18 April 2007

We're all in between swims

Today was the day we knew there would be water as during the previous week, whilst drawing up a list of low water runs in Scotland, I pulled a few strings (actually I posted a message on the UK River Guidebook) to find out when the Garry, a lovely Grade 3 dam release, was running. It came back a couple of hours later that it would be Wednesday. So on that day we headed up the Great Glen, turned left at Invergarry and eventually pulled up in the car park at the first take out point for the river. We expected it to be busy because of the lack of water and the sheer number of boats we had seen around the area over the previous few days, but on parking up and milling around the river it all seemed rather quite.

Before there was any further chance of the place filling up we hastily got changed and headed up the river left bank on foot: we didn't dare drive up to the put-in in case on our return our parking spaces had been nabbed. It was a pleasant walk anyway and it also allowed us to have a look-see at the river, which actually looked a bit low even though the dam was definitely releasing. We decided it was probably rising and this was confirmed when a raft guide we passed mentioned to his clients that "the river was rising."

Walking up the trail to the put-in at the foot of the dam.

When we reached the top of the river the place looked a bit busier with a couple of rafts waiting to get on and numerous groups of paddlers stood around chatting and chilling out with out any worry in the world. The group I was with followed suit and waited around for the section of river by the put-in to clear. It also allowed us to have a bit of a rest after the carry up. We eventually hit the river and even though there had been so many paddlers getting on in front of us it still didn't feel busy, like a quite Washburn release would do. The group headed off downstream some faster than others as people either blasted down the rapids in the hope they could reach the play spots quicker, others, me included, went at a more leisurely pace soaking up the atmosphere that hung over the river and catching the eddies that looking interesting. Is it possible to have an interesting eddy?

The main play hole on the river. Ideal for spins and low angled cartwheel, but not loops.

The group spent a fair amount of time at this play hole. At times we shared the eddies with other groups and exchanged the odd friendly word and at other times we were alone, just the one single group sitting, waiting and wishing that their mates would flush so they could get another ride in the hole. This was the life. Eventually, on sight of a rather large group heading down the river, we moved off downstream knowing that when we returned later the hole would still be there.

Jump forward in time...

Four of the group, including myself, decided that on completing one run of the river we would walk back up to the main play hole and carry on from were we left off - having fun. We did this and played in the hole for some time. I sat in the eddy watching the action after what I felt was an alright run, then when the person flushed I moved off, ferried across the current, caught the stopper at its lowest point then forced my way higher up before I was sat comfortably in a side surf. I move to the spin corner and set off in a spin. I started to flush as I threw the boat into reverse so I backed her back into the hole and then went back into spinning. However, I tripped over an edge and over I went. No big deal. I'll set up to roll and wait a wee while to make sure I don't roll back up in the hole as I was now getting a bit tired.

When I was happy I went for the roll and came half way up before going back over. I set up again, not really worried and failed again, and again, and again. It was no good I had run out of air, I didn't feel like I could get the boat to roll no matter what I tried so I ripped the deck release and swam out with a momentary worry about the Happy Seat, which usually holds me in the boat when upright and upside down. My head broke the surface to a cheer from the group of people stood on the bank who had come along to watch and take pictures. I was a bit miffed that I had swum as it was the first time since June 05, but when it comes down to it everyone is in between swims and it was better to get mine out of the way on nice, safe, flat water with some current where I could simply swim everything to shore, sort myself out and go straight back into the hole albeit slightly nervous.

Jump back in time...

A Jackson Rocker, which was on the water. Unfortunately I never did managed to find the owner of the boat when I was on the bank to see if I could have a sit in it.

Moving down the Garry is quite nice as there is so much to do. There are waves to catch on the fly, eddies to catch besides waves, which could be surfed momentarily before moving off downstream, holes to side surf for as long as you want and then move onto another feature that your mate had just vacated. However, when we rounded one corner there was a mass of paddlers sat at the top of the entrance into the mini gorge waiting for people to clear the bottom.

We sat around for a while enjoying the fact that we were on the water and eventually when the masses had cleared we moved on down. The entrance to the gorge was rather splendid with a multitude of lines to hit, one of which had a boof at the end. I went for this one, just because I am trying to get my boof sorted. I took the line I wanted rather well, though I did get a bit mixed up in the lead-in to the boof as I got stuck on the occasional rock which lurked under the surface.

In the gorge. Messing around on the eddy lines.

Once in the gorge there were plenty of eddies to catch, the odd small wave to surf and countless eddy lines to squirt and cartwheel on. It was just pure, unadulterated fun with your mates. On reaching the end of the gorge I looked up to the river right bank where a small group of paddlers were stood inspecting a drop. On closer inspection of the group I realised that one of the paddlers stood wearing a yellow helmet, was Tom Parker, who had run a WWSR course for me the weekend before we left for Scotland. It was nice to meet up with him again. I took the particular drop they were looking at rather well with what I thought to be a sweet boof into the micro-eddy beside the drop.

The drop at the end of the gorge. There was a boof into a micro-eddy to be had on the left of picture. The group stood on the bank pointing at the paddler were on a course with Tom Parker (the chap doing the pointing).

We spent some time at this drop trying to loop and cartwheel whilst some of the group took refreshments before we all moved off downstream to the closing sections of the run. Eddies were caught, waves were surfed and people rolled before we reached the end. Four of the group, including myself, decided that on completing one run of the river we would walk back up to the main play hole and carry on from were we left off - having fun.

At this point I will stop writing as nothing spectacular occurred, apart from the swim mentioned above and on the walk back up the river I met up with Graham Wood. Graham was the chap who sent me the release date for the Garry and also assessed me for my Level 2 back in October. I'll finish the post off with four pictures from the second run.

The play hole where I had a swim. That's me in there. My parents were walking the bank with a camera so there are photo's of me for once.

Graham Wood in an inflatable two-man persuading the front seat passenger that they did want to surf the hole.

Tom Parker cartwheeling his creek boat. Who said you needed play boats?

The same paddler going for a loop in the new Pyranha Burn. It was so close to being landed.

Four days complete, three rivers done, another two days to fill.

More pictures can be found here and a video can be seen here.

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

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