30 December 2007

Two Paddlers, One Car, One River and One Friendly Gentleman

After yesterday's paddling exploits on rain fueled rivers I was looking to get out again. I made a phone call to a chap who had expressed an interest in paddling, a couple of days earlier, on Sunday and plans were made. We talked about running the Swale's Keld Gorge and by the end of the night we were meeting some other paddlers with the idea of running the Clough and the Rawthey. Anyway I was picked up at 8:30am like planned and the plan had changed again. Maybe it would be the Duddon, maybe it would be the Leven, who knew? The two of us made the decision to risk it all and head east anyway, away from a chance of a shuttle, and take a look at the Swale in the hope of paddling on down it. It didn't look promising as we headed over the fells. There wasn't that much water in the rivers, but on pulling up at Wainwath Force it was all good. The water was flowing over most of the rock shelf and that, according to the Lake District oracle, was "a good middle level." We kitted up and got down to business.

Dropping down Wainwath Force.

Getting back ended on Wainwath Force.

There were only two of us on the river. I know it doesn't follow the 'less than three; there should never be rule' but if it's the only way your going to get a chance of paddling I'd take that chance any day. Running the series of drops which make up the Keld Gorge section of the Swale was pretty formulaic. We would pull up at the lip, look at each other, decide a bank inspection would be best, pop out of our boats, scout out the line, decide who would run it first, sort out the camera, take pictures of the first paddler's descent and then maybe set the camera up for the second paddlers descent before moving on downstream to repeat the process.

Sat at the bottom of Rainby Force after a successful descent.

On the top drop of Catrake Force.

On the second drop of Catrake Force.

Landing on the ledge on Upper Kisdon Force ready to boof away from the drop.

Paddling through the curtain on Upper Kisdon Force.

Free falling after boofing off the ledge on Lower Kisdon Force.

The gorge was over and now we had to find the get out and try and get back up to the car, at the top of the river, by Wainwath Force. That was harder than would be expected as neither of us had really paid much attention to that small point in the Guidebook so we were unsure where the take out was. We headed off downstream on the basis that if we see the road or reach a village we would take out there and then try hitching back to the car.

However, on the section of river we were now on footpaths lined both banks and because it was a sunny day and it was that funny time between Christmas and New Year there were many walkers on these paths. There were even some footbridges across the river and walkers were on these as well watching us float by. We struck up conversation with some of these walkers and on mentioning we needed to get back upstream to the car one gentleman offered us a lift. We immediately took him up on the offer and headed off downstream to the first road bridge, where he said he would meet us with his car, and he did. With the shuttle sorted there was just time to head to a lovely village pub before heading back to Preston.

More pictures can be found here.

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

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