20 May 2008

The UK...

is where I am right now. I left Embrun on Saturday and made it back to Preston at 9:30pm the next day after a bit of a gruelling coach journey across France, up and then across the UK. The job wasn't working out how I would have liked and it looked like I would have been doing more sailing than rafting and one of the reasons I had gone out there was to raft. Anyway I'm now back in the UK. I should have work sorted out for most of the summer back up in Scotland at my last centre, but before that I'm back in the corner shop and looking at doing a bit of freelance as well around Preston.

In passport control at Calais.

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

10 May 2008

Sleeping at 1219m

At Embrun we offer the guests a night time bivi as a session. Obviously staff have to have very specific training for this session. Whilst I have been out on the river rafting a group of eight staff members have been walking miles each day as they are trained in the session. When it comes to assessment they need guinnee pigs so who better to use than the rest of the staff team. So on Thursday morning the majority of the staff packed up there things and headed off site to the drop off point somewhere in the Durance valley.

Where we got dropped off.

Somewhere on the ascent.

From here we walked for five miles, stopping regularly to do things that the bivi leaders needed to do for their assessment until eventually we reached our bivi site, which was at the spot height of 1219m. That's 125m lower than Ben Nevis. It's weird to think that I was sleeping higher than most people in the UK that night. Tarps were taken out of bags and hung in many elaborate ways to try and make shelter for the night as clouds formed over the mountains to the south.

The bivi site all set out for a nights sleep.

Luckily the clouds did not appear over head to produce rain and we had a clear night to look at the stars once the guys on assessment had done everything they needed to do.

Telling stories around the campfire. One of the things we have to do with the kids.

The night went well. I slept amazing well considering the fact that all I had to keep me warm was my sleeping bag and a little protection from a tarp hung across a few trees and a karrimat that was as thin as a pencil lead.

The next day required a half-seven start ready for the descent back to the coach and then back to site to do site work and paper work for some of the sessions I've been put on.

The descent into the Durance Valley.

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

06 May 2008

The Durance by Kayak

Got my first full day off today so I made use of the van which was driving up the valley to drop the rafters off for their assessment by chucking a Pyranha Burn, which I borrowed off another staff member, on the trailer so I could paddle down the river. Once on the river I realised that this was the first ever time I had kayaked down a river in the French Alps, or even France for that matter. Wow! Isn't that amazaing.

Anyway the paddling was good. It was the Durance so it was just big, fast, bouncy class two/three for nine and a bit miles. The Rabioux Hole was fairly big as was Iron Bridge, but all was good. However I did feel rather wobbly in the boat, almost as if it was my first time on a river. I think it may be down to the fact that I wasn't in a Jackson Rocker and I hadn't paddled for well over three weeks. I've also got my new AT paddles so getting use to them may also add to the equation.

Two other kayaker's descending the Durance.

Flipping the raft at the aptly named Dumbertruck.

Ironbridge Rapid.

After paddling the Durance I headed back to site, got changed and headed up to Embrun town to buy a few things so I could send some stuff back to England and phone a few people back home. I also did my touristy thing and got a few pictures of buildings in the medieval town. Look, there's one (not a building, but a picture) just under this paragraph.

Rivers are still rising. The Durance is now at 85 on the guage and the Guil is also said to have come up. I think we may be off to paddle Rabioux Creek this evening if all goes well with everything back on site for those that are working today.

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

05 May 2008

I'm a Raft Guide. Don't you know? I save lives on a regular basis...

I know that yesterday I said my rafting assessment was going to be Tuesday, but in fact it turned out to be today. It was originally going to be today, but then it was changed to Tuesday because of numbers, and then it was changed back to Monday to make Tuesday's batch of assessment's quicker. Confusing I know, but either way it doesn't really matter as I passed my Level 1 Raft Asessment on the mighty Durance. Bob Timms was the dude running the assessment and man is he a nice bloke? I've met so many good guys now in my short time spent in the rafting circuit. I've been trained by Geraint Rowlands (top bloke), then had further training from my CI (nice man), Jim Hill (also a nice man) and Jon Caterer (just happens to be a nice man) and then only a few days ago I was on a raft with Tim Vollum (funny guy). All in all I've probably had some of the best training you could hope for before walking into your first assessment unprepared because you thought it was going to be Tuesday. Anyway, enough rambling; I passed. Here are some pictures from the day.

On the section of river from Saint Clement down to the Rabioux hole.

Looking downstream at some snowy Alpine mountains.

Bob Timms giving us some words of wisdow below the Rabioux hole.

On the Durance somewhere.

The other half of our flotilla surfing Reeves Wave just outside Embrun town.

Tomorrow I now have the day off as the assessment is done and dusted so I've decided to go kayaking on the Durance for a change. I'll be acting as safety boater for the assessment tomorrow as only one raft is running I think. That was what I last heard, but that could change with in minutes of sitting down to my Smack (French equivalent of Sugar Puffs) at breakfast.

A quick update on river levels in the area. The Durance came up over night. It's on 74 on the guage and before that it's just been hitting the 60's. There's been a few days of sun so the snow pack is melting, but right now it's royally throwing it down. The site is flooded, my tent has water in it, and there's the odd rumble of thunder and flash of lightening. It's quite intense really.

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

04 May 2008

Afternoon Off

Today at morning meeting we were given the good news that the instructor staff had the aftrnoon off. So after completing a morning of site work a few of us jumped in a car and headed to the kayaking shop on the banks of the Durance. Many hours were spent in here, with the owner Wolfgang, who's got to be one of the best managers out there in the retail sector of the international kayaking market. He would run franticallly around his shop trying to find you the best piece of kit he had to offer, which would match your needs the best. Then he would give you a bit of discount for being British, then a bit more for being a PGL worker and then tell you what it would cost you all in pounds. What a great bloke. What makes him an even better bloke is that after all that i didn't buy anything (other people I was with did), but still he gave me a handfull of stickers for the paddling machine back in Lancashire.

Looking up the Durance from Saint Clement, where the shop is.

After finishing in the shop we moved on up the valley to find the Guil valley and take a look at the rivers up there. All I can say is that, that valley has some impressive sites. Especially Chateau Queyras.

The Guil just before it hits the dam.
Chateau Queyras and the Guil.

The rivers have been low all the time I've been here. The Durance has been hitting 60 on the guage around Embrun, but reports are flying around site, from the guys who've just returned from Reeves Wave that the river is flying up. That should be interesting for my rafting assessment on Tuesday. I've got another day off tomorrow. Sweet.

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

03 May 2008

Daily Views

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