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Alpine paddling – Chateau-Queyras 31/07/2017 by Jenny Brown

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We arrived at Chateau-loo and headed over to look at the gorge. It looked a little different to Helen’s description: quite a fast flow around some rocks, over in 5 mins, easier than the challenging lines of the Middle Guil we’d just conquered. If was actually a torrent of bubbling blue through a gap just wide enough for a paddler to fit through with a technical entry through what is best described as a rock garden. 6 of us headed to the get in. After a deep breath I followed Ian off the bank into the river. I could picture the line in my head, but stared at the rock I wanted to manoeuvre round, hit it and pinged off backwards down the other side of the river than the side I wanted to be on. Some emergency paddling got me facing forwards again as I entered what I’ll call the loo pan and into the V that was the start of the u-bend. From this point on the only option was to go with the flow and ride the wobbles as they came. I had 3 thoughts as I got flushed….

  1. My support strokes seem to be working ok, please don’t give up on me now.
  2. I seem to be managing to react with low braces, Keith won’t be able to comment on high paddles today.
  3. There’s Keith and Ian, don’t take your eye off them and you’ll be in that eddy in seconds. Stay focused, you can do it, just ignore every rock, boil and bubble that pops up in front of you.

Phew into the eddy panting with fear and shaking with relief. I’d been successful flushed! Shortly followed by a boat, body and 3 more kayakers we had moments breath and continued on. Helen said that was the worst over, Ian reminded me not to listen to Helen.

We were off again from the midway point, well the 2nd half felt a lot longer than the first with each rapid. Stopping to regroup in the big eddies that split the 3-ish more bouncy boulder drops/rapids we styled it safely down. Helen picking her own more scenic route in places. This was definitely going to be the day known as “cacky-pants”. As we passed under the bridge our welcoming crew cheered and helped us with the long carry back to the van. At this point I was regretting dressing for a swim rather than a walk – long neoprene legs and hot sun not a happy combination. A quick change back at the van next to some angry ants and then we were off again for….via ferrata and/or ice cream.

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