03 May 2007

Follow up to 'Adios'

I eventually made it to the Washburn yesterday. The chap that had arranged to pick me up arrived soon after I made yesterday's hurried post and from my house we headed to another paddlers house. From here we headed along the A59 to West End and the usually summer haunt for the north-west white water paddler, the Washburn. On pulling up in the car park and paying our fees to the man it looked like any usual Washburn release: the water was surging out from the bottom of the dam, it had a considerable flow, it looked cold and there were numerous paddlers milling around the car park kitting themselves up for what would be some of there best paddling over the next few months.

Looking upstream to the dam, which holds the freezing waters of Thruscross Reservoir back. This dam once featured on a Touch of Frost episode.

Once the group I was with had kitted up, two of us headed to the water and the other two headed off down the bank to have a quick peak at the river. For one of these it was their virgin run of the river, however for me it was well into the teens so I was one of the two that automatically headed for the river. I had Roger the Rocker on my shoulder, fully loaded and in pristine condition so instead of the usual seal launch off the gravelly bank I carefully lowered him into the water and got into the cockpit to seal my legs into the plastic interior. I headed off upstream for a bit of a warm up and then caught the two eddies at the top a couple of times before heading off into the depths of the Washburn.

The first wave, just above the first bridge, is a rather nice affair. It's flat with a fairly good foam pile.

What the Washburn is especially good for is practicing the good old breaking in/out and eddy hopping skills so I put Roger through his paces trying to get him stuck into every eddy. This was, for the first few runs quite difficult as I was not use to the lack of edges on the displacement hull so I couldn't just kill my speed on entering the eddy by engaging an edge, but instead if I wasn't totally in control I was putting the breaks on to prevent me from colliding with the bank of the river. I think I eventually got the hang of Roger when it came down to eddies, but I am sure there will be room for improvement when all is said and done, but on first impressions I was happy with what Roger produced.

One of the bigger eddies on the river. Roger boofed very nicely into this eddy if you went just right (as you look at it in the photo) of the rock.

I kept on moving downstream pushing Roger to catch the smallest of the smallest eddies on the river as well as boofing the smallest drops in gradient. At times things just clicked into place and I managed to implement my intentions, but at others it just did not work. Roger is so much different to my All Star (now named All Star Alistair) that a whole new approach to paddling, I feel, needs to be taken. It's because Roger has no edges, but is just a bulbous bloke intent on taking me down the river in safety, which, don't get me wrong, is what I intended him for, but it was just a bit frustrating that at times I felt like I was fighting the river to get where I wanted. In fact today, writing this post my pecks feel like a tight piece of elastic from the countless sweep strokes I was using to get the boat into the eddies. It should improve in time as I build up the muscle and get my technique dialled for catching eddies with the least amount of energy.

One of the group on the approach to nailing another eddy before going back into the stopper, which goes from either river bank.

A bit of an arty shot of the second major wave on the river. This is just before the second bridge.

As the release was only going from 3pm to 8:15pm we got out several times in the big eddy, which makes a ford in low water, just above the second bridge and walked back up to the top to repeat the upper sections. We did this three times in total and as the day started to get late we headed further down the river catching more eddies until we finally came to the 'Big Drop'. This drop is really a sloping section of water, which falls two or three metres into a pit of foaming white water. The usual approach to this drop is down the river left section, where a tongue of water avoids the majority of the pit and allows you to make one of the eddies by the footpath with ease. I did this, and then after watching some other paddlers try and make an eddy right besides the drop, almost in front of the pit, I headed back up to give this ago as well. Needless to say I didn't quite get it right and my line of attack was totally wrong. I gave it up as a lost cause and headed back to the top of the river knowing that we'd return later.

Getting Roger surfing on the first wave. The seat wasn't quite trimmed right so I wasn't getting it down like I wanted it. The problems sorted now - I think.

Powering Roger across the current into an eddy, which required me to reverse out of before heading back across the river.

On the return to the 'Big Drop' I hit the line for the eddy much better, but still I did not nail it. My line of attack was better, but a slight hesitation at the lip meant I wasn't carrying enough speed into the eddy to whip the bow around. Instead I ended up at the bottom of the eddy and flushed off downstream. Once again I gave it up as a lost cause and headed back to the top to repeat the river once again and on this run we were heading further, so far in fact we wouldn't be walking the boats back up to the top, but instead we were going to have to run shuttle.

Side suring the river wide stopper on what could have been the final run.

On the final run I went for the eddy again, but a play boater was sat in an eddy just below it so I was even more hesitant about the whole thing and to put it bluntly I goofed a bit. Anyway it's something to work on when I next return to the river, if I return to the river before the gap year takes off. The remaining sections of the river were hard work. Come on I had done three runs down to the second bridge, two runs down to the 'Big Drop' and then one final run right to the bottom.

More pictures and a couple of videos can be found here.

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

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