30 November 2008

It's all gone a bit arctic

Shap International Kayak Film Festival came and went last night. There was a splendid line up of films including Olaf Obsommer's film on the Stikine; Max Bilbow's new film, premiered in Leeds on Friday night, Means of Production; as well as the latest offering by the Fat Cats, 60˚ North, introduced by Ali Marshal himself. There were also a few announcements about the positive steps being made with the EA regarding the release of river level beta for paddlers and fisherfolk alike, as well as the opening of the Rainchasers short film competition. There could be some ideas knocking around the old noggin already.

With a cold night's sleep in the back of the van and a rather loose plan for paddling today I soon found myself back home in Carlisle thawing out after a top-notch night, where I was able to catch up with everyone I've been out paddling with since I moved to Carlisle back in September. It seems that the Lakes has dried up and frozen over giving no chance of any boating action in the coming days or even weeks if Metcheck is anything to go by.

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

28 November 2008

Winter Woodland

"There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations."
- Washington Irving

On the banks of the River Eden in Eden Brows.

A newly felled tree.

The afternoon sun rising over the brim of the hill, to illuminate the woodland.

Flames licking the damp wood scavenged from the woodland floor.

All these pictures were taken today as part of a Practical Outdoor Activities module. The day was focused on the environmental side of the outdoors and how the outdoors can be experienced for what it is, and not just the apparatus allowing participation in 'extreme' sports like kayaking and climbing. It was quite interesting really, and just gave me time to enjoy the outdoors for what it is; the outdoors.

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

27 November 2008


Like mentioned in the past I don't have lectures on a Thursday so I am pretty much free to do what I want, when I want. With the lack of rain in the Lakes I didn't have that much motivation to find a paddling crew for a descent of what would probably be some lubed up rocks. Instead I headed into the fells for a chance to stretch my legs, and log a few more mountain days to help fill my Mountain Leader logbook I received a couple of weeks ago. I found what looked like a nice walk on one of the many websites dedicated to routes in the area and then checked it out on the map. The aim was to summit three peaks all above the 650m mark all on my bill so I had to rely on my own navigation skills. This meant that first of all I would tick off Little Man (865m), then Skiddaw (931m) and finally Sale How (666m) before traversing around the foothills of Lonscale Fell via Glenderaterra Beck.

A monument on the hill sides above Whit Beck.

The weather was far from ideal on the ascent up to Little Man with strong winds and ravishing rain, which stung any exposed flesh. I reached the top of Long Man and decided that climbing a further 60m+ to the top of Skiddaw, whilst on my own, was not the best idea in the present conditions. Instead I descended down to the col between Long Man and Skiddaw, then tracked out east. Now away from the ridge line I was protected from the strong westerlies and could pace out, in low cloud by compass bearing, across Skiddaw Forest, ticking off Sale How before reaching the Cumbrian Way. This would take me down Glenderaterra Beck and around the front of Lonscale Fell, back to the van.

Looking north-east from Skiddaw House as the sun starts to burn through the cloud.

The weather improved somewhat and I beat away from the Cumbrian Way so that I was closer to the falling water in Glenderaterra Beck as I had read that it was possible to paddle much of the length of this mountain stream. It was definitely too low for a run today, but I suppose under heavy rain it could bring it up enough to warrant the 2.5km walk in with a boat for the grade 4 descent.

Looking down the Glenderaterra Beck valley to the Helvellyn range beyond.

The Glenderaterra Beck Valley in the foreground, with Low Rigg and High Rigg in the middle ground and the Helvellyn range in the background.

The afternoon sun burning through the clouds over Derwent Water and the north-western fells.

All in all it wasn't such a bad day. The weather was far from ideal for my first solo walk, but I suppose that added to the fun of it all. On the positive side, at no point did I get lost, and I could have pointed out, on the map, where I was at any given point. It's something I'll definitely be repeating when there's no water in the rivers and there's no one around to head out for an adventure.

Right now I'm in the library on campus using the wireless technology that has just been installed, waiting for the climbing wall to open so that I can go and help out supervising a group. This is for the group supervision section of my Climbing Wall Award logbook. It seems, right now, that everything I do in the outdoors - be it climbing, walking or paddling - has some ulterior motive; mainly ticking boxes and filling pages in NGB logbooks. I suppose it's got to be done if I want to forge ahead and have a career in the outdoors.

It's Shap International Kayak Film Festival this Saturday so a chance to watch some paddling porn, party and then maybe some boating on the Sunday after a night spent in the van. Should be good.

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

25 November 2008

Sunday Wrap Up

The British University Kayak Expedition Team '09: (Back Row L to R) Tim Hamlet, Stuart Watson, Ben McKeown, Andy Jaunzems, Eoghain Johnson, Stuart Haywood, Nathan Fletcher, (Front Row L to R) Tom Haywood and Luke Farrington.

When Sunday came around there wasn't that much enthusiasm for paddling, even after what must have been a heavy nights rain. After consulting with the Conwy phone gauge we were left in the knowledge that the Fairy Glen was too big to paddle. There was talk the previous day about a blast over to the mighty Tryweryn for a bit of a Boater X and Big Air session, but that went by the wayside and we were left to reside over cleaning up the bunk house and heading our separate ways, back to our respective institutions for lectures the next day.

This has been one of the best weekends of boating I have had in a long time. Probably due to the fact that all the rivers I had paddled were personal first descents and that most of the boaters on the weekend were a lot better than me; meaning I had few worries about the others on the water, enabling me to fully concentrate on my own paddling. I am slightly disappointed that I didn't make the final expedition team, but then again I did make the selection weekend, which some people did not, and have an awesome three days of paddling, socialising and getting to know like minded individuals. At the end of the day I feel that everyone on the team fully deserved their place and, by a long way, were much better paddlers than myself. However, I am sure that over the summer I'll be able to get abroad for some foreign paddling action with some of the guys I met this weekend, which will be awesome.

More pictures from the weekend can be found here.

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

24 November 2008

Saturday Swims

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of rain on the bunk house's door and a rather nice bacon and egg sandwich. Plans were quickly put in place for a nosy at the Mawddach, with a fall back plan, if there wasn't enough water, of the Fairy Glen. We knew the Glen was going as the Conwy phone gauge let us in on the secret that it had come up with the nights rain.

From the above photo I hope you've worked out that the Mawddach was too low, as was the Gamlan, which we had a quick look at, so the Glen of Fairies it was. I have heard so much about the Glen, and on many occasions heard it renamed as the Scary Glen. I've got to be honest here and admit that I was slightly apprehensive to say the least to be putting on what is seen as one of the UK's test pieces. Like the previous day we were split into small groups, so that we could get to know more of the selection invites, but also to spread out the 20+ paddlers. After a quick inspection of the 'Sticky Hole' my group was the first to put on. Everything went well with the first drop and we carried on downstream.

Me getting ready to boof out over 'Sticky Hole' (Picture: Dave Burne).

Unfortunately the day didn't carry on as well. It wasn't long after running 'Sticky Hole' that I found myself upside down, as I lazily dropped down a small drop, concentrating on the upcoming Henry Moore, and missing my roll. I gave it a few more goes, before reaching for the ejector cord, and pulling my deck for what I thought would be an unpleasant swim. It turned out to be a lot nicer than first anticipated. By the time I had reached the surface I was at the bottom of Henry Moore; I had run it upside down, and being fed, with all my kit, into a rather large eddy that had a nice rocky shelf for me to empty my boat and jump back in from. It was my first swim in over two years, and to be honest I was quite glad of it. For a while now I have felt like it was going to be coming and I am just so glad that the outcome was so amiable on a stretch of river that could have dished out some horrific carnage. We carried on downstream.

Inspecting Fairy Falls.

Fairy Falls eventually was upon us, and for the first time that weekend we headed for the bank for a quick bank inspection of the infamous grade 5+ drop. I wasn't really feeling it, what with the previous swim and the odd ache from the previous day's paddling I headed for the river left bank, shouldered my boat and portaged down to the scree slope, on the right hand bend into the second gorge. To be honest I probably could have made the lines and got down with out any incident if I was on my game, but I just didn't fancy the consequences if it all went flying towards the fan.

Luke Farrington throwing it down over Fairy Falls.

Miles Hill riding out Speeder Biker.

Looking up some of the last gorge as one of the groups descend.

The second gorge of the Glen went well. I got surfed in a hole for a while as I decided to take off for a boof on the down steam side of my boat, which just resulted in me dropping onto the foam pile slightly sideways and it took hold of the round hull of the Rocker and held me. Luckily the next guy down knocked my bow out of the hole so I could pull free. That's teamwork baby.

Once out of the Glen we had a quick Boater X from Beaver Pool to the take out where decisions had to be made on what the afternoon entailed. It was suggested that we could do another run of the Glen, the Lledr, or the Cwm Llan. The group was divided, however the majority were opting for the slog up the base of Snowdon for some crazy low volume, steep gradient action on the Cwm Llan. With majority rules this is where we headed next.

Walking into the Cwm Llan.

Looking downstream as the selection invites get on for the quick, short descent.

What must be one of the most impressive horizon lines in the UK.

Ben McKeown stepping up with half a blade to run the last 6m rocky mess.

The run down was good and I'm still trying to decided whether the 4km walk up Snowdon was worth the 500m of river. It probably was. The Cwm Llan is unlike any other river I've paddled. It is exceptionally steep and continuous, the water is crystal clear and the views from the water are probably some of the best on offer in the UK. It was just a shame that we didn't reach the top of the river till about 3:30pm when the light was starting to fade, which meant the pictures weren't the best.

That night the team was selected by the invites voting on the five people they would want on an expedition before we headed out for a night on the town.

More pictures can be found here.

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

23 November 2008

Friday Fun

So on Thursday I headed down to Wales for the UniYaker Selection weekend. It was a late start to the event when I was picked up in Carlise from some of the boys travelling down from Scotland. I think we eventually left Carlisle at 10pm and with only one stop reached the bunk house just outside Tremadog at some stupid hour in the early morning. There was just enough time for a brief chat before hitting the sack in order to be fresh the next day for some North Welsh boating.

Over the last week there hadn't been much rain in North Wales and with the mild covering of moisture on the roads and pavements outside the bunkhouse on Friday morning the guys in the know were struggling to think of what may be just going. Eventually a decision was made to head over to the Aberglaslyn Gorge for a descent, or two, or three. I think there was just enough water in the river; it was a good introduction to Welsh boating for me, a good opening to the selection weekend where everybody could get to know each other on a river with little consequence at this level, but still enough to require a cheeky boof or flare at times. On the third and final run down the gorge we did not split into a number of smaller groups - which allowed us to get to know each other better, and have a bit more space on the river to manoeuvre - instead we had one mass race down the gorge.

Eughain Johnson on the opening stretches of the Aberglaslyn Gorge.

The UniYaker Selection Invites racing off down the Aberglaslyn Gorge; Boater X style.

Stuart Haywood boofing out on Boatbreaker.

Walking back up the road to the cars to shoot off to the next river.

After the Aberglaslyn Gorge we headed on in search of our second river of the day. There had been a few phone calls to the Conwy phone gauge early in the morning, before we left the bunkhouse, and it was believed that it may just be running so we headed that way with some hope. However, with a quick inspection of Fairy Falls, which looked a heinous mess of siphons, undercuts and rocks that definitely had pinning potential, it was a write off and we headed on after much debate for a huck down Swallow Falls.

Thousand yard stare: Ben McKeown and Andy Jaunzems inspecting the top of Swallow Falls.

James Broadley on the first slide of Swallow Falls.

Nathan Fletcher about to start down the second slide of Swallow Falls.

Aidan Smallwood on Swallow Falls' second slide.

Eughain Johnson stepping up to be the first of the day to style the last drop on Swallow Falls.

That evening the author of Many Rivers to Run, expedition boater extraordinaire, Dave Manby popped in to listen to the many presentation on various international destination that the team could head too. There was definitely a wide range from Alaska to Vietnam, to the Sayan Mountains in Russia to Lesotho, which is nestled away in South Africa. By the end of the evening it had all been narrowed down to five destinations and it was decided the final team could whittle it down even more to that all important one.

That's the opening day over really. There is a lot more I can say, but it'd be boring to read and make the post even longer. I think the pictures do the day enough justice to not warrant any more words.

More pictures of the weekend can be found here.

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

19 November 2008


Anyone seen one of these knocking around the Lake District recently. The boat in question is a Mad River 15' Explorer owned by the University of Cumbria, which was last seen beside the boathouse at the Lakeside YMCA, Windermere on Saturday (15th November) night. It's got U.O.C and the university's Newton Rigg campus phone number written in it. There have been a fair few adjustments made to the boat so it is fairly identifiable by the people in the know. If you've got any details to the location of this canoe get in touch with the University of Cumbria's Newton Rigg campus and put a smile back on all the student's faces.

On a nicer note I've got no more lectures until Monday morning. In the meantime I'm off to Wales for some boating action with the other UniYaker lads so that a choice on location and the final expedition team can be made. It's all go, go, go...

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

18 November 2008


Looking out on the rising sun over the Northern Pennines from inner city Carlisle.

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

17 November 2008

Backbarrow Weir

Had a couple of pictures sent my way from my personal first descent down Backbarrow Weir on Saturday's trip down the Leven. It isn't often I get pictures of me boating these day's as I tend to be behind the camera and the only one on the river with a camera to hand.

All photos courtesy of Barry Curley.

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

15 November 2008

Old hunting grounds...

Like I said yesterday I was paddling on the Leven today and that's what I did. I met up with a paddler at the garage in Newby Bridge, quickly changed vehicles, and then met up with four more paddlers at the get in. We got changed and blasted off down river as the shuttle had already been sorted. I've done this river a fair few times now, but don't think I have done it in over ten months what with working in Scotland and France, so even though it was a familiar run I was looking forward to the journey downstream. I also think it could have been the highest that I have ever done it; that added to the interest.

Getting on the Leven just outside Newby Bridge.

Playing in the Brick Chute Weir to the left of the brick chute.

Three on a wave.

On the lip of the weir just upstream of Backbarrow.

The main interest on the Leven is without a doubt the section from Backbarrow Bridge to Haverthwaite and it was only over the last winter that I started running this section regularly. Prior to this my early escape from the river could be accounted to strictly following the access agreement, where supposedly 'permitted' access ends at the bottom of the racecourse section.

My line on the Backbarrow Bridge fall wasn't the greatest by any stretch of the imaginiation. I was too far right, meaning that I missed that vital rock platform to boof off to skip over the nasty, grabby hole at the bottom. As a result I ended up watching the bow of my boat go up and over my head as I got looped, then spent a fairly long period of time under water before finally managing to roll up just downstream of the hole. Afterwards I was told that it looked like I was getting nicely bashed against the side of the bridge and pulled back into the hole.

On previous trips down this section I had always portaged the next weir because I could never really work out a line from the river left bank. However, today I stepped up and ran it as I was able to follow the other's lines and be guided somewhat from the bottom.

At the bottom of the weir downstream of Backbarrow.

Once finished on the Leven, in order to make the hundred mile round trip to the South Lakes a bit more worthwhile, two of us went and hit up the Kent. Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures, mainly because we quickly blasted through all the rapids and hit the lines well. I had another upside down moment at the bottom of Force Falls, but rolled up.

Whilst on the river I met, for the first time, one of the guys that I'll be boating with next week during the UniYaker selection weekend in Wales.

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

14 November 2008

Rain, Wind and Sunshine

Another Friday and another day of practical activities for my degree in Outdoor Leadership. Today was our final day of walking practicals before we move onto tasting another activity next week. With a weather forecast of gusting winds and rain we headed along the A66 to Blencathra to make an ascent along Hall's Fell Ridge for a bit of scrambling over wet rock and navigation in low cloud.

Looking up Gate Gill with Hall's Fell to the right and Gategill Fell to the left.

Scrambling up Hall's Fell Ridge in the rain and wind.

At 868m at Hallsfell Top with Pudsy.

The group spread out descending along the top of Foule Crag.

A bit of a biblical moment as the sun's rays focus on Threlkeld in the valley bottom.

It was a good day despite the weather; a bad day in the hills is always going to be better than a day in lectures. Tomorrow I should be off paddling on what looks like the Leven.

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

12 November 2008

An afternoon jaunt...

This university life couldn't get any better really. I have Thursday's off to go out paddling and on Friday we go playing in the hills with some top notch instructors as part of the degree. Then there's also the weekend; boating a plenty. Today, we were finished by twelve like always and I'm not sure why I haven't done this before, but we went boating after sitting through a lecture on Mass Movement. Good stuff - that's the boating; not the lecture. To be honest that was fairly dull. The river we bumbled down was the Greta over by Keswick and after lots of people, the day before, had said they were up for it only two of us reached the river, kitted up and headed off downstream once a car had been left at the climbing wall takeout.

Looking over Threlkeld Bridge towards St. John's-in-the-Vale with St. John's Beck bank full.

On the river, paddling into the sun.

Descended through Keswick.

Once finished it was just a case of packing everything up, collecting the other vehicle and heading for home with the hard choice of what to do tomorrow on the timetabled day-off. Hmmm...

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

09 November 2008

Dabbling in the Borders

When I moved to Carlisle back in September I thought: "great. I'm now closer to the Lake District for forays, with a boat, on the becks and rivers." However I also came to realise that I was now only a stones throw away from the Scottish border, which opened up day trips to those rivers the SCA's guidebook class as the Borders and Burns Country. Well today was the day that I came to realise what I realised back in September.

I had the option of going to paddle the Leven: I've done that a fair few times so I thought I'd get on something different. I sent out a couple of messages on Saturday night trying to find some paddling chums who were looking to utilise the heavy rain that had been falling for some time and was predicted to fall for most of the night. Within minutes of sending the message I had found myself some aforementioned paddling chums, was heading for a river I hadn't paddled before, and was crossing over into Scotland. The said river was the Nith, which I have heard many stories about, and after the descent of the grade 3/4 waters flowing off the Ayrshire Hills I can see why this is.

Somewhere on the Nith.

Punching through the hole at the bottom of the class four section.

Surfing the hole to escape the eddy on river left.

It seems like I didn't get that many pictures today and to be honest nothing stands out as a remarkable event that should have been photographed or noted now on these pages. I enjoyed myself anyway and that's all that matters. When arriving at Drumlanrig Bridge the river was knocking around the IV mark on the gauge, which according to the guidebook is high. By the time we had got off, it had dropped below this, but it will be rising as it started raining whilst we were making tracks back to England. The paddle was good. It was continuous, biggish volume stuff. We ran most things on site, but did get out to briefly inspect two bits where we couldn't get a good enough vantage from the boat.

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