Tuesday, 5 April 2016

North Wales Weekend, 2-3 April 2016

Paddlers:   Adam, Ali, Bill, Brian, Jamie, Keith, Rob, Trevor C, Trevor Q

In attendance: Amy, Chucky

After a week of dry weather our prayers were answered by the rain gods and Snowdonia’s rivers beckoned. Proceedings began with the obligatory coffee and breakfast stop at Dobbies, with Bill’s 12 inch hearty Italian sausage attracting the usual sniggers...

Rivers were rising as we headed for a rendezvous with Shrewsbury pals Brian and Amy at Cobden’s. The rain was still falling and the Llugwy looked a little stout for the group so a retreat to the Middle Conwy was agreed, with a mini-diversion to drop the still-injured Chucky off at the Fairy Glen to walk and dream of paddles that could be... should he ever get his shoulder sorted!

By now the clock was ticking to cries of ‘Faffalanche’ from the Chairman so Amy and I deferred our girlie catch-up, the paddlers kitted up and we finally got the business of the day underway. The Conwy was at 4 on the gauge – a nice medium level that delivered a classic run – with bouncy rapids and lovely pooled sections giving first timers Brian, Jamie, Keith and Trevor C. plenty of opportunity to appreciate the stunning gorge through which it flows.

Despite a short swim... or was it two... ;o) on the tricky slot above Bryn Bras, Jamie recovered well to run the falls and the whole group made it safely down. Trevor and yours truly apparently demonstrated the cleanest lines here amid rumours of some essential bracing from the river leader...

Further entertainment ensued, with medals for Kayakers with Hearts going to Bill and Keith for their rescue of a distressed lamb found bleating on the wrong side of the fence between field and river. The roast dinner option was fleetingly considered but discounted due to lack of cargo space and, after a pincer movement from Keith and an epic mid-air catch by Bill, Larry lived to be happily reunited with his flock.

All too soon the first get-out appeared and Jamie, Trevor, Rob and I chose the grade 4 walk-out, leaving Ad, Bill, Brian and Keith to tackle the grade 5 portages down-stream. We bided our time over welcome refreshments and a catch-up with Amy at the Conwy Falls cafe until the paddlers were safely gathered in at the must-make eddy. Bill looked a little sheepish for the second time that day after a roll on the final feature, and Keith was particularly grumpy-faced after trying and apparently epically failing to short-cut one of the portages...!

Needless to say smiles were easily restored over beer and food at the Swallow Falls hotel and jollifications continued until well into the evening and that final, completely unnecessary pint was well and truly consumed!!

After a relatively peaceful (comatose?) night and a hearty breakfast, the group dynamics changed for Day 2 with Keith and Chucky opting for early doors and Trevor Q. joining the party. Levels had dropped dramatically but the Seiont looked to be holding up well and became the elected paddle for the day.

The river didn’t disappoint, with the initial grade 4 rapid providing early challenge, then a bouncy and continuous grade 2/3 blast of a paddle full of cheeky drops and plenty of interest for the group. Adam ran the first feature blind, putting in a not-entirely-intentional boof on an inconvenient rock river left, while the rest of us inspected and Jamie and Trevor C. decided to portage.  Electing to follow Bill’s centre line, I got pushed right but remembered to brace for once and made it down with dry hair. Paddling for the first time in some years, Trevor Q followed me with a gutsy attempt but wasn’t so lucky. Boat and paddler were safely gathered up with Trevor wisely noting that the Owen line was definitely not to be trusted!

 The rest of the paddle passed with the usual banter and general appreciation of sunshine and scenery. There were a couple of minor out-of-boat experiences but barely worthy of note, before Caernarfon Castle provided a magnificent backdrop for the obligatory selfie as we arrived on a particularly low tide that necessitated a muddy take out below the landing stage.

With perfect timing the shuttle and boat loading was completed before the rain came once again, and the weekend was rounded off with awesome fish and chips in the town before the long journey home...

With thanks to Bill for organising and Bill, Keith and Rob for driving.

Thanks to Ad for sharing the river leadership and providing his usual paddling Masterclass.

Well done to Jamie for conquering two new rivers in one weekend.

Welcome Trevor Q... nicely done.

Brian and Amy, it was great to catch up with you.

Sam, you were missed!

See you all on the water very soon...!!