22 January 2009

Singing the praises of the dry suit

I'm not in university on Thursday and the weather was kind enough to put some water down over night. This meant one thing; the rivers were flowing, but what was even nicer was the fact that it had stopped raining, meaning the pictures of the day would be full of sunny goodness. Let's not get started on pictures however; my camera is still playing up, meaning there is only a small selection for the blog at the moment, but that problem should be rectified next week.

The first river of the day was Wasdale Beck. Not the well known Wasdale over near Great Gable, but the lesser known Wasdale near Longsleddale and the River Sprint. I've called in on this beck once before on my first visit to the River Sprint, and had a quick look at Shap Wells Falls, but have since forgotten about it. However it looked good today and we were soon heading to the top of the run to bash down the boulder strewn river bed.

At Wasdale Old Bridge on the A6 about to head for the water.

There was only two of us on the river - one of the problems with mid-week, last minute boating missions - so we took it easy, scouting sections of the river from the bank as once in the flow there wasn't many eddies to hop down the boulder strewn rapids.

Inspecting another section of the beck.

We knew that a strainer loomed downstream that was far from pretty and this was our main worry and the reason for the continuous inspection of sections, which probably would have gone without grabbing a look from the bank. Luckily we found the tree in good time. I was on one side of the river, which made for a nice portage of the tree, which looked to have been trimmed back slightly, however the other paddler was on the opposite bank, which didn't offer up the nicest options for a portage.

I threw a line across and swung the boat across, what must have been one of the only free flowing sections of water, to the good bank. Then the process was repeated with the paddler and we were off on our portage. This is the first of the singing the praises of the dry suit. The suit allowed us to move across the river quickly without hassle and worry about immersion in water and it's heat sapping effects on the body.

A typical view up Wasdale Beck.

We moved on downstream in a similar vein. We did some rearranged of the driftwood in the river with a z-drag and then ran the section we had tided up, which finished in a nice boof manoeuvre over a smooth roosters tail. The bank inspection was reduced now as the river eased off giving more eddies and less boulders. There was a bridge across the river with little clearance and then two fences across the stream. The bridge was portaged and the first fence was good to go as a section had been removed, but the second one was not so good. On portaging this fence we had a run in with the local farmer. Words were exchanged, he wasn't happy with our presence, we apologised, chatted to him for a while, and then moved on downstream to the finale of the run, Shap Wells Falls.

Shap Wells Falls from the drive of the hotel with the same name.

There was a hurried inspection of the falls, conscience about our run in with the farmer, and also concerned about the drop in the river level. The falls still went and to my surprise there was little contact with the local granite geology as you plunged over the three tiered fall. That was that done and it was only knocking on 1pm. We moved onto the River Sprint, putting on below the S Bends, like on my previous run, and headed off downstream at a brisk pace. We portaged the Slot and Drop rapid as we didn't fancy the consequences of getting recirculated with only one paddler to depend upon for the rescue.

Putting back on downstream of Slot and Drop had us soon coming upon Rock and Roll. A quick bank inspection told us that it was clear of wood and we cruised on down. I however, did not cruise, but swam instead. On my previous visit I had to roll on the entry into the rapid, however today my back rest popped as I went over; I missed the roll a few times before popping my deck. The swim was quite pleasant as it flushed me into a bit of slack water allowing me to climb out of the gorge with my paddle and because of the dry suit I was quite comfortable after my immersion in the melt water filled river. I thought I may have been able to get my boat as well, but this floated off downstream to get recirculated in an eddy a little bit further down. This was retrieved and hauled up the bank before we moved off downstream to tick off the last couple of miles without incident.

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

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