Upper Wye

It was the first weekend in December and it was cold. Our plan to paddle a couple of sections of the Upper Wye to check them out seemed sound enough but constant monitoring of the river gage in the preceding week showed that the water level was too low, being 6 inches below the official marker. The lack of rain didn�t look promising, but on our drive up to Newbridge the heavens opened and Simon, Liam and I prayed that it would continue. We met up with Glynn and Helen shortly after we arrived, and joined our friend Chris at the pub next to the bunkhouse for a few (cheap) drinks, some snacks and a couple of games of pool. Just after 1am the landlord kicked us out and we made arrangements to meet at 9am the next day to check the water levels and come up with a plan.

Rhayader to Newbridge

We woke at around 8am, some of us slightly frozen due to the lack of heating in the bunkhouse bedroom and rather thin duvets. After a quick breakfast we packed our bags and set off for Rhayader to check the river. On the way Liam checked the gage on the webcam and it seemed that the rain overnight had pushed the water level up past the official marker and beyond. In fact the entire gage was covered in water and couldn't be seen! The river was in spate.

A check of Town Falls from the bridge showed us a mammoth amount of water flowing down the river with a particularly big wave leading under the bridge and some grade 4 rapids further down. We decided that it would be safest to paddle the section from Rhayader to Newbridge, which was usually grade 2, and save the Llangurig to Rhayader section for the second day hopefully.

After a lengthy shuttle, we finally launched and set off on some very fast moving water. It was all pretty simple steering to keep out of the strainers until we came to our first technical part, a grade 3 rapid under a bridge, which in the fast moving water was a little fruity. We all passed through in style, and I even managed a limbo under low hanging tree to complete the manoeuvre. Back into the flow we pushed on through many immersed rapids which now created impressively huge wave trains on the surface, with big highs and lows it was easy to lose sight of the person's boat in front and it seemed more like paddling on the sea at points.

After a short lunch stop at a designated egress, where Chris managed to roll a particularly damp cigarette, we started to get chilly so we pressed on until we came to our egress point which was a little improvised due to the official egress having a sign on it suggesting it could not be used. Luckily Chris worked on an estate with land next to the river so we got out up a little stream and after the shuttle was complete we headed back to the bunkhouse for a warm shower and some dinner.

After such a tiring paddle we were a little sleepy. Glynn started nodding off at the dinner table, Helen in front of the fire, where I joined her, so we all made our way back to the bunkhouse where I don�t remember a thing because I fell asleep (even though it was only about 9pm)!

Llangurig to Rhayader

We awoke to cups of tea served in bed by Helen, while Simon provided me with birthday cards and presents to celebrate my big day. We started leisurely which suited the Sunday mood and eventually filed out of the bunkhouse at 9am.

Another gander at Town Falls highlighted that the water had gone down considerably over night and we could now see actual features, including some fish steps. We decided to head up to Llangurig where the rain started pelting down and wind was super icy. It was going to be a cold paddling day.

We met some paddlers who happened to be from Riverside who had done the section a few times before and they confirmed our experience of the trip which was that there were some interesting features but nothing too scary.

The first section was rather dull and involved steering through a few kilometres of overhanging trees, but we eventually got to the fun stuff making our way down some grade 2 and 3 rapids, and traversing boulder gardens. There were quite a few paddlers out on the river and it was nice having a chat with them as Simon, Liam, Chris and I floated by trying to catch up with Glynn and Helen who were steaming off ahead.

The hail stones started coming down mid- morning which, coupled with the icy wind, made us all rather chilly. Lunch at the bottom of the Letter Box provided some sustenance for the final push of the day, a couple more rapids including the finale, Town Falls. After seeing it at full pelt the previous day I was curious to see it from the river, but it turned out to be nothing too special in low water as we all floated over it with ease and made our way to the get out.

A brilliant weekend's paddling and we'll definitely be going back to mid-Wales to complete these sections again.

PS. Sorry for the lack of photos, but we were too busy paddling to stop and take lots of pictures!

- Jen

Photos by Jen.

Photos by Glynn.