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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020 Day 6

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Alpine Paddling Holiday 2020
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Major Trip Reports.…

Day 06a Upper Guil

We headed up the Guil Valley stopping briefly at Mont Barton Bridge and Triple Steps to view the water levels. Passing Chateau Queyras we headed for the get in at Aiguilles and on the way tried but failed to peer over the edge and into the gorge section. I am sure it will be ok said Stuart. A quick car shuttle and we were away, going with the flow over and around every boulder in sight. Soon reached the start of the gorge, the river steepened and disappeared around a corner. Time to eddy hop. Signals were being passed along the line and paddlers dropped into an eddy and then the next.

The river had very sharp rock strata and the step walls had collapsed in several places giving difficult routes around blind bends. On one tight sequence Craig had made all the difficult moves but was unsettled by a nasty boulder. He soon got himself and paddle to the edge, but the swift current sped his boat over the next few rapids before Keith managed to wedge it tight against some rocks. It took a few minutes to sort the boat and re-establish contact with the rest of the group. They had portaged around the tricky rapid under Stuarts guidance. Once on our way again we encountered several nasty bends, a few overhanging walls, and another long portage for most. This is where good soled trainers or river shoes are a must and make scouting and portaging on difficult ground that much safer.

A few more pour-overs and pour-throughs saw us the end of the gorge. The valley opened and after a few kms of boulder riverbed we saw our first sighting of the castle on the hill (Chateau Queyras). One difficult rocky weir saw a few of us temporarily pinned but we managed to free ourselves before arriving in the centre of the town. A quick shuttle to fetch Oscars car and we could all then enjoy a well-earned lunch and discuss our various bruises and bangs!

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Day 06b Chateau Queyras

After the Upper Guil and tricky gorge section, Stuart and Keith decided they wanted to run “Chateau Q”. This is a narrow ravine with 50m high vertical cliffs which sports the Via Ferrata along one side. There is only one way out and the river channels down to about 2.5m wide in places and swirls and twists its way down over several large boulders. It has been described by many like being “flushed down the loo.”

The two paddlers dropped down to the bridge and then paddled off over the drop and around the corner. As Stuart followed, he spotted four rafts following down. Neither of us fancied being run over by a raft in the ravine so we had no time to stop and chat. We paddled on from the single eddy (a well-known collection point for swimmers / paddles / boats and paddled on over the final drop in the gorge, past the waterfall cascading down on our left. Here the valley opened up and has numerous large boulders in sight of the final exit bridge.

we were overtaken by the rafts who were carrying on down Guardian Angel Gorge. We carried the kayaks up to the bridge and Stuart return for the car which was a short 1km away. Joining the others, we enjoyed not one but two boules of Ice Cream and freshly pressed Orange Juice.

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Day 06c Via Ferrata – Chateau Queyras

After the group had finished their morning paddle, Neil and Kayleigh, inspired by Keith and Stuart kayaking the raging torrent within the gorge, decided we would scope out the best lines from above, just in case we were ever silly enough to run it. So, after Neil parted with 8 euros for the hire of equipment, off we went.

Due to Neil’s knees shaking, Kayleigh starting to traverse through the gorge by clipping and unclipping on the safety wires swiftly followed by Neil. Through the route there was a variety of rock holds, metal fixings, eroded slippery rock, followed by two tight rope walks over the gorge. Although prior to the first tight rope, there was an escape option which Kayleigh was pleasantly surprised that Neil didn’t take, due to the blinding white colour of his knuckles, but he persevered. We both proceeded to traverse the tightrope in turn and after this our speed picked up. The next difficult section was a curved route, followed by an additional ten-metre tight rope walk, which was definitely a little shaky for us. The final stretch of the Via Ferrata was an overhanging cliff face over the gorge, which was quite tough, but it felt really exhilarating and we definitely gained a sense of achievement.

The approximate time to complete the overall course is 1 hour 30, although we made it through from start to finish within an hour!

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