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This year the minibus was fully booked with 15 boats in the trailer and all seats taken in the minibus. We were also due to be joined by two cars travelling out later in the week. More information…..
Friday – Saturday The trip down – Would we make it?
We set off from Formby
before 7pm for the drive down to meet the boat at
Sunday 25th – Argentiere La Bassee Slalom Course and the Middle Durance
Having only one vehicle for the first few days Keith drove to the get out and cycled back to join us. After spending a couple of hours warming up and getting used to the speed of the water on the slalom course we set off from the campsite to paddle down the middle Durance. A bit of a wobbly start but most of us managed ok. It was interesting to see how much the river had changed since last year with many new channels but fewer trees blocking our way. Stuart Woodward`s Canoe Control had moved from the Gyronde Valley to this section of the Durance and are located just above the grade two rapid. We paddled on past the second get out point by the cement works and on to the broken weir. This has two channels (the left has a 2m drop while the right has a swift flowing S bend with a pour over in the middle at the bottom. The river now widened with gravel banks with several channels to chose from, many with a few up-rooted trees strewn across them. A few more rapids led to glider airfield and rafting school. Anthony Vaccaro More Photos….
– The Gyronde and middle Durance
The Gyronde Ten of us set off in the minibus to paddle this 6km, grade 3 section of the Gyronde. Initially splitting into two groups of five we were just about to launch when Steve B showed us exemplary leadership skills, informing us he’d forgotten his spray deck and would have to drive back and meet us at the campsite! J. A new group of four and five was soon arranged and we set off on quite low water with plenty of space between kayakers. The river had an 8mph pace and proved exceedingly cold, with plenty of scrapes and scratches with an exceedingly technical first section due to the low water and protruding rocks. With everyone making it to our first eddy point at the river side, we were informed we would soon be entering a gauge, at the end of which was a dangerous weir which would require a portage. Setting off again slightly apprehensive of this obstacle, extra space was given between paddlers to allow plenty of time for breaking out prior to the weir, which proved quite easy in shallow water. Although not high, the weir contained 3 or 4 large rocks which would easily cause pinning and showed why it was more obvious to portage. Following safe passage we continued to float down the river, admiring the views whilst dodging the odd rock until we came to the point where water from the Durance Gorge (a grade 5 paddle) joined ours. Continuing to meander everybody eventually reached the top of the slalom course next to our campsite, where Steve was ready and waiting, and before a technical run to the bottom practising the breaking in and out of the numerous eddy’s. An excellent morning’s paddle.
Neil Moult More Photos….
The Middle Durance
My first time on white water, excited, apprehensive but ready to go. The water looked fast but it also looked fun. We followed Keith into the flow and loved it. Mum had trouble relaxing but kept up and upright! I loved it all the way. I was amazed at how much I actually enjoyed it. I felt exhilarated. The best bit for me was when I followed Keith into some of the bigger waves and they went right up on my kayak. Keith said mum hit all the big stoppers in the water although she tried to miss them, but she didn’t get stopped! She still can’t quite believe she didn’t go in. We got out about two thirds of the journey and the others went on. I wanted to go on but we got out with Nikky, mum’s guardian angel. Overall it was fantastic and I can`t wait to go again. James Orritt More Photos….
We drove to the raft station at St Clements and dropped off the bike. The minibus then took the intrepid paddlers along the gravel road under the towering cliffs (Danger, route barred signs marked the entrance). At the put in the water was clear and relatively warm. The start was a little crowded with three groups from
The Guil now joins with the Durance with a series of boils and turbulent water. Both groups then spent a while practicing breaking in, ferry gliding and rolling in moving water before paddling over the shingle beds past a gravel works to the St Clement Slalom Course. Here we spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the waves. Headcam Tony tried out his camera underwater and Nicky later practiced with her throw line with Jim as bate. Mark and Neil entertained the people in the café with rolling practice in the warm swimming pool as the rest of us finished off the day on the terrace of the café.
Sue, John and Ben joined us on the campsite with their caravan, now a little worse for wear after a high speed blow-out of a tyre on the long journey down. Later that night most of us went to watch the street circus and performing acts in the centre of L` Argentiere-la-Bessee. Keith Steer More Photos…….
– Upper Durance and Upper Guisane
Upper Durance Third time lucky for me today, my third try at white water and at last a little relaxation on fast moving river, fantastic! At first the same nerves attacked me as I followed Keith across a bed of rocks and swirling but shallow water. Over that obstacle, I found a new level of calm, and began to enjoy the journey. A little way down, a good sized boulder tried it’s best to get me over, but I used a low brace and made it through, a little ruffled but upright and very pleased with my self. As we progressed the water was reasonably kind and I managed to steer really rather welbenl! Towards the end of the run a couple of corners between low cliffs reminded me I am still most definitely a beginner, but proud as punch I made it through. After a short rest we headed for the last stretch of our journey, through some fantastic bouncy rapids (wouldn’t have said that two days ago) fantastic! Sally Orritt More Photos….
Keith set off first and glided effortlessly through the
raging rock filled torrent to reach the middle to take pictures of the rest of
us struggling. Helen managed well before hitting a rock and getting flipped
upside down. She was distracted from her rolling attempt by the arrival of Neil
on top of her! With one shoe lost and her dignity taking a scrape from the
rocks Helen recovered her style and continued well. Meanwhile Neil’s
dramatic run left him relatively dry and thinking “I don’t know how
I did that!”. Well done Neil, however you did it. Anthony’s run
started well with him avoiding many of the boulders strewn in his path. And it
would have continued so, but he seemed to change direction when Helen went
over, perhaps to catch an eddie. Alas this change in direction spelled a
The second group fared similarly. Mark led the way with a fantastic run, his high braces a credit to him and he made it down without a scratch (relatively speaking). David’s run entered difficulty when he “ended up on the wrong side of a rock”. Having been pinned he bailed but provided livebait for Nicki and Anthony to practice rescue techniques. Jim also got stuck between a rock and a hard river. After gracefully tumbling out keeping hold of his paddle (well done), he watched his boat float away. Initial retrieval attempts failed but Jim was eventually reunited with his boat 200m downstream. Nicki’s paddle turned to a swim halfway through the S-bend but she declined comment on how this occurred, “I can’t precisely remember”. The cold water must have been a shock! Steve came next and miraculously managed to survive unscathed.
We regrouped at the bridge in Les Guibertes before continuing down, being joined by Dom, John and Ben for the final stage of the paddle. We took in the beautiful sights as the river passed through Villeneuve town before taking out at Chantemerle. There were no further incidents, which is just as well because the upper Guisane exhausted us! All in all, an equally tiring and thrilling day!
Michael Brockway More Photos….
Thursday 29th – The (Campsite to Embrun)
It was an early start all the group set off down the river from the campsite the water was at different level (lower) and there was a number of trees blocking the way but after a few wobbles and a couple of little swims everybody seemed happy. When we came to the slalom course everybody gave it a good go. A special mention to Sally, James, John and Ben, well done.
The river Durance starts as a
small stream above Briancon…. That’s what the river guide tells
you! From having a nice afternoon nap on the banks of the Durance a marathon
trip in force ten gales. Eight of us set out for the section from St Clements
to Embrun. The current was running
at a reasonable rate or fast for the Alpine novices. The river has a varied
amount of challenges, wave trains, small play waves, swirling eddies and boils,
and a number of places to practice impeccable rolls (Anthony and Jim). After a
relatively slow build up and some bouncy waves led to the infamous Rabioux
rapid. Due to the nature of this drop we took it one by one. It was good to see
the first of us to get down trouble free. Neil nailed it…nice one. Steve,
Anthony and Jim pulled off seriously bomb-proof rolls even if I do say so
myself. The river led on for a further 16 km with loads of more rapids of varying
lengths and difficulties. I`d love to give a more detailed description of the
lower Durance but it’s really difficult to recall accurate details when
in the zone or as I like to call it the haze of terror. Anyway, all got down in
great spirits and not surprisingly a bit tired after a 40Km paddle. Jim Slater More
Friday 30th – Glacier Blanc We set off up the mountain. David the mountain goat stormed up the mountain first and enjoyed a hot chocolate in a glass bowl with Michael and Neil who deserved this treat as they made it up to the refuge. The slower, older more mature paddlers studied the Marmots and made it to the top in a leisurely but not laboured fashion. We were surrounded by mountain scenery, hanging glaciers, moraine and knife edge arêtes. It was truly stunning for those who had the breath to look at it. On the way back down we had a picnic followed by photo shoot on a bridge over a raging cataract (see photo). The descent was a piece of cake and in less than an hour we all congregated in the bar at the bottom. Refreshments were taken. Tired but happy we returned in our minibus to the campsite, impatient to resume our paddling of the Alpine torrents. Nicky Pyper More Photos……
Saturday 31st – Middle Durance We Set Off Just Below The Salam Course ,In A Large Group Of 12 , I Almost Died As I Came Down The Serpent-Taily Like Thingy With Really Big Waves , I Calmed Down A Little Bit At The First Eddie , We Practised Breaking in And Breaking Out, And Did Some 360-Degrees Turns In The Middle Of The Wide River .During One Of The Steepest Rapids I Got Swept Out To The Left (outside of the bend) And Nearly Capsized. I Looked Round And Dom Was Ok. After This We Broke out Into A Large Eddie And In front Of Us Was A Large Concrete Bridge, This Marks The Start Of The Biggest Set Of Rapids. I Tried To Take A Safer Route In between Rapids But Accidently Got Swept Through Some Of The Bigger Waves And One Nearly Tipped Me But I Regained My Balance By Smacking My Hand Against The Water. So Relieved At The Next Eddie I Started A Mud Fight, And Came 1st, Sadly Keith Came 2nd. After A Few More Km We Spotted The Wicker man On The Left Bank, Where The Mini-Bus Was Parked.
Swim at Roche de Rame
After We Got Off The River We Headed Of But Keith Stopped The Bus Nearby, We All Got Out And Went Into The Lake, We Were Cautious About The Temperature Of the Water, But It Was Quite Warm. There Was A Diving Platform There And Nikki Was The First In, She Got Pushed, After That We All Dived Off The Platform. Some Of The Boys ( Mark.G, Steve.B, Mark m And Jim.S) Started Doing Somersault Dives Off The Platform. We All Tried To Make The Biggest Waves Possible With 3 People At A Time. Afterwards We Dried Ourselves Off In The Sun. Emilie Benson More Photos……
Saturday 31st – The Gyronde A good 10 and half hours sleep was enough to recover from the 30 hour journey south to join this year’s summer Alps trip, enjoy breakfast and be ready for the first river of the day; the Gyronde. Leaving those who preferred a relaxing morning swim in the lake, we headed up the side valley towards Vallouise. Water levels seem a little lower this year and this was true for the Gyronde, more rock dodging than normal and dragging boats the last few yards to the portage around the weir. Still it seemed like no time before we were playing on the Argentiere slalom course and back to the campsite. Mark Benson More Photos……
Sunday 1st –
The Lower Durance We joined the Lower Durance from the
Sunday 1st – The Lower
Guil Today’s trip took the group back to the
Sunday 1st - Argentiere Volleyball tournament With a smart purchase of a cheap fly away ball, the first team game was volleyball. Starting with about four of us, we thought this was going to end as quick as it started. 5 minutes into our friendly 2 aside game, each team grew dramatically including a dog. This was now a full on tournament with rules (who has rules?). The A Team (Nicky, Neil, Steve, James and myself) versus the B team (Keith, Mark M, David, Michael and the Dog). After Keith had finished dishing out all these rules about different servers and so many touches we got off to a good start. Some of us even got a touch when Steve wasn’t diving around the court. After some sweat, blood and tears and a few disagreements on the score, Keith’s team won the first round 15-12. The next round was played well by are team and was looking promising after all the bad serves from the other side. We won the second round 15-9. The last round was the deciding round and we all put 100% in. After some moaning about the difference in size of the two halfs of the court we carried on and unfortunately lost because of some cheating that we let slip plus that dog had some speed. They won 15-11 meaning an overall of 2-1 to Team B. No more volleyball could be played due to the ball being popped assumingly by the dog, but we will never know. That being the end of the ball, we all thought our tournament had come to an end, until Mark B arrived with the real thing. Our tournament had only just begun, let the games continue… Mark Garrod
Monday 2nd – Ubaye Race Course
The Ubaye - The Race-course 7km Grade IV
A hardy yet reluctant group of lethargic paddlers (Keith, Anthony, Nicky, Michael, David and Helen) headed off to the Ubaye Racecourse and the put-in at le Martinet, after the morning’s paddle on the upper section of the river. Pulses were running high and sphincters were clenching when we hit the first grade 4, “Salle a Manger” rapid where the water was bouncy and the rocks aplenty! The dark threatening sky made the river look a bit gnarlier than last year and it took a wee while for some of us to find our grade 4 “river bottom”. The river was continuous grade 3+ with some grade 4 sections thrown in, no time to relax here! David Brockway proved that the Racecourse can be done in a full bath with a teabag for a spraydeck.
There were spectacular views of the steep, wooded mountainsides whilst David’s kayak continued to take on more water. We pressed on through more rapids until we came to the grade 4 Shark’s tooth rapid were Helen banished her last year’s bogey and the memory of a very unpleasant swim. Everyone made it through the Shark’s Tooth seamlessly.
The gang soon arrived at the steep-sided gorge where the spectacular sight of the roman bridge high above the gorge came into view. We all stopped for a photo opportunity before plopping over the next drop/rapid and heading for the get-out at le Lauzet, where we met up with Dom who was staked out in a café with the French Federation of Fly Fanciers. Helen Siertsema More Photos……
Monday 2nd – Mountain Bike (VTT) Report To Follow…... Mark Benson and Steve Bond More Photos……
Monday 2nd -
Monday morning. The beginning of the second week of our Alpine adventure saw
seven of us paddle the
After a regroup just upstream of the S- bends, we planned our safety cover and who is in charge of photos. With the whole crew lined up along the bank with throw bags in their hands and Jim in charge of the photos, Keith went first over the top of the S- bends shortly followed by myself. After a few bumps and scrapes Keith Steer-ed his way down the two hundred and fifty meter long rapid and sat in an eddy ready to watch a perfect run. Off I go, manoeuvring my way round the big boulders with the odd low brace. Everyone watched as I went down, even Steve cheered me on as I went down with ease. Oh and thanks Jim for taking the ONLY photo, luckily it was of me. After reaching the bottom and finding an eddy I turned around to wait for the next victim to enter the rapid. The minutes passed by and no-one came. Keith hopped out to find out what’s happening and if anyone is actually going to run it. Thinking a red boat was on it way down, it turned out to be a raft, followed by another raft, followed by another 6 or 7 rafts. Then a flash of orange appeared on the water and was quickly identified as Steve’s paddle. A quick rescue of his paddle, I was waiting for a blue burn to float down. It turns out he capsized, kept hold of his paddle but then used it in a rescue attempt to retrieve his pinned boat. His knot tying skills weren’t quite up to scratch therefore his paddle floated off down the river. At least I had something to rescue. No-one else decided to risk there life, so they carried their boats further down and got on at the bottom of the rapid. Two successful runs out of three, not bad. Three hundred meters downstream were the rest of the group were eager to get on, not knowing about all the action that happened just above.
The paddle down from here is a fast flowing grade 3 feeding its way through the town of Villeneuve with a fascinating change of character and scenery, with people on the bridges and in back gardens watching and waving as we float underneath there balconies. On the approach to the get out there are a few nice small rapids and boofing rocks, including the David munching weir. With David back in his boat we continued on to Chantemerle for a well earned rest. This is a nice paddle that keeps your interest through the mountain scenery and is one of my favourite on the trip. Mark (A.K.A The Alpine Guide) Garrod More Photos……
Tuesday 3rd – Upper Durance So another day starts, everyone up bright and early, the morning run to the local cake shop then all into the mini bus. Everyone was paddling today or so we thought. The Upper Durance was the morning paddle from Briancon to Prelles a distance of 7km of grade 2 paddling on fast moving water. On arriving at the starting point Emily decided she would rather sit this one out and refused to get out of the car, so the rest off us set off on another great mornings paddle. Now being a newcomer to whitewater kayaking I can’t give you a technical description of the river. All I know is that after paddling for a week now I am finding the whole experience one of the best thing I have ever done, the scenery is breathtaking, the river is clean and blue and the sun is shining. When you start to build your confidence on the river the paddling is superb, the other members of the club have been fantastic in teaching me everything I need to know so a big thank you to each and everyone one of them. So another morning paddle came to a end. Lunch was eaten before we started off on the journey to the start of the afternoon paddle. Mark Moore More Photos……
Tuesday 3rd – Mountain Bike My dad (Mark Benson) and myself started the trail at Le Casset and the trail started of fairly easy, which is how I prefer my trails. There was plenty of downward hills and my back wheel followed my front wheel the whole way down. There where plenty of road sections which where scary since the cars drove on the wrong side of the road, my dad lead us to a path which lead us up to the biggest hill I’ve ever seen, I can always rely on my bike to take me places I really don’t want to go, but my dad forced me to climb up the hill so my feet went beside my bike, it took around half an hour. At the bottom of the hill I started off strong and alive, by the top I was a few steps away from death, but the view at the top of the mountain made my suffering worth while. The path from then on was facile and I cycled with ease along to my On-The-Go playlist which included all my favourite artists. we came to a bridge and then I spotted helen walking with her boat to the trailer, we had arrived at Chantemerle.
My dad did the shuttle to get his car and drop at Briancon. He came back and I had fell asleep on the grass in the sun, I got woken up and my dad and I cycled to his car in Briancon, this trail was easier then the first, no upward hills only downward, which I enjoyed a lot, when we arrived at the car I plugged in my iPod and waited for my dad to attach the bikes to the car, this is when I found a caterpillar in my hair, it was HUGE! So my dad came toward the sound of my screams and took it out. My bike is very loyal it follows behind me wherever I go, because it’s attached to the back of my car. The highlight of my day, for me, would be driving back to the campsite, hours away from civilization. Emilie Benson More Photos……
Wednesday 4th – St Clement to Embrun Report to follow……. Mark Moore More Photos……
05/09/10 Verdon Gorge Thursday 5th August – Club trip to the
Verdon Gorge, an early start for a long journey. This gave James and I a good long wake up time on the bus, much needed as we had only made it back to the campsite at 11pm the night before due to a delayed rail journey. En-route we saw beautiful fields of Sunflowers and Lavender. At one point we followed a tractor with a Lavender harvest, it was quite overpowering, with a distinctly antiseptic sting to the eyes!
We arrived at the gorge at about 11am. We still had a stunning journey through it to get to our proposed ‘swimming’ spot. The roads twisted, as you might expect, clinging to the steep cliffs of the gorge. At about noon we abandoned the bus in the best ‘parking’ spot we could find, strolled down the lane, and ate lunch, surrounded by serious geology!
As we munched, we watched, rafts and water levels, fearing the worst… the water was too high and our ‘swim’ was not to be! A part of me was relieved, having had a rather long ‘swim’ under my kayak a few days before, but most of me was disappointed as the water looked amazing, and this time the plan was to get wet!
Our alternative was an excellent short walk, through tunnels cut into the gorge, a real adventure, and delightfully cool J. On the way back James and I explored the rocks and steam under the foot bridge, rinsing away the mud from the tunnels and the dust from the path, in fresh pools under the trees, perfect.
Back at the bus we found a parking ticket, couldn’t be avoided really, but a bit annoying. Next I thought we were heading home, but we hadn’t really seen the best of the gorge yet, as we travelled, it kept on getting better with views that stretched and stretched, further than my eye could see. We enjoyed the fact that the thunder clouds were so far away, we’d miss them, and we did!
We stopped to eat on the way back, but were on British time and had trouble finding any-where, luckily we stumbled upon an Irish pub, every town has one. I thought I’d ordered steak, but got a burger, hey hum. All fed, we embarked on the last leg of the journey, back to the camp site – very well done and many thanks to Keith and Tony for loads of tricky driving and a really memorable day.……. Sally Orritt More Photos……
Friday 6th – 40km run from the campsite to Embrun Report to follow……. Mark Moore More Photos……
Mark Moore, James Orritt, Sally Orritt, Richard Orritt, Jim (dayglow) Slater, Neil Moult, Helen Siertsema, Nicky (the mountain goat) Pyper, Keith Steer, Steve Bond, Mark (wide of the mark) Garrod, Ben Cooke, John Cooke, Michael Brockway, David Brockway, Dominic Buckle, Emilie (Bunsen Burner) Benson, Mark Benson, Paul (Jordie) Wilson and Anthony (Headcam) Vaccaro