Feels like

And the forecast today is blizzard snow, Easterly winds blowing cold air from Siberia, highs of zero degrees in North Wales, but with the wind chill factor this will feel like -4.

What exactly does -4 feel like? Oh great, lets find out.

On Sunday, we set off for the Dee, AlisonH, HelenH, Kaylia, KatieL and Penny. Lately, we’ve been doing a kind of “paddling for softies” progression (Penny is strengthening her shoulder, while Alison and me are just plain soft), so this January we’ve been to Chester (yes, the flat bit) and Trevor (there’s one rapid) with Kim, as well as a few runs of the Burrs last week. So, this time, in the spirit of easy rivers, we tagged on several miles of the flat section of the Dee above Horseshoe as a warm up.

Warm up.

The section was very pretty, we saw heron, dippers, and some men with a nice bonfire who shouted at us a lot. The sun shone down, occasionally making to us at the bottom of the valley, but could not counteract the biting, miserable, face-exfoliating wind. We soon lost all feeling in our fingers and toes, expecially Penny who bravely struggled on with no gloves.

By the time we got to horseshoe falls, two of us had hypothermia but still enough sense left to stop paddling and jog back towards the car – thanks Manchester for the lift! – while the other three were obviously further gone, beyond thinking rationally, and carried on paddling.

Before serpents tail, my left hand was a disembodied object, no connection for the messages I was sending it, and no response in movement. Luckily it was curved into a hook shape to grip the paddle, hey ho. I went down serpents fine, keeping left and skimming happily over the shoulder of the stopper, aiming for, and making, the nice little eddy river left.

Which I then found I couldn’t leave… Oops.

Kaylia was next, and as she headed on line, perfectly aiming at me and shouting “Get out the way! Get out the way!” Sad to say, swerving to miss me was her undoing, and the resulting swim cooled her down thouroughly, in case she was feeling too warm. Katie, the one we were supposedly “looking after”, bobbed down the rapid easily like a little duck, and didn’t even get her hair wet.

Kaylia had experineced the pain of a whole body instant chill, while by now, I was actually beginning to feel much better – probably the adrenaline – and my hand had become mine again, rather than an alien lump of chilled meat. The rest of the river was fine, and at Town Falls, we all made the line we’d planned, left of the slot, despite all the “helpful” advice from the pub balcony encouraging us to “Go right! Go right!”

At the bottom, hooray, dry socks have never felt so good. A quick phone call to find out about the uni, who were over at Teeside slalom, getting the brunt of the east wind and gales. They had come 7th! Wow, what a fab result!

Now for the shuttle. There is a picture I want to put here, but someone won’t let me. Suffice to say, the lady at the house by chainbridge wants us to write to the council and ask for bollards to be put in – apparently this is not the first time cars have ended up at a jaunty angle in the evil ditch there with their back wheels shoulder-height off the ground and their exhaust pipes pointing at the sky.

Hooray for farmers with towbars, we love you.

Next we retired to the Sarah Ponsonby pub, and made our resolutions to take a bit more notice of the weather forcast next time.


Pyranha Fest 2008



I’ve just got back from an awesome weekend at the Pyranha Fest held at the Tryweryn this weekend. It was the first of hopefully many Pyranha Fests to come. There were loads of coaching sessions put on by Tom Parker and gang from whitewater rescue to river running to freestyle.  I took the opportunity to do one on Boofs and Flares on the Saturday morning.  There were just three of us, me and two other guys for a three hour session with Chris Eastabrook , one of the team Pyranha guys. The session really opened my eyes to how much more there is to river paddling than just your standard paddling techniques, there is a whole lot of new school techniques to learn as well to improve your style and control down rapids and open up new lines that you had not previously thought about. We started practicing our boofs off some small ledge drops on the Tryweryn and quickly moved on to flares on curling waves and off rocks.


For those who don’t know a boof is a technique that you can use on drops to propel your boat horizontally off  from the lip of the drop landing flat at its base to stay on top of the water to maximize your control and avoid being worked by the stinky holes and stoppers at the drops base.  A flare is where you ride high on a curling wave keeping your boat on top of the water to maximize your control. The technique is commonly used in combination with a boof to avoid the mess lying at the foot of the curling wave or to get into and eddy if you flare a curling wave coming off a rock. Using these techniques allows you to run much cleaner lines on rapids, making you look much more stylish and ultimately better in the photos!


After a bit of practice with the boofs and flares Chris had us combining the two techniques and performing deck grabs to prove how controlled (or not) we were. We then went on to explore all the possible lines down the ski jump rapid (centre-centre, left-centre, left –left, right-left…) using our newly honed techniques to make it look stylish. The right-left line saw me doing most of ski jump upside down. With zero points for style and some new scratches in my helmet I went back up to do that line again and get it right.

After the coaching session and a few mugs of tea I spent the rest of the day perfecting my boofing and flaring on a couple of runs down the upper Tryweryn. There were loads of other paddlers around, some really good, some not so good.  Watching the really good ones you could see how they were using the techniques we had been working on to make every line they took really smooth. Watching the not so good ones causing carnage was quite funny!

Later I met up with Will, Andy, Sue and Ben (Sue’s housemate) and headed off to the Pyranha fest party in Bala. The “Fat Cats” guys showed a film of their most recent  trip to Greenland and the White Water Warriors talked about their trip to China involving a 22 day drive in for one river that they then decided was not worth running! They did run some other stuff that looked pretty good but scary! Then the music started and everyone had a good dance with most people ending up topless and very merry by the time it all came to an end.  A typical paddling party really.

We slept what was left of the night in our classy accommodation, the car-park in Bala and got up the next morning a wee bit worse for wear to head to the Tryweryn for some more paddling and playing in the sun. It was a great weekend and I hope they have another one like it next year.


Wales March 08 – Lledr and Conwy/Fairy Glen

So its been a while since my last article, been slacking a bit (sorry Helen). This is due to sorting out my new job (yay) and doing lots and lots of paddling. And i mean lots. Last weekend was my 10th consecutive weekend on the water water, with around 8 out of those 10 encompassing two days paddling.

Photos from Andy Squirrel on Facebook

March has been an excellent paddling month for myself, bearing witness to my first ever runs down Fairy Glen on the Conwy and the Upper Lledr, as well as returns to the main section of the Lledr as well as the Upper and Middle sections of the Conwy.

Robin inspects Fairy Falls

The first weekend in March saw me hooking up with a friend from Nottingham who also provided discount delivery of a new boat for one of Stu’s housemates. We set off saturday morning after a hearty cooked breakfast, but nearly never made our destination. En route along the A55, in the outside lane there was a 4×4 and trailer ahead of us in the inside lane. Next thing we knew the wind caused a wooded pallet loose in the trailer to become airborne, hurtling and rotating through the air like something out of Hollywood blockbuster Twister. We braked and fortunately the pallet came to a halt straddling the lane markings just before we reached it enabling enough room to swerve between it and the central reservation! This definitely woke us up, so we proceeded to the Conwy.

Here myself, Si, Robin, John and Phil jumped onto the Middle Conwy for a warm-up before heading down the Fairy Glen. The second Grade 5 was at a good level, and i fair-ed better than last time down remaining upright though exiting backwards into the pool below.

 So onto the mighty Fairy Glen, know as a test piece of British paddling and one of the best runs at its grade – 2km of Grade 5 comprising two gorges split by Fairy Falls (5+). The phone gauge had read around 1300, and at this level the first drop of note – Sticky Hole – lives up to its reputation. One ran it one portaged and the remainder of our group sneaked down the left. I then proceeded to end up in the hole below against the gorge wall, performing some creekboat freestyle for the rest of the group sat in the eddy below before paddling out along the wall. The run comprised of being explained the line in the eddy above each rapid/drop, followed by everyone paddling off followed by me tentatively following on.

Fairy Falls

For a first run it is great to have a group that knows the lines, this speeds things up , but can make the run seem more full-on. Inspection is difficult however, and you could spend hours on this inspecting and not really seeing much! A quick inspection at Fairy Falls and it was a goer. This leads into the second gorge, which contains rapids including Pipeline, SpeederBiker and End of the World. Before you know it your at the Lledr confluence and you can pause for breath – what a fantastic section of whitewater.

The following day saw our number cut to three, the phone gauge at 1400, and an even quicker run down as i didn’t need all the lines explaining, just occasional reminders. Sticky hole runs nicely at this level, ride a cushion wave to the left then two stokes to straighten up and boof the drop. Managed to nail the line through the hole i spent time in the previous day, only to end up in the nest one at Monkey Drop – doh. No inspection at Fairy Falls, Robin informed me as the level had risen it definitely ran, however some of my marker rocks from the previous were now underwater! A fantastic sight looking back up the gorge from above End of the World seeing the rapids you have just run bathed in Spring sunshine. Then off to the Middle for a quick blast. Both days paddling were followed by visits to the lovely Conwy Falls cafe for refreshment, very enjoyable.

 The following weekend was Student Rodeo weekend, but rain forecast in Wales saw me and Si van camping near Dolgellau in the hope of paddling the Mawdach, Gamlan,Gain etc. Sadly this was not to be as we checked levels saturday morning whilst heading north towards Betws y Coed. As we drove past the Lledr on the A470 it appeared as through the rain had fallen in this catchment, and we resolved to investigate the Upper Lledr and continuing down the raging lower section. After some faff our group was united with a get-on decided. This section has some enjoyable drops and small rapids before a section of flat above the testing rapid at Ponty y Pant, but allows for a warm up and extends the paddle by some 9km.

Squirrel boofs a drop at Pont y Pant,Lledr

The Lledr from Pont y Pant is a excellent run and everything goes at lower levels. We walked the entrance drop to the Rhiw Goch gorge and Viaduct Falls, but everything else went nicely. Some of the guys rounded the day off with a run down the Llugwy from below Swallow Falls to Chip Shop Drop, much to the entertainment of passing tourists. After food we headed to Llanberis for a party at the Boulder Adventure boathouse for some beers and a catch up with old friends.

Sunday saw a lazy start with breakfast at Pete’s Eats followed by another trip down the Glen.

Last weekend i only ventured out for sunday, electing to stay home and watch all three Six Nations rugby matches – the right choice as the rain didn’t come until saturday. Sunday saw me, Joe and Martin hook up with various ex-Nottingham Trent paddlers for a run down the Lledr at a slightly lower level than the previous week. Another great paddle, followed with a run down the Upper and Middle Conwy to round things off.

Manufacturer of choice - Dagger

What a month it has been so far, with Scotland still to come. Enjoy


A Sunday paddle in Wales

Photos: Mary

Llugwy and Dee: Mary, Martin, Andy R, Medic Dave, Kim, Lloyd, John, Kim, Helen J 

What an ugly house! Do those little trolls live there?


Lloyd: (Edit: This is not really LLoyd.)

Andy R:


Sunny days:



Wye does it always rain on me? Even when the sun is shining, I can’t escape…

Actually, it was very sunny.

get-in windmillsget inget-in happy band

Went to Rhayader, Mid Wales, and celebrated Sue’s birthday with a lovely paddle down the Wye, from near Neuadd-du to Rhayader.



This was a lovely river – plenty of III rapids, interspersed with pretty countryside. Ending with a stepped fall below the bridge in Rhyader. A lovely paddle with Kate, Higgo and Sue, thanks guys.

town falls - just before get-outhelen making a facehiggo


Logistics: Get in: Follow the A470 North from Rhayader. Turn left off towards the river (signed Dinas? Or something beginning with D). Get in is at a bridge. Parking: laybys – careful not to block farm gates. Get out: River left after town falls. Footpath leads to rugby club carpark. Tea shops: Rhayader has several, hooray. The Strand does great flapjacks.

This area is  not actually the Brecons, its a bit further north than the national park, so not quite so long to drive to from the NW. Super countryside. Would love to go back there – that bit of the Wye was very nice III, and ran fine at a medium level after a little bit of rain. Daffers and co did the Clywedog the next day which they enjoyed. For easier stuff, the section of Wye from Rhayader down is 8km of II, while there are plenty of III/IV/V near and around. Good to explore.

Thanks Daffers for organising a very posh pad, Beili Neuadd, to stay in. Lovely to see the Reading lot and and lovely to meet paddlers from CSCC. Great weekend!

Happy Birthaday Sue!



Wales 9th/10th Feb

Pics from Mary H , Stanley pics

So Saturday morning saw Stu,Helen,Dale and Joe arrive early morning at my house, where i had prepared pre-trip bacon sarnies. Then off we went to meet up with the guys that had set off the day before and stayed in the camping barn. We convened at the Llugwy at the Plas-y-Brenin centre, but alas no water. The decision was made to paddle the Conwy from the main road bridge through to Penmancho Bridge, with an alternative get out at Rhydlanfair Bridge if preferred.

It was a sunny day with a good group of us on the river. We split into several groups, and in order to have aproductive day decided to take the opportunity to work on skills, including river leading. Everyone did well, and the trip passed without much incident until Bryn Bras Falls, which inevitably unseated a couple of the less experienced of the group, however they were quickly extricated from the cold water and reunited with boats and paddles none the worse for their dunking.

 A few people egress-ed at Rhydlanfair Bridge, whilst the rest of our depleted number continued down the shorter ‘middle’ section. Before long the first Grade 5 was upon us. Stu was the only one to fancy the run, and bashed down it unscathed, though not sure he would recommend it to anyone at such low levels, bony to say the least.

smilesGrade 5

 The portage saw us launch just upstream of a tree lodged in river left, exposed at this level. Safety was set, with everyone passing safely through, even though Erica took the opportunity to take another dip to cool off after the portage in the winter sun. Most of the group got off river right some fifty metres upstream of the second Grade 5 to enable easier access to the road, prudent as the ladder river left allowing access to the seal launch avoiding the Grade 5 is no more, making access back to the river awkward.

 Myself, Stu and Andy Raho continued to the next rapid. Having briefly inspected, i decided to go for it. Having made the first part of the move to the right i failed to get far enough left after and glanced off the rock wall before being held against it sideways by the flow. Briefly managing to hold my edge by bracing against the wall with my head, i was then flipped. I rolled up in the river left eddy-bonus, before breaking in for the drop into the pool below.

Andy followed next, only to end up vertical against the rock after not making it far enough right at the top, the proceeded to do the rest of the rapid upside-down before eventually rolling up in the pool below – kudos for staying in the boat and continuing to attempt rolling that many times.

Stu took the ‘paddle into the rock that’s in the way’ route and came off better than the rest of us, fair play.

Sunday brought no rain, and the group split into a Stanley and Tryweryn trip. The Tryweryn was on a relatively low release, but a good level for practice nonetheless. Well done Claire P for her first roll on moving water. Some of our party then headed off to the Dee, where they also met up with the Stanley guys.


 An excellent weekend rounded off with a trip to Kelly’s sunday night.


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 luckyblog.vodpod.com 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…