06 December 2007

Putting back on...

Yesterday I headed back to the river after working Tuesday. I just can't help myself really. I get a text, phone call or email asking if I want to go paddling because there is a chance to do 'X' river and I just seem to find myself saying: "Yes" to the trip and the offer of a lift. It's great really and has made my time at home, since I finished working up in Dalguise, so much better than I expected after I had to change my plans for the winter. I have done that much paddling recently that I have lost count of the miles travelled to the rivers, the miles paddled and the people I have paddled with. It's great I suppose that I am getting so involved in my paddling because it use to be all I lived for, and since I've been away I kind of lost that in my life and didn't realise I missed the paddling so much until recently.

Anyway, no more of this philosophical crap. Let's get down to river talk. Yesterday, after getting picked up at 8:30 in the morning, heading north, meeting up with another paddler at the service station at Forton and driving some more I found myself in the Duddon valley peering over a bridge thinking: "Yep. That'll go just fine." From that point on Paddling Mission Number 9 was on. We kitted up and headed up the valley. The Duddon valley is one of the quieter Lake District valley's: maybe it's because it's further west than most, maybe it's because the road into the valley is only single track, maybe it's because well I don't know, but I just love the place. It's got amazing climbing when there is no water and it's got even better paddling when there is water with several different sections to paddle there is something for all abilities apart from the very beginner to paddle sport.

The late morning sun shining over the fells and the river.

The river is absolutely superb. We put on today below Wallowbarrow Gorge on Tarn Beck, actually I have never put on higher than this point. It's a shame really as the gorge is suppose to be nice and hard. One for another day I suppose. Putting on at Tarn Beck meant that we had to quickly descend this small shallow, low gradient stream before hitting the Duddon proper. When we eventually joined the river we were over shadowed by Wallowbarrow Crag, which has excellent climbing in the summer. I think it is here that we once managed twelve hours of climbing before heading for Preston. The river from this point on takes it's course downstream to the sea allowing you to negotiate rapids which can be read from your boat and eddy hopped down. There is one point where we left our boats to have a quick gander at a rapid on a bend where we knew rocks were a hazard.

The rapid where rocks were known to be a problem. The paddler in the picture has just hit the problem rock and ended up rolling over the top of it.

From here on in the river carries on it's grade three nature before eventually entering a gorge. Here we left the boats once again to have a gander at what was downstream. There were two lines to take. One that was slightly easier than the other, but both required similar moves. I went for the harder of the two lines and ran the gorge first, breaking out halfway down to wait for the other two paddlers to descend the first half of the gorge. We then carried on as a team down the remaining section of the gorge.

Inspecting the gorge.

Me looking to get the boat to land on a small ledge before going over the main fall. I think I managed it, well I got down the drop all right. It's a shame the next boof was onto solid rock once again.

Looking down the gorge as another paddler makes the descent. I'm tucked into an eddy; you can just make out the orange sleeve of my Stikine.

The river now eases off as it drops down through Ulpha, where we stopped for a bite to eat before carrying on down the river. This section is the last of the popular sections and is ideal for the less experienced paddler looking to push themselves a bit more. There is one rapid which requires a few necessary moves and a portage around a nasty looking weir, but the rest of this section is straightforward, with plenty of drops, rapids and blind bends to negotiate. I think this section may be nicer, when it comes down to pictures, as it opens up a lot more and you get views up the valley when you look directly upstream.

A paddler lining up at the top of a small drop hoping to come out the right way up.

One of my best photo's from the day. This I feel sums up this quality western Lake District secret.

Once Paddling Mission Number 9 was successfully complete we changed, fetched cars from further up the valley and joined the road south for Preston reflecting on the past eight days. I personally have paddled five of the last eight days, worked two and did nothing, apart from recover, on one. In these five paddling days I have successfully descended nine rivers, hence why today was Paddling Mission Number 9. Good times.

More pictures can be found here.

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

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