Alpine Paddling Holiday 2016

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Alpine holiday to the Ecrin / Durance region of France 2016

Every thing was all booked and running to time with Dominic and Paula already in France and Mark and Marianne making their way down.  The motorways were clear and gave a good run down to Dover when we began to pick up reports of long delays just outside the port.  Google gave 5 to 19 minutes so we knew it would be close. 4.9 miles out hit the back of the queue.  We should just make it!   Twelve hours later and 1.5 miles further on and we are still making 100-200 meters every half-hour.  It seems the French may be getting their own back for Brexit or the “jungle” with only one person checking passports overnight.  Dover police were not really helping either by keeping everyone stacked up on the A20 and A2 to keep movement in the town free.

Once on the Ferry we began to relax and enjoy the holiday.  The trip down went quickly with loads of space in the Mercedes Minibus but we were due on the campsite at 4:00am so we decided to stop off in a picnic spot on the road over to Gap and get some sleep stretched out under the stars.  (a real shame not everyone left out their sleeping bags!!).  In the morning we drove to the first little French town and enjoyed pain au chocolate and coffee.   It was a novelty arriving on the campsite late morning but we pitched our tents and set up camp and showered, just 16 hours late.



This year’s group included: Keith Steer, Sara Bergqvist, Pete Thomas, Carole Thomas, Fiona Barry, Sarah Gille, Leanne Murray, Helen Siertsema, Graham Devaney, Stuart Conway, Chris Wood, Lucy Stuart, Chris Murphy,  Charlie Murphy,  Oliver Murphy, Claire Murphy, Mark Benson, Aaron Benson and Marianne Benson.


Photographs……….              More information on the trip……..


24/07/16 Day 1 - The Middle Durance (Campsite to the Airfield)

Well it had been a long drive down and now that we had put up all the tents and sorted out the camp there was time for a quick run down the middle Durance.  The minibus was put at the get out (airfield) and Keith and Sara cycled back but took a little longer than needed with an extra hill climb added in for good measure.  Some of us had carried up to the top of the slalom course and made several runs, while the rest waited at the bottom ready for the off.


We paddled as two groups, turning and eddying out as required.  The water was very fast and cold but the mountains and sunny conditions gave a great atmosphere. The size of the waves and width of the water were all new to me but there were numerous small rapids and wave trains to keep everyone on their toes.


Dominic Fahey                                             More Photos…..


25/07/16 Day 2 – (The Lower Guil to St Clements)

This is a wonderful pretty valley below the historic town of Eygliers.  A short drive along a summer track (with danger of falling rocks from the loose conglomerate cliffs above) brings you to the put in at the bridge below the Gille gorge.  We unloaded the boats and spent some time in the ultra clear water practising break ins and outs before setting off in two groups down the river.


A couple of play waves enroute distracted us from our journey and then we were beneath the towering structures of the Eygliers cliffs.   We drifted further down the 7km stretch practising our break ins / outs and on past the usual get out near the N94 bridge.  A km further on brought us to the confluence of the river Durance where the size of the river now quadrupled.  Long sweeping bends and gravel beaches gave rise to some boiling water (funny water) and soon we were at the top of the St Clements Slalom course.   This feature near the raft get on at St Clements has three main features or waves.  The first is an excellent play wave with easy surfing.  The second is often bigger with a steeper section in the middle of the river.  The third is a large hole in middle of the river some 50m above the road bridge.  Most usually paddle this on either shoulder but if you are brave enough can be surfed.  


At the get out we all practised our defensive swimming and throw line rescues.  It was clear that most if not all needed this practise as our first throws were often comical to say the least.  We spent an hour in the sun having a picnic or browsing in the canoe and kayak shop on site.


Sara Bergqvist                                             More Photos…..


26/07/16 Day 3 - The Briancon Gorge

We arrived at the car park to find a difficult minibus manoeuvre to get around a car parked considerately in the centre, so the trailer was quickly unhitched and everyone gave a hand to move the trailer into a better position.


After a short briefing of the river to come, those who where keen where swiftly ready to head down the first section.  A rocky garden which was a relatively a straight run, with some rocks to manoeuvre and follow the waters flow down to the bottom.  Everyone got down safely and where all well warmed up for the next section.  This began with a wooden shoot. Unfortunately the water level was low and it was quite difficult to get onto the wooden ramp which ended in a bit of a ski jump.  Once on the slide a bit of speed was needed to run down the slide otherwise it was a bit of a rocky landing. As I found out!!


We should have taken the hint at the level at the slide because the next section was a horrid rocky scramble, many moons away from kayaking. However we mustered through.

There was on section in which there was a small drop with an angled wave at the bottom. I had performed a slow motion brace to right myself (zoom in to worried face on picture below) unfortunately Leanne was not so lucky- despite banging for a rescue in the pool below spectators where busy taking photos to react to the imminent swim!


Later we moved into the last section where more water had gathered from the three hydro-scheme pipes which flushed jets of water back into the river.  We passed over the Briancon weir with ease and soon met up with the rest of the gang, ready for the next section.


Sarah Gille                                             More Photos…..


26/07/16 Day 3 – The Upper Durance

After a quick blast of the Briancon gorge for some, the group reformed to descend the Prelles section of the Upper Durance. We set off in two groups being led by myself or Graham. The water was slightly higher than we’re used to in this section, but this was no challenge for the group who powered over the top of the fantastic wave trains.


Just before the bridge we eddied out to discuss the following section and agreed to an eddy-hopping competition. Here the group pushed themselves to pick their own eddies along either side of the bank, as well as behind boulders in the middle of the river. They worked hard to practice their breaking in and out, showing great skill and commitment. There was a bit of excitement in one eddy as a few members of the group spotted a frog on the bank. As usual there were stinky sections of the river as we passed through the refuge site and the sewage works, but this didn’t take anything away from a fantastic section of river. 


Lucy Stuart                                             More Photos…..


26/07/16 Day 3 The Upper Guisane

It was getting a bit late in the day to do anything other than a short section of the Upper Guisane and our put-in was just below the feature known as ‘S Bend’. There are many grand rivers in the Alps with fantastic views of lofty peaks and crags but this section of river isn’t one of them. Instead our little trip was reminiscent of a pleasant journey down a country lane, overgrown and mostly shaded by all sorts of trees, shrubs and wild flowers. Nevertheless the narrowness of the river here and the steepness of the gradient meant that the water was flowing at a rate of knots. The river is mainly fed by glacial meltwater and, being late afternoon, a good volume was coming down to speed us along.


A few rocks scattered here and there and a small weir added interest to the trip and everyone managed to avoid being tipped out of their boat despite the very loud bangs I heard behind me occasionally as plastic made violent contact with boulder.


Eventually we came to the village of Villeneuve where the river takes on a completely different character. We paddled below verandas of pleasant alpine lodges and above one of them hung a plastic “globe” of planet earth. Apparently, or as the tale is told, the lady of the house, once she gets wind of the fact that the handsome male river warriors of Liverpool Canoe Club are in the vicinity, she hangs up the globe as a signal that her husband isn’t home. Sadly (for her) the fast flowing water and the distinct scarcity of decent eddies to catch, has meant that no eligible male from the club has ever been able to take advantage of her signal.


Finally, a bridge decorated richly with garlands of flowers was reached and this was our get-out just short of the village of Chantemerle. We met up with Sarah and Fiona who had decided not to partake of the pleasures of this little section of river and we all chilled out in the sunshine while Keith and Sara cycled up to collect the bus and trailer.


Another great day with a great team of mates.


Pete Thomas                                                                           More Photos…..


27/07/16 Day 4 The Lower Durance (Sunshine Run)

Given the weather forecast of tres chaud et il fait soleil, the Sunshine Run was a pretty obvious choice for the day.  We started just above the slalom course at St Clément, where we all had a chance to run the rapids as a warm up for the day.  As we left St Clément, the river widened and we all appreciated the scenery of the surrounding valley as we got carried along by the current before the river became a little bit bouncy.  As the river meandered through the valley floor, the wave trains through the corners became bigger and bouncier, leading to a couple of swims (and some pretty good rescuing skills!).  There were plenty of waves where all the playboaters had the chance to show off their play boat skills. 


It wasn’t long before we eddied out and realised we were at the last eddy before the (in-)famous Rabioux Rapid (affectionately referred to as the Rab Wave).  We all got out to go and have a look at the wave and the best line to take that would lead to the least chance of swimming.  Everybody decided they wanted a go at getting through it (although some people needed a bit more encouragement than others… ), and so one-by-one we eddied out and tried to remember the line we’d been told to take, some more successfully than others, although there were only 2 swims. After a leisurely lunch break watching rafts and hydro-speeders tackle the wave we set off again.


During the afternoon the river got wider and noticeably more bouncy, particularly for those of us in fairly low volume boats! There were plenty of opportunities to practice surfing the wave trains around the wide bends of the river, while having the chance to rest when the river quietened down a little.  There was even the chance to enjoy some more of the scenery, and spot the vultures soaring on the thermals.  For those of us who’d never been to the Lower Durance before, we’d been warned that this section had a slight sting in the tail before the get out.  Sure enough, we soon came across a particularly large rapid, which everybody had fun getting through (apart from Helen Seirtsema, who swam down the entire rapid).  We then quickly came across the Embrun Wave, which again, everybody had fun getting through (apart from Helen Seirtsema, who swam again). The rest of the river was uneventful, and we were soon out of the river, changed, and having a well-deserved Haagen-Daaz ice cream.


Chris Wood                                             More Photos…..


28/07/16 Day 5 Glacier Blanc mountain walk                                                        

The campsite at L’Argentiere la  Bessee is located in the Ecrins National Park, one of 10 National parks in France. The park’s wildlife, plants, heritage, landscape, rivers, high valleys, mountain peaks and glaciers are protected.  As well as kayaking other outdoor activities are numerous, and a walk up to one of the high glaciers was planned.


The Glacier of choice, visited numerous times on previous Alps trips (see the previous year’s photos of the group on the bridge) was a walk to the Refuge Du Glacier Blanc. This is one of the most popular refuges in the Ecrins with many day visitors and spaces for 135 to stay overnight. It is perched on a crown of rock adjacent to the Glacier at 2543 metres, with good views of the multi peak Mont Pelvoux.


We set of at 7.00 am on a fine clear day to drive to the start of the walk at Pre de Madame Carle. The early start was so we could walk in the cool of the morning, when it was also quieter. The first part of the walk was a steeply twisting path of zigzags leading to a boulder field below the glacier. A marmot was spotted on the way up and Graham hand feed it a small piece of croissant,(not sure if that’s a healthy diet for a marmot  but it seems they are often feed by passing humans). At the bridge mentioned above, we had a group photo with the glacier in the background; these photos over the years may show how much the glacier has receded in recent times.


We left one of the group at the bridge as the upper section was steeper and involved a little scrabbling with some iron work hand holds as protection. The refuge was reached after about 2 hours with 668 metres of ascent and, although we had reached the hut, we had not stood on the glacier so, those that wished to do so set off to walk for a further half hour upwards along the glacier moraine until we reached a spot where we could drop on to the glacier itself.

From this point the walk up the glacier to the next higher altitude refuge required a little better equipment than trainers.


After photos and some hopping and dancing with glee on the ice we set of back down to the refuge to join Pete and Keith  who had stayed at the hut reserving a picnic table for lunch, as it was now getting busy. We set off back down at different paces and all joined up at the bottom of the walk for a drink at the cafe at Pre de Madame Carle, after a most enjoyable day.


Keith and Sara retrieved their cycles from the bus and set off for a twisty downhill ALL the way to Argentiere, arriving not long after the bus with the rest of us on board. Myself Carole, Pete, Leanne, Graham, Lucy, Chris W, and Stuart.


Caz Thomas                                             More Photos…..

29/07/16 Day 6 The Upper Ubaye

After a two hour drive in a cheesy smelling minibus, we arrived at the fort at Condamine in the Upper Ubaye Valley.  Sunshine was bouncing off the clear, sparkling, alpine water and my write up is going to be as cheesy as the smell in the bus.  This section of the Ubaye is a pleasant 2/3 bimble through stunning alpine scenery and offers great opportunity for white water skills practise. This is a good river to warm up for the Racecourse section, though hot shots wanting grade 5 thrills and spills will be disappointed. In terms of stunning alpine scenery, this short run of this section is a gem with one picturesque vista after another.  In a short space of time, we arrived at the get out in a hot dusty car park in Jausiers where we had our lunch and a wee.

Helen Seirtsema                                             More Photos…..


29/07/16 Day 6 The Ubaye Race Course

Some of us had not been paddling enough white water over the last 12 months and set off down the renowned Racecourse section of the Ubaye with that wobbly bladder and stomach feeling.  The first grade 4 rapid gives you a rude awakening, some more than most.  On to the next tricky rapid which is a technical manoeuvre around a massive boulder in the middle of the river. Some dozy chump decided to stop paddling at the bottom of this and got their head wet.

All back in our boats, we blasted down the rest of this fantastic section bouncing over grade 4 rapids and avoiding rocks.  This river offers continuous bouncy rapids with the odd calmer stretches to collect swimmers and kit, if required.  The infamous Shark’s Tooth rapid came into view which is another grade 4 feature with large boulders to weave through; the instantly recognisable, pointed rock at the end gives this rapid its name.  However, the chump was not on form and stared at stoppers instead of looking at where they were going, and lo and behold, ended up doing a slow motion capsize. Boat and chump back in action and onto the final section of this river which is a nice bouncy drop/rapid, which, takes you under the famous roman bridge which straddles the gorge.

Helen Seirtsema                                             More Photos…..



30/07/16 Day 7 Château-Queyras - Via ferrata

Report to follow….


Claire Murphy                                             More Photos…..




30/07/16 Day 7 Château-Queyras Gorge

Report to follow….


Chris Murphy                                            More Photos…..







30/07/16 Day 7 The Middle Guil

Report to follow….


Ollie and Charlie Murphy                                             More Photos…..



30/07/16 Day 7 l’Argentière la Bessée Bouldering Competition

On the Saturday night we all went along to watch the final of the International Bouldering Competition.   Some of us even took chairs!!  
What is an International Open ? It’s a bouldering competition that is open to all comers. It will take place on Thursday July 28th at l’Argentière la Bessée.  All competitors will have 2 sessions of 2 hours to try and hopefully climb 30 qualifying boulders (from 5+ to 8a).


The six best female and male climbers will take part in a final on the evening of Saturday July 30th.  Whatever your level, come and have a go, there will be something for everyone!   The International Open is about mixing up amateurs and professionals of our sport, so we can all share the experience, meeting new people and have some laughs together.


To take part you just need to have an FFME competition licence, or an international licence. For non-French youth A and juniors, a senior IFSC licence is needed.  Prizes will be awarded to the top 5 climbers in the Grand Finale : 1st: 1500€; 2nd: 800€; 3rd: 450€; 4th: 200€; 5th: 100€                                             More Photos…..

31/07/16 Day 8 Turin – Airport drop-off

Our day in Italy J


We set off to cross the international border between France and Italy. Our main aim was to deliver a package (Lucy and Sara) safely to the airport. We went over/ through the mountains though several ski resorts.  We arrived in Turin and visited the tourist information were a very nice lady thought I was Italian and told me all about the city … I had no idea what she said and felt it rude to interrupt! We navigated the map to find the Fiume Po and key side. After a walk we headed back to the Piazza Vittorio Veneto for some pizza. It was amazing and in such a beautiful location. We then got ice cream and headed to the airport. We delivered Sara and Lucy in one piece …. Mission accomplished! 




Fiona Barry                                             More Photos…..






01/08/16 Day 9 La Biaysse – Fressinieres to Pallon (Grade 2-3)

Report to follow….


Graham Devaney                                    More Photos…..







01/08/16 Day 9 Lower Guil to St Clements

This was our first river of the day. We arrived at the get to find lots of different groups; mainly Germans  practicing breaking in and out and ferry gliding. The put-in is river left just below the bridge on a very narrow road from Guillestre to La Font d' Eyeliners.  This is a Grade 3 run of about 7km.

On the way down there was plenty of little rapids for the group to practice skills, with clearly defied Eddies.

The Guil joins the Durance and triples in volume.  We continued down passed the slalom course to get out at St-Clement. Here is an opportunity to use the rolling pool / kayak canal and re-run the Slalom course.

Great morning paddling.

Stuart Conway                                            More Photos…..







02/08/16 Day 10 Upper Ubaye

The Ubaye is one of the highlights of the LCC Alps holiday, so there were no complaints when a second day trip was announced. John (Allerton) kindly offered a lift, which Aaron and I were pleased to take advantage of. Travelling by car allows a route directly over the Col de Vars; scenic even by Alpine standards. We had time for a brief stop at the summit and arrived at the get on, below the Fort Tournoux a few minutes before the minibus. 


Once again we split into two groups. Graham, leading one of the groups, took time for group coaching as they progressed down the river. At moderate to low water levels, a little higher than the previous week, all were able to enjoy the varied grade 3/2 paddling down to the RV campsite at Jausiers.


Mark Benson                                             More Photos…..


02/08/16 Day 10 Ubaye Race Course

I have seen on previous pictures from the Alps a river that flows in a deep gorge with huge arches crossing above and wondered where this place was.  I have been also to the Alps previously however due to me only being there for one week I hadn’t recalled seeing this unique feature.

Whilst away on this occasion – I asked what this feature is and found it’s called the Ubaye Racecourse and also found out the trip was also planned later in the week.  


Wednesday came and we set off at 8am, in the morning we did the upper Ubaye section and then moved to the get in on the Lower Racecourse section after Lunch.  The river was wide with clear water and I had a little anticipation as I was told its continuous grade 3 – 4 all the way – however I wanted to see the magnificent arches at the end of the river.


The team set off weaving in and out of rocks boofing and dropping in to stoppers – the good thing was it started at a good level – the features were not too difficult so we eased in to the process. The features on the river are excellent with short flowing easy rapids then grade 3 sections periodically spaced in between – then all of a sudden large drops and grade 4 features.


DSCN0876From the guide

A consistent stretch of class 3+ to 4 whitewater with fun big and bouncy rapids and surprisingly warm water. 15 rapids in quick succession, including named rapids like Dent de Requin (Shark’s Tooth) and Rouleau de Printemps (Spring Roll) make this section a must for your kayaking bucket list. The scenery is outstanding with views over the wooded valley, and at the end of the descent the river narrows through a sheer sided gorge


Picking our way down the river you needed constant concentration to weave in and out of the rocks – sometimes back paddling mixed with constant correction strokes.


We all rounded the bend and eddied Keith gave us a new hand signal not in the guide book – place hand flat and at a right angle to head thumb touching scalp – then directly after point to your tooth at side of mouth.  This indicates shark tooth – and the feature is aptly named a huge rock pointing skywards shaped just like a sharks tooth.


At the end of the run we rounded and long flowing corner rapid and then I saw the arches a sight to behold the river slowed and was channeled between two high walls passing under the 2 huge arches.  We stopped to look skywards – the place is truly spectacular the arches magnificent and the sides like the hanging gardens of Babylon.


The group that paddled with on this day nailed all the features with style and precision.


In hindsight – I want to go back to France to do just this river – thanks for the experience.


John Allerton                                          More Photos…..


03/08/16 Day 11 The Upper Durance

Report to follow….


Keiron Allerton                                           More Photos…..







03/08/16 Day 11 The Upper Guissane

Anxious to start a relaxing lunch we packed up swiftly following the morning river run and then off to the get-on for the Upper Guissane. Picking up some extra bits for lunch from a road-side shop along the way, we soon arrived at Le Casset. After a menacing hover near over a French OAP, we secured a lovely picnic table.


Once on the river, with Mark Benson taking up his traditional position at the back, we bounced and weaved our way through the waves with the occasional break out as we made our way towards the dreaded S-bends *du du duhhhh*. Some of the group decided at this point to endure the extreme portage, while the more experienced members powered down.


Back on the water a few decided to give a synchronised rolling display (successfully) at a tricky weir. After this entertainment we passed though the much admired bridges of Serre Chevalier, under the globe balcony to a relaxing finish at the rafting centre.


Aaron Benson                                           More Photos…..




04/08/16 Day 12 The Verdon

A hot dry day was forecast so what better than to dunk our bodies in ffffffreezing cold gorge water? When compared to the Alps, the canton of Provence has a mostly tame landscape famous for its perfume industry and acres upon acres of lavender fields but slicing right through a good chunk of it is the mega impressive Verdon Gorge which cuts clean and deep through ancient limestone.


We left our campsite dead on 0700 and Keith drove the 3 hours to the top of the gorge while the rest of us snored in the back of the bus. Obviously the place is very popular and despite our early start, we had difficulty finding a parking space on the narrow road above the river. The sun was high in the sky by the time we got to the edge of the water and most of us had begun to bake. That was easily solved by our first swim across the fast flowing river to our first “jump”. A slippery rock was scaled and everyone launched high off the rock into the deep green water and quickly headed across the river again into the sun. All too quickly we were each following Keith downstream, laying on our backs with our feet as high as possible to avoid entanglement with the rocky bottom. More importantly, we all tried to get our backsides as high as possible to avoid bashes and bruises on the many rocks.


The river swept us away through some fantastic steep and high rock scenery and eventually we arrived once more at a sunny beach where we had time to catch our breath and warm up a bit.  Above us we saw a number of climbers who were on impossibly smooth walls and, judging by the amount of rock above them, I dare say they’re still there now trying to get to the top of their chosen route.


A local guide took it on himself to tell us about some of the challenges they face trying to earn a living leading groups down the gorge. Apparently the activity is under threat of closure from the authorities who are concerned about potential damage to the environment. We proceeded with renewed caution and tried to avoid further contact with the guide.


Another large boulder came into view and this time it was much higher than our earlier practice jump. Most of us didn’t hesitate a second to jump into the deep water but I stupidly held my arms out horizontally as I hit the water, the result was stinging hands as if I had been whacked by the cane from the headmaster.


A syphon came into view and, although some of us swam through it, Im certainly happy to give them a wide berth and never want to go near any of them while paddling.


Our get out came into view and a short ascent up a scree slope took us to a number of dark tunnels requiring us to use head torches. These tunnels eventually led us back to our starting point and we quickly changed out of our wet gear and drove higher up to an amazing view point where we had lunch and marvelled at the vultures that were taking a ride on the thermals coming up from the gorge. What it must feel like to be able to fly and join them in their easy acrobatics.


A necky drive down steep switchback bends eventually led us to the large lake at the bottom of the gorge where we had a chance to cool of and snooze in the shade for an hour before heading out again through lavender and sunflower fields in search of a restaurant that the team had visited during a previous  trip. A well-earned meal was enjoyed by all as darkness descended. With a long drive ahead of him and the treat of a thunderstorm, I was impressed by Keith’s patience as we tucked into helpings of pavlova for desert.


I think most of us slept though the heavy rain and lightning on the way back and I was glad that it had abated for a while as we piled into our tents, tired and happy at half past midnight.


Yet another great action-packed day with LCC.




Pete Thomas                                            More Photos…..


05/08/16 Day 13 The Lower Durance “My water taxi J

The day started at St Clements. Keith had decided to break all the safety rules and paddle the section from the camp site on his own to meet us there, tut tut!!  We then waited patiently for Pete and others to do the shuttle, which took an hour and a half. Apparently the traffic was bad but I think Helen just needed more cheese!


We then set off as one big group down the sunshine run in the glorious sun shine! Sarah, Leanne and I decided to raft up for several rapids, which was great fun and Caz soon got in on the action. We then came to the Rab wave.   After inspection I stood on the rock to guide people through the Keith line. Those who listened got through no problems; those that didn’t were fished out in the pool below!!


After lunch we carried on down to Embrun. Everyone managed to successfully navigate the huge wave trains and there was some more rafting! The last feature of the river is a weir which Keith likes to play in. Last time he didn’t get a chance to play because someone decided to take a swim to cool down so this time he instructed that no one was allowed to swim so he could play. I replied “don’t worry … if someone does swim we will collect the stuff, you stay and play”


Over the weir we went and yes, I did go over and swim! I did try to roll but it was an epic fail! Keith did however stay and play on his wave! Helen picked me up on the back of her boat and started to paddle me away. After a while I asked if there was any chance we could go to the side soon. She responded with, “I was just going to paddle you to the get out” I said OK, and hung onto my water taxi to the steps at the get out!!!


Another great day with some comedy moments!!! 


Fiona Barry                                            More Photos…..



05/08/16 Day 13 Friday Evening: The ClockTower


Following our paddle down the Sunshine run on our last day, Chris M had mentioned that he traditionally climbed the historic Clock Tower Via ferrata above Argentiere on his last evening and was taking Ollie. I jumped on board with Pete and Graham.


Clare kindly picked up lanyards for us before the hire shop shut, and we set off along the backstreets of Argentiere to the start of the climb. The climb is fairly steep and vertical with some exposure but has lots of protection with plenty of foot and hand holds and so is graded as facile or easy. The wind, which had picked up, made it a bit more interesting with some gusts making me hold on tightly. We reached the top after 30mins, photos were taken as the clock struck a quarter.


We headed down a small protected section leading past a wall with climbers clipping into bolts or top-roping, we watched for a bit and thought next year we should bring a rope and a have a climbing session!


We arrived back at the campsite in time for the last night BBQ.


L’Argentière – L’Horloge

Access is from the car park at Le Collets climbing site. This is 5 minutes away from the Argentière Gite on the crag on the top of which is the Argentière clock tower which dominates the skyline. The area is even floodlit at night.

The via ferrata is short, taking less than an hour and climbing some 50 metres. It is specifically designed for beginners and children of 8 and over. The first part is particularly easy, enabling one to get use to using the equipment in a methodical and safe manner. There is a “get out” path, half-way up, for those who decide that via ferratas are not for them, but also a good place to take pictures! The second half is more committing and has quite a good overhanging section. Once you reach the top, just by the Clock Tower, you have a lovely view over L’Argentière and a nice walk down back to the climbing site.

06/08/16 Day 14 The Lower Gyronde to Camping Les Ecrins


To get this now traditional last day paddle demands an early start in the midst of packing. This year, it was just Keith and I who were up for getting wet so close to leaving. Thanks to a shuttle from Pete, we were soon on a low but runnable Gyronde, starting at the campsite bridge where it slackens off to Grade 3 before joining the Durance. 


Weaving between the rocks and bouncing over a few, we soon came to the broken weir. Unfortunately, I got too close to an over-hanging rock above the weir and tipped in. Rescuing myself and my kayak, I was unable to stop my paddles from floating away and over the weir. There they remained hidden despite Keith's best efforts (appreciated). Then, just as I was about to build-up my splits, Excalibur-like, they gently floated out, directly to me in the eddy.


Back on the easing river, I counted myself lucky, as we made our way to the Argentiere slalom course and a last burst of kayaking energy before the final eddy-out of the holiday.


Thanks to Keith and everyone else in LCC who make this annual trip such a good holiday and paddling opportunity!


Mark Benson                                           More Photos…..