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Given the rivers we were anticipating paddling, this was never planned as an official club trip - more a few of us heading off to paddle together. Sadly work and other commitments reduced the group down to just six of us (although we still managed to take 9 boats between us!!).

The journey up bode well for the week ahead - heavy rain from Glasgow onward! By dark we'd all managed to make it to our cottage at the bottom of Glencoe and even though Paul & Nicola had done an excellent job of the supermarket we still headed off to the pub for haggis, neaps and tatties - a traditional start to the week.




Sunday - Lower Roy (grade 3) and Middle Spean (grade 2/3)

As we were all paddling I've no picture of this yet - hopefully the waterproof camera will be developed this week

After much guidebook thumbing (there'd be a lot of that over the week), we opted for a something to ease ourselves into Scottish paddling and to make sure that Sarah and Nic got some paddling in as well. So it was off to Glen Roy to do the lower section to Roy bridge and continue on the Spean to Spean Bridge. Although despite the heavy overnight rain the river had only just come up to a paddleable level - definately something you want to check lower down the valley as the section we were doing had a long walk in down a steep zig-zag path - you've got to be sure you can paddle it as walking back up is not attractive!

Anyway there we are in the middle of a remote valley in Scotland and who do we meet - Gareth, our new regional PDO (the one in the canadian on the Greta trip).

The Roy turned out to be quite a gem, lots of sections of grade 3 in a remote steep sided valley, but nothing too serious. Although Sarah and Nic may disagree as they provided some rescue practice, with Nic even hitching a lift across the river in Gareth's canadian at one point. To be fair to Sarah and Nic we had pitched them in at the top end of what they had paddled before (or even a bit above it) but they made a good job of getting through most things.

Once the Roy joined the Spean it became a much wider, with shingle rapids and some bouncy wave trains. The only trick bit being Railway bridge falls -at the level we were paddling at the main drop was 1.5m+ into a nasty looking hole. Fortunately there was a twisting shoot down the side that looked more attractive, so we opted for this.

Joining the two river together meant a long trip, so we were glad to reach the get off and head back to the cottage to get warm and try to find somewhere to dry all the gear. Overnight we had plenty more rain!!


Monday - Spean Gorge (grade 3/4)

All this rain must be going somewhere - but it had been so dry that it was soaking into the ground, so we opted to do the Spean Gorge - a classic white water section. This a can be done at most water levels and washed out in high water - no danger of that as the gauge was on 0 (there's a big dam that robs the Spean of water most of the time).

Nic and Sarah waved us off from Spean Bridge and, as there's no way to get near the river to take photo's, headed straight for the cafe. For the first 3km you wonder what the fuss is about, but after the half way mark things get interesting. Cliff marked this point by testing the water temperature.

In the gorge proper, rock walls tower above, large lumps of bedrock jut up (the size of big buildings!) and the river twists, turns and drops round, through and over them. Needless to say a fair amount of time was spent inspecting (not a place to forget your shoes eh Matt!).

Opting to portage headbanger - the flow was offering a near certain close encounter with an undercut - gave a great seal launch into the pool below.

A the next significant rapid, the river just disappeared through a small gap. Inspection revealed a boily area, pushing you back against the rock wall then followed by a drop which looked a bit sucky. Cliff chose this point to have some swimming practice, first in the boils. Once back in his boat (briefly), he went for the drop only to spend a fair time hugging a rock like it was his new best friend while his boat spun around in a vicious eddy next to him. Paul and Les to the rescue, while Matt was oblivious to it all waiting to run it in the eddy above.

Sadly, for Cliff another out of boat experience followed on the way to the famous (or infamous) constriction. Here in low flows the whole river squeezes through a tiny gap - in some levels not wide enough for a boat! Sadly there was a tree in it, so portaging was the only option - either a see-saw like balance and slide in or for the last one an awkward walk round / over the rock.

Finally the gorge eased and we were relieved to find that the girls had left the comfort of the cafe and were waiting for us (although they'd not brought us cakes). Sadly, we don't have any photo's of us in the Gorge, but maybe this is a good thing as it has to be experienced to be believed!

Oh, as we got off it started to rain - and rained all night again.

Read on for Tuesday to Friday

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

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Les Ford