Conwy, Llugwy, Tryweryn

So normally we head to Wales in the hope of paddling a river and end up at the Tryweryn because it is the only place with reliable water, this weekend we planned to paddle the Tryweryn and ended up paddling two new rivers as well. This was mostly thanks to the rain on Friday night which pushed the river level gauge on the Conwy up to 4, perfect for a moderate paddle. Jen, Joe, Gwyl and Liam jumped on at the A5 road bridge, along with a hitch-kayaker called Connor who randomly joined us in the layby.

We popped a fluorescent jacket in a tree to mark the get out so we didn't end up floating down to Conwy Falls (AKA certain death). The get on was simple and we made our descent under bridges, into stoppers, down drops, over rocks, through rapids, and along wave trains. Liam had a map so we could chart our progress. We scouted a couple of sections because we couldn't see past the horizon line easily, but all in all it was a simple run (the only real excitement was Gwyl's swimming at the bottom of one of the grade 4 sections) and before long we could see the jacket in the tree and it was time for lunch.

Liam and Gwyl set up their sandwich station and we sat to discuss the afternoon's paddling. We eventually decided on the Llugwy, a simpler river generally, but with some massive grade 5 waterfalls in the middle which you really don't want to go down. We set up the shuttle, leaving a car at the get out and drove over to the lay by near Plas y Brenin to launch at the lake (after notifying reception of our plans).

The Llugwy was a very different affair. It was flat and slow moving and we had to put in some effort to make any progress. Eventually we came to Cobden's Falls, a grade 4/5 rapid, which provided some distraction. After a careful scout for a safe line, Connor led the way followed by Gwyl, Joe, Liam and finally me. We found a good spot to boof off into the frothy white below, carefully manoeuvring around the large boulder in the middle of the river.

We pushed on for a while and then decided to get out and inspect the horizon line because we had finally come to the 'you must portage around this or die' waterfalls, otherwise known as the grade 5/6 Pont Cyfyng. All very impressive when looking down at them from the bridge, where you spend forever trying to work out a potential route and then abandon it because it would kill you if you made a mistake. For us it meant a fairly long portage over the bridge, along the road, over the stile and through a field back onto the river. We passed over Forestry Falls without even realising it because it was more of a small rapid than a waterfall, and eventually got to our get out feeling glad we had done it but collectively decided we'd never need to again in our lives...ever...thanks to the mammoth flat sections.

So every trip needs a song, and our earworm for the weekend was 'I love horses, best of all the animals; I love horses, they're my friends.' Inspired partly by Joe's 'I go slow for ponies' sticker in his car.

The evening was spent eating vegan chilli prepared by Gwyl, drinking cider and trying to work out if we could park in Ysbyty Ifan if we put a copy of Angling Times on the parcel shelf to fool the fishermen. We decided it was worth the risk. So after a big breakfast which inlcuded banana loaf heaped with Nutella (thanks Helen), we packed up the car and headed for the gauge only to find out that the river was on less then 1 so we went to the Tryweryn instead.

I've never done it on 11 cumecs before. It is a bit of a monster. The wave trains are massive and the flow is quite pushy but we all made it down the Upper in one piece and proceeded to the Lower to see what was happening at the grade 4 rapid known as Bala Mill Falls. We inspected and spent some time working out various routes, only to have a kayak coach and his student pick a nice simple line while we were watching, so we abandoned our foolish notitions of frothy glory for the boof and certain success.

A brilliant and relaxed weekend and, thanks to the small group size, there was minimal faff. Result!

- Jen