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2022 LCC Alpine Holiday to Durance Region in France Day 6 Thursday: Slalom Course and Rescue Sessions and the delightful Upper Guisane by Keith Bold

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2022 LCC Alpine Holiday to Durance Region in France Day 6 Thursday: Slalom Course and Rescue Sessions and the delightful Upper Guisane by Keith Bold

The morning saw the majority transporting kit to the top of the slalom course next to the campsite. The plan was to complete a few laps and add in some white-water rescue practice. A couple of rescues in the preceding days had been lacking in efficiency! A refresher was needed. And we saw Keith swim.

But first, a rundown. This section of the Durance looks innocuous from the bank, especially at the low water levels right now, although this is my first time out so comments regarding water levels are based on the observations of others. But it doesn’t look too difficult. On the water though, that perception changes. The flow is fast and powerful. The eddy lines are sharp, and the eddies are dynamic grade 3 eddies! It isn’t to be underestimated. Minor errors can quickly see boat and paddler following different lines. I had some experience of this today. Most though ran down well and are acclimated to the speed. Elliot, my son, is really annoyingly doing much better than me, it’s really annoying.

The rescue practice was completed on the last stage of theslalom course, a big beach and good-sized eddy made it an ideal location. So we all jumped in and practised defensive swimming and leaving the flow into the eddy. Line throwing practice on the beach was followed by practice using the lines to pull in a swimmer. It was a useful refresher.

Then another descent of the slalom course. I was attacked for walking too close to a wasp nest and now sport some decent-sized lumps on my head and hand. If Putin ever did launch his often-threatened missile attack, the positive take home would be no more wasps. Then I swam halfway down after messing up a break-in just after the biggest drop. Andy’s e-cig was nowhere near, so I elected, like him a few days earlier, to panic. The river is fast and shallow in some sections and rolling is difficult. I was counting rocks with my head. Thanks to Roy, Steph and Elliot who rescued my boat, made more difficult by one of the airbags being deflated.

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Day 6 Thursday: the delightful Upper Guisane by Keith Bold

After lunch, the scenic drive to the get-in for the Guisane. This was a river with a character different to those we have paddled so far. Fast and tight with few opportunities to stop, any eddies that were present wouldn’t hold more than one paddler. So we split into four groups, Keith ensuring a decent mix of ability in each. It was an on and away river. Each group dropped in and were quickly swept away. A warning to avoid a potentially nasty boulder with an undercut was heeded and a great run was experienced. Clean, fast, and frothy water my favourite river so far.

Sometime later, after a spirited run-on continuous rapids, we grouped and inspected from the bank. S bend rapid, graded at a 4-, was filled with opportunities for pinning and a nasty experience. Maintaining a line around closely grouped rocks was required, with potentially unpleasant consequences if missed.

One group walked around, and although we watched a local (possibly) drop down the rapid and almost reconsidered, he made it look easy. As we reached a point at which we could get in, we saw Nicky in a horrible situation, pinned sideways with her cockpit almost submerged. She kept her cool and was able to rotate the boat so that she could get out and emptied it. Keith and a number of others were on in and helped get the boat across to safety using a line with Nicky following. It had the potential to be serious.

Groups disintegrated a bit after that. We missed the beach where we intended to regroup but eventually, we did find each other. Definitely a river where looking out for a smaller number of paddlers is important. The boisterous rapids pushed us on ultimately to the get out. A splendid day on a rollicking river.

More photographs……