Monday, 24 July 2017

Tree hugging, boulder beaching and Bala Mill strikes back...

Lower Tryweryn, Sunday 23rd July 2017

Paddlers: Chucky, Ali, Clara, Brian, Sandie

The weekend's rain had done little to swell the rivers and it was a small band of three that set off from the Club on Sunday to take advantage of a sunny day in Wales. With the group being small and Clara a relative newbie to white water, the plan was to head to the Dee.

Our band of three became five, however, on meeting up with Brian and Sandie at Dobbies and we turned our attention to the Lower Tryweryn. Clara had paddled this once before and all agreed it was an ideal opportunity for her to build skills and confidence with the support of a much-strengthened group. It was also an excellent opportunity for me to work on my own boat control and try and address a few weaknesses!

It turned out to be the Tryweryn Festival weekend and the first distraction of the day occurred at the Pyrahna stand outside the Centre, with Brian's head being turned by the new Machno. A swift bit of form-filling and a demo boat was his for the day.

Chucky, Brian and Sandie duly launched at the rafting get-out while Clara and I opted for a gentler start to the run and walked down to the get-on below Chapel Falls. As Brian came into view in his spangly new boat, there was a whiff of familiarity that I couldn't quite place at this stage...

Under Chucky's excellent leadership, Clara's nerves quickly settled and we bobbed along the wave trains enjoying the sunshine on the river and its beautiful surroundings. We stopped and played at the first feature, a diagonal surf wave on a left hand bend, with Clara being unafraid to get stuck-in and have a go. A bold attempt resulted in her catching an edge but swimmer and kit were quickly gathered up and no damage done.

As we progressed with Chucky and Clara up front, I enjoyed loitering towards the back of the group, doing a bit of eddy hopping and dropping on to surf waves under the watchful eye of Brian or Sandie. I was reminded that every river is what you make it and that the Lower T gives ample opportunity to work your skills, whatever your level of paddling.

I was also reminded that a small lapse in attention can cause a quick turn of fortune..! As Sandie and I hung back to play in a surf hole behind some boulders, I managed to drop off the back of an eddy river right and straight into a tree. Boat and paddle floated off as I extricated myself, thankfully none the worse for wear. My boat was quickly retrieved but there was a small interlude whilst Chucky chased off after my paddles... only for Sandie to spot them hooked up and nestling safely in the water just a few metres past my swim spot. Fortunately, Chucky hadn't gone far and soon emerged, dragging his boat back up the field to rejoin us.

Clara was relaxed and paddling brilliantly by now but another rescue opportunity arose when she became pinned against a boulder in the centre of the river. I should probably mention that Brian was leading at this point.... hmmmm!! Happily Chucky was able to swiftly eddy out behind the boulder and clamber out to push her off with only a minor grumble about getting his man-bits wet!

Bala Mill approached and we eddied out to give Clara the opportunity to inspect. It was at this point that the whiff of familiarity that had been haunting me about Brian in his demo boat fell into place... black helmet, red cag, shiny new blue, white and purple Machno.... YES... it's Better Bill!! 

Having inspected the falls, Clara decided not to risk spoiling the excellent day she'd had and opted to paddle the leat. There was still plenty of entertainment to come however...

With Better Bill and Sandie safely down, Chucky and I zipped into the eddy river left and I watched as he then took the eddy opposite beneath the tree and neatly styled the falls. Determined to avoid the rock that lurks on the lip of the drop, I attempted the same move... only to be swept sideways straight on to said magnetic rock!  Sliding off the back I managed to turn the boat and go forwards but with no momentum the rear end was grabbed at the bottom of the drop. My boat duly performed an impressive pop-out over the pile and I was spat sideways into the second drop. Attempting the roll, I was vaguely aware that my boat felt heavy but hung in and managed to roll up at the second attempt, only to discover my deck had popped and I was now submarining straight through the slalom competition... hey ho!

Suffice to say it was another great day on the water with plenty of laughs, all rounded off by drinks in the Tanat Valley sunshine.

Huge thanks to Chucky for organising and leading, to Brian and Sandie for the excellent company and rescue assistance, and very well done to Clara for nailing the Lower T at only her second attempt and... um... for swimming fewer times than me. See you all back on the water very soon!