01 July 2009

Three Days away from the Durance

Day 4 - The Ubaye including the Race Course.

We eventually managed to head away from the Durance valley on the fourth day and this included a stunning drive over Col de Vars into the Ubaye valley to paddle sections of the river that shares it's name with the valley it flows through. However, it wasn't all straight forward as on the descent from the col we came upon a road block, which wouldn't be open until midday - a hour-and-a-half wait. This wouldn't do. We had to be on the river paddling as that was what we were therefore.

Somewhere on the upper Ubaye whilst avoiding the road block.

The blessing here was that besides the road the Ubaye flowed on downhill unobstructed by the road block and thus provided some lovely Class 3 rapids to take us beyond the blockage. A few of us put on here and headed on downstream, whilst the remaining members of the group waited with the minibus for the road to reopen and join us later on.

Worrying about rendezvousing with the remainder of the group.

There were some problems with reuniting the two groups, but we eventually managed it and paddled a short section of the river, eventually taking out at Jausiers, before heading off to have a look at one of the more common Ubaye runs; the Race Course.

I rafted this section twice last year when out working as a guide. I wasn't a guide on the river, but just sat on the raft and provided propulsion during a Level 2 Raft assessment with Tim Vollum. However, the river was much higher than on my two previous visits, meaning that it was very unfamiliar territory to me. The river had amazing power and volume and the order for the day saw us avoiding some of the bigger holes in the hope of taking drier lines.

On the opening rapids of the Ubaye Race Course.

Day 5 - The Onde, Gyronde and Durance

The opening rapid on the Onde.

Today was supposed to be our quite day as even though we had only left the Durance valley once we had been having long days on the river. However, we were wrong on this one. In the opening rapid one of our group took a swim, snapped their paddle and pinned their boat. This wasn't a huge deal as we got it all sorted and it also provided me with the opportunity to pull out the splits I carry religiously in the back of my boat. However, when back on the river we had travelled no further than 500m before the boulder chocked river took another victim, which resulted in a swim and another pinned boat.

Enough was enough. An executive decision was made to call the trip off for the majority of the group, which did give me the opportunity to test the carry harness I took delivery of the other week for the walk-out back to the minibus. Once we had been debriefed in order to turn the negatives into positives a select group put back on the Onde with the intention of rendezvousing on the Gyronde with those that weren't getting back on the Onde.

One of the boulder rapids on the Gyronde.

We met up with the remainder of our group and carried on downstream before hitting the Durance once again. This was only a short section, but it did take us down to the slalom course at the campsite, which gave us the opportunity to play the river a bit more.

Day 6 - The Guisane

This was the final day of paddling before we would have to subject ourselves to the two day drive back up to Cumbria. The river of choice was the Guisane as the entire group could do an upper section and then a select few could descend the 'harder' lower section down into Briancon.

S Bends, Guisane.

It was notable on the upper section how much every one had come on over the past five days. There were few swims and everyone enjoyed the river by catching eddies and surfing waves instead of being like a race horse all blinkered through the ripples and then stopping at the bottom for a breath before heading off again.

One of the more 'interesting' rapids on the lower Guisane.

I think I'll leave it at that for now, but expect one more post focusing on the Alps trip. I feel some things need to be thought about a bit more before I start tapping away on the keyboard, but in the mean time
more pictures can found here.

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

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