30 June 2009

Three Days on the Durance

Day 1 - L'Argentiere to St. Clement

Having travelled for two days solid the last thing you want to be doing is getting back into a minibus and driving for a couple more hours in the hope of getting on a river. To avoid this we unloaded the trailer, flung on some kit and dragged our boats down to the slalom course besides the campsite in the hope of making a descent of the Durance down to St. Clement.

On the way from L'Argentiere to St. Clement.

We made the descent successfully. A couple of the group had the odd swim, but we were all warming up in the French sun and getting used to the speed and volume of the Alpine rivers. It was also a good opportunity to get too know each other when in boats, rather than when sat sweating away in the back of a minibus; most of the group had met for the first time in England when we came to load the trailer on Friday afternoon.

Playing at St. Clement's slalom course.

Day 2 - Briancon to Prelle and the Briancon Gorge

We were still reluctant to sit in a minibus for any great length of time so instead of getting back on the Durance at L'Argentiere we headed upstream to the historic town of Briancon. The plan was to make a descent of the Durance from here down to the barrage just downstream of Prelle. Again the river was straight forward meaning that I showed little attention to the river, but instead basked in the morning sun and marvelled at the rock monoliths that are always evident from the river.

Walking to the bus after a successful morning back on the Durance.

Once off the river a few of the group fancied something more adventurous so once boats, trailer and kit were sorted we found ourselves putting back on above Briancon in a rock strewn Durance, which was actually quite characteristic of the rivers we paddle back in the Lake District. What wasn't familiar was the fact that we were about to enter an extremely deep gorge. However, it all worked itself out and we were soon enjoying the little rock bashing mission we had found ourselves on.

In the Briancon Gorge on the Durance.

The river did eventually leave the gorge and this meant we were left with a lovely float through Briancon, doffing our caps at any one that looked down on us, back down to where the minibus awaited.

Boofing in Briancon.

Day 3 - St. Clement to Embrum

I have been out to the Alps on one previous occasion, but it wasn't with kayak in hand, instead it was with a raft. This was because I had a short stint working as a raft guide on the Durance for the kid's activity holiday company, PGL. Whilst working there I rafted the section of the river we did on our third day of Alpine fun and, for me, this was what I was most looking forward to, even though at best, the river hit nothing more than a grade two bumble through some wave trains that I think wouldn't even make an appearance on a Lake District river in flood.

Dropping into the Rabioux Wave.

Surfing on the Reeves Wave, Embrum.

The rest of the day was spent sunning ourselves besides Embrum Canoe Club whilst waiting for the minibus to be collected from upstream by our shuttle rider.

More pictures can be found here.

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

29 June 2009

Homeward Bound

Looking up the Guisane with my Rocker perched on the bank.

I crossed over the English channel early this morning and in nothing more than a shake of a rabbits tail was back in Cumbria shifting through piles of kit trying to get stuff in order as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This can only mean one thing; I've returned from my Alps paddling trip. The trip was highly successfull having completed:
  • Five sections of the Durance, including the Briancon Gorge
  • Two sections of the Ubaye
  • Two sections of the Guisane
  • The Onde
  • The Gyronde
More will follow shortly once everything has been put in order at home, in my head and on my computer.

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

18 June 2009

Au revoir...

Looking upstream towards the Gelt boulder.

I got one final bouldering session in this afternoon before I head to France on Saturday. If I was being totally honest I would have to say it wasn't the best session ever. The problems were steep, the holds were small and I felt strong, but it was only for an hour on the quartzite boulder besides the River Gelt. I'd sent all the problems on a previous visit and just ticked them all off again before linking a couple of them up with traverses to extend the routes and add an extra element to my training.

As I've already mentioned I'm off south on Saturday down to the Alps for ten days of sun soaked kayaking. It'll be nice to get back in a kayak and get numerous Alpine rivers under my belt, but staying on the honesty theme I am slightly disappointed that I won't be able to get out climbing for a while because of the trip. Oh well, you can't have everything.

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

16 June 2009

Declaring war...

On the Great British midge: twice now I have been ravaged by these blighters whilst out climbing. It happened last Wednesday when getting on Woden's Face early in the morning and it happened today when I headed out of the county for an evening climb.

Looking across Peel Crag to Crag Lough with Hadrian's Wall running along the top.

I ventured off into Northumberland for my evening climb, which to be honest is no further than the Lake District, with my chosen destination being Peel Crag. Peel Crag is absolutely rammed with routes around the grade I climb so I was left with the free reign of the crag. However, I only managed to tick off three routes before I lost my nerve with the blocks of dolerite and scampered for home.

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

13 June 2009


Abseiling from the top of Castle Rock.

For the past two day's I've managed to keep up with the theme of climbing every day this week. Ok I guess the past two days have been different though as I've been on an SPA training course with Gnash Baxter of Keswick Mountain Adventures and Keswick Climbing Wall. We were blessed with splendid weather both days, which meant we got a climb in at Brown Slabs at Shepherds Crag before heading to the upper crag to look at rope work. Then today we spent our time at the top of Castle Rock rigging more ropes together and running through problems that could arise during a session with a group.

Off to work tomorrow, and then another week of freedom, which will hopefully mean more climbing, before heading for the Alps on Saturday morning for a spot of paddling.

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

11 June 2009

Bad weather stops play

Problem 3 (V3).

I managed to get some climbing in today, but it wasn't what I had originally planned. I was hoping to go over to Northumberland for some Peel Crag action. However, when driving over the rain hit us and so we turned tail and headed for home. It eventually brightened up this evening so I rushed off down to Armathwaite to get a quick session in just to keep the muscles active.

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

10 June 2009

211 miles later...

I've been off all week and have tried to fill my time with as much climbing as possible. On Monday I got a couple of hours in at the local wall in Carlisle and then yesterday I headed outdoors with pads in tow for a spot of bouldering in the Langdales. It seems like all the time spent at the local wall is prooving useful as I felt stronger than I have ever felt before when out climbing and managed to tick off a number of problems.

The Langdale Boulders with the Pikes behind.

After my highly productive bouldering session I carried on journeying south so that I could take delivery of the carry harness system, which was prototyped on this trip, and ordered some time ago.

The harness in use.

I eventually turned north and my voyage home took me along the shores of Ullswater. It was beautiful as the late evening sun started to go down meaning the mountains appeared to radiate light.

Looking up Ullswater.

Today, keeping with tradition, I managed another day of climbing though I had to work for it. I left the house this morning sometime before six and was getting my first route in on Woden's Face an hour later. I had another productive four hour session before heading back to Carlisle to recoup for what could be another day of climbing tomorrow.

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

02 June 2009

A disappointing day

Looking along Farleton Crag.

Today was my first day off since Thursday meaning it was the first time since that day's superb evening climbing session that I could put on my climbing shoes and rack up at the bottom of a rock face; I've been finishing work remarkably late. It was just a shame that the enjoyment I found in tackling the limestone of Cumrew Crag couldn't have been mirrored today at the limestone of Farleton Crag. I had an absolutely shocking time, which resulted in only one route being successfully completed.

I suppose you've got to move on and just hope that the next climbing session will be better. I am hoping to get out on Thursday evening after a day at Matfen Hall if the time and weather allow and then again on Friday before work comes back around at the weekend.

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