30 April 2008


We've eventually got the Internet on site so I can get some emailing and Internet work done. It's been hard the last few days. I've really been missing Dalguise and Jemma I suppose. Today I really fancied handing my notice in and just heading back to Scotland as it's nothing like i have experienced before working for PGL. We're still building the site at the moment as the French destroyed it with the giant flood defenses they built. I'll stick it out for another month or so in the hope that it improves. If it doesn't; who knows what i'll do.

Since I got here on Saturday I've been rafting most days. Actually since Sunday I've been on the river every day apart from today getting my hours in and experience up before assessments on 5th May with Bob Timms. It's been really cold out here and most day's it's around on or around 10 degrees centigrade. I've been freezing on the river as I've only got summer gear, but I'm just about coping. The snow is down to 1000m so it's expected to be a big water year which should make it better with any luck.

Pictures will follow.

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

25 April 2008

Bon Voyage

Well, I'm off again on my travels. I got back from Scotland on Wednesday night quickly unpacked and re-packed to leave for France today. I leave in just over 15 minutes to catch a train to Birmingham and then a coach to PGL's head office in the Ardeche. Then for me it's another drive over to the Alps for my season of raft guiding the Durance. It should be good, but it's just a shame I've had to leave so many people I love and call friends behind in Scotland. I know I'll keep in touch with them all, but I won't see them face-to-face now until the end of August which puts a big downer on everything.

On another note: I'll have my laptop with me in France and there's an Internet connection on site so I can keep the blog updated as and when things happen and not just a huge dump of posts when I get back to Preston like you may have seen yesterday.

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

24 April 2008

Big Inflatable Things

14th April, 08

Well I’m back up in Scotland again after a mammoth 700+ mile round trip down to Wales for my Level 1 Raft Training. I left the place where dreams are made, Dalguise, early Thursday morning and drove through the day to Bala where our accommodation was booked at Bala Backpackers. That was a weird place where everything had a sign and there was even a talk in locking the front door and turning off light switches.

The next day the rafting course started up at Canolfan Tryweryn in a classroom where the basic principles of rafting were explained to me – and the three other students, who I would be working with out in France in 9 days time – by Geraint ‘Gez’ Rowlands. This chap is the master of rafting it would seem. He’s rafted on every continent apart from that really cold one down in the south and he also wrote the section in the second edition of White Water Safety and Rescue dedicated to raft rescue. Suppose you could say he was the best chap for the job.

The master, Gez.

Once the classroom stuff was over we were off down to Bala Lake to practice things like basic raft control, spin and goes as well as zigzags. Then more things that involved getting wet like re-entering the raft when it’s the correct way up and when it’s not followed. There was also flip practice so we knew how to get things back on track if it had all gone tits up. It was then back up to the main section of the Tryweryn to practice self rescue on the river before being guided down the top section by Gez. Then we took to the stick on the lower section.

Flipping the raft.

On the raft somewhere on the river.

The second day came round and it saw us all getting tangled up in lots of ropes as we practiced dragging rafts around the car park with many weird and wonderful mechanical advantage systems which would get rafts off them pesky rocks. Then we moved on… to foot and leg entrapments. This was probably the low point of the course. I hated talking about it all. We went through the scenarios on dry land that I had tried on New Years Eve with little success, and were repeatedly told that in these instances it’s just trying your best that counted and nothing could be guaranteed. You’re telling me? We then headed back to the river for some rafting on the lower Tryweryn after dinner.

One of the Tryweryn’s guides surfing the wave by the cafĂ©.

The third day came round and after going over an exam paper we had all done the night before we got back on the water and just threw ourselves down the main section of the Tryweryn repeatedly. I think we all improved somewhat by the end of that day and we had got use to moving the raft around in a narrow rocky ditch that had a fairly stout flow. The total opposite to the Durance where I’ll be working for the summer. One point during the day Gez thought it wise to wrap the boat so we could see what it was really like and then practice for real at getting it off the rocks. We had some success and it eventually came off, but it took some time and there were some complications along the way, like other rafts wrapping round ours and such like.

The raft wrapped with a tensioned diagonal set up to evacuate people.

Two raft wrap. Ooops!!!

The course finally came to an end and I’ve got to say it was something special. It was one of those courses where I took lots away from it and put lots in as well to aid my learning. I’m now looking forward to my rafting season in the Alps even if I’ve got to leave Jemma behind for four month. Don’t get me wrong I don’t like the idea of leaving her behind in Scotland but she’s adamant that I’ve got to go and do my rafting and I’m glad she’s letting me. I can see myself really getting into this rafting and taking it much further as a profession. Then kayaking can just be a hobby for me.

On another note my AT’s have finally arrived and they look mighty fine in the room next to all my kayaking pictures on the walls. Let’s just hope they live up to my last set when I take them out on the water.

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

Back on a river

24th March, 08

I had time back today. That means I’ve basically been working to many hours so I was owed enough to take the whole day off. It turned out that another person who’s a kayaker had the day off so we headed to river. The river in question was the Blackwater, which drains the Cairngorms and isn’t to far from Blairgowrie. A few words can be used to sum up the run: low, fun and annoying.


There just wasn’t really enough water to make the trip as good as the guidebook makes out. In between Milton Falls, the put-in, and Ashmore Gorge, somewhere near the end, there was a lot of scraping and rock bashing.

At the bottom of Milton Falls.


The aforementioned spots were good little sections of low-end grade 4. Each of the sections could be characterised by lots of small narrow drops in a contained gorge.

Somewhere in Ashmore Gorge.


I broke two items of kit on the run. One I’m not that fussed about as it’s just a hole in my Nookie deck so it can be repaired with Aquaseal and be as good as new. However the other one is the one which really annoys me. I split the hull of my Rocker. It’s a lovely straight, three-and-a-half inch gash somewhere around my right calf muscle. I’m hoping it can be welded. Add to this broken kit the dry suit that really needs to be sent away to Palm for repair I’ve got a fair bit of spending to do and a pile of kit that is slowly being worn away with use.

Anyway I’m back at work tomorrow for three days before I pack up for two days and head south for Cumbria and the inquest into everything that happened on New Years Eve. Hopefully that can all come to an end and some sort of closure can be found by everyone involved. I know it is easy to say such a thing, but in practice I am unsure as to whether that will be the case. As now, nearly three months after that horrible day, I still think, when heading to the river, of my Dad. I suppose kayaking is something that will help me to remember him by, but at the same time it brings his death to the forefront of my memory when it’s probably not the most fitting time to start thinking of such things when your about to enter such an environment like that of a river.

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

Over on t’ West Coast

23rd March, 08

I managed to organise a paddling trip over on the West Coast of Scotland with some boys from Stirling last Friday. Well I say I managed to organise the trip but really they did it all. They just rang me, asked if I had the day off, which I did then told me where to meet them. I naturally did as I was told as I could guarantee some good paddling would be had.

It was an early start for me to get from Dalguise to the Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum where I would be meeting the lads, but it was an amazing drive along the shores of Loch Tay and then on into the snow covered peaks of the West Coast mountain ranges. I turned up at the same time as some other kayakers and I wondered whether they were the guys I was meeting, but a quick text message gave me the answer: no. The Stirling guys soon showed up and then we were on the road again to Glen Etive to take a look at a little Burn someway down the valley.

The Allt Allan looking like it needed a few more inches of water to be fun.

It wasn’t a goer. It needed a few more inches of water to bring it into condition so it was back to the drops of the Etive. I was slightly apprehensive to say the least being back on the Etive at much higher levels than I had previously paddled it at. To make things a little bit worse the guys that I was with didn’t have to think twice of the lines on the drops. However, all went well. I had a quick peak at Crack of Doom for the line and Right Angle Falls for pictures. Everything else was run on the beta given to me by the guys.

James Fleming styling the first drops of Triple Step on the Etive.

Landing the boof on the last of the drops of Triple Step.

On the run out from Letterbox after we all had good lines.

Skipping over the hole on Crack of Doom.

45ing the last drop on Crack of Doom.

Impact on Eas an Fhir Mhoir, also know as Right Angle Falls.

James Fleming on the last drop, which is unnamed in Scottish White Water.

All went well however. I ran all the drops had a little trouble on Crack of Doom and it was only with some wilful low bracing and a stout boof stroke at the last minute that I managed to get over the hole and down the next section the right way up. The day was going well, but it started getting even better when at the end of the river it was suggested to run the Allt a’ Chaoruinn. The Chaoruinn is a well know Scottish Burn that has seen numerous descents just because of where it’s located; right at the take-out for the classic section of the Etive.

We took out, had a quick rest and prepared the video camera to document our descent before dragging/shouldering our boats the kilometre up hill to the put in where the Burn drops over 80m/km through four drops – Speed, Ecstasy, Pinball and Chasm.

Walking up the Allt a’ Chaoruinn in the snow storm.

Coming to the end of Speed.

Inspecting Ecstasy.

Taking the hits on Pinball.


It was absolutely amazing. Everything was just perfect; the drops, the scenery and the company of people I hardly knew but accepted me as a friend straight away. I suppose that’s the great thing about kayaking: you can meet an absolute stranger and feel like you’ve known each other so long because of the things you have been through on the river, had to cope with and the places you’ve both been mentally and physically to get your kicks in life. Everything just clicked and I’m still buzzing from it now two days after it all took place. The footage that was took from the trip has been edited together and slapped up on the internet – Planet Paddlers – but because of the lack of connection here at Dalguise I’ve only heard about it from friends and not seen any of the footage. I should be off paddling tomorrow, but I am not entirely sure. I do know that I have the day off though.

Picture of the day; it just sums everything up at the moment.

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

Good Times

10th March, 08

Well I’ve not posted anything for a while. Well I can’t because we don’t have a connection here at Dalguise. I am sat right now in my room, waiting for the tumble dryer to finish after a good morning of kayaking, typing this post out as a Word document and now that I have a connection it’s going live.

The Staff Room just before we all head back to an afternoon of training.

What’s been going on with my work at PGL? I can now instruct in three other activities. One of these is motor sports, passed my EASI assessment almost as soon as I arrived on site, and a few weeks later passed the assessments for zip wire and trapeze sessions, which was well sweet. Work is very similar to the last season; provide fun sessions for kids in a safe environment. However, what isn’t the same is the fact that I am living with a girl this season. This girl is my girlfriend of four months and its great living with her. One other difference is the fact that I’ve got my own wheels this year. This only means one thing: paddling missions aplenty.

EASI assessments.

Since I’ve been here I’ve had four days off. On three of these I’ve paddled. The other one was spent with Jemma, the girlfriend, in Dundee. It was really good to be offsite with her.

In the van with Jemma somewhere around the Dundee area.

The first of many kayaking mission saw the van heading for the east coast of Scotland and a bit of surf at St Andrews. Unfortunately there wasn’t any surf but we still had fun on the water and tested the van to the max. I think we had three kayaks on the roof, a kayak, bike, mountain board and kite all in the back along with the kit to go with it all.

The Head of Watersports at Dalguise heading down to the nonexistent surf.

The second paddling mission was down the Tay from the centre down to Dunkeld for a few drinks in the Tay Bank hostelry. Another easy day on the water, it was good to be among friends and work colleagues just having a giggle doing something I have always loved, but sometimes despised: paddling.

Team photo before heading off to the pub by boat or bike.

Then the other paddling mission was today on the River Lyon, which drains Loch Lyon on Rannoch Moor. I hooked up with a paddler from Glasgow – who it turns out grew up in Leyland, where I used to go to college – who a friend found for me over the internet. This paddler was a great chap, an aspirant Level 5 Instructor and was a great guide down the hardest river I’ve paddled in a long time. It was great to get off site and away from the people I spend almost every minute of my time with and have someone else to talk too and get to know.

A scenic shot of the Lyon before entering the main gorge.

The day before that however I got out in a boat on the Braan. Not the stretch that is revered by gnarl boaters, but the bit from the Hermitage down to the car park. This wasn’t a day off, but a quick after work mission. Everything got sorted in the one-and-a-half hour lunch break and then straight after a zip wire session we were off to the river had a quick twenty minute paddle and were back in an hour to catch the remains of tea. Skills.

In the pool just after the Hermitage ready to head off downstream.

Anything else to add? Some days have been really hard and I have been lucky in the fact that there are some great people around me that have been and still are a great support to me with everything that has gone on and can understand my many moods at the drop of a hat and offer some comfort. Jemma has been the greatest of all. In fact she has been the most amazing girlfriend through it all and has put up with me when I have been at my lowest and helped me through it all. I got to admit though it is still hard and when I get in my Rocker every time I think: will it happen all over again.

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