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Tuesday, 29 September 2009


I have just come back from a nine day trip to Bonnie Scotland. I travelled up for the Wet West Paddle Fest. This is an event where the SCA organise shuttles for two dam release rivers. One per day. Saturday is an easy warm up river, the Garry. This is a nice fun play run, at grade 3 with a bit of sunshine a good time was had by all. The next day the river Morriston is running. This is a slightly more serious, but still great fun run. Scoring in at grade 4/5 this was a great river. Sadly my paddling partner Phil took a swim about halfway down the short upper section. After a spot of lunch and a little time to reflect Phil decided he didn’t want to paddle anymore that day, which left me with half a day and no paddling partners. Luckily for me I was able to link up with some who I sought of new and we decided to go and do the lower Morriston. This was another brilliant short section of grade 4/5 with fun drops, and narrow channels.

Sidesurfing on the Gary.

End of a rapid on the Morriston

Sunday night brought a large rain cloud. Since we were camping the weekend we slept in a bit till the rain passed. After hours of sleep it was still raining. We went and checked out a few rivers but eventually settled on a low grade ditch river because Phil didn't fancy getting on anything too scary. We opted to go the the Akraig, a 2km section of lake to lake, shallow whitewater. We had chosen this river as we had only one car and it was a short river. After a 20 minute blast down the river I began to walk back, I was looking for a private road that should have taken me 2KM back to the car. Sadly I never found that road and ended up having to do a two hour long walk back to the car in the rain. Not cool.

The following day we linked up with a few more people and drove to the Nevis. I had heard stories about the Nevis, and the epics that people had had in there. Since I didn’t want to put myself off I elected not to read the guide for it but to just go with the flow. Phil decided to sit the Nevis out, and followed our group of five along the river equipped with the camera. This was probably my favorite river of the whole trip, with committing gorges, blind bends and ‘must make’ lines, culminating in a wicked waterfall. Apon getting back in the car and having a look at the guide book it turned out I had just completed my first grade 5 river. Sweet.

Boulder Blast, the first Nevis rapid

Nevis Waterfall

We managed to cram a few other rivers in during the week including the Orchy and the Roy gorge. These rivers were great fun but all a lead in to the coming weekend’s main event. The Etive River race.

I had never paddled to Etive before, so when I joined my paddling sensei Pete Scutt on friday morning I was slightly unnerved at the speed we blasted down the river. Because we were going so fast and neither phil or myself really had no clue of the lines we got a bit worked over. Phil had two swims then decided to walk out half way down the river. I got nailed in a drop called the Crack of Doom after coming over the drop a bit sideways and despite making a good attempt to stay in my boat I had to take my first swim of the trip. Thanks to the rest of the group, Jenny and Tom for a quick rescue of my boat. I jumped back in my boat and we continued down. Needless to say I was a little more cautious now, but survived the rest of the river. We reset the shuttle a prepared to do the river again. I was a little more nervous this time, but after a few tips on improving my boofing I was off again. This time I did fine.

The next morning I went to register at the Glen Coe ski centre. The race is a team event, and after his swims yesterday Phil decided he didn’t want to take part. This left me partner less. After an hour and a half of anxious waiting, I was introduced to a man named Barnsey, he agreed to be my partner so I was back in the race. Pete had told me Barnsey was a machine, and he was right as we set off down the river I saw Barnsey disappear around the bend. Twelve and a half minutes later and once I had a few unfortunate instances including running the second drop of triple falls backwards and getting stuck on a rock we finished. Although I was exhausted Barnsey talked me in to running one of Scotland’s classic tributaries. I can’t remember the name of it but its the one with the pinball rapid on it. Anyway After a short walk up I was treated to around fifteen minutes of sweet slides and chutes, in-between beautiful pools of crystal clear water. The whole run was made even more stunning by the Sun shining, something we hadn’t seen all week. It turned out I had come 8th in the Etive River Race and will definitely be going back next year.

Backwards on the Second drop

So fast I'm blurred

I was lucky with the water levels this week and had one of my best paddling weeks ever. I would highly recommend Scotland to anyone who hasn’t paddled there before. Amazing

Stay safe .

Photos by Phil Hollman

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