Throughout the summer we have had enough rain to bring many welsh rivers into condition but have unfortunately never been in the right place at the right time. We were therfore looking forward to a trip that was set for early November. Knowing that the rivers had been up most of the summer gave us great hope they would be working again. Plans were in place, bunkhouse booked and Friday evening arrived. Myself and Sarah sat in the car on the M6 in the usual Friday evening traffic along with 3 other cars full of keen boaters. By 10pm everyone had arrived at the bunkhouse just outside Betws-y-coed. It’s a nice bunkhouse with rooms of four or six beds. With 11 of us in total it was going to be a good weekend.
Saturday morning arrived and in the usual fashion we made a massive team breakfast from the parts of a shopping list we had each been given prior to arriving. We consulted the river levels knowledge base also known to others as Sarah. Her recommendations were quite limited well non-existent in fact. The truth was there was no water in any of the rivers. We ended up splitting into two groups with one group heading to paddle the Menai Straights and the other going for a walk up into the mountains. I went for the walk option along with Phil, Andrius, Santa, and Sarah. It was a great day for a walk. We planned a circular route up a fairly local mountain which even involved some scrambling which was a plus. The wind and hail at one point did try to blow us off the ridge but we made it back to the car after a quick stop at Plas-y-Brenin training centre for a drink and some cake. Upon returning to the bunk house for a hot shower we caught up with the others who seemed to have had a great adventure dealing with unpredictable tides.
Mike had made a large chilli with all the extras that was consumed and enjoyed by all followed by a quick round of Happy Birthday and some cake for James who’s birthday it was.
Sunday morning arrived with everyone again making the team breakfast and consulting with the river knowledge base. The two options were to go and have a play at Swallow Falls (a waterfall that you can slide down) or paddle the river Dee. The decision was to paddle the Dee. Rooms emptied, cars packed and we were off. Once at the Dee it was clear it was the only river with any water in due to the fact that anyone with a kayak on their roof this weekend was now parked at the get on for the river just above Llangollen.
We changed and made our way to the get. A quick group briefing and we were off. The first rapid was just below Chainbridge, approximately 50meters from the get on. Andrius decided he wanted to check out the bottom of the river so went upside down. Although his support stroke looked good, snapping the end off your paddle makes it near impossible to use so this resulted in a swim and a quick rescue of boat and person. He decided he had had enough so made his way back to the car which saved me from assembling the split paddles.
The next feature is Serpents Tail which is great grade 3 rapid in these levels so we spent a while running this, taking it in turns to provide safety. It also gave me much rescue practice as the other uni groups going down were not always 100% successfully making it though still in their boats.
Once this was over we carried on throgh the smaller rapids, including a quick play at Mile End Mill. James spent some time learning to control the boat in a stopper which is always good to watch.
It was then onto Town Falls. We stopped at the very top to get out and have a quick look, lines were chosen and a few went down. Last time Dutch was here he dislocated his shoulder on this rapid so was having to conquer those demons which is always tricky. Dutch’s skill level far exceeds what is needed for this rapid and over the years of paddling I expect he has paddled it 50-60 times but this time the voices in his head had something to say. Once he had told them to shut up, the spray deck was on and he made a successful line down. The entire group cheered. Everyone else had a clean line down, James put in two rolls mid rapid luckily avoiding the rocks.
Back at the riverbank we all got changed, said our goodbyes and made our way home. Even though there was no water it was still a great weekend.
If you are interested in coming on trips like this then the best thing is to keep an eye out for some of the day trips on grade 2 white water that should be coming up to get some practice.
Thanks have to go out to Mike for the awesome chilli and Dutch for organising the weekend.