River Conwy

Another weekend, another Isis white water trip - this time to the River Conwy in North Wales. Our base of operations for the weekend was the hostel at Capel Curig, just down the road from Plas-y-Brenin. We arrived late on Friday evening and were immeditely presented with a very steep and winding drive way up to the hostel. Simon's car was a little strained as the wheels span before finally coming to rest in front of the hostel. We sorted out our rooms and then had a drink and game of cards in the dining room before retiring to bed ready for the 8.45am start.

We drove up to the Conwy get out on Saturday morning only to see very little water in the river. We then drove to the get in, to see the same amount of water. This divided opinion in our group, those who wanted to scrape down the Conwy went in one group and the others went to the Lake, and from here our weekend splits into various stories.

The Lake

Imagine a beautiful summer day, a clear sky with no clouds and a warm sun. Then imagine sitting in the middle of a still lake surrounded by hills, and in the distance mountains with small white snow caps. This is the setting for the first part of our story. Liam, Helen, Simon and I parked above the lake next to Plas-y-Brenin and unloaded our boats. We ambled down the grass slope and prepared to launch. Liam decided it would be a good idea to seal launch off a pointy rock, but even with Simon's help we couldn't quite balance the boat enough without the possibility of splatting him on the smaller rocks so we decided to be sensible and took off into the middle of the lake. Simon and Liam practiced some mystery moves while Helen and I both got used to our new boats. We have both managed to acquire boats which beatifully coordinate with our other kayak kit including cags, helmets and buoyancy aids. It may be girly, but we look damned good!

Simon and Liam managed to find a small rapid under the bridge at Plas-y-Brenin, but then struggled to paddle back up. Helen and I continued to practice our sculling and bracing and then took off for a paddle to the top end of the lake. Liam and Simon joined us and we sat in the sunshine putting the world to rights, discussing the afternoon's activities and relaxing in the amazing surroundings. Simon then decided it was time to test out his new dry suit - nicknamed the assassin. He climbed to the top of a rock and bombed down into the icy water. I'm not sure if he realised that the lake was full of snow melt, but he assured us he was very dry, just rather cold from the neck up. It was getting close to 1pm, when we had agreed to meet up with the other group, so we made our way slowly to the shore and headed for the hostel.

The Conwy

Andy, Glyn, Helen, Gwylim, Kate, Becks and I decided to take a chance with the Conwy on Saturday and hope it would not involve too much work scraping across rocks. If only we knew that even at low water, it was going to try its best to make it an interesting run!

After some successful rapids, Becks paddle down only to get stuck on a rock, and as Helen tried to knock her off they both became unbalanced and capsized, putting Andy's rescue skills to the test. However, two thumbs up and two smiling faces symbolised everything was ok. At the next rapid I hit a rock, managed to say, 'it was...' and then capsized. I decided it was too shallow to wait to be rescued and so a swim was called for. A few rapids later, we got told that there was an overhanging rock sticking out. Becks managed to avoid the rock but got her paddle stuck between two other rocks in the process; Kate decided to stay river right, which resulted in a bit of scraping over rocks, but got down safely; I was unsure what to expect from the chute and in trying to avoid the big piece of rock hitting my head I capsized again.

Finally we reached Bryn Bras Falls. Gwyl and Helen went down the main section to be safety cover, and then Glynn followed. However, Andy suddenly grabbed his throw line and ran towards the rapids. We could not see what was going on but Andy arrived back to tell us we could go, saying he would tell us what had happened once we were at the bottom safely. Becks went first, did a perfect 180 degree spin half-way down and finished off doing it backwards. Kate and I then got down fine, with a relieved look from everyone. It was then that we got told that Glynn had got pinned facing downstream between two rocks, with Andy having to jump in the water to get him out, so we were pleased that we went down in the ignorance of what had just happened.

So once again, Bryn Brass Falls and the Conwy managed to prove, even in low water, the excitement that white-water can have. But with five swims, lots of laughs, a fantastic run on a beautiful river and in glorious sunshine, what more could one ask for! We were late back to the Youth Hostel, but decided a walk was still called for so Andy, Gwyl, Kate and I decided to walk up the hill that was behind the youth hostel, leaving Glyn, Helen, and Becks relaxing on the terrace with some drinks.

The Hillside

We waited around at the hostel for an hour, and finally received a message that the other group had run into difficulties on the river and were not yet at the get out. We decided to make the most of the rest of our afternoon and jumped in the car and headed over to the car park at Lake Ogwen. Simon took us on a guided tour showing us a Roman Bridge, located safely under a more modern road bridge, which was put together using just rocks and no mortar and it is still going strong today.

We slid along the wall under the bridge, being careful not to fall into the water below. Then played on the rocks, practising our climbing techniques and posing for some photos. We found an old stone cottage, some fantastic drops on the river and most importantly the skeleton of a sheep. It was clean and perfectly preserved so we decided to bring home its skull as a memento. We decided to make our way across the road to Lake Ogwen after a short while relaxing by a waterfall and rambled around the lake basking in the sunshine.

In the evening we all met up and went to a local pub for a bite to eat and some drinks. On Sunday we split up again into two new groups. Team Ramble, consisting of Andy, Kate, Lizzy and Becks wandered off into the distance to climb a mountain. Team Tryweryn, consisting of Liam, Helen, Simon, me, Gwyl, Helen and Glynn, unsurprisingly set off for the Tryweryn for some paddling.

Upper Tryweryn and Bala Mill Falls

We arrived at the centre after the dam release and the car park was already rammed with boats and cars. It was fantastic to see such a rainbow of colours lying on the ground. We took a walk down to the centre to sign in, while inspecting the course. Gwyl, Liam, Simon, me and Glynn all seal launched into the water at the top and made their way down the series of drops to the wave above the NRA.

I got out to help Helen and Helen photo the lads' second run down which was more eventful. Glynn managed to roll in an eddy and then Simon decided it would be clever to go down the ski jump without paddling - just to see what happened. The answer...disaster. The stopper at the bottom held his boat because he had no power to plough through it and he got munched to bits. Oops!

Drama over, we decided to have some lunch and then Helen joined us to completed the lower section before a scout down Bala Mill Falls. A fabulous ending to a perfect weekend of sun, scenery and, of course, paddling.

Moel Siabod

On Sunday Andy, Becks, Kate and I decided that Moel Siabod, the mountain we could see from the youth hostel, was calling to be climbed. On the way up, Andy went over some navigation skills with us and Kate sang a lovely sheep song to us all.

When we reached the bottom of the ridge we decided that the direct route would be more fun as it involved some scrambling. Half-way up we stopped for a rest, although it clearly was not needed as Becks more or less ran the few meters to me when I said I had some Lucozade tablets in my first aid kit. We then scrambled the last few 100 metres to the summit, making it to the top for Beck's 'first proper mountain,' and were met by a welcoming breeze and an incredible view of Snowdon, Tryfan, and the Glyders. After a few photos, we dropped down out of the breeze to have some lunch and to savour the views.

On the way back along the ridge, we managed to find some snow, and could not resist playing in it - after all, what other reason would it be there for? We then had a geology lesson from Andy about how Snowdon and Tryfan were formed, and why there were so many broken up boulders at the top of Moel Siabod. Four very happy, satisfied people then made their way back down the mountainside, not wanting to reach the car that would mean going back to Oxford. All I can say is, what an awesome weekend!

- Jen and Lizzy

Photos by Jen, Helen, Glynn, Gwylim, Helen;