This weekend was my first white water kayaking trip of 2016. It was a river leadership skills training weekend with Regents Canoe Club. The primary aim of the weekend was to learn more about leading groups down white water, particularly on rivers we’d never seen before.
We set off from my house in North London after work on Friday night and after 5 hours driving we’d arrived in Betws y Coed in North Wales. Once we arrived the three of us from my car joined the other 17 Regents Canoe Club members and had a theory session over a beer before getting a good night’s kip in Vangabond Hostel.
After a full English fry up on Saturday morning we had another theory session. We covered a whole range of topics relating to leadership on rivers including; leadership techniques and styles, roles and responsibilities, river planning and safety. We then discussed which river we were going to paddle, we decided we’d go and have a look at the Conwy to see whether there was enough water flowing down it to run, unfortunately there wasn’t.
Looking at the get-on for the Conwy, we decided there wasn’t enough water to run it.
We decided we’d head over the Tryweryn, a reliable dam-release river that’s home to the National White Water Centre. We ran the lower section, which is a bit easier than the upper, for two reasons. First, we didn’t want anyone to get into too much difficulty as the weekend was about learning leadership skills more than personal paddling skills development; second, many of us know the upper fairly well as we’ve run it a lot but the lower we hadn’t paddled for a long time and couldn’t really remember – this was beneficial for practicing leading down a river we’d never seen before. We put into practice the theory we’d discussed and experimented with different leadership styles and techniques. Towards the end of the section we got to run the (apparently) Grade 4 Bala Mill Falls. Personally I’m not sure I could have paddled the falls much worse whilst remaining upright (I included a clip in the video below for your entertainment – you can hear me giggling as I mess it up).
After we’d got out and got changed we headed to the pub for a few drinks before another theory session that was followed by dinner.
On the Sunday we got up and headed straight to the Clywedog which was around 2 hours away from where we were staying. Getting on the river was very atmospheric with fog limiting the visibility, lots of low hanging trees and very few eddies (see video below). We continued to practice the leadership skills we’d discussed as we moved down the river.
It was pretty atmospheric at the Clywedog get-on.
One of my group decided it’d be a good idea to test our boat recovery skills, when she went upside down on a rapid rather than roll herself back upright and continue paddling she swum out of her boat and let her paddle go. Once we’d made sure she was safely on the bank three of us chased after her kit. I picked up the paddle and chucked it onto the bank but none of us could get to her boat before it became thoroughly pinned in a tree.
This boat was thoroughly pinned on the Clywedog.
We ended up using three throw-lines (ropes), some slings, carabiners, mechanical advantages and a vector-pull to free the boat. You can see some of this in the video below. This wasn’t necessarily the best or the quickest way of recovering the boat, but we knew we were in a relatively safe spot and had time on our side. Whilst some of our approach could have been improved by hindsight I don’t think we did a bad job and we achieved our objective of safely retrieving the boat. Once we’d retrieved the boat we paddled down the rest of the river, catching up the others that had gone past us whilst we were dealing with the pinned boat whilst they were scouting a feature.
The trip was a success, it was really nice to be out of London for a stress-free weekend with good people having fun in the outdoors.
Share of petrol: £28
Accommodation & food: £60
Boat & paddle hire (from RCC): £12
Beers & snacks (definitely optional costs): £30