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Alpine Paddling – Middle Guil – 31/07/2017 by Chris Thompson

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After the big fast flowing waters of the Durance on Sunday, Monday saw a change of pace as we headed to the shallow, rocky and technical river Guil.  Described in the guide book as “Probably the best class 4 paddle in the Southern Alps” we knew we were in for some fun.  The Guil is a great river for a mixed ability group as it starts easy (ish), and gradually builds the futher down you go.   It runs right next to the main road, so people can paddle as much (or as little) of the river as they want, and then head for the safety of the road when they’ve had enough.

The drive out turned out to pretty technical as well as Keith navigated narrow, twisty mountain roads with oncoming coaches and lorries.  We dropped the bike off at the bottom of the river, and as we drove up alongside the river we scouted all the possible get-outs.

We started at the top with 12 paddlers, and started navigating (bouncing and scraping) our way down.  When we reached the first get-out option, 2 of us decided they’d had enough and headed up to te road to wait for their pick–up.  The remaining 10 paddled on.  Things got a bit more tricky and after a portage and a swim or 2 (and the not so surprising “surprise drop”) we arrived at the top of the Staircase rapid.  At this point another 3 headed for the road, and the remaing 7 started the long portage round Staircase.

Tension was building as we paddled on – with some of us longing for the sight of the tunnel which marked the next get-out.  Keith and Ian (the Jedi paddling masters) ran the final section on their own, then Keith started the mammoth cycle back up to the top where he picked up the minibus and drove back down collecting all the paddlers who where waiting on the roadside.

All in all – a great river!  Back in the bus, we headed back up to see what was wating for us at Chateau Queyras…