Tryweryn and Dee

Mission 1: Lower Tryweryn (down to Bala) and Upper Tryweryn (from The Chipper to NRA Bridge)

Having learnt on Friday night that Helen hates toenails and knows how to skilfully massage your mastoid, we'd had an early night and so there was none of the traditional Isis faff on the Saturday morning. We got on the river fairly early and using a slightly confusing shuttle system started by paddling the Lower Tryweryn, launching just up from the NRA Bridge. We were all pumped up, ready for anything, so it was no surprise when Pete decided to take on the first rapid upside down, impressive stuff indeed!

The Lower Tryweryn is made up of a few interesting bouldery rapids, providing lots of opportunity for practising boofs, splats, wave surfing, breaking in and out etc... We paddled our way downstream trying to ignore the freezing temperatures and keeping an eye out for any of the reported ice disks in the eddies. Last summer a few of us did our White Water Safety and Rescue course on the Tryweryn and we were able to put some of these skills to the test, rescuing Pete from an awkward pin on a strainer (he had definitely chosen the best line round the island though!?), rescuing Matt and his boat as he tried to pull off a McNasty on a wave, and helping Gwyl retrieve an expensive paddle lodged on the river bed (it turned out to be a broken raft paddle blade). We should also not forget Matt's seal launch back into the river after being rescued, that sent him straight into and then under a strainer coming out from the bank, I awarded him 10 man points for this incredible display.

The most challenging part of the Lower Tryweryn is Bala Mill Falls, a grade 4 drop with a slightly awkward approach route as the main flow tries to pull you away from the best line down. Liam demonstrated this elegantly and again showed how fearless the Isis crew were feeling as he approached the Falls backwards, reversed into a rock and then after a bit of flailing around went down the chicken-chute stern first and upside down. The rest of us looked on with veneration in our eyes.

We congratulated Liam and then furiously paddled back to the cars after realising the parking tickets had run out an hour earlier. I'm still trying to convince myself the cat in the water at the get-out was just having a little sleep after a brisk morning dip... The true few (myself, Gwyl and Jen) then headed back up to the top of the Upper Tryweryn, we were jolly cold but this means nothing to us hardened river warriors. Launching into the river we had a couple of amazing runs down, as Gwyl paddled in his usual Gwly way, Jen and I practised breakouts in the Graveyard section, easily did the Ski Jump and skilfully dealt with the tricky drop near the café. It was an amazing end to the day and we were on a proper adrenaline high as we headed back to the bunk house, for an indoor BBQ, warmth and sleep.

Mission 2: River Dee (Horseshoe Falls to Llangollen)

Day 2 started at a more leisurely pace, so following some mild diarrhoea and vomiting, and after saying goodbye to Teasel and Weasel the cats (it wasn't either of them we'd seen on the previous day!) we got to the get-in, in the sunshine, at lunch time. To start the session we worked through the standard kayaking checklist of...

  1. Have a quick swank to warm up
  2. Spend a while assessing Gwyl's crack
  3. Rescue dog from barbed wire fence
  4. Slide down steep grass hill in your kayak
  5. Fall on you face after trying to stand up sliding down a steep grass hill in your kayak

...then it was a quick boof over Horseshoe Falls and on down the River Dee to Llangollen. For future reference the river was at 6 on the gauge board and this gave us a good days paddling. We bounced through the wave train by the hotel and were soon at Serpent's Tail, we'd scouted this section before getting on the river so had our lines ready prepared. The Serpent's Tail starts off with a series of awkward big waves and finishes with a sticky hole that wants to drag one into an unpleasant undercut. Matt decided on earning more man points, flipping his boat over just before the stopper, whilst Gwyl spent a few unexpected moments discovering just how sticky the hole was and practicing his skulling for support/dear life.

The river was then easy going until the drops outside JJ's. We had a play around on the waves and spent a while smiling smugly as we waited for Gwyl to remove himself from yet another hole he'd got stuck in. He seems to have an affinity for sticky holes. Matt gave some useful encouragement by paddling over him. Once free from his nemesis, you could tell by the look on Gwyl's face that his crack had definitely enlarged during the incident.

Town Falls wasn't much further downstream and again we'd checked it out earlier in the day so we knew our lines and were confident we would all have a flawless descent. After a quick chat at the top, Simon led the way with Matt close behind, it wasn't long though before Matt again decided to go for the man challenge and in front of a crowd of admirers on the bridge, flipped his boat, came out, over-took Simon and then swam off down the falls. Simon followed him as rescue cover and for the first time in years got turned over and had to roll back up at the bottom!!! After this heroic display, I was next to make the descent and also ended up having to put in a roll, although it was definitely just to make sure Simon didn't feel too awkward. Jen then headed down and after dealing well with the top half decided to out-do Matt and did the second half upside down, twas very inspiring. Incidentally if anyone finds a shoe stuck in an eddy near Town Falls it may well be Jen's. Liam and Gwyl regained some credibility by safely getting down with no issues. Skirting round the weir-of-potential-death just downstream we reached the get-out and walked (in Jen's case, hopped) back to the cars with big grins on our faces, it'd been an awesome weekend!

- Joe

Photos by Jen.