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...

No comments: