River Llugwy – January 2012

The weather was ugly, but the Llugwy was lovely!

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A small but dedicated band (Adrian W, Guy and Les) battled with gale force winds for the Llugwy trip – and that was just getting the boats on the car roof outside Ford towers at early o’clock on a Saturday morning. I swear Sarah was laughing at us as she waved us off and headed back to bed.  Others had pulled out, family duties to be done or needing the full day to ‘do hair’ ahead of an evening out.

Plan A was to go to the LLugwy, plan B was the Tryweryn and plan C was a day at Mile End Mill.  Plan C it was –sadly the weather forecast removing A and the Environment Agency B (why did the Tryweryn release Friday but not sat or sun – a mystery beyond even Sherlock Holmes I feel!) Never mind it was still paddling!

Arriving in Llangollen it was apparent that the river was up and the weather forecast may not have been entirely truthful about the absence of rain (or perhaps it was all the lovely Tryweryn water arriving there?) As the weather was miserable we mulled over the situation around a cuppa and a large cookie awaiting the arrival further reinforcements. Once Simon and Vics arrived, having overridden the Spencer auto-pilot that was heading for a different corner of Wales, a decision was reach – if the Dee’s up, maybe there would be enough water in the Llugwy.

With the hindsight only gained by a 50 minute drive through Wales, it transpired that no there wasn’t really enough water. Oh well we’re here now so lets paddle it with the odd scrape.  So began the ‘comedy’ unloading boats in gale force winds – with the added amusement that only driving drizzle can bring to the occasion.  Why didn’t we just stay in the café?

We actually set off on the Nantgwynant – starting in the little lake by Plas-y-Brenin amidst rolling waves. On the river gently moving water (and the gales) moved us down to the confluence with the Llugwy, having survived the wind trying to capsize us, and the first rapids.  Lovely playful rapids interspersed flatter sections down to the first two notable rapids. A quick inspection showed the slot (g3) would be no problem, but Cobdens (g4) as there wasn’t enough water to run it. Although the low level did allow us to get out right on the lip of the bigger fall, not something I’d normally advocate, for a quick portage a lunch in the shelter of the crags.

Back on the river, and a short paddle brought us to Pont Cyfog,  a nice 3 tier fall weighing in at a meaty grade 6, so no we didn’t get out on the lip of this one. Portaging along the road afforded a good view into all the drops – the first might be tempting, but the others no thanks, and you’d some serious equipment to get in and out!

Regaining the river at a considerably lower altitude, we paddled in to look at the bottom fall and hope we’d fool some tourists into thinking we just done it.  Then off again – a fab ‘graveyard’ section over about ¾ mile – it would have been more fabulous with a foot more water – as it was it provided us with lots practice at reading the water and getting off pins!  This a stark contrast to the last time Simon, Vics and I looked at paddling this when the water was, we reckon, about 5 foot higher and running through the trees – strangely enough we gave it a miss that day.

Beyond were more fun grade 2’s until Forestry Falls, another grade 3 just above the get off. Here route finding was a real challenge – that is finding enough water! With hindsight (again) walking the first bit would have been a good idea, but never mind.

We really must go back when it does have more water in it – but it’s a tricky beggar to find at the right level!