The Perfect Seat

So, you need the right shoes for running, the right glass for your beer…

Now the right seat to watch videos

The Perfect Seat

Provided of course that the video was something like this.

Oh yeah, I have a kayak again… no more swimming 🙂

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Turkey: video trailer

Currently in production, Lazy and Inept Productions video of trip to Turkey – see Ali’s report of the trip: Turkish Delights in June

Here’s a trailer:

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.

 

Turkish Delights in June

Turkish Delights in June

Turkey and kayaking weren’t words I had previously put together but when asked if I fancied a two week trip to Turkey to experience my first white water away from the UK I thought it was the perfect chance to get some sun and try to improve my boating. Six months later I found myself touching down in Dalaman airport with my trusty inazone in tow. Team Turkey consisted of myself, Bob (our token open boater), Frankie (Chris Smith), Matt W, Jamie, Miguel, Grandad, Beast, Donna and Nicola. It was at this point that I realised I was going to be easily the weakest, and only girl, paddler and that everyone else had monster sized Pyranha Burns or creek boats, leaving the lingering question of was I out of my depth?

The scenery in Turkey was fantastic, big mountains with deep canyons containing spring or dam release crystal clear waters, all of the rivers were pool drop in nature allowing some breathing space between rapids, giving plenty of time for the lads to put me back in my boat after one of my numerous swims.

Fantastic scenery - gorges of Turkey

Fantastic scenery - gorges of Turkey

The Dalaman river was the start and finish for the trip being run on several days as the rafting company we arranged our trip through was based on it. The lower section was dam fed and graded 3+, although I could have sworn it was harder, it wound its way through a canyon which started by a village called Narli and ended by a Roman bridge. The Dalaman upper section was a grade higher so I left it to the men to paddle as continuous grade 4+ sounded a little bit out of my league; from all accounts it was good fun section to paddle.

The end of the rapid on the Dalaman that claimed most of my swims and where I first tried to roll.

The end of the rapid on the Dalaman that claimed most of my swims and where I first tried to roll.Grandad on the upper Dalaman

We then moved onto my second favourite river of the trip, the Köprülu, at grade 2+ to 3 it was commercially rafted but being large volume there was plenty of space for everyone, unlike the Tryweryn… The river provided plenty of long wave trains which gave me lots of chances to practice my roll on, Chris the opportunity to capsize two girls on a raft while trying to surf a wave and all the lads the chance to ogle Russian girls rafting in thong bikinis.

Miguel on the Köprülu

Miguel on the Köprülu

Beast playing on the Köprülu

Beast playing on the Köprülu

The Manavgat river was the dark horse of the trip, the guidebook was confusing reading and the get in hard to find; even the locals were unsure about which section of the river was which. Knowing that one section of it was up to grade 5 with a must make portage and the whole of it was running through a deep gorge I decided to have another rest day and leave the river for the men. Nearly eight hours later as they arrived back at the get out in the dark I was very glad I gave it a miss. The section started out at low volume, requiring a fair amount of portaging but suddenly lots of springs entered from the canyon walls and the roller coaster ride began. At one point the whole river disappeared below ground but there were still plenty of rapids to keep everyone interested and to a cause a few swims including Matt (his first for a few years).

Chris on the Manavgat

Chris on the Manavgat

Manavgat, so glad I didn’t do it!

Manavgat, so glad I didn’t do it!

The last new river of the trip was the Alara which ran alongside the road and was my favourite river of the trip. Again this river ran into a canyon which at one point narrowed down considerably, causing Miguel to swim when his paddles were ripped from his hand as he blind probed it over a drop into a boily mass of water. According to him, he could see the bottom so reckoned it was good to run, apparently that’s the Portuguese style of boating. Common sense prevailed as the rest of us decided this was probably the drop the, up to this point, rather inaccurate guidebook has recommended portaging! I finally managed to get the hang of boofing drops on the Alara. The same section of the Alara was paddled a couple of times as a section further downstream we were originally planning on doing proved too tough a task for our minibus to get to.

Alara

AlaraThe Alara from the road

Due to the distance between the rivers we also had the chance to sightsee, sunbathe, or swim in the rivers. We also experienced a real Hamam where we were pummeled and scrubbed by semi-naked strangers, ate lots of kebabs and köfte, which are miles better than the ones you have after a few pints in the pub, and drank the local natural yoghurt based drink ‘ayran’, Turkish tea and coffee and just generally experienced the culture; how many times has a British policeman given you a cup of tea when asking for directions? We spent most of the trip outside the usual tourist areas but found that having a local driver really helped and even in the smallest village someone would have a roof, olive field or tree house where we could stay the night for a few lira.

Castle by the Alara river

Castle by the Alara river

Tea with the police

Tea with the police

Although not crammed full with river after river, the trip was still full on, most of the rivers taking up a day to do with long shuttles to the get in. Creek boats proved to be the order of the day as the big volumes suited the rivers and also allowed a decent stash of food and drink to be carried; most of the rivers paddled included a stop for lunch. I loved every minute of it and was pleased with my first attempts at rolling on moving water, my confidence increased massively. I really want to go back next year as have unfinished business with one rapid on the Dalaman that caused a vast proportion of my twelve swims, so anyone up for paddling some new rivers with no problems of too much or too little water in plenty of sunshine?

Slovenia

After paddling a few rivers en-route we arrived at Camping Kovač near Bovec where Sue, Di & Higgo, who had flown out & hired a car, had already settled.  As usual, team “Phil’s Girls” (Phil, Cath, Penny, Sara) arrived before team “Suave Silver Van” (Moik, Clur, Helen, Alison, Dinny).  It was the middle of the night so Higgo came to find us & we put our tents up on a nice secluded plateau they’d found which, as we discovered the next morning, had a great view of the turquoise Soča!  It was also well positioned, in Vodenca, at the confluence of the Soča with the Koritnica, a tributary.  All the campsites in the area are supposed to be very good & ours was no exception with each plot having its own fire pit, BBQ & sheltered drying rail with plenty of hangers & space for all our wet kit.  There was even a nice al fresco shower!

Photo by Sue

Eager to paddle, we headed to the tourist information in Bovec to buy river permits – only 7.50 for a week & the money goes towards maintaining the car parks, information boards & footpaths at the river access points.  There are fines for paddling without permits or for paddling in restricted areas.  The police seemed fairly vigilant on such things, perhaps as there is so little crime for them to tackle, & as well as having permits checked Sue, Di & Higgo got stopped for a seatbelt check. (It’s illegal to drive without lights on too.)

We were given river maps at the tourist office but we relied more on the useful info we’d found on ukrgb, which included gradings & descriptions.

We paddled the Soča in four sections, one each day, & had a day without paddling too.  Our week went something like this…

Monday

Vodenca to Srpenica – starting at the campsite this section was a relaxing warm up being mostly grade 2.  With nothing too intimidating, we could enjoy the wave trains, surf some waves & try some rock splats/spins.

Tuesday

Uppermost get-on to Vodenca – with more grade 3, & some 4, this section was quite varied & had plenty to keep us entertained.  There was a technical section near the top with big boulders creating pool drops with plenty of obvious eddies.  It then flattened out for a while before the river flushed through a narrow chateau-Q-style gorge for about 200 metres.   

After paddling Cath, Penny & I decided to walk up to the Boka waterfall, a 100m fall from a massive spring in the mountainside.  However, after walking up a steep gravelly path until it was nearly dark & still not even seeing the waterfall (which is clearly visible from the road!), we decided we’d better head back for tea.  Next time we’ll take the path from the left of the bridge where you get a good view of the waterfall the whole way instead of the one that leads to above the source (“Izvir” in Slovenian), arghh! 

Wednesday

Koritnica – a major tributary, mostly grade 3(?), that joins the Soča at our campsite, this river starts with a very narrow (but flat water) gorge before the rapids really begin. The river was narrower than the Soča, with less boulders & less eddies. 

Srpenica to Trnovo – the volume of water in this section (grade 3/4) seemed quite a lot more than the earlier sections but while it was more powerful, & there were rafts to watch out for, the size of the river meant lines were fairly wide with plenty of room to dodge stoppers & boulders.  The section ended with a slalom course – lots of pool drops & stoppers amongst big boulders in quite pushy water (grade 4), which would lead into the notorious siphon canyon if you missed the get-out.

In Trnovo, near the get-out, is a very good paddling shop called Alpin Action, which is definitely worth a look.  We saw two other paddling shops in the area, La Ola in Bovec & Prijon in Cezsoca, but Alpin Action had a much bigger range.

Thursday

We started by scouting siphon canyon – sure enough, there were plenty of scary siphons so after lunch near the memorial reef at the end, everyone decided against paddling.

Team Suave Silver Van set off for the war museum so we headed into Bovec to consider our options over ice cream (with red bull flavour coming out top) & coffee.  We decided to enquire about canyoning: 

Phil: “where do they go canyoning?”

Tourist info: shows Phil on map telling him “it’s really good”

Phil: “Oh good because we’re going now on our own, we don’t want to pay & go with a guide”

Tourist info: “No no, it is very dangerous”

So off we went to the Susec Gorge, where we bought canyoning permits & set off up a little track.  The first few waterfalls were very tall & possibly for abseiling down if you had the right kit, but a bit further up was about fifteen falls perfect for sliding down or jumping off.  The first slide forced each of us straight under an undercut but some of the others were ideal for trying headfirst or in twos & threes.  Fantastic!!!

Photo by Penny

After the excitement of canyoning we took our last opportunity to visit the source of the Soča, a karst spring gushing from a bright turquoise subterranean lake through a crack in the mountainside & falling to the riverbed – well worth a visit!  The “Soča Trail” follows the river for 20km to the source, with many sights along it.  It was getting late so we drove as high up as possible & only had to walk the last 15 minutes up to the source along a picturesque trail including little wooden bridges crossing the river full of giant boulders, rapids & waterfalls ending with a via ferrata-like approach to the source at the top (could be tricky on a busy day).

Friday

Lower, after siphon canyon to Kobarid – there was a long walk in for this section down a steep forest footpath for about 500 metres.  It started off much the same as the ”..to Trnovo” section & stayed fun & interesting for several km before flattening out to grade 1/2 for a few km before the get out.

The Soča is the perfect place to improve your paddling because of the clarity of the water & all it’s features & the ease of inspecting from footpaths running alongside many of the rapids.  There are also harder sections that we didn’t paddle including “Siphon Canyon” & the Ucja.  There was lots of walking, cycling & sightseeing to be enjoyed too all in a very unspoilt area.  We did most/all of the shuttles on bikes, either along the road or on the mountain bike trail running alongside the Soča.  But if you only had one vehicle & no bikes, I think the rafting companies will help with shuttles for a small cost.

Thanks for a great week everyone!

On the way to Slovenia – Ammer, Loisach, Rissbach

This report is about the “getting to Slovenia” bit, the rivers Ammer and Loisach (Bavaria, Germany) and the Rissbach (edge of Austria) are all very, very nice.

Team “suave silver van” and team “Phil’s girls” started out on a sunny or rainy Friday afternoon – lets go to Slovenia. Chips at dover, where the only other customer was a kayaker waiting for his lift to the Alps. Its the place to go.

Using different modes of transport (tunnel, ferry) ensured a 3 hour time difference between the teams, which we were careful to preserve throughout the whole week. Luckily Phil’s team love to spend 3 hours sitting at river get-ins dressed in neoprene.

The Ammer is described in North Alps book as clear and sparkling. Well, it had rained a lot on the way over there, so clear and sparkling it was not. One of the rapids can be seen from a very high road bridge. It looked, well, distant. And brown. And big. Not the clear sparkling water advertised. Hmmm. We were worried it might be too high to do, but actuallythe gauge was at 170. The guide tells us that 140 counts as medium and 180 as V high/spate, so there went any excuse.

The Ammer is one of the Classics in the N Alps book, grade III, full of interest, one of the most paddled rivers in Germany. Immediately we could tell that our spuds felt very happy here gambolling in the eddies of their spiritual home.

Brilliant river, starts by immediately going into a gorgy section, between tall brown walls, with several bedrock drops. The high water meant that there were big, pushy wavetrains, drops, and plenty of stoppers lining the route. Some nasty holes tugged at the back of my boat, and there were some other interesting through-stopper lines as well, but in the end, the rivergods chose Alison as their mermaid-of-the-day, so that the rest of us could escape. The river then eased off slightly for a while in terms of harder drops, but stayed full of interest and very pretty. Tint any photographs to the advertised clear-and-sparkly hue, and you can see that its a paradise river, very pretty and plenty of fun. Strange rock deposits on the incoming streams are presumably there for the goblins to climb up.

Very dingly dell. Just after halfway down, we got to the rapids we’d seen from a road bridge. Not surprisingly, they were somewhat bigger than they’d looked from 80m up, and quite entertaining.

Pretty much the last feature on the section is a large step weir, with a boat shute just left of centre. The towback looked nasty, so we portaged this – its easy to know when you’ve reached the weir, there’s a bridge, a large pool above the weir, and a water management building thing on the left. We did watch a lone boater line up and use the shute.

This river is grade III and a great warm up, lovely.

We then camped near the get out of the Ammer.

Next day:

Loisach III (IV-) – carved through limestone. Fabulous river. Starts at a gravel bed, similar to the get-on for the Upper Guil, but very quickly narrows into a bouldery gorge. Rock dodging, and twisty. Quite hard to see what’s coming up a lot of the time. Very very beautiful. This river is very popular at weekends.

The grade in the guidebook is given as III (IV-). Certainly there was plenty to keep me on my toes, and a couple of times I nearly came a cropper. It was not obviously clear which particular section or drop is a IV-, and there was nothing needing portaging at that level, but it does indeed seem harder than the Ammer. Towards the end of the river, a cheerful rainbow bridge shows that we are nearly home.

Rissbach. For almost the whole length of the section, the edges of this river are gravelly, so that its hard to park in any eddy – all the edges are moving.

There are plenty of interesting bits, and 3 or 4 times the river narrows through bedrock – the named rapids of this kind include an “S bend” and something else, can’t remember.

These are S-bend “spot the difference pictures” – one is cath and one is me.

The very last part of the section is the beginning of a gorge, and the usual get-out is an eddy on river left, quite important to catch, or else you go down the rest of the gorge (V/VI/X), so not worth doing that last bit unless you are 100% sure you’ll be the right way up and set up to get out, so I missed that bit out.

We repaired to an Apple pancake restaurant, where the portions are huge. Yummy.

Paddlers:

Team “Phil’s Girls”: Sara, Cath, Penny, Phil.

Team “Suave Silver Van”: Moik, Clur, Helen, Alison, Dinny.

Logistics:

Driving – this was (apparantly) “not so bad”. France to Belgium to Germany to Austria, having got the evening ferry and arriving at the Ammer get-in at about 2pm the next day.

The campsite at the village nearest the get-out of the Ammer was fine: It has a good trampolene for playing “popcorn,” , “talentshow,” “last-man-standing” and “dislocation-for-the-nation.” But this site certainly wouldn’t suit big groups. Its more family / campervan / posh than we are used to. According to the guidebook, a more kayaky alternative is the campsite nearer the get-in to the Ammer, called nature lovers, or some such.

Rivers – Loisach, Rissbach and Ammer are all popular ones to do on the way/way back from Slovenia. Also the Isar, which we did not do, as this includes a taxi shuttle.

Bavarian food – tick, very nice.

Austrian applythings – tick, very nice.

In 2 days, we did 3 fun rivers, all “new to us”. Hooray!

Report by HelenH

Photos by AlisonH, ClaireL, Cath, Penny, Sara

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

Squirrel