Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brass monkeys

Today four of us went on a non-official-club trip up to the Etive (by far my most kayaked river) where we were thinking of joining up with the Glasgow Caledonian University Kayak Club who had been wig-wamming up that way for the weekend. The day started off bloody freezing and didn't really improve temperature-wise. When we arrived at the Etive it seemed that half of the kayakers in Scotland were also there (however the Caly crew weren't actually there yet). It required quite a bit of will power to actually strip off and put on our kayaking gear, which wasn't helped by the very bracing wind racing through Glen Etive. By the time the Caly group arrived we were ready to go, and seeing as they had a big group and we wanted to do the river at a reasonable pace we decided to just go down as a four (the other reason we headed on was that we thought some other guys we knew who where also on the river [current and ex-GUCC members] would be giving us a shuttle back to our car from the get-out, but they were a bit too quick for us!).

This was the first time I'd done the river in such a small group, and as such we didn't set up safety (people with throw lines) on the banks at each fall, but just went down them. We didn't even get out to take a look at the drops before we did them, and put our trust in Chris that it would be fine. For me all the drops went pretty well, and I stayed upright and put in a couple of decent braces when needed, up until Right Angle. On the fall there I had a quite scary swim, as I capsized, got pushed against the wall on the side I was trying to roll up on, and then in the panic couldn't find the release handle on my spray deck - I found it in the end and was fine, but it shock me a little bit, and I was more timid with my paddling from then on (although it was reasonably near the get out anyway.) I was slightly wobbly going through a couple of the rock fields after that, but stayed upright until the very last rapid, when I hit a rock, got spun around and went over - I almost righted myself a couple of times using braces and the rocks near me, but in the end I succumbed and swam. In general though, despite the swims, I think I did some of my best paddling on this trip, and I was manoeuvring myself far more confidently than I have before.

Even with the swim before the get out I'd warmed up well during the paddle, but the weather didn't want to keep things that way, because as soon as we stopped it decided to start raining - and not just regular rain, but ice. There was a van to shelter behind when getting changed, which protected us from the elements a bit, but it would be nice for all rivers to be equipped with dry, warm changing rooms. Fortunately it wasn't as cold as this trip though - there was no ice forming on us. In the end it was probably for the best that we didn't wait for Caly, as they were only about half way along when we drove past on our way home.