a hole of side surfing loveliness. In fact all that the weir did produce was some nice swirly eddy lines, which made it hell for one member of our group who managed to snap their paddle whilst wrestling with another paddler and then get flipped on the eddy line, before preceding to swim. The paddle they snapped is a famous paddle in some ways as it had a whole thread dedicated to it on the UK Rivers Guidebook, but sadly it is no more. Luckily for the owner of the snapped paddle we managed to find a split for them to use for the rest of the river. Thank god for Level 3 Assessments, where you know one of the trainees being assessed.

The drop after the Brickchute Weir. This paddler may look like they have a nice boof going, however they preceded to swim. There was a better boof on the right of picture.

No boof evident in the picture however the paddler managed to style their line and make it into the eddy. This was their second attempt at this drop, on the first there was an OOB experience.

One of the 4* candidates.

As we headed further and further downstream it became apparent that not a lot would be gained in paddling skills so I turned my attention to my photographic skills. In fact I was that interested in nailing a nice shot I actually got out of my boat to take the photo's. That is right I exited my boat, stood in the water, making benefit of the Stikine Drysuit and snapped away at the 4* Assessment instead of the usually cling to a rock, point, press and hope for the best routine. Don't get me wrong I have got some nice shots in the past using this method, but I'm always a giver for trying something new and today it was the day to try this something new.

Maybe this paddler is setting up to boof... maybe he just hit a rooster's tail which was on his line... maybe he's superman.

A bit of top quality side surfing action from my father, on his 4* Assessment... he passed. Well done!

We continued on our way downstream and we were not making plans on running the small section of river again. It's a bit like not making cake on a Saturday morning, we just didn't want to abuse our polymers and monomers. In fact it's nothing like making cake, it's more like... I don't know really we just didn't have the enthusiasm. When we came to the Graveyard I decided to spice things up by playing Burning Man down it. That's right, get them arms above my head and bounce down the rapid hoping for the best. In fact the best did happen, I near enough avoided all the rocks and ended up sat nicely in an eddy to plan my downstream progression into a rather splendid eddy for getting shots of the rest of the group descending the yard of graves.

A nice bit of group dynamics, with the eddy's loaded everyone is in line of sight and everyone can take action if everything goes wrong, like a Lama running across the shot.

A paddler on the last drop of note.

Once finished on the river it was a case for most people to pack up and head for home/pub/mental asylum for paddling a river with so little water. For me it was a case of sitting around waiting for my dad to finish his 4* Assessment (an hour-and-a-half later) before heading for home where I was left with sorting the gear and writing this post whilst he went to a Sandi 'I'm a Punk Rocker with flowers in my hair' Thom concert in Manchester.

More pictures can be found here.

I'm going to an Allan 'Let's inspect a river using Google Earth' Ellard talk on Tuesday night at the Brewery Arts Centre so that will be nice. It may be that nice that I post here and tell you all about it.

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

08 February 2007

It's a white Christmas...

Well it would have been if Christmas was held back a month and a fortnight so it was today instead of the 25th December. As it happens though I actually had a digital camera with me when it started snowing in college during my ICT lesson so I managed to get a couple of snaps of the white blanket, which covered the floor for what must have been a couple of hours before it disappeared. It has just snowed lightly again, but with the wet ground from the previously melted batch of snow it hasn't stuck.

What will this have done for the already low river levels? Your guess is as good as mine, but I am leading a trip down the River Kent on Sunday and if it doesn't rain biblical proportions or snow so heavily that snow melt will bring the river up from a sorrowful state to a state of hysteria I'll have to call it off.

One last thing. My blog, this very collection of posts written by my very hands, was featured as 'Blog of the Day' on Fuel my Blogs today. A very special moment indeed.

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

05 February 2007

A glimpse of hope

Me on the tidal reaches of the Ribble, not the section in contention, but just a nice picture to illustrate the post.

As I promised yesterday, here is the response we received from the Water Bailiff, who's son would have been in the Eskimo Topolino Duo with me, after we had to call the Ribble trip off.

"... a small number of boats can move quickly through a swim without disturbing anyone. The people who get up my nose are the ones who intentionally try to queer your fishing (but I know some anglers who do just the same!) - but its best to say nothing and let them get on with it.

I have an interesting story involving a couple of lads (with all the gear) in kayaks - I was fishing under the aqueduct below Edisford (just above the weir) when a couple of kayaks came through on a decent flow of water. The two lads tried to avoid me by passing under the far arch but the tail kayak missed and ended up wedged sideways on the concrete pillar. In struggling to free himself he turned upside down and floated right past me (within a foot or so) upside down with much splashing. His mate disappeared at speed downstream and sat at the side of the weir in the distance while this poor unfortunate dragged himself out on the far bank to empty things out - expecting (by the look on his face) harsh words. However I engaged him in conversation and while speaking to him managed to catch a fish from where he had floated only a few minutes ago. Even better as he made a cheery departure, knowing he hadn't spoiled the fishing and having sat and chatted a while, I shouted back at him because I had just caught another fish, a large trout, from where he had been sat emptying his boat out. Moral being kayaks don't disturb fish.

Another secret - when salmon fishing (or trout fishing) if it goes dead one of the best ways to get things going is to put a dog in (the reason for this is that if a fish is under stress then its more likely to take a fly - it gets angry - that's why the canoeist improved the fishing)!"

You would probably have to agree that this is rather interesting as one of the most common arguments from the Angling community is that we destroy the fishing opportunities once we have passed through. This Water Bailiff seems to believe in the opposite; the access situation on all our rivers may improve slightly if all Anglers would be so accommodating, and the same goes for paddlers.

Signed the petition? If not click your way over there right now.

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

04 February 2007

A bit of a Joe Simpson moment

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I was taking a Water Bailiff's son down the Ribble in the Eskimo Topolino Duo. Well it never happened, mainly because there wasn't enough water in the river to make the trip fun[!] and also we didn't want to show the Fishermen that we are totally irresponsible, with no consideration for the environment, by scraping along a river bed and floating now and again. The response we got from the Water Bailiff was quite interesting, but I think I'll hold that to a future post.

So today, instead of getting out on the water and going for the usual low water alternative I decided to get out on my bike. It is a new bike so I might as well break it in a bit even though I've already done 11.98 miles (4.37 on Friday, 5.25 on Saturday and 2.36 this morning) on it. My route would take me from my house in Preston to Halton, where the low water alternative was, and hopefully meet up with the paddlers that decided to take the only available padding option. This is, by car, a 25.1 mile journey up the motorway with some bits on minor roads, so it would be a good test for the bike. Obviously I couldn't go up the motorway so instead I planned to get on the Lancaster Canal at the start in Preston and head north along the tow path and eventually come off the tow path by UK Canoes, before heading over to Halton. I'm not exactly sure on the mileage of this route as I never actually managed to complete it.

I was going quite well. I hit the start of the canal averaging 16mph and then my speed dropped considerable for the next portion of the ride as the tow path was severely clogged up with wet, sticky mud, which meant I had to drop the bike into the lower gears. I was still making good headway and in about an hour-and-a-half I had covered 11.6 miles. Another two hours and I'd be there. Then disaster struck. I was clearing some of the mud away from around the brakes and gears and then when I went to set off again the tyre on the front wheel separated from the alloy wheels. Bugger, I had a puncture and no repair kit. What now?

There was nothing for it. I would have to turn around and walk the bike home. However, I couldn't just walk and push the bike along side me as the puncture was that bad the tyre would not stay on the rim. This meant I would have to carry the bike on my shoulder as I walked along the tow path slipping and sliding in the mud I had previously negotiated. This is when it felt like I was having a Joe Simpson moment; it was like I had to get back, or it would be the end. I kept setting myself targets to keep spurring me on, just like Joe did when he got out of the crevasse and was heading back to the campsite where Simon and Richard were getting ready to go. I would not stop for a rest until I had got to the next bridge and then I would only stop for a couple of minutes before carrying on along the tow path. It was pretty bad going and I wasn't making that much headway, though after about two hours of walking I reached the Hand and Dagger, a pub I frequent every Wednesday night.

I stopped for a slightly longer rest at the pub and grabbed a drink. It was at this point the going got really tough. I was starting to tire and I had left the tow path and therefore I did not have the bridge markers for target setting. I was on the road, however this meant I could balance the bike on one wheel and push it in front of me. This was slightly easier on the shoulder but did not make the going any easier. On my journey along the road I stopped at least six times; twice for a rest, once to stock up on food, and then three more times to eat the food. I eventually hit Preston three-and-a-half hours after getting the puncture and still I had half-an-hour of walking in front of me before I reached home.

When all is said and done I had cycled and walked over 22.4 miles and just over 11 of them had been on the bike. Once the tyre had punctured it took me four hours to get home and the Google Earth map shows the route I took. I started cycling in the bottom of centre and went along the line, where it forks for the first time I took the right fork and carried on along the line until my tyre punctured. I then retraced my steps until the second fork and here I took the left one and followed this around until I met back up with my original cycle route.

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

03 February 2007

Picture Perfect

I did something today that I have not done in a very long time; I went for a paddle in the Lake District on what the area is famous for. That is right, I wet my paddle in the fine waters of Coniston Water. The reason for this unusual behaviour, where my boat didn't have to rely on the gravitational potential energy of the water for propulsion, was because I was helping out on a 1* assessment for my local canoe club. Not a lot can be said about this trip, however I feel it warrants a post just because of the landscapes I managed to capture on my mum's non-sophisticated point-and-shoot Olympus C-460 Zoom digital camera.

Looking south from Beck Leven Foot, where we launched.

The southern flanks of Coniston Old Man, with Dow Crag in the background.

The boats piled up on the natural slipway, Peel Island.

Looking north from Peel Island towards the hills behind Coniston Village.

Looking south into the sun from Peel Island.

In the foreground: the rock arms of Peel Island, in the middle ground: Coniston Old Man and in the background: Dow Crag.

From left to right: Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam.

More pictures can be found here.

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