Wales Jan 08-Cwm Llan/Glaslyn/Conwy

A quick check of the 5 day forecast before leaving work on friday showed nothing but heavy rain for the next five days in North Wales-brilliant. Myself, Stu, Ric and Lloyd set of in good spirits. Staying in the £2.50-a-night farm cottage in Beddgelert as the week before, Niall, Matt, Tom and Jack arrived shortly after us. We spent the evening by the fire discussing rivers for the next day, and listening to the rain outside.

Getting an early start, we checked the level on the way past the Aberglaslyn gorge-significantly higher than last week, and a definite run for later. We settled on going just up the road to paddle the Cwm Llan, before meeting the Uni day trip for a run down the Glaslyn, with the option to run on through Beddgelert to the gorge for those wanting a harder paddle.

As the only one of our 8 strong group to have paddled the Cwm Llan, i set off first, having assured everyone the walk-in was only a couple of kilometres (its not in Sladden’s Welsh Rivers guide).Hoping i had remembered the way from a year previous, the memories of the walk-in flooded back-several km to a steep river flowing off the southern flank of Snowdon, with a boat, across tracks,fields and eventually up to the river was pretty tiring. As i had hoped though, the level was good (otherwise i would have been lynched).


 With some of us paddling the majority of the drops, and others choosing to do certain sections, time was soon getting on. This run is great fun, with numerous drops and slides of varying height and gradient. The last potentially runnable drop looks cleaner on the right, but then ends in a small pool with a cliff face making protection that side hard. The left line looked rocky but doable, however it must be noted that following this fall there is only about 20 metres before a large unrunnable fall.

Stu wanted to do it, and so we set up safety and watched him bounce down it relatively successfully, though needing a roll at the bottom. Not to be outdone, Ric headed to the top. What followed was a somewhat less graceful descent than Stu’s. Partway down the fall Ric hit a rock, span sideways and the nose hit a rock at the side of the fall. He then did a barrel roll, landing face first onto rock, as he pin-balled out of control down the remainder of the drop. Paddles having been wrenched from his grasp, Ric did what can only be described as the quickest hand-roll ever in the pool, as livebait Stu dived in to ensure he was ok and rescue the paddles.Miraculously everything was intact, except the dent in Ric’s ego – good job he borrowed some elbow pads and a Sweet Rocker helmet before attempting the drop eh!

Stu last dropLast drop
Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod
We then made our way to the Glaslyn to catch up with the Uni group before paddling the gorge. After a rather unfortunate chain of events, and an injured paddler, it was deemed necessary to call a ambulance as a precaution, but it turned out the casualty was ok in the end. A big thanks must go to the farmer who was very helpful. Some then continued to the get-out in town, whilst a group further on managed to fit in a trip down the gorge as well.

 It rained again over night, and those that stayed for Sunday were in for a big day on the river. Off to the Aberglaslyn gorge, the level had risen further, lapping at the bottom of the wooden walkways by the main drop. I embarked with Stu, Andy Rahoo and Andy as the second group down. The first few hundred metres were somewhat washed out compared to the week before, but before i knew it we were at the start of the gorge proper. As the gradient increased, i was too close to Andy to avoid taking the same line through the middle of the first big hole. Lucky, being in a playboat, i went under it with the water above my head. I realised that i was going to have to be switched on if i was going to avoid getting a pasting! It was pretty full on paddling with little time to think. Lots of volume, no eddys to speak of and big holes made this a rather sporty paddle to say the least, where if something went wrong you were probably on your own. At this level this is a continuous and commiting apline style run, plenty of Grade 4 to keep your attention.

Having had already scouted the main drop from the bank, I decided to go for the guts and tuck up to try and avoid a repeat of last weeks backlooping. It worked a treat as i resurfaced the right way up and grabbed an eddy, knowing this was about the only opportunity to do so. Andy was last, and unfortunately ended up taking a swim at the main drop. He was pulled out by the guys on the bank, but the boat was gone. I paddled down the next section alone with Stu watching from the bank downstream. I hit a big hole and tried to pull myself over it, only to be dragged back and backlooped before flushing to my relief.At the bottom Andy’s boat had been rescued, complete with a new nose shape and split in the hull – bad luck.

Stu and Ric did another run, before the group split, and we headed to the Conwy. It was unrecognisable-a fast flowing, river wide, brown flow, with big boily eddy lines and plenty of waves and holes. Some fun was had through Bryn Bras Falls, before dodging the 20 or 30 metres of scaffolding fence at the road works that was now running directly down the middle of the river. We stopped for Stu and Ric to do some dirty ditch paddling,  but before we knew it Rhydlanfair bridge was reached. With only 4 of us continuing on the next section, we tentatively made an eddy upstream of the first Grade 5, which looked a grade up at this level. A portage followed then a quick run before another portage at the second Grade 5. With the flow still river wide, the water was flowing over the seal launch rock and into a hole with a nasty recirculating eddy to the right and ugly looking boils on the left. It was not for us, so we made our way to the Conwy Falls cafe for hot choclate-mmm. 

 The other group had headed off to the Eden, but that story is not mine to tell…



4 Responses

  1. Excellent write up!

  2. And love the pics, especially the “horizon line” one

  3. Fantastic stuff!

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