Sam vs The Conwy!
Sunday 10th January 2016
Paddlers: Bill, Ali, Rob, Sam, Alex, Dylan, Tim, Dom
Following our Club outing on the Dulas last week, Sam had suggested she felt ready to try something a little more challenging.... so, with the Conwy at a perfect medium/high and a peer paddle on offer with Alex and Dylan and two of their Shrewsbury buddies, the scene was set.... mwahaha!
The obligatory coffee and breakfast stop was shifted from Dobbies to Maccy Dee’s, where introductions were made and earth mother Alex entertained us with tales of feeding a rescued butterfly and the sad case of the rescued wasp that got eaten by a spider... We settled on bacon sarnies and, suitably fuelled up, headed for a reccie of the Upper Conwy at Ysbyty Ifan.
With the level lapping nicely on the green tick, there was promise of a good warm-up ahead of the classic middle section, and so it proved – Sam looking initially a little nervous on the fast-flowing grade 2/3 rapids but visibly gaining confidence as we progressed. On inspecting the most difficult drop, a grade 3+ boulder choke with a choice of two tricky lines, Sam and I elected to portage. Tim ran the chute hard right but the remainder of the group followed Bill’s river left line down a rocky pour-over. All made it safely through, although Dylan had the first roll of the day and duly confirmed that the water was somewhat colder than of late!
The rest of the run to the A5 bridge was uneventful and, after a quick pep talk from Bill and a slightly wobbly grin from Sam ;) we were off down the glorious Middle Conwy. It did not disappoint... pushy, boily rapids but with good rock coverage and interspersed with gentler sections that allowed us to catch our breath and appreciate the stunning surroundings. Sam quite simply styled everything the river threw at her.... there may have been a shriek or two along the way but the smile was definitely widening with every conquered rapid!
The section just above the approach to Bryn Bras Falls produced the first incident of the day with, erm, yours truly at the sticky end... Sam ran it brilliantly, spinning into the eddy river left just beyond the boil at the base of the rapid. Following her down, I was not so fortunate, tripping over the boils and joining Sam in the eddy minus boat and paddle after a couple of failed roll attempts. This in turn triggered a swim for Rob who, backing off to avoid me, also got caught in the gnarl.
The rest of the group had eddied out by the wall river right above Bryn Bras and Rob was able to make his way to safety there. Whilst Bill and Tim headed off down the falls to chase boats and paddles, Dylan picked his way back along the wall and over the rocks to get within reach of us. Sam then produced another cool bit of paddling in tricky circumstances to take herself across river and, thanks to Dylan and his excellent throwline skills, I was able to rejoin the party as well.
Rob and I then edged our way along the wall of doom to be reunited with our boats below the falls whilst Alex, Dylan, Dom and Sam prepared for their run. Although gutted not to be on the water with them, the compensation was an excellent view from the rocky outcrop above the rapid as the amazing Sam blasted down and completely nailed it, whooping for England with new confidence gained... and me drowning her out from above! Woooooohoooooo, go girl!!!!
I shall skirt over the minor details towards the end of the paddle... that tiny roll I put in five minutes after getting back in my boat... the river’s attempt to get back at Sam by finally tipping her out so close to the get out... and not to mention the fact that it was clearly Bill’s fault anyway for uttering those fatal words “You’ve done the hardest bits now...”
In summary, it was a fantastic paddle on a classic river in prime condition by a new WFCC force to be reckoned with.... All hail Sam!!
Huge thanks to Alex, Dylan, Tim and Dom – really great to paddle with you – and last but by no means least, thanks to the lovely Annie for suffering a day in the car so that her human could come out to play with us. I hope the cuddles and fuss at the Hop Pole went some way to make amends!
See you on the water soon.