Talk report – Lowri Davies

Big thanks to Lowri Davies for coming over to Liverpool and telling us about Mongolia and Russia. And big thanks to everyone who came along to this or previous talks and for making the speakers welcome.


Lowri has rather impressive photos of the sweeping landscapes of Mongolia, and the scary sharp gorgey geology of Russia.  

Unfortunately the projector I found turned out not to have a “green” on it. (Sorry). Luckily, Russian geology is mainly red, and water is obviously blue, and Lowri managed to make us quickly forget that the pictures were tinted – if you’d like to see the pictures in their proper colours, go to photobucket

baskaus gorge

The four borders expedition is the second of the “British Universities” expeditions to happen – the first was to Kyrgystan in 2005, and the next expedition will be in 2009 – selection this autumn. The project was born out of the realisation that, although lots of Universities have very active canoe clubs with stuff aimed at most beginner and mid levels, there is often little opportunity for the best whitewater paddlers in a university to get out there and do stuff challenging enough to push them at their own level, and push at the edges of the known paddling world.

For the selected team, really everything was up to them, right from choosing and researching destinations,  raising cash to do it, arranging all the logistics, and carrying out their plans. A team of 8 representing every area of the country.

The two main areas they visited were Mongolia and Russia – the Russian part represents really hard multi day gorges. The Mongolian bit is very much unexplored from a paddling perspective – all new.

The visa problems, alcoholic drivers, the families who befriended them, and the officials who confiscated their stuff formed quite a thread through the trip.  Then there was the  water. Lowri’s pics and talk give us a sense of the scale of the place and of the undertaking that venturing out on continuous IV/V through rather sharp rocks presents. Great to hear someone so good at getting across the challenging/uplifting/truly frightening personal experiences involved.

Thanks Lowri for a super talk!

We’ve really enjoyed organising these talks evenings. This was the third in the series, all of them have been about whitewater, from slightly different perspectives – the seasoned paddler whose name has to, by law, be preceded by the words “living legend”, the whimsical-yet-extreme Arctic Greenland paddler, and the  enthusiasm, team spirit and discoveries of the British Unis expedition to Russia. Good chances to meet exciting paddlers and learn about what’s at the forefront of kayaking right now.

More talks next year? Would be nice, any ideas welcome. Volunteers to run it, even more welcome 🙂 . Rachel is off to her new job down S**th soon, and Laura G is disappearing to the Lakes, boo, so its really an opportunity for other folk to get involved and take this on. If you are interested, have a chat to Rachel about whats involved. Also any thoughts about the idea of having doing a more “home grown” evening sometime next term – a medley some of your videos and pictures of Wales, Norway and your other adventures would be great.

Photos: Lowri Davies


Talk reminder – directions – food

Reminder – Lowri Davies talk – “Canoeing with the Cossacks” – Reading Rm – Derby and Rathbone Hall – Corner of Penny Lane and Greenbank Rd/N Mossley Hill Rd – 7.30pm – £3.50 on the door (Adults / Students / Children)

Details at liverpoolkayaktalks

Google Map

Suggestion for food beforehand – 6pm Penny lane wine bar (Corner of Penny Lane and Allerton Rd/Smithdown Rd.) There is also a bar on the Derby and Rathbone halls site.

Parking: There is street parking towards the Allerton Rd end of Penny lane, or side roads.

Bus: Nearest are 86 (Smithdown Rd) and 699 (Greenbank Rd)

Train: Nearest is Mossley Hill station, midway along Rose Lane.

Four Borders video

This is a preview/trailer of the Four borders expedition video, enjoy. 

Lowri Davies is giving a talk this Monday in Liverpool.

Talk announcement – Lowri Davies – 10 March – Russian Whitewater

Monday March 10th 7.30pm – Lowri Davies – “Canoeing with the Cossacks” – Reading Room – Derby and Rathbone Hall – Greenbank –  £3.50 Adults / Students / Children – Note different venue to other talks – see Maps page for directions to Greenbank

That’s next Monday! Everyone welcome, great to see you there. Folk will be getting a drink in the student bar in Derby and Rathbone halls beforehand. Also some of us are going for an early supper – let me know if you’d like to come out for a bite to eat beforehand.

Lowri Daviesphoto courtesy of Four Borders websiteLowri Davies

Lowri Davies is best known as one of the World’s top female freestyle kayakers including being European Champion. However, making small boats spin on every axis while flying through the air is not her only paddling proficiency…

Lowri Davies

Last year Lowri was selected as one of 8 top white water paddlers for the British Universities Expedition to explore some of the wild rivers of Siberia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The team paddled big volume multi-day rivers through inescapable gorges and ticked off first descents. However, they faced as many obstacles off the water – guns, bribery, arrests, and car crashes to name but a few! Come and share Lowri’s life and adventures – paddling for 10 weeks in central Asia as the only female on the team.

Photos and quotes from the Four borders expedition website:

Lowri DaviesLowri DaviesLowri Davies

Off the river, the main themes seem to be vodka, vodka, more vodka. Oh and guns:

Geting to the river it involves driving off road over the Karagem pass, over 3000m high.  As we started the climb up the pass it became apparent that our driver and Igor were having a bit of a lovers tiff, as Tank wanted to drive through the night up and over the pass, while drinking large quantities of vodka to keep him awake – Four borders website

It is well known in the mountains that the currency is vodka and rope.  With that in mind we set off to buy some meat armed with a Russian phrase book and none of the above currency – Four borders website

He took a few photos before realising that behind him was a border guard truck driving towards him, it drove right to him and put him in the back at gunpoint – Four borders website

The team persevered with long walk ins and driving rather “off road” for days at a time:

We drove for two days across what seemed to be desert. Feeling totally disheartened we made one last attempt to find a river we could paddle. What we found was beyond what any of us imagined finding in Mongolia; a near perfect creek with large drops, steep slides and crystal clear water. – Four borders website

And they were rewarded with some great white water

This section proved to be a great warm up, a big volume grade 4 which reminded some people of paddling in BC. We eventually came to a bridge that marked the start of the impressive gorge that is the Mazhoy cascade. It turned out that the day had really only just begun! The short gorge section we expected became a five hour trip involving, some read-and-run grade five, much scouting and a portage. – Four Borders website

Sobering thoughts: Hard whitewater and isolated conditions can make for serious consequences with the worst outcome:

A couple of weeks before our descent a group of Russian kayakers were in the gorge when the river rose by two metres. One of the team attempted to walk out and has not been seen since. – Four borders website

All in all the trip took in a huge variety of white water and conditions, gorges, multi-day trips and snow fed cascades. They also got to meet amazing people and experience life in the high plains of Mongolia and Siberia. Really looking forward to this talk. 

Four Borders expedition websiteLowri DaviesLowri Davies

Also see Lowri’s personal kayaking blog page

This is the third in this series of talks 2008 – big thanks to everyone for supporting these, to Rachel for doing all the organising, and to Pete Knowles (“Whitewater North Alps” / “Whitewater South Alps”) for coordinating these speakers to tour the country – it has been super to get the chance to hear from top expedition kayakers.

Photos: Lowri Davies / Four Borders Expedition website

Talk report – Simon Tapley

Photos: Alistair Marshall. See more photos at Fatcatproductions, and this blog.

Really enjoyed Si Tapley’s talk, great to see what amazing kinds of whitewater there are in Greenland, and to hear about his trip.

Simon was really down-to-earth about the problems they encountered, and gave us a feeling for what its like to be so isolated from everywhere.

Greenland seems to be  a country that challenges even the best-prepared-plans – Si and Ali’s schedule, carefully measured with Google earth, set an itinerary of some 20 or so rivers, with hiking and sea kayaking to get between them – there is only one real road in Greenland, and it isn’t handily along the side of a river. In fact, that, and any civilisation, is about 200 miles from where they were paddling.


The steep terrain actually meant that they simply could not hike as far each day as they had planned, and they had to scramble every section double as it was just impossible to carry the boats loaded the way they had practiced, given the extreme landscape.


They were surprised that locals seemed not at all interested in what they were doing, in terms of exploration of their country. But folk were kind to them and friendly. And one thing which really saved the day for them was not actually having to sea kayak more than a day – it would have been a hard slog in their creek boats – friendly fishermen, seal hunters and survey boats gave them lifts along the coast, Greenland communities being so connected to the sea.

boy with kayak

It was interesting hearing about things that shaped their trip – eventually setting off with only two of them made them have to plan carefully and added a dimension to their decisions about what to do. Despite warnings from others about the dangers of being only 2 small kayakers in a large landscape, they had faith in their own skills and abilities to make their own choices. Their decisions meant they were able to paddle a great deal of super, (and new), white water, incident free.

whitewater slide and scenery

Some of the closest calls were from the environment – seeing them interview one another after a huge storm swept their tent and all their dry belongings into the fjord gave some idea of the miserable conditions that Greenland can throw at humans. As well as the elements, the insects also seemed to have it in for them – what do they eat when there are no kayakers?
To me, the most amazing footage was of gusting wind blowing a waterfall back up the mountain, so that none of the water was falling into the riverbed – see 3:05 on this Youtube video:

All in all a super evening. It was inspiring to see someone who had the drive and ability  to get out there on basically their student loan and determination, and tick off first descents in a remote location.

If anyone would like to watch the DVD I have a copy – as well as the Greenland stuff, it actually has a whole bunch of other stuff from all over the world –  or you can get one for yourself from

It is most excellent.

Big, big thanks to everyone for coming along and especially for making Simon feel so welcome, cheers everyone.

Really looking forward to the next talk too – another student-white-water-type (you probably paddled against her at BUSA). Lowri Davies, currently at Aberystwyth uni, is a well-known top freestyler. In this talk she will be telling us about expedition white water paddling in the far corners of Russia.

Talk Announcement – 20 Feb – Simon Tapley

“Greenland Whitewater” – Simon Tapley – Wed 20 Feb – 7.30pm – International Lounge – 2nd floor Liverpool Guild of Students – £3.50 (Adults / Students / Children)

Second in the Liverpool Kayak talks series – another whitewater treat, this time, student boaters in Greenland – check out the talks website. Really looking forward to this.

Well, some kind of  summer vacation! In the summer of 2007 Simon Tapley and Ali Marshall undertook the first ever expedition to explore the white water rivers and waterfalls of South West Greenland. This involved getting dropped off by fishing boat in some remote corners of the country, and exploring the granite-and-glacier-carved landscape. They came back with stunning video footage and photographs. Simon will be sharing these and their adventures in this spectacular and unspoilt wilderness.

Same as last time, folk will be meeting up beforehand in the bar on the ground floor of the Guild (The Gilmore bar seems very closed, so we’ll go to the other one).

There is a facebook page for this event – to spread the word, you can add yourself and invite your friends.

Be great to see you there!

new to you.... and to everyone in fact 

Glaciers plus granite equals extreme


scenery tooo

photos: fatcatsproductions

Fatcat videos: “Greenland” and “Chaos”

Two offerings here from Fatcat Productions. The first includes their trip to Greenland, an exploratory visit in search of white water. They found some.

The second is called “Chaos theory.” Its sort of, well, chaotic.

Si Tapley will be giving a talk at Liverpool University on Wed 20th Feb