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France Day 12a Tuesday Ubaye Gorge by Kurt T

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A group of people kayaking in a river Description automatically generated

2023 LCC Alpine Paddling Holiday

Day 12a Tuesday Ubaye Gorge (Gorge Royale of the Ubaye River in France) by Kurt T

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The waterfall which pours into the Royal Gorge just after the start

Backflips = 26
High Braces = 724
Rolls = 5
Swims = 0

We embarked on our perilous journey from the campsite (Le Bois Des Hoches) on river left. After paddling the racecourse section on the previous day, we were well up to speed with the river and current levels 7 cumecs. (m³/s)

The five of us set off on our merry way manoeuvring down to the usual raft get-out, aka the point of no return!

Well underway, the first couple of km seemed simple enough to navigate, we didn’t encounter any problems. Until the horizon line dipped below a mass of boulders, similar in size to that of a Renault Twingo. We got out river left to inspect the rapid. We all agreed that it was unnavigable with zero clear lines with more than 10 ways to suffer a nasty fate. We had dinner and wine waiting back at camp, so we decided to portage.

We cautiously tackled another 50m of class 4 rapids eddy hopping our way down ensuring not to lose line of sight with each other.

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Kurt paddling the rapid after the Lions Den

We caught a glimpse of a rickety old French sign with the word ‘Exit’ painted on it with a mysterious red substance. We mistakenly believed this might be the infamous ‘Lions Den’ (Grade 6). Same as the previous monster rapid, we had no choice other than to portage.

About 150m downstream we got back into our boats after fighting our way through the thick vegetation of the gorge, from here on we made very slow progress, carefully inspecting each rapid as the levels were low, and it was very tough to find a clear path. We did run a few drops blind which is where the Toulson’s had to put their many years of rolling practice to good use.

Keith led the trip, navigating his way down in his child-sized Jackson playboat, trying his best to make sure we all got down safely and in one piece.

Mike & Cameron didn’t even get their ears wet; it seems that the Ubaye was no match for their silky skills and determined yet fun paddling style. Well done team Fletcher.

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Mike in the Lower Gorge

I took a few nasty knocks whilst running some rapids upside down, battered and bruised but still breathing to tell the tale.

The river soon started to open up as we exited the gorge, followed by some nice class 2/3 rapids that led into Lac De Serre-Poncon.

The warm water of the lake felt good, we knew we had finished the trip in one piece and lived to fight another day. Exiting the lake on the right, on a sloped stone bank we headed back to the campsite for tea and medals. The total trip time was around 3.5 / 4 hours.

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