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...

No comments: