Last weekend was my first canoe club trip of the new academic year. As it's the start of new term this was a freshers trip and we had a good contingent of beginners (about 6 of them to the 5 of us seasoned paddlers) - I managed to get a place on the trip by volunteering to drive the minibus. Despite the beginners nature of this trip we set out to a river that's new for me - the Awe - this goes to show up the lack of rivers I've actually paddled.
We managed to get the bus packed with gear relatively quickly (which hopefully bodes well for future trips). I'd like to say that the drive went without incident, but I did managed to slightly damage the minibus when attempting to squeeze past a large bus coming in the opposite direction on a particularly narrow bit of the A82 - all that happened was that the left wing mirror popped out when it clipped the rock wall at the side of the road, but it was annoying for this to happen on my first trip of the year (and just after we'd had a meeting about looking after the buses). The weather conditions weren't great either, with unpredictable heavy rain showers happening out of nowhere.
When we got to the Awe the weather was behaving better and we were able to get changed without getting wet. We didn't have anyone else who'd driven up in a car, so I then had to drive the minibus to the get-out 3 miles away and work my way back to the put-in. After jogging/walking about a mile back I managed to hitch a lift off a kindly old lady who took me the rest of the way.
The river is a dam release river, and despite all the rain there's been no release, so it was pretty low. This made the paddle a bit more interesting as there were lots of nice rocks about to help people capsize! The river's pretty tame, but there were enough level 3ish rapids to test the freshers. We had quite a few swims on the first rapid, but no-one was too disheartened by going into the river that early on. I was generally managing to takes lines down the river that found every rock in the way, but I was in the big Dagger Mamba, which is so big that it'll just ride over most rocks (I did suffer the odd pin, but was either able to extract myself, or get helped out, and I managed to stay upright). The rocks also managed to pin a few of the freshers causing further swims.
Despite the quite tame nature of the river it was still a lot of fun after a few months off the water. There were a few small waves to play about in, although I was quite tentative on these, and I was able to practice my rolls and ferrying across the river. All the freshers seemed to enjoy it, and even those that swum quite a bit, didn't seem put off (there were none of the hysterics that we've sometimes had in the passed). The weather stayed ok as well and the water wasn't too cold, which I think helped. I'm not sure what my next trip will be, but I'm looking forward to it.