Mon-Star at Hurley…

0700 in the morning my alarm clock goes off. This is considerably earlier than it goes off for most week days yet this was a Sunday. The reason for this crazily early start? Aaron, of SquareRock has very kindly lent me his personal boat for a few hours and I was determined to make the most of it. I tried his boat at Holme Pierrepont a fortnight earlier and got on with it really well. However, I really wanted to test it out at what is arguably one of the best playspots in the country – Hurley Weir on the Thames.

Getting in the car at 0730 I discovered that the sandwiches I had organised for breakfast and left in the car overnight had started to freeze….. this was going to be a cold session! Pulling into the car park at Hurley about 40 minutes later I was surprised to discover it completely empty – something I don’t think I have ever seen before!

Despite the freezing temperature (it was -1 degrees when I got on the water), the sun was shining over a great three-gate level. I have said it before, but what a way to start a day!

Here is a little video I have put together of the session: http://vimeo.com/10029363

Ken

Ken

More photos from the session are available at http://photos.andywicks.com/Hurley7thMarch2010

How fortunate we are…

Paddling down the river on Sunday got me thinking about how fortunate we are as kayakers. Through seeking enjoyment from our sport we get to see places that other people would never normally get to see.

The particular rapid which made me think about this was Swallow Falls on the River Llugwy in North Wales. We paddled down to this rapid and inspected it from the river-left bank. As we were trying to find lines down the falls, you could not fail to notice the wooden walkways and viewing platforms on the other bank, put in so that members of the public can pay to view such a natural beauty. Many people believe that you have to travel to far flung destinations to see wonders of the natural world. Swallow Falls is just one example of why they are wrong.

I was up in North Wales, staying at Pen-y-Clogwyn in Betws-y-Coed, for the weekend with Martyn, Jethro, Dave and the two Emmas. Despite the weather forecasts predicting much-needed rain in the week preceeding our visit, the levels remained low and restricted our options for the weekend. Sat enjoying a beer or two on Friday night as we tried to keep warm, a decision to look at Swallow Falls the following day was made.

As we arrived at the get-in there was still snow laying on the ground meaning we were in for a cold day! Following the initial shock of the water temperature we very quickly found ourselves sat in eddies above the first fall. We all took a walk down the bank to check out whether we were up for running it and which lines we would be going for. It turned out that the third fall was very difficult to get a good view of from the path so it was necessary to climb down to water level – something that sounds a lot easier than it was as ropes were required to make a successful descent down the bank.

Martyn, Jethro and myself all came to the decision that the first fall didn’t look nice enough to run, but both the second and third falls were good to go.

The natural beauty that is Swallow Falls

The natural beauty that is Swallow Falls

Jethro went first, launching in to the pool immediately above the second fall before quickly disappearing over the edge for a successful descent. Martyn was up next and I came down last. Before running the third fall we had to wait for Dave and the two Emmas to make their way to river level to provide safety and camera cover.

Martyn at the top of the second fall

Martyn at the top of the second fall

I went first over the final fall, making a boof off the top drop before sliding down the remainder of the fall. Martyn was again second down, with Jethro bringing up the rear.

Me boofing on the third fall

Me boofing on the third fall

We all thought that would be the end of the excitment for the trip. Well, everyone except Martyn who was holding a trump card up his sleeve. As we were getting out above the Mincer – a rapid full of syphons and other nasty stuff – Martyn decided that everything was going a little too well and went for a little swim, immediately above one of the syphons! He very quickly got himself and his boat to the bank, although his paddles were sacrificed to the syhpon. Just as we were starting to re-group about ten minutes later, the sacrificed paddles reappeared from within the syphon and kindly beached themselves on a rock. Jethro was able to scramble along the rock face to retrieve them, much to Martyn’s relief!

The remainder of the run went smoothly and the remainder of the day spent in the pub watching England throw away any chance of a Grand Slam this year.

With more rain forecast for overnight, we were again optimistic that the levels would bring more rivers into contention for the following day. Waking early on Sunday morning to discover that most of the rain had not materialised, the decision to go looking for Cwm Llan was made. Cwm Llan is a steep, pool-drop run that resides a few kilometres up Snowdon. Unfortunately the levels were just too low to warrent carrying our boats up but it is definitely a run that has to be done when the levels allow. With scenary as shown in the photos below, it is definitely worth the walk up regardless of the water level!

The final fall of Cwm Llan

The final fall of Cwm Llan

The view from the bottom of Cwm Llan

The view from the bottom of Cwm Llan

The weekend was topped off with a quick blast down the Dee which rounded the weekend off nicely.

More photos are available at http://photos.andywicks.com/swallowfallsandcwmllan