Tryweryn Weekend

This trip started as a weekend on the River Dart. Sadly, because it was the last weekend for access, everyone else had also decided to visit Devon to do the same thing meaning that all the bunkhouses were full. Then we inspected the DartCam only to realise that there was no water in the river. Basically full bunkhouses and an empty river meant that we needed an alternative. Cue, the Tryweryn.

Ten of us ventured to deepest, darkest Wales for the weekend: Simon, Kate W, Ruari, Becks, Gwyl, Ishy, Lizzy, Andy, Seb and me. We loaded the boats in record time, despite Simon having to empty his boot of all manner of rubbish! We tucked into some fish and chips before the three hour trek to North Wales. As the cars slowly moved off I realised that our car, consisting of me, Simon, Kate and Ruari wasn't moving. Simon was fiddling with technology that didn't seem to want to work. With our main navigation system broken we once again turned to Jen Jen as the ultimate SatNav and we disappeared north.

We pulled in at Shrewsbury to pick up some kit from Simon's brother. However, by sheer back luck, the A5 into Wales was closed and on our way out of Shrewsbury we were sent on a diversion. At a large roundabout we were told to follow circular diversion signs. We couldn't find any of these though and decided to follow some diamond shaped signs instead, assuming they were the same. After a little while the diversion we were on was diverted a second time as another road was closed. The diversion of the diversion took us to a crossroads in a small village where a helpful sign said' Diversion Ends'. Realising that the diversion of the diversion had actually taken us half way back to Shrewsbury we took a few moments to compose ourselves. Simon turned the technology off and on again and it started working so we set a new route and eventually got to the Bala Backpackers bunkhouse at 11.30pm!


We all woke at a reasonable hour, had breakfast and set off for the Tryweryn White Water Centre. We drove next to the river on the way up to centre, but suddenly noticed that there was no water in the river. Despite being assured there would be a 9 cumec release at 9am from the dam, the river was mostly river bed and rocks. We parked the cars and went to the main visitors centre to be told that the dam release had been put back to 11am, which was a relief. It gave us plenty of time to have a look at the course and sort out the shuttle.

The lads who knew what they were doing paddled the Upper section while the ladies, who were getting tuition from Simon and Andy, had a safety briefing. We eventually made our way to the water, launched and then took off down the Lower section in two groups - Becks and me with Andy, Lizzy and Kate with Simon. We practiced ferry gliding, eddy hopping, leadership and breaking in and out. The biggest challenge was staying out of the trees which lined the banks.

Our safety skills were put to the test at lunch when a paddler got pinned upside down in the strainer. It was fab to see so many of our members being able to help with rescuing. After getting out of her pinned boat, a girl was clinging to the tree that had caused the problem, but Ruari and I managed to talk her to the bank and warm her up with something to drink. The lads also offered their services to help retrieve the boat.

We ventured further down the river to Bala Mill Falls, a grade four rapid, which was just above our get out. Standing at the top watching a mush of white foam forcing its way through a narrow gap and down two drops, Bala Mill Falls looks huge. We all inspected it and the ladies decided to leave it for another day.

The lads ran the falls a couple of times while Kate and I took the leat to a safe get out, leaving Lizzy and Becks to carry their boats and portage round. We took photos and video of several descents, and then used our rescue skills further when two boaters failed to roll up after coming down the falls.

That evening, we tucked into a hearty meal of chilli and rice cooked by our very own chefs, Gwyl and Seb, and strange things happened in the boy's dorm, with talk of pixies dancing around Stonehenge some time in the early morning.


We knew the dam release would not be until 11am again so we had more time on Sunday morning to pack our kit, have breakfast and empty the bunkhouse. I was tempted to do the upper section and so Kate and I followed the lads to watch their progress while taking photos. I decided not to spoil a perfectly good trip with a dunking and decided to get on at the top of the lower section. We had a slight mishap on the first section with poor Becks taking a dunking after hitting a rock. Sadly she hit her face when coming out of her boat and so decided not to tempt fate by carrying on paddling in case things got worse. With Becks out and Kate not paddling due to a migraine, we were slightly depleted, but nevertheless determined to have a good time.

We made our way down faster than the previous day, with slightly less instruction as we remembered where to scout rapids, where to ferry across the river, which were the good eddies, and the slightly trickier micro-eddies. Then we came to Bala Mill Falls. I decided to run it and Lizzy decided to be rescue bod jut in case I did anything unusual. I sat in the eddy at the top and Simon and Andy pointed to where I should go. Simon went first and I followed his line as well as I could. At the bottom, in one piece, there were tales of me sitting on my stern half way down, but to be honest it was a blur. Looking back, it was mostly the noise of the water thundering down that made it seem so fierce, but I was really chuffed.

We zipped back home to Oxford in record time and after unloading the boats rounded it all off with some grub in The White Horse in Headington, retelling tales of things that had happened during the weekend.

- Jen

Photos by Jen.