It is the first Sunday of July, day 1 in the Alps, and we have done 2 sections and no swims! We decided to do a gentle warm-up for the sake of those who have not done the Alps and so jumped on the Lower Guil (G2) and the Sunshine Run on the Durance, G2(3).
It was a very chilled-out paddle in the warm French sun in the excellent surrounds of the French Alpine valleys. Incidents of note were a hurt back from Chris Weston’s very dodgy seal launch and a bit of a working for Rob in the Rab wave… oh and a flat water roll for me after colliding with Dave’s boat whilst chatting (ooops!).
On to Monday and who stole the sun?! We started off on the Upper Guisane, G2(3-) with a lot of laughing about my use of a dry suit in the Alps. (I think I had the last laugh on that one!)
We had one short swim on the first stretch of this; start of day wobbles I feel!
The crux of the Upper Guisane is S-Bend rapid, on which we were stopped upstream by a canoe club having a bit of an epic multi-throw-line rescue after a lot of swims and face smashes!
After initially deciding to walk it, we inspected and decided it did not look all that bad and half the group ran it… very good fun!
The rest of run went at G2 without incident. At the get out, Rob, Alex, Reza and myself decided to do an afternoon run on the Lower Guisane, a local classic, continuous G3+ with a 4 here and there. Really good fun read and run action with lots of nice boulder gardens and a few nice boofy bits. No incidents, but Reza did execute a very smooth impromptu dismount and associated self-rescue.
Really good paddling from everyone, especially Alex and Rob who have never done the Alps or any big white water before. Despite that, they had a big smile all the way down, which is definitely the way to paddle the Alps.
Tuesday was another good day with 3 river sections done (got to be an MCC first?!). The water levels in the Guil valley were disappointing due to the cold night on Monday, which probably knocked a grade off the guidebook. Still, we did a nice warm-up on the Upper Guil which was generally 2/3 with a nice little G3+ gorge. Because of the long drive required, that took us to lunch, which we munched while inspecting the infamous Chat Queyras Gorge.
This is where the whole Guil constricts into a steep sided gorge about one paddle width wide and contains a sporting curling stopper. Three of us did this and all stayed. It is a great fun little run which looked worse than it was, but was still probably G4. Finally Reza, Rob and I set off on the middle Guil, one of the Alpine classics. The first few km were a slightly disappointing G3-ish, but then it really picked up at Staircase rapid to a nice steady 4 with some fun little drops and stoppers. All passed fairly uneventfully, apart from my nice bit of backwards vertical action following a rock smash.
Alex and Chris Weston joined us for the last 2 km, which was supposedly the easy bit, but turned out to be a really sweet continuous 3+/4… I think Alex and Chris found it to be a little fiesty though! Alex did an excellent series of rolls in the meat of it but tragically lost the £4 gangster shades in the process!
Wednesday saw the group go biking.
On Thursday we paddled the Upper Ubaye and the Ubaye race-course. The swim count was pushed from 1 to 3 today! All safely rescued and no lost kit. The race-course was on a low level but still quite pushy and good fun.
And so to Friday, when some of us took on the River Gyronde. It was a bit boney and quite technical but very enjoyable. The river of the afternoon was the Lower Durance / Sunshine Run including Rabioux Wave. Congratulations to Karen who passed her three star white water on the French Rivers today.
Le Weekend; we are all still alive and on our way home. We paddled a very low and scrapey Lower Guisane. No more swims to add to the total. Final standings are “Team Burn” 2 swims and 2 technicals, “Team Renault” 1 swim and 2 technicals.
From Various Whitewater Yobos!