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 café.

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...

No comments: