North Wales Trip Nov 2015

As we all well know, the UK is the rainiest place in the entire world. As kayakers, we are faced with the eternal problem that every time we want to go paddling, this customary rain disappears leaving just enough time for all the decent rivers to completely empty out before we arrive at our destination. Weekend after weekend we resign ourselves to paddling the few rivers that are runnable without rain (Dee, Tryweryn, Low Force, Usk, Wye…). Some pray, others dance, others sing all in an effort to secure some bloody rain so that we can paddle something interesting for a change!

This weekend was different, WE HAD RAIN!!! All the leaders were buzzing on the way to North Wales because we knew that there were so many options for us to paddle and all the rivers in the area seemed to be running. We arrived late on Friday evening at our cosy little bunkhouse in Snowdonia having driven for 4 hours through rain, snow, sleet and hail. When we woke up in the morning we were greeted with a ferocious wind and an intimidating sheet of snow on the ground. We didn’t let it put us off and drove 5 minutes down the road to the put-on of the first river of the day, the Afon Llugwy (I have no idea how to pronounce it either…). The Llugwy was a fantastic intro to the trip that everyone could enjoy despite the positively freezing conditions. A beautiful grade 2/3 run with one grade 4 feature, Cobden’s Falls. At Cobden’s a few of our more sensible paddlers decided to walk around leaving the rest of us to run the falls. Both Kai and Simon managed to capsize before the drop, with Kai managing to stay in his boat and roll up ready to ride out a more challenging line, and Simon swimming and being plucked out of the river by Phil. We regrouped at the bottom of the river and started planning the next decent of the day. The Afon Glaslyn was the next section we did all together, this was a slightly less eventful affair. After drilling some key whitewater skills on the way down, the less experienced paddlers got off the river allowing the rest of us to run the more difficult Aberglaslyn Gorge. The gorge was around a kilometre of great pool-drop style grade 4 rapids which were quite continuous. We ended up doing around three laps, walking our boats back up to the top each time. Everybody came out grinning and relatively unscathed, although Forbes did take quite a spectacular swim after choosing an ‘unconventional’ line down “The Breaker” (a more complex grade 4 drop) – Video footage to follow! By Sunday most of the snow had melted and we were blessed with more rain which meant we got on to the Afon Conwy at a medium level which was rising before our eyes. We chose the section above the A5 bridge which would be ideal to challenge our less experienced paddlers with some bouncy grade 3 and 3+ sections. We had one paddler who decided to get off about 200m into the river – this was not going to be an easy section by any means for a lot of our paddlers and it would also test the skill and expertise of our leadership team. A few swims later, 16 to be precise, all our paddlers had reached the take out and could now call themselves grade 3 boaters! At this point we decided to split up. One car went back to Cambridge, while Anthony headed off with Matt, Kai and Chris to do a lap of the Dee (which proved to be at a pretty chunky level) and Phil, Dan, Alex, Ted, Witty and I got back on the Conwy to run the section below.

The section we ran was a much more challenging grade 4 run with two grade 5 sections and some nice steep rapids. It required careful inspection, some portaging and lots of skilful line selection. The second of the grade 5 rapids was a feature called “The Gobbler”, a short zig-zagging line led in to a drop of around 7-8 feet. At these levels there was a lot of water churning through it which meant that Witty and Phil got backflipped by the powerful currents. Ted, inspired by Forbes pushing the boundaries of line selection the previous day, took an extremely novel line, ending up being almost front flipped above the drop and sliding down it backwards only to be battered at the bottom (it was hilarious, but also a heart-in-your-mouth kind of moment). This was possibly one of the best sections I have ever run in the UK, I would massively recommend it! I’d like to say a big thank you to Anthony for organizing accommodation, food and logistics and thanks to all the paddlers for making the trip so enjoyable. As always a big thank you goes out to the other leaders, who make the trips safe and fun. We couldn’t do it without you! The best thing was that everybody left Wales having had an amazing weekend. We love the rain! Bring on buckets and buckets more!!!

Shahid Wahab

Here is what some of our other paddlers had to say about the trip:

"Despite being colder we had a great second weekend trip of term. Snowstorm driving on the way there, and then some more challenging rivers for the beginners and intermediates, some harder safety work for the leaders, and fun paddling for everyone.”

Anthony Cooper

“Amazing weekend! A strong commitment to the anti-faff cause allowed six sections to be paddled. Excellent to have enough leaders to enable groups to split off and run a range of different sections, providing a safe level of excitement for paddlers of all abilities.”

Alex Ross

“Very intense - adrenaline, cold and exertion. Some great people coaching, lending me kit to keep me warm and providing fun company. A bit out of my comfort zone but satisfying and I'm glad I came.”

Micahel Hope