Alpine Paddling Holiday 2013

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21/07/13 Alps 2013 based at the Slalom course at L'Argentière-la-Bessée


This year we had a nearly new Ford Transit minibus and the usual box trailer for the kayaks.  The journey down was uneventful and unusually quiet in the minibus as most of us were veterans and we all tried to get as much sleep as possible as we were driving overnight.  We caught the Channel Tunnel train on time (12:50 check in) and made L'Argentière-la-Bessée (campsite) for around 4:00pm.


Later Chris Murphy arrived and set up his massive tent (his family were joining him for the second week by flying in to Paris and then catching the train down.  Mark Benson and Marianne Davey arrived later after touring down through Belgium and Switzerland.


The full team would consist of: Keith Steer, Fiona Wrigg, Sarah Gille, Mike Buckley, Dom Buckley, Michal Giezgala, Kurt Toulson, Stuart Toulson, Michael Brockway, David Brockway, Scott Gibson, Anthony Vaccaro, Kathy Wilson, Mark Benson, Marianne Davey, Chris Murphy, Claire Murphy, Ollie Murphy, Charlie Murphy, Darren Bohanna, Roy McHale, Olivia Rowe, Mark Young, Lucy Stuart, Theo Gaussen, Sven Till.


More information from our clubs trips page………


Day 01 Sunday – Slalom Course

The day started well, brilliant weather, brilliant water.  It looked like it would be a great paddle, but as soon as I got on the river it all went wrong. As I broke in to the fast flowing river I caught an edge which sent me over, my first attempt at a roll was not good at all, I hadn’t set up correctly and ended up only just managing to get a small breath before I plunged back into the freezing water.  My second roll was a complete success; however, the place where I ended up rolling up was not.  It was just before the next rapid which then threw me back over.  At this point I was tired, cold and just wanted out of my boat so I decided it would be the best idea to pull my deck and swim the whole of the racecourse section.


This I can assure you is not something I would advise.  Getting shot up as you go over the rapids and waves; managing to grab half a breath to then be plunged back under the water taking gulps of water in the process. By the time I finally got to the eddy at the end of the course I felt like I had done a days paddling were in fact I had done about ten meters of it. The rest of the day was brilliant thanks to the guys who rescued my boat and paddle, No more swims that day for me.


Scott Gibson (Gibbo)      More Photos……..


Day 01 Sunday – Middle Durance

Today’s paddle started from our campsite down to St Clement some of the group started from the top of the slalom course at the camp site.  Having not paddled a river since the Alps last year I started from the bottom of the slalom course to ease my way back into things to save a swim in other words.


The Durance is a very familiar river for me and one of my favourites having paddled this river many times over the past five years.  Today the river was at a higher level than most of us had seen before so a little more care was needed; there was a swim or two but nothing major.


I seem to notice a few more boils and trees washed into the river than usual but other than that it was a nice way to way to get back into the swing of it - fantastic to be back in the Alps.


Antony Vaccaro                         More Photos……..





Day 01 Sunday – Via Ferrata – Clock Face


Sarah, Chris, Gibbo, Michal, Mike and I decided to have a go at some extra curricular activities this evening! We decided to have a go at Via Ferrata. Chris, Michal and Mike are already experts but Sarah, me and Gibbo were first timers! Chris and Michal went first to show us how it’s done. At this point it looked fairly easy and none of us were worried! Me and Gibbo were up next.


After strapping into our harness’s we were off. I have to be honest and say I totally cacked myself and nearly stopped half way up, but I regrouped, pulled myself together and ‘manned’ up! I did have a painful moment went I kneeled on the huge lump and bruise I have on my leg from when I rescued Chris’s boat when he swam on the slalom course. We got to the top in no time, after a few hairy moments. We then got lost trying to find the others and I fell over (no surprise there!) Sarah and Mike were next. They flew up like actual mountain goats!! I have to say, Sarah is nails!! Via Ferrata is officially mint!!!!!


Chairman Mao xx


Fiona W                          More Photos……..


22/07/13 Day 02 Monday – Briancon Gorge


The higher water levels in Alps at the moment has meant that more rivers have come into the play. One of these is the Briancon Gorge on the Upper Durance which is normally paddled in May/June. I have always wanted to paddle this river since seeing the pictures of the paddlers flying down the wooden shoot at the barrage. The gorge is narrow and committing with no way out once you are in there. This coupled with the fact that the view from the bridge at get in at Le Fontenil showed a fast flowing boulder strewn rapid meant that half a dozen paddlers decided to sit this one out.

The rest of us split in to two groups with Keith leading David, Michael Brockway, Michal and Michael Buckley down first. We followed with Stu, Kurt Mark and myself. For the first couple of hundred yards we were pretty much on our own though as we picked our way through the boulders. There wasn't much time to correct your line as they came thick and fast. We collected at the bottom of the rapid and prepared for the wooden shoot taking care to stay away from the siphon on river left. This was a bit unnerving as you had to run it blind but with the non paddlers on photo duty waving us on we dropped in one by one. The slide didn't disappoint as we shot down and were spat you out into a small pool.

We then entered the gorge proper and as the sides closed in the river twisted left and right. After more boulder gardens we came to a weir and following Keith's directions we bounced through it unharmed with silly grins that we were still wearing as we reached the get out.


Chris Murphy      More Photos……..


22/07/13 Day 02 Monday – Upper Durance

After a quick sunbathe, and practice throwing the throw lines everyone regrouped and we had a quick lunch before the next river.

Some of us recognised the get in but had no recollection of the actual river. Which seems to be the theme at the moment, we know what’s on bits of the rivers but no one can put a name to them. Apart from our human guide book, named Keith.   Anyway we split into smaller groups of 5 or so,  my group consisted of leader Chris, Fiona, Michal, mike and myself. We set of down the fast flowing stream with the sun shining and as usual great scenery.


I had requested to our leader we do some eddying stuff and “surfyness” on our way down. As we approach the rocky sections we soon set up a rotation, as we hopped down the river making use of all the great practice from the upper Tryweryn we had done back home in the UK, with my coach and guide Chris. (thanks for that its defiantly made a big difference on my paddling development this year!)

Soon we arrived as a decent looking wave and the whole group spent a while giving surfing a go. I still cant get my head round what to do on these surf waves but I gave it a bash anyway.


We continued down the river and as the stench got stronger we began to remember that we had been there before. I don’t know what the stink is and I don’t think I want to but as we approached the danger signs for the barrage we knew we where at the end.

An easy eddy out to the left and up the steep hill to the minibus then off to our next adventure…..


Sarah Gille      More Photos……..


22/07/13 Day 02 Monday – Claree

“We’ll just pop up and see if we can run La Claree” decreed Keith as a peel of thunder rippled through the grey cloudscape.  As the river was usually too low in Summer, it was decided by El Presidente, against the repeatedly vocalised wishes of the group, that we’d go give it a gander and see what’s what. 


We had a quick butchers at the get-out and in all fairness it didn’t look too bad… apart from the thunder, the lightning, the drizzle… and the Dutch.  We offered a mad lady, who seemed to be the emissary for a group of random Dutchonians, a ride up to where they left their car in the start, what their plan was if no random mini busses filled with scouse kayakers came along we’ve no idea.  The sky had opened and the rain was pouring down like a bastard, we saw people trapped in the rain and our hearts had no sympathy for them.  We laughed at them, we thought there was no harm in what we did.  We were fools.

“just a little bit further” the crazed Dutch lady brayed as we got to the point of our intended get in, and a fair bit more we went.. till finally, at last, we reached the top of what we were assured was just a happy little grade 2 river. I don’t know who I hate more, Keith for assuring us, or us for believing him, the poor innocent naïve children that we were…


The river started off fine and dandy…  it was big and bouncy and fully of life; we thought we were playing with it.  It was playing with us, toying with us and we had no clue whatsoever!   The first portage happened, a fallen tree we could happily paddle past, we got out, walked our boats along and then got back in.  We hadn’t respected the river, and so now the river stopped respecting us.  That’s when things started to turn nasty.  A tree rested full along the entire horizontal length of the river, with its leaves and twigs acting as a sort of emo fringe, we paddled straight through it and the river caught its first taste of man flesh! Or Kathy flesh at least as an errant twig lashed out at her face, marring her sunny countenance with a gash, a battle scar she may very well carry for the rest of her days.  The river had tasted of us, and it wanted more.

Next it sent the flies, hordes of them, each with a taste for good honest earthy English (or thereabouts) blood, being as French blood is renowned for being overly rich and stodgy, our honest “salt of the earth” blood was refreshing to the poor blighters, yet they asked too much, and took even more.  After the flies, and after Michal had outted himself as a Fly-sympathiser (if there’s one thing I hate more than those damn shadow black winged monsters…), the trees themselves started coming after us, I myself paddled under a supine branch and turned to corner to see such desolation, as kayaks were pinned under bundles of log jam, united in their cause to bring us down, I couldn’t help but pity the poor bastards who had been taken, and so I wept a tear for Kathy and Pops as I knew they were gone and there was no point even starting a rescue.  Then I saw them on the beach.  So startled was I that I was unaware of the branches sneaking up to the side of me, which grabbed on tight and attempted to hold me under the water.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say if it was anyone else they’d’ve left this valley of tears and joined the river people down below, but my rigorous military-esque training kicked in and I acted on ingrained instinct as I heroically popped my deck and bravely swam the treacherous half yard to the shore.  Anyone else would have done the same, had they my mettle, skill and quiet, stoic modesty.


We’d taken injuries from the flies, and the trees, with the thunder beating down on us… but next the river sent the very earth itself against us!  A landslide turned the water silty and dingy, but little did the river know we were from England!  Such poor water quality could only make us think of home, and that thought spurred us on until finally we reached the get out.


We made it.  We were out.  That was the end and thank the gods of above and below for it… only it wasn’t.  What thunder, plagues of insects, misanthropic tree ants and a landslide couldn’t do, hypothermia set out to finish.  The Dutch tribe were still there, as apparently the landslide from previously had blocked the roads off, although I suppose they had no way of knowing we hadn’t ritualistically killed their companion and wore her face down the river.  We were cut off from our minibus.  We were cut off from our way home.  So we did the only thing we could!  Nobly we swore at Keith and set him off on his way on his little bike with our curses and remonstrations ringing in his ears, solely for encouragement of course.


After half an hour or so, our cloggy lowlander finally returned, and whilst we might have wondered about her not offering the same lift to Keith as he did to her our questions and suspicions of her character were swiftly dismissed by her performing an impromptu rendition of the mildly erotic dance of the seven tea towels, her aged and desiccated mammaries swaying frenetically in the midst of her passionate undulations.  Soon enough she was joined by one of her gentleman friends and our eyes were treated to a disgusting double Dutch dance of deviancy the likes of which will stay with us forevermore, whenever we close our eyes that sagging grey flesh will be with us, whispering to us in the night.  I can only assume it was some sort of invitation, as when we rebuked it they packed and left with nary a by your leave or even a cheeky little wink as the windmill loving decrepit minx passed us by, dreaming of cheeses and dams…


People had started to hallucinate, with Chris trying to convince himself he was a reflection of Kurt after offering himself around to anyone who would have him, plying his trade under the guise of “sharing body heat”.  The rest of us started to group up into alliances and eye up which would be the first of us who we would volunteer to sacrifice themselves to feed the ravenous hunger of the tribe.  It was a dark time, we knew we were no longer innocent, we knew just what we would do to survive, and it wasn’t pretty.  Finally, near an hour and a half after he abandoned us by the river bank, keith had a moment of conscience and turned up in the minibus.  We’d made it, we were free.


Given that it was too late to go to the supermarket now, we decided we needed a meal of quality to match the day we had, and so we went to MacDonald’s and sobbed into our cardboard burgers before going home to drown our sorrows in cheap wine and attempt to forget what we had seen, and what we knew we would do, if we had to.


I’d say god help us all; but now we know, God won’t help us. God can’t help us.  God is dead.


Mike Buckley      More Photos……..



23/07/13 Day 03 Tuesday – St Clement to Rabioux Wave

Slalom course!!! One of the things I really enjoy! Part of a river modified by men and created for canoe/kayak slalom competitions. Safe with lots of eddies, rapids ... etc. Going through it on your way you can see a few gates. Commonly occupied by slalom kayakers, really skilled paddlers who easy deal with all obstacles, rapids, and aiming into gates.  Always when I have a chance to paddle on any slalom course I have opportunity build up my confidence, skills ... and sometimes I happen to swim! ... but obviously there is a reason behind it (I'll be back to this subject in a moment).


Today we spent few hours playing on waves mainly surfing but unfortunately just some of us had courage to go into monsters rapids and practise our abilities. Others were losing the opportunity to practise in a friendly environment of the river. Why?


Almost everyone who goes on river 3+ and there is no issue with it! But when you have a chance to practise before entering a wild environment like this.  Just a few of us really are active and not afraid to try what they can do ... others like Gibbo watching all LCC kayakers and make laughter when they swim. I swam ok... ok ... but there was a fish and I wanted to look at it closer and tried to catch it ... and I had to be unattached from my kayak ... and pulled my spraydeck ... and when my head appeared there was a huge cheering? I had no fish to prove I was catching fish.


Later the Rabioux wave!!!   There's nothing to say. If you there you love it! You are battered, washed ... it's great! The possibility of  losing expensive equipment ... paddles, kayaks! ... and shake!   But today we had a new champion Roy! Surfing in it!


Michal Giezgala    More Photos……………..

24/07/13 Day 04 Wednesday – Upper Guil


The day started with an early rise and almost everyone on the bus for 9 (me and michael being slightly behind). On the way up to the river we decided to check out the staircase and further on up the triple step which both looked like very rough rides. After dropping the car off at the get out we all went up in the packed out minibus to the get in. We paddled down the river in groups of 4 & 5 with Keith’s group leading the way, Chris’ in the middle and Darren’s a long way back.


However, it wasn’t until later it was found out that Michael had managed to break his paddle on the way down.  This leading him to adopt a canoe style of paddling until he got his hands on Chris’ splits. Then back in Keith’s group there was a roll from myself after coming a cropper on a small shoot and a successful roll from Fiona who was caught out in a day dream about what she was having for tea.  



David Brockway                                           More Photos……………..



24/07/13 Day 04 Wednesday – Château-Queyras


As I approached the get out of the upper Guile I could see Roy and Keith waiting in anticipation for something. Roy had convinced Keith that we should run Château-Queyras and was waiting for reinforcements in the shape of Michal and I. There was no way I was paddling it in the old school rattling M2 which I’d borrowed from Will McCormack so I took Mick Buckley’s Remix for a spin. I heard a shout to say that Keith had got impatient and was setting off so I dodged the rafters to jump on and catch up.


After a quick adjustment of the foot rests we followed Keith straight in to the thick of it. The instruction was to just point forward and enjoy the ride. With the amount of water pumping through the gorge it was about to be one hell of a ride. This was easily the fastest that I have ever been forcedly squirted through a gorge. Fast reactions were needed as the obstacles came thick and fast, one of them came too fast. After being forced upside down after hitting the gorge wall I remember Keith saying ‘’whatever you do you don’t want to swim or get a pin’’. With that I watched the deep turquoise water pass me as I set up and tucked my head in, a quick roll up and to my delight I was still pointing down river and straight back on to the roller coaster. A few twist n turns later Keith came back in to sight as he was sat in the kit and bodies collection eddy with his camera at the ready.


Heart still pumping through my chest Roy and Michal came around the corner both in tact. I was glad to hear that Roy also made a successful roll. We came down the next biggish drop and then completed the relatively easy section before getting out. After dragging our boats up to the bridge Keith says to Michal, ‘’I know I said it was usually grade 3, well that was more like 4+ at that level’’.  This short section was the icing on the cake of an awesome morning on the upper Guil.    


Darren Bohanna                      More Photos……………..



24/07/13 Day 04 Wednesday – Château-Queyras - Via ferrata


Via Ferrata: Foreign-speak for “Life is pain”, so it goes.


After our lovely little paddle on the Upper Guil, some of the group who were tired with life (which by this point was most of us) decided that it would be a laugh to give clambering all over the steep walls of a gorge over a fast flowing river of, if not certain, at least pretty damn likely bodily inconvenience a wee go, as you do. We had our customary wandering around the Château-Queyras gorge first and caught a glimpse of French disciplinary tactics for raising children, as unruly children as young as 6 were just thrown onto the cliff face and made to clamber along with no one paying any heed to the madness of the entire situation.  I was noticeably cacking it even a yard and a half away from the edge of the friendly, safe road and it was clear in my heart that I would be staying as far away from such vertical idiocy as possible.


As it happens, and as those who know me can attest, I’m not a man of strong convictions, so after a bit of cajoling and offers of support from the others I had convinced myself that I reckoned I should give it a go… face your fears and all that, and represent the Buckley name with honour, as I’m sure my father would’ve done, if not for a twinge in his shoulder and a tingling from his common sense preventing him from embracing this shortcut to the end on the journey of life.


But enough of this doom and gloom.  I was going to be alright!  I was sandwiched between Chris and Gibbo (both who have the patience of saints and the enthusiasm of a lycra clad Mr Motivator) who would help me through this, attached by a grown up safety clip to a steel cord, and encouraged off out to meet the cliff face, and my own mortality.  Once started on this there was no going back and I was quickly remembering how wrong the entire situation was.  We were clambering along the side of this monstrosity using handy little metal footholds when they were available, and when they were not we had the fun time of using rocks polished by thousands of footsteps from tourists the world over, and I was doing my best impression of a limpet, stuck to the wall and trembling furiously.  No one around me seemed to be able to grasp the full not-right of this situation, and they chatted along amiably as I whimpered and tried to release my death grip on one piece of rock, or metal, or cord, just to grab onto another one and slowly limp my way across the sides of the wall.

When we reached our first bridge the sadists who created this death-trap thought it would be funny to make us duck under twisted cabled to get onto it, and it was only with the help of my mantra “I don’t like this” and reaching a quiet place in my mind that was free of all heights and where all was flat, that I was able to finally pull myself up onto it with all the grace of an epileptic jellyfish out of water.  Thank the heavens and the dark gods that I was ahead of some of the others, as these monsters got it into their heads that it would be “funny” to start shaking the sodding thing about and bouncing up and down on this rickety bridge.  Even though I was no where near the bridge, and under the laughably relative supposed safety of clinging on to a metal rung so hard that my hand had fixed into some sort of withered claw I almost had a heart attack seeing the bridge wobble and shake and was starting to have serious considerations about dropping from the line into the roiling waters below; maybe the water would just throw me out at the other end?  Maybe it would kill me?  Either way I’d be off this horrible, endless purgatory of pain, misery and iron and that would be a thing of beauty, but before I started to feel my hands moving of their own accord to release me from this torment it was time to move again and we shuffled along once more.


There were 2 types of ‘fixture’ that were sporadically dotted about, the more common foot hold, and the less common, but all the more beautiful for it, handholds.  When these were there it was a gift from the gods as I could happily cling to them and imagine a world where I would never have to let go… but all to often the handholds were conspicuous by their absence and I just basically flung myself against the gorge face weeping softly until we reached firmer ground once more.  Soon enough I was unable to remember a time before the iron-path, and unable to think of a time beyond it, but we just kept moving on, led by Chris and funnelled by Gibbo.  My bone shaking terror started to slightly abate as time went on and although I still in no way enjoyed it, I was beginning to understand how someone, if they weren’t right in the head, might get something which approximated enjoyment from this whole debacle.


Finally, blessedly, we were coming to the end, we unclipped our harnesses from the cord and started a steep, yet no longer climbing, walk around the corner to…. More climbing! Yay.  It was at this point when I realised just how fragile the human soul really is and I honestly felt the urge to just lie down and die there…. But there was beer at the end of this run and it was calling to me.  So I pulled myself up (everyone else was still sunshine and smiles the whole times… the monsters!) and finally dragged my sorry carcass up to the top.  Once I was finally unclipped and away from the poisonous, life sapping, thing… then I started to have fun.  Oh gods, if you’ve never done Via Ferrata you have to, just so you are no longer ignorant of the sheer joy life can have when you’re not doing it.

I’ll never take sitting on the couch watching TV on firm ground for granted again.  Thank you Via Ferrata for teaching me about myself, for now I know my place is safely on the ground.


Mike Buckley                                    More Photos……………..




25/07/13 Day 05 Thursday – Lower Guil to St Clements


Thursday morning at 11:20 Mark Benson, Stuart Toulson, Michael Brockway, Anthony V and myself commenced our journey down the Lower Guil, this was going to be a very long day as we eventually intended to reach Embrun, however our section of the river was very pretty grade 2 down to St Clements.  There were loads of opportunities to trade top tips, gossip and some jokes.  The river was meandering, surrounded by loads of alpine hills and general prettiness. 


We were all very comfortable on the grade and played around in eddies, features and small standing waves.  All too soon we reached St Clements, having played on the slalom site, some playing on the waves, others being quite happy catching eddies and finally we disembarked at St Clements only to be advised that we had to have some throw rope practice and swimmers, before we could open the trailer and gain access to baguettes, cheese and salami type sausages.  Having had a surprisingly enjoyable throw rope training session we eventually had our usual large lunch of assorted French delicacies before setting off on the final leg of our journey at about half 2.


Dom Buckley       More Photos……………..



25/07/13 Day 05 Thursday – St Clement to Embrun


We set off from St Clements after an enjoyable lunch break the group I was in consisted of Fiona, Sarah, Michal, Mike B and Chris Murf. The river Durance is the main river in the region and from St Clement to Embrun it is quite wide with big sweeping bends on each bend there is wave train rapids followed by churning boily sections of water that could catch an unwary paddler out but the group today was solid and no one came a cropper on this “confused water”.


Soon enough the raft put in for the Rab wave came into sight and all the three groups gathered in the eddy above the drop. Me, kieth Darren Bo and Michal went down first to provide safety cover for the rest of the group followed by David Brockway and Chris Murf, David helped with safety whilst Chris filmed the rest of the group running the rapid.


This is the 3rd year on the run I’ve been on the Summer France trip and this was by far the funniest Rab Wave descent that I have witnessed each paddler in turn picked their own line down the rapid some opting for the left some the middle and some took the easy route down the right (Gibbo). Of those who descended, only a handful stayed upright the rest were the victims of some real good carnage that kept the rescuers busy.


Michael Buckley’s line was the winning carnage entry of the day until Stu Toulson’s rodeo performance stole the show. After the fun of the Rab we got back into the three groups and continued all the way down to Ebrun  where we got out at the lake and people swam and sunbathed whilst we waited for the shuttle. 


Roy McHale       More Photos……………..


26/07/13 Day 06 Friday – Gyronde


Everyone else was off walking or climbing but to be honest, the main driving factor was that we wanted a lie in. Roy and I headed off at about 11am. This was a proper pioneering mission. RoyBo was born, heading off in to the wilderness without the safety net of General Steer. We dug out a guide book and a map and headed off to the get in. We knew that we had to put in below the town. I forget what it’s called, Levette or something like that.

Luckily we saw a group from Nottingham canoe club pull in to the dirt track for the get on. We pulled in and said hi. I vaguely remembered it from last year. When we got close enough to inspect the river I realised that it was very different to last year. There was much more water, which was expected as this was a general theme this year. I said to Roy ‘’shall we wait for this group and drop down with them’’, to which he replied ‘’f*** that! We have enough faff with the rest of them, this is our time to get on it’’.


With that we quickly got ready and got on. We were straight in to it on the top grade 4 section which consisted of a big boulder garden. We eddy hopped down, catching important eddies as we went round blind corners, inspecting as we went. After a few whoops after the most difficult section we saw the Nottingham group watching us from the bridge. The hardest part was now over, the rest was a maximum of grade 3. We inspected the weir and decided that even though it looked do-able on river right; we would portage it given that it was just the two of us (we can make it if we try). We were buzzing with ourselves as we floated down the easy section, realizing that in our modest opinion – we had smashed it. A proper Alpine adventure and a good inspection to report back to the rest of the group.


Darren Bohanna      


26/07/13 Day 06 Friday –  Rolling Practise


A day off from running rivers presented a perfect opportunity for rolling practise on the lake.  After a leisurely morning I headed down to the campsite lake and paddled over to the pontoon on the far side.  Feeling a little tentative I decided firstly to capsize and scull to the side after several successful attempts I was feeling a little more confident but not yet ready to go for the roll.  I decided practising low and high braces was a good compromise and again it took me while to warm up but after a while I was executing successful high braces.  Finally, I felt fully prepared to go for a roll however, by this time the pontoon was getting crowded and lots of people on the pontoon with very good intentions attempted rescuing me distracting me from my practising.  Several hours later I was feeling pleased that I was at least attempting to roll on the lake although making the same annoying mistakes as I do in the pool I decided to call it a day and try again another time.


Kathy Wilson     


26/07/13 Day 06 Friday –  L`Argentierre La Besse


I fancied a day off paddling. To sleep. To have a walk into the town. To browse the shops, come back to the camp site and sleep. It was really good fun and an exciting day.  


Kurt Toulson     


26/07/13 Day 06 Friday – Via Ferrata de Tournoux

A day off from paddling meant a choice of activities with walking up the glacier Blanc, rolling practice on the lake and sunbathing on offer. However, after already tackling two climbs, a small group decided to explore a new via ferrata. Sarah, Olivia myself joined Fiona who was especially keen having dried off from HER RECENT SWIMS!!! ( told you I would get you back Fi!).

After hiring the gear for those that needed it, we set off through L'Argentière-la-Bessée and headed for the ski resort of Puy St Vincent. After what seemed like an age we finally reached a high alpine meadow and parked up. We were all just a bit terrified once we realised the enormity of the task ahead. Ahead of us towering over the pine forest was the huge cliff face of de Tournoux. Think of "The Wall" from Game Of Thrones without the ice!!

It was slowly dawning on us that the routes we had knocked off so far have been small fry compared to what we were now looking at. With sweaty palms and nervous bladders we trekked through the forest until we found ourselves at the foot of the cliff face. Thankfully two families of English climbers including kids were in the queue ahead and this made us feel happier, but not much. Finally we began our ascent with Sarah, Fiona, and Olivia following me up. Within minutes we had already climbed higher than the clock at L'Argentière and after perhaps half an hour of vertical ascent we reached the first respite in the shape of a grassy ledge. Just pausing long enough to shoot glances of "what the hell are we doing here" we then pressed on up the next vertical face. This was just as long as the last one and just as challenging.

We were now beginning to get used to the dizzying heights and nauseating views from between our feet when you had the bottle to raise your head from the next rung or handhold. However I would like to stress at this point that at no time did any of us ever feel comfortable on this one. It was very scary throughout and not be taken lightly, despite the kids!!

 Eventually we topped out and unclipped from the lines. We walked up to the summit and spent sometime photographing the wide life and listening to the alpine cowbells. It really was "Heidi" country and quite spectacular. Not wanting to hang around too long on the summit, (I have recently read too many Everest disaster books!) we started the descent via a ravine concentrating hard as going down was just as hard as going up. 

At last we touched terra firma and walked back along the forest path to the car. None of us could take our eyes off the cliff face that we had just climbed and as we ate our lunch we were all very quiet except for an occasional burst of hysterical laughter. 

Bring on the next one!!!


Chris Murphy      More Photos……………..

26/07/13 Day 06 Friday – Glacier Blanc


When Keith said the night before our visit to Glacier Blanc that the minibus would leave at 6am, I’m probably not the only one who was abit shocked. So it was with relief that we found out we’d be departing at 7. This bright and breezy start had us (Michael, David, Keith, Anthony, Dom, Michal, Scott, Stuart, Michael) at the Chalet Refuge du pre de Madame Carle 1874m for 8ish. One or two marmots were spotted but they appeared somewhat camera shy, disappearing everytime David tried to photograph one.


We made a good steady start and climbed in and out of the shade for the first hour, reaching the bridge at the foot of the glacial meltwater. A brief rest for the group to catch up and we were off again up to the Refuge du Glacier Blanc, a big sturdy guesthouse at 2542m, serving food and drinks shipped in by helicopter. But some of us continued on up to reach the Glacier itself, climbing another few hundered metres before descending onto the sweeping white expanse that was Glacier Blanc, stretching back to the highest peak in the area Barre des Ecrins standing at 4102m.


After a few pictures on the glacier, which looked entirely surreal due to the fantastic backdrop and our clothing being better suited to a day in Liverpool 1 than to a mountain hike, we headed back down the scree slopes back to the Refuge where we joined the others having their lunch. We indulged in a ‘chocolat chaude’ which when boiled at 2500m turned out despite bubbling to be only warm. Eventually Michal showed up having disappeared further up the mountain to the Refuge des Ecrins at 3172m.


What goes up must come down and so we did, Michal again racing off ahead whilst the rest of us descended at a comfortable pace, stopping for much needed refreshment at the Chalet Refuge, our starting point.


Mike Brockway       More Photos……………..




27/07/13 Day 07 Saturday – Upper Durance


I’m very much a fair-weather paddler, and this was my first day on the water since last year, when Keith persuaded me to briefly join him in the Topo down the Rab. I was hoping that things would instinctively come back to me, but sadly I forgot to hold my nose on my first swim (while breaking in to an eddy) and spent the next couple of minutes coughing and splurting as Roy rescued my boat and got me sorted out in time so that the group behind us wouldn’t even notice I’d gone in. I was quite pleased that I’d hung onto my paddles, though.


By the time of my second swim (also on the edge of an eddy! Grrrr…)   I had the presence of mind to pinch my nose, so my recovery was much quicker, with thanks to Keith for grabbing my boat that time.


The third swim was much more spectacular, as Dr Dom and I collided in a stopper in the middle of a rather long and bumpy stretch, which necessitated our two-fold rescue by Keith, Roy, Fiona, Darren and probably others that I wasn’t aware of. Not only did I keep my paddles, but I even kept hold of my boat for a while, of which I was very proud! That is, until I realised (with the aid of some shouted orders from on high) that that really wasn’t going to help me much, and I’d better start swimming to the side instead. I saw a cute toad jumping out of my way as I was dragging myself onto shore that time, so that was nice.


All in all, I’m very pleased to have done my bit to help all those folks polish up their rescue skills. You’re welcome.


Marianne Davey                   More Photos……………..


27/07/13 Day 07 Saturday –Briancon Gorge

The Briancon Gorge had already been paddled by half of the group, the more experienced half, because the General couldn’t remember what it was like. So when we found out it turned out to be okay, we pestered him until we could all do it.  At the get in there was a briefing and we split into 3 groups. This river was quite technical, lots of edging and avoiding rocks. I got pinned a few times but nothing major.


There were a few entertaining parts, the canoe slide at the start being one of them. The General was at the bottom with his camera so I`m sure everyone was giving their best pose as they came over the shoot. I’m avoiding the pictures because I winded myself, so that won’t look too good!  Another exciting part was the weir. I was a bit apprehensive about this, whenever Keith gets out his boat I get a little nervous. After finding out Roy had to roll and I ran it with no hiccups, I was buzzing.  I was also buzzing for Fiona, after being a famous swimmer; she smashed a roll on trickiest part of the river at the bottom of the weir. YOU GO GIRL!! 

We then met the others for the upper Durance and took it easy on out way down. This section was a good introduction for people with less paddling experiences. However, there were a few technical difficulties and challenges for the intermediate paddlers, especially trying to get all the break outs! There were plenty of play waves for people to show off on.  Personally I think David is pushing for 1st place but there is still another week to go.


Olivia Rowe       More Photos……………..


29/07/13 Day 08 Sunday – Upper Guisane


Having awoken to another glorious alpine morning, it was welcome news that we would be starting our day paddling the Upper Guisane. Lucy, Mark Young, Theo and I had arrived the previous evening and I for one had not managed to develop my ‘paddling wings’.


The river itself starts at a gentle grade 2 with magnificent mountains on either side.  It has some features to help you get warmed up with a few of us practicing our eddie hoping. Approx 5km in and the first major feature was encountered, S bends. The groups all got out to inspect the 300m rapid and it was decided that we would run S bends in groups of 3. Keith, and Daz positioned themselves mid rapid giving them the best position to take photos and in Darrens case confuse oncoming paddlers with suggested lines!


My group was led by Olivia who, as always, gracefully negotiated the rapid making it look much easier than it was. Olivia was closely followed by our esteemed chair person Fiona who having perfected her roll decided that she would show off with a roll mid rapid to prove to the group that she has indeed left the swimming group of which I am a frequent member.  I followed down some way behind and having no idea what line to take (as there was no one to follow) somehow managed to ignore Darren’s guidance and survive upright. All members of the group successfully negotiated the rapid which was followed by a short lunch break and for some a spot of sun bathing. We then reformed into slightly enlarged groups and made our way to the get out, which is also the start of the Lower section of the river summarised by Stuart; what a great start to a great day.


Sven Till                  More Photos……………..


29/07/13 Day 08 Sunday – Lower Guisane


This was to be the third river section of the day and many tall tales had been overheard during the course of the day.  After a brief wait for the shuttle, we merry band of fellows organised ourselves into Four teams each containing Four paddlers.


We were to be the point team led by Keith, followed by Kurt, Michael then myself.  We left the bank at some speed and rapidly headed downstream, the first obstacle we came across was the tunnel underneath a road bridge, and we had a brief glimpse of Keith as he disappeared into the abyss and then dropped out of view into the turbulent water.  In turn we followed the line into the abyss and eddy hopped down the river.  We soon approached the section we were to portage this looked horrendous, we carried the boats around in time to see some rafts drop down the 30 meter bolder strewn slope.


Heading down stream we soon entered the gorge section, the intensity of the boulders, stoppers, and huge waves grew with each paddle stroke, on one drop as I was last man I saw Kurt bounce around a huge boulder and then capsize.  I knew that I could not follow too close as I could not see around the corner, so I waited a suitable time then set off.    I should not have worried as he had rolled up with ease, however slightly lower down disaster struck; I slid sideways onto a rock and capsized, in the shallow water after taking a number of rock hits I decided to eject.  As the water was shallow I managed to recover my own boat and the team passed back my paddles.


During the faf another two teams passed us and headed down stream, followed shortly by us.


It did not take long for us to catch them up, we saw Sven’s boat pinned mid stream and eddied out just below them to assist if required, Sven had to wade out in the freezing water to attach a line to his boat in order that it could be recovered.  Once Sven was back to the shore his team used a vector pull to remove the stubbornly pinned boat.


On we paddled and gradually the grading dropped to three and the pressure was off, we carried on for another half mile then the welcome site of the get out met us.  “Phew” was the general feeling of most paddlers, immensely enjoyable but scared the crap out of me!!

We changed into dry gear loaded up the trailer and headed back to camp for tea and medals!!


Stuart Toulson                  More Photos……………..


30/07/13 Day 09 Monday


We awoke to thunder and lightning this morning.  Heavy rain meant the rivers started to rise and turned colour to a milky brown.  The water poured from the Tarpoline and road way to create a small pond in front of Fiona and Sarah`s tents. Our planned trip to the Ubaye was put on hold and we reconviened at 10:00am to re-assess.


At ten the rain started to ease and the cloud lifted but the rivers were still rising.  We evaluated several plans with a number of paddlers opting for a day off.  The remainder loaded their kayaks into the trailer and headed up the hill to look at the Gyronde and its tributaries.  It was bankfull through the town and things were not looking good.  We surveyed the grade 6 and then the get out on the Onde.  It was through the trees and little or no eddies.  We decided against paddling with such a large group and took a look at the Gyr on our way back to the campsite.


3 Star White Water Assessment

After realising that my paddling ability was limited to say the least, I thought it was time to forget all that Darren had previously taught me and embark on a 3 star assessment to see if I had what it takes to paddle on a lake. My fellow students were Olivia, Sarah and Scott Gibson all of which had already gained the required skill to progress through the assessment. The assessment started well, Keith had asked that we all turn up ready to paddle the river and having checked through our kit we all agreed that a spray deck would be very useful. Several minutes later I returned with the required deck and we quickly moved on to the assessment.

First up was paddling in a straight line; having spent most of my paddling time on rivers that naturally meander, I for some reason spent a lot of time paddling in circles? We quickly moved on to the ‘interesting’ section of the assessment were we got to see how long gibbo could hold his breath before I managed to T rescue him, 1 min 6 sec is pretty impressive! We managed to undertake a deep water rescue in a fantastically quick 32 seconds but were deemed to have cheated and then took a further minute to complete the rescue. To summarise my three fellow students all progressed to the next level and left me realising that maybe paddling on a lake is not for me.

Sven Till                More Photos……………..

 Football Game

After waking to severe rain and storms and after a quick bus trip to see if any rivers where running, unfortunatley kayaking was looking off the cards.  On the bus back a decision was made to have a good old game of football on the pitch at the campsite.  Yellow vests from the mini bus where collected as a team strip and we split into 2 teams of approximately five or six.


The game set off to a good pace and a few early goals where scored by the opposition after some good ball skills. I was in goal and was struggling to get used to the big bouncy ball as my usual weapon of choice would be a hockey ball and full goalie kit.  Soon we set into our flow, it helped as Gibo’s youth soon caught up with him and he soon began to tire.  Taking advantage of this a great cross to Roy and we scored our first goal.  To be honest where were beeing slightly dominated by the opposition but it was all in good jest.


The rain started again which helped cool the red faces as Stuart, on the opposition, performed a few stylish reaching saves.  Chris showed off his footballing skills but I managed pull of a few good goals with the help of his team!  At one point I had forgotten I was playing football and stopped one of Chris’s shots with a big stretch to the right leg giving a corner to the opposition. Luckily they where unable to convert this chance.


We soon began to catch up and a decision was made to see who was the first to 10.   The winning goal came from Chris with a classis chip over the goalie, performed in style.   We all shook hands and applauded the winners and set off back to camp for a rest before our next adventure.

Good game, good game!


Sarah Gille                  More Photos……………..


Slalom Course

Slalom course today; it was the game for brave people.  Others due to high water level decided to stay on the dry, solid land and went to play football.  I went on my own having fun on the fast flowing river … my kayak was flying uncontrollably on every single big rapid so I decided to have a look at professional slalom kayakers dealing easily with all waves and tried to learn their tactics.   After watching the professionals I think it would be a great idea to have a few gates in the LCC club and also have Slalom course sesions in the docks as I hope some people would find it intresting.    Michal Giezgala


Some of us managed to get in both football and a run on the slalom! After a close result in the football with the two of us, brothers, Michael and David facing off against each other we teamed up again putting our differences behind us (apart from the handball, which definitely was/was not a handball). We were excited to get on the slalom course but equally were anticipating the volume and speed of the water after this morning’s thunderstorm, which had made most rivers a torrent and made the slalom course look like chocolate milkshake.


David was so keen; he ran the slalom course twice before I turned up, and then we made a further three trips down. Now everyone knows carrying a kayak up to the top of the slalom can be a slog, but today I found kayaking down the slalom course was really really tough work, with the speed of the water making it difficult to catch eddies.  It required all my effort and concentration to make them, and then finding that the height of the water.  It was pouring over rocks that yesterday sheltered comfortable eddies had now turned them into swirling pools. A great run trying to get across the river and catch the various eddies made all the more interesting by the high storm water.


David & Michal Brockway                 More Photos……………..


31/07/13 Day 10 Tuesday – Upper Ubaye

An early start for today’s paddle the bus left our camp site at 8am for a 2 hour drive to the first of two paddles on the upper Ubaye; the drive taking us past Europe’s biggest manmade lake.


After a slight delay waiting for the other cars to arrive at the get in we all got under way.  This section of the Ubaye presented no problems for any of the groups with water levels being a little higher than normal for this time of the year.  Due to the faster flows, we soon reached our get out point at Jausiers.   With this section not being too taxing it allows time to take in the fantastic views and enjoy the river.  This is an excellent grade 3 river through a little wooded valley and gorge; no complaints from anyone on this one.


Anthony Vaccaro                  More Photos……………..


31/07/13 Day 10 Tuesday – Ubaye Race Course

After warming up on the Upper Ubaye and a quick lunch stop most of the group headed off down the Ubaye Race Course. The levels looked higher than last year so the team was excited knowing that this river can only get better in higher water. It didn’t disappoint.


We split into four groups and dodged the rafts getting on to the water. My group which was led by Roy and entertained by Michael, saw myself and Chris avoiding Sven’s lines at all costs. From the moment we launched into the river it was full of big and bouncy wave trains. Nothing much changed for the next few kilometres. There were a few rocky features, which required a little more concentration than the rest of the river, so we re-grouped to see everyone safely through. On the odd occasion our rescue skills were required; a pin by Mark Benson, a bumpy swim from Fiona and a swim from Darren while playing in a meaty hole that tried to eat him.


The river ended with more big and bouncy wave trains through a high and narrow gorge, undoubtedly the most picturesque part of the river. We were all buzzing from the river, sharing our cheers and whoops as we heard the dull tones of Michael Buckley singing “we are the champions… of the Ubaye”. The only way I can describe the river is - 100% fun.


Lucy Stuart                 More Photos……………..


01/08/13 Day 11 Wednesday – The Onde and the “swim”


 After a number of paddlers had made this little section seem quite straightforward, the full faced Roy gave it his best hero line.  Unfortunately on this occasion things did not go to plan.  With gasps of horror from the massed French crowds and the cries of some small children, Roy struck a glancing blow to one of the small rocks, putting him in sideways into the tiny stopper.


After what must have been almost Three seconds Roy managed to practice his Siberian breaststroke and self recover his paddle. His boat was picked up and emptied for him by an unknown bystander.


Once he had checked his lunch box and limbs for thermal damage, a strange series of high pitched expletives were uttered (more of the children started to cry and a priest was called for).


Roy then made an excellent javelin throw with his paddle into the eddy next to me and I recovered it. I threw the line and had to pendulum him across, after a shake that would have made a Labrador proud, the fallen warrior was ready to resume this grade 3 section.


All who witnessed it!                 More Photos……………..

01/08/13 Day 11 Wednesday – Upper Gyronde


After a heroic endeavour on the Onde the heroes (not paddlers) jumped back into their vehicles and travelled a short distance down the road to the get on of the Upper Gyronde. After a short visit from EDF energy, to explain to Roy what to do when you have swam we set off in our groups below a small dam. After a couple of drops Kathy in the first Group had an unfortunate out of boat experience, culminating in a sore chin after a rock hit her in the face whilst upside down.


The upper section was mainly class 3 with nice small drops boulders and lots of sunshine. The tree lined river cut though some gorge sections before arriving in the village of Les Vigneaux. With Michal and myself leading the first group I asked him what Keith description of the get out was before a section of Grade Six. His words were “it’s on the right, after the bridge” which transpired to mean in English “it’s on the left before the bridge!”   Everybody got off the river safely and then had lunch which may have included semi-synthetic cow juice (aka milk in France).


Theo Gaussen                 More Photos……………..



01/08/13 Day 11 Wednesday – Lower Gyronde


After loosing some of the group during lunch, some say for a junior paddle; others say because they were too scared, we portaged the grade six down a dirt track. People got onto the river when they felt happy with the grade of the river and the reformed groups set off.


The first section was still grade 4 with a large boulder garden to contend with. The river gradually eased with nice sections of grade 3+ and wide sweeping bends. After another gorge section we were soon at the weir which was inspected.  We decided to portage. The river widened as we got lower with shallower sections which ensured that the hulls of the boats were all well polished. Olivia had a “play swim” at a wave before all three groups travelled thought the town and into the slalom course at the campsite. Gibbo had a roll at the top of the slalom course which was a marked improvement on his bid to get the longest swim of the trip on the first day!


Theo Gaussen                 More Photos……………..


01/08/13 Day 11 Wednesday – La Claree


Today we went kayaking on the River Claree. Keith, Dom, Fiona, Kathy, me and Chris my Dad all went on the river. I was a bit scared before I got on but when I started I was fine. The waves splashed in some parts and I followed Keith for most of the paddle. I managed to do all the eddies and it was really fun going over the waves.


I saw my Mum and brother when we were going under the bridge and at the side of the bank. I really enjoyed my first river in the French Alps.


PS I didn’t swim but Roy did on a different river!!


Ollie Murphy (Aged 9)                  More Photos……………..


02/08/13 Day 12 Thursday – Upper Guil


An older person sits, starring off to the middle distance, on a damp plastic chair for 2 hours or more.  An occasional spasm of fear passes his face.  Both whimpers and copious dribbles occur.  Welcome to the world of Southern Alpine Paddling.


We are on the Upper Guile, grade 3+ (4) from Abries to Château Queyras.  It starts off an easy class 3 until it reaches the gorge and then there are a series of complicated drops and turns.  All of which I traversed unscathed (he says proudly) with an attendant in front and 2 behind me.  Several perfectly good eddies were joyously waved at as we gamely sailed by.  Having got through the gorge without incident, I had, what is technically referred to in kayaking terms as a swim.  In 2 feet of water, just before a road bridge I collided with a rock and stepped out.  After this it was easy.  No real features until we reached, and ran the weir on the outskirts of the town.  Then an easy eddie out and lunch.  For this, they gave us cold scraps of cheese, bread and paté.  Not even a tarte de framboise.  Several of the other groups had abrasions and bruises at the end of the trip.  They insisted these injuries were caused by rock collisions and the like, but I wonder…


Something should be done about it, I think.


With thanks to my attendants Michal, Roy and Mike Buckley


Dom Buckley                     More Photos……………..


02/08/13 Day 12 Thursday – Château Queyras


Over the past week or so I have heard a lot of different story's about Château Queyras. People saying about how hard, long and intense it was; none of these magical tales were making me feel any better about paddling it. Myself, Keith, Mark, Theo and Lucy were the first group to attempt it. Keith set off first as everyone followed one by one.


I watched Lucy run the first rapid and then I set off as last man. Before I knew what was happening, I got took by the current. Flying down the tiny gorge, smashing off the walls. I dropped down into a little pool, everyone had survived the first section. We all stopped to catch our breath and cracked on. We were only two minutes in and we had already completed the gorge section!


Now came some big boulder gardens the first few were easy and every got down no problem at all. As we came too the next one I saw that people were struggling to make a safe line through the rapid. As I approached it, I couldn't see a clear line so went to the left. The next thing I saw was a chest height tree blocking my path. Keith was shouting at me to go right but I couldn't see a clear route through. I was about to pull my deck so I could get out and jump over the tree when I saw a line to the right. I paddled as hard as could to make it and just scraped round. Narrowly avoiding a horrible pin. Around the corner was the get out (a sigh of relief), awaiting us was a long walk back too the mini bus with out boats on our backs. Good fun!


Kurt Toulson                  More Photos……………..


02/08/13 Day 12 Thursday – Middle Guil


 After a great morning of paddling the upper Guil with Michal G and Dom & Michael Buckley and then running Château Queyras gorge with Darren Bohanha, Sven and Michal G, I still fancied doing something else and started to recriut a crew to run the middle Guil which is probably my favorite run in the Alps.


It was around lunch when I started this task and the majority of people seemed uninterested as they sat in the sun eating and chatting about via ferrata and going swimming in the booby lake, in fact, there was only Keith and myself who were up for it so I decided to press-gang Michal G (Mickey) into doing the run with us (I’m pretty sure he would have rathered stayed with Kathy and the rest of the girls sunbatheing and sorting out make up) but he eventually manned up and decided to do it with us.


We got on the river around 3:30pm and we put on just below Mont Barton bridge. The Guil is an absolutly fantastic river that has excellent water quality and fantastic alpine scenery. From the put in the river is pretty easy until you get to a rapid the is known as “surprise drop” after this the river gets more technical until you reach the most substanstial rapid of the run which is called “the Staircase”. We got out and inspected the rapid which is classed as grade 5. I had run this rapid the previous year but this time in higher water the rapid didn’t look the same, the lines were different also the first drop was partially obstructed by a log and the stopper beneath didn’t look inviting so we decided to portage.

We put back on at the bottom of the rapid and carried on eddie hoping down the river, Keith led with Michal going second whilst I took the rear in case either of them got pinned which they both did on a few occasions but luckily they managed to free themselves without any help, Keith even had to pull off a rare roll when a stopper pulled him back in and capsized him, Michal swore to me at the end of the run that he had seen Keith reaching to pull his deck but the stopper released him just in time!


The river continues through large boulders garden rapids and good boat control is required to pick the best lines. The last kilometer or so of the river seemed a lot different from last year with the rapids being more difficult but we all managed to run them successfully, not far from the end we came across a group of German paddlers who were setting up some substantial safety on one of the last main major rapids.  There were around six paddlers out of the boats with throw lines in hand waiting for each of their party run the rapid one by one; we decided to read and run the rapid and blasted on through showing them how to kayak. We finished the run just before 6pm.  All of us agreeing that the middle Guil is probably the best run in the Alps. After that we joined some of the others at the “booby lake” for beers and food. It was a fantastic day.


Roy Mchale                More Photos……………..


02/08/13 Day 12 Thursday – Mountain Biking to Italy


Well almost! After hiring mountain bikes from a local shop we headed out of L’Argentiere up the steep road past the statue of the woodsman and made our way up  towards Briancon. We reached Prellles within the hour and Briancon within 2 hours where we encountered the second large hill up to the fort. Heading past the fort the route flattened out temporarily before giving us an option, northwest into the Claree valley or North East up the pass towards Italy. Our intention was the latter and we began an epic climb up the road to Montegenevre, at the top of the Serre Chevalier ski area. After what seemed several days in the hot afternoon sun (mostly cycling but a good deal of walking) we reached the ski resort. As David said ‘never have I been so happy to see a sign’ as we greeted the ‘Montegenevre’ sign with big Cheshire cat grins of exhilaration and relief, the climb was over, let the descent begin! A relaxed lunch with melted blue cheese sandwiches and gallons of water and pop followed, while we cooled ourselves with the local fountain water, and we were ready for the downhill stretch.


On the way down we took a path through the woods on the East side of the valley around Briancon which brought us down towards the bridge overlooking Briancon gorge with fantastic views of the old forts scattered over the hilltops. The cycling was fast and intense on the steep descent on rocky rubble underwheel, with a few slips and sometimes continuing to slide with all breaks on, like cycling over ice but more bumpy!  We made it down to the  road, thinking all the technical routes were behind us, however we took a clever shortcut down another rubbley dirt track where Michael hit a ditch and too late swerved and fell awkwardly. Bloodied and bruised and somewhat shocked but with all limbs intact, we continued on to the bikeshop. A great cycle ride with several wobbles along the way, not recommended for the faint hearted!


David and Michael Brockway                   More Photos……………..


03/08/13 Day 13 Friday – Lower Guil


Today we did the River Guil and the River Durance in one run. There were two groups and in my group was Keith, me, Chris, Fiona and both Michaels. We did the shuttle at the start instead of the end. There was a difference between both rivers. The Guil was shallow and the Durance was deep. The Durance was easier to paddle and didn't have as many rapids. On the Guil I did my first swim. I did it because I went over a rock that I couldn't see until my boat hit it. As soon as I went under I pulled my deck and swam for a bit. Keith threw my paddle at the side and Chris, my Dad, got the boat. I was glad when I finished my swim; it didn't hurt at all and afterwards I seal launched back into the water.

On the Durance there were lots of fallen down trees and Keith showed me the way to go past them. I surfed the waves and it was fun. We got to St Clement slalom course. We stopped at the top and we discussed if we were going to do it or not and I say yes! It was fun going down the slalom course and everyone cheered when I went down the drops. I felt nervous before going down but then I was glad I did it. Then we got out at the bottom and I loved the whole river. It was fun. Next year I hope I'll do more.


Ollie Murphy (Aged 9)                   More Photos……………..


03/08/13 Day 13 Friday – Durance Gorge Via Ferrata


After several days of boating with a few touches on the Via Ferrata a small team of us (Myself, Gibbo, Sven, Roy, Liv, Theo, Lucy, Topo VF gorges de la Durance 1Darren and Michal) decided we would go for what is described in the guide book as the “hardest Via Ferrata in France” the Briancon Gorge.


After an early start to try and avoid the sun we met in Argentiere for 8.30 but the shop that we needed gear from didn’t open until 9 so a quick stop at the patisserie for a croissant. We arrived at the start of the gorge and I was to say the least gobsmacked, we aimed as ever to do the hardest course we could, a quick walk down and we were away. Some gentle ground broke us in until we were on overhanging walls at one side of the gorge! A quick nip across a bridge over the river and on the other side, followed by a short traverse and back over another bridge.


The team were making good time and the terrain covered was immense brilliant views up the valley and of the river, after a short tight rope style bridge we wandered down to the bottom next to the river and after a short dip and melon break (thanks Michal) we were over one last bridge and onto a vertical climb! This time in the sun with some tricky overhanging ladders and teetery rock traverses we reached the top! All exhausted and dehydrated the final bridge awaited and this was one to not be missed around 300m above the gorge exposed was not the feeling! All in all a fantastic morning with a fantastic crew of people!


Mark Young                     More Photos……………..



03/08/13 Day 13 Friday – Lower Durance

After what seemed like a very eventful morning we pushed on to the Rabouix Wave. Before telling the story I would just like to mention how amazingly well Ollie Murphy paddled this morning. It was fab to see him not only run the St Clement slalom course but also eddie out after every feature like a pro!!!


So onto the wave …. This was the third time most of us had attempted ‘The Lady Rabouix Wave’ (as named and chanted by Tony!) It seems that they have changed the shape of the wave this year for the interest of the rafters.  Fom a wave to a huge hole to Narnia! This means that the usual left line is horrific and unless nailed, inevitably ended in a trashing in the hole! The right line caused least problems so this is the line I took, and flew through! Most people also got through but a couple of runs deserve special mention!


Sven – He decided (or didn’t) to take the middle line through the meat of the hole. His back end was sucked in and him and his boat submerged and disappeared. The wave then spat him out vertically up in the air, he landed flat, continued to paddle and made it to safety!


Lucy – Ooooops! She also decided to take the hero line through the middle. After a complete trashing she hung in and attempted two roles, then throw her paddles away and tried to hand roll. Fail, fail, fail, missed a T rescue and, yes, took a swim!!! She is actually fuming and didn’t speak to us for ages after. Apparently “Lucy DOES’NT swim” Really Lucy!!!!! After a little alone time she was fine and we continued on.


Olivia managed to keep hold of her paddles for the whole river!! We went over many wave trains, some of which were huge and great fun!!! The sunshine run certainly lived up to the name, providing entertainment, sunshine and a fab end to a great holiday.


Fiona Wrigg xxx                      More Photos……………..


05/08/13 Day 14 Saturday – Lower Gyronde

So as the campers got up and made their last preparations for leaving including that last trip to the bakery, a group of hardcore paddlers decided they weren't done with rivers yet! So with Anthony driving the van (thanks!), myself, Keith, Roy, Michal and Sven kitted up and headed out for the Gyronde. We tackled it from a put in above the luxurious toilet block that is the traditional put in, allowing for a brief stretch of grade 4.  A more difficult river which provided us with a much needed rapid wake up call!


The views up river were fantastic as the sun climbed steadily up above the trees. When we reached the weir we dropped down into the pool below the weir on river left, avoiding the weir and avoiding having to scramble out of boats, we hadn't quite woken up enough to want to get out of our boats.


The rest of the journey passed pleasantly as we followed the meanders in and out of the shimmering morning sun. Reaching the slalom course we headed down, getting as much practice at eddy hopping as we could (to delay the inevitable end of the holiday) before disembarking. 

Thanks everyone for a great holiday, good luck with the kayaking this year!


Michael Brockway            More Photos……………..



The full team consisted of: Keith Steer, Fiona Wrigg, Sarah Gille, Mike Buckley, Dom Buckley, Michal Giezgala, Kurt Toulson, Stuart Toulson, Michael Brockway, David Brockway, Scott Gibson, Anthony Vaccaro, Kathy Wilson, Mark Benson, Marianne Davey, Chris Murphy, Claire Murphy, Ollie Murphy, Charlie Murphy, Darren Bohanna, Roy McHale, Olivia Rowe, Mark Young, Lucy Stuart, Theo Gaussen, Sven Till.