White Water Kayak Training Trip Rivers Tryweryn and Dee

Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th January 2013

The weekend started in the usual fashion; congregate at the club to load up boats, grab your gear and scoff chips Always a favourite and a good start to a weekends paddling ingesting 1500kcals before you've even left Oxford.

We all bundled in the cars and headed off up t'norf. The motorways were pretty painless but the final 40 miles through the winding Shropshire/Welsh country roads took an absolute age; every corner somehow came as a shock to 'The Captain' (Paul Rogers - nickname to be explained later) and it seemed that each was a 50 pence piece, adding to the motion sickness from Captain's car All good in the hood.

We managed to get within a mile of the bunk house, did a few circuits just to make it a little more challenging and then after a quick scan of the iPad, took a left through a gate, down what seemed like a 45deg track across a cattle grid - hey presto, we've arrived.

Due to 'team shanty' having to stop to buy what by all accounts were the most expensive groceries in the world from a service station, we were second to arrive behind Neil's new rig. I'm confident it had a good smattering of 80's music emanating from the stereo; Helen W looked suitably broken so I knew this was the case. Just to counter that, Simon was playing his favourite ballads from Iron Maiden as we walked through the door. We all bagged a sleeping hole for the night and tucked into our favourite tipple; that is apart from Simon who managed to pour himself a beaker of flavoured vodka which warmed the cockles He wasn't allowed to have anything else until he nailed it.

And sleep. Friday night over

Saturday. In our room at least, we woke up to me thrashing around in my bed from 5am (6ft+ in a bunk bed is a challenge); the quilt was 4 inches too short so it was freezing shoulders or toes. I employed an alternating regime it didn't work. The dawn chorus of the captain whipping up a full english delight for us all was also evident!

To the river we go

We arrived at the bottom of the upper and the top of the lower (so the middle then!?!) Tryweryn, all got kitted up; me in my new toasty dry-suit and boots. Yep I've been on the spend again and the credit card minimum payment is scary Whatever!

The coaches and dudes wot know wot to do had a little play on the Upper Tryweryn as all us trainees looked on and gawped in awe; well this up until the cry of 'SWIMMER'. Neil decided enough was enough and upright wasn't for him anymore; scramble the recover team, collect the boat, collect the patient and carry out the walk of shame.

Now our turn

There was a pretty gnarly feature at the top of the Lower Tryweryn which we had the option to run if we wanted to. The Captain, Adam, Chris H, Tom and me took the plunge. Me, Chris and Tom

were first it was a bit of a blur but we negotiated it well (if I say so myself) then we waited and waited and waited some more for Captain and Adam. I understand there was a getting in the boat problem; even though both negotiated the feature it seemed getting in the boats proved problematic!

After this, the river was pretty fast flowing (compared to the Exe & Barle) and was proving to catch a lot of us out. We were split into two groups, I was in the first group and on a few occasions there were a succession of boats without paddlers bobbing their way downstream. All the coaches and helpers did a sterling job, with all boats and equipment successfully collected, all personnel accounted for.

And so to my misdemeanour Yes hard to believe but I took a swim (sharp intake of breath). Yup, reversed out of an eddy, launched into some friendly rocks and boom head on floor, paddle out of hand I didnt even eject as it was done for me by rocky and his mates. We were looking for my paddle for minutes until it surfaced upstream from us. That could've been an interesting ride; dunno about sh1t creek but I certainly (almost) didn't have a paddle.

The river was pretty interesting with a lot of submerged rocks. I was explained the concept of happy and unhappy faces to try and anticipate underwater rockage, which was pretty helpful. Plaudits to Steve and Blake.

Eventually, we got to the top of Bala Mill Falls and this was where us trainees had to portage river right. This also meant that we could watch how it was done by the coaches from our vantage point. It looked pretty technical and it was interesting to see that the plan was not to nail it in one but to head to the eddy halfway down on river left before running the lower part of the fall. This was all good practice for my unhinged mind; sometimes you have to keep your powder dry and not just go gung-ho at everything as invariably with all things white water the water wins.

Soon it was time to get out, get dry and get back.

Dinner for Saturday night was in the BBQ hut next to the bunk house. OK consider this; a human sized ashtray enclosed with very little ventilation and 24 burgers, some cardboard chicken Neil found in the freezer and some Linda McCartney snags for Joe all vying for cooking space.

It now all becomes clear why Nick Weir had a long face Saturday evening it must've been down to the frozen horse burgers he was grilling. They were creating some lovely congealed stalactite forms through the grill. So lovely were they that Simon and Chris H decided to yum one down.

So now to Paul Rogers 'The Captain'; this was all centred on the music in the BBQ hut. We initially had the sultry 'get you in the mood for a Saturday night tones of Simon's finest metal, then after my request for some electronica we progressed to some 180bpm delights from DJ SY culminating in a rave from the grave with some Adamski, from my own 88 - 91 rave collection. But the pinnacle of the evening was the sea shanty Drunken Sailor rendition by the sea shanty master himself, 'The Captain'. The entire hut was booming to the harmonised tones as one and all were singing; apart that is from Steve and Blake and friends who couldn't quite believe what was going on. But we had a sea shanty God in our midst Drunken Sailor was from The Captains 2nd album for goodness sake!!

After effectively breathing in 40 Benson & Hedges, it was time to turn in; more aqua fun tomorrow.

Sunday was the River Dee and the now infamous seal launch down the frosty bank to the Horseshoe Weir. I dont mind admitting I thought I was a definite for a backward entry into the horse shoe weir of delights, due to the uncommonly frosty and fairly steep bank we were launching down.

All of us did a good job of staying upright and no impromptu entries to the water were made, apart from The Captain as he took to chewing on a boat on his way down uh erm, my boat infact as I didnt get it out of the way in time. Sorry Captain, what's a little fat lip between friends, eh?

Entry down the rapids by the side of the weir was uneventful although I managed an unplanned reverse single handed entry. All good, though partway down the river, a pretty aggressive eddy line tipped Sue Law southward and consequently prematurely end her kayaking for the day due to an existing injury. Here's hoping it doesn't manifest itself as an on-going injury, fingers crossed.

The river channelled itself into a pretty fierce piece of grade 4 goodness which we trainees had to portage around for obvious reasons. Simon, Joe, Steve and Blake ran it perfectly (well, apart from Joes capsize in the waves).

We all jumped back in our boats and headed down river to where the cars were parked and played on some little waves until we got cold, tired, bored (or all three). A mandate was that if anyone swam the recovery was up to us trainees alone. Nick Weir eventually decided enough was enough and he wanted out so he dumped himself out on a wave. I have to say, some of our recovery techniques need some work though; huge thanks to Joe and Adam for recovering Nick and gear. I did try the balance the upturned boat on my bow routine but as before but technique needs a little work.

Plaudits to both Tom Law and Chris Hardie who carried out their first unplanned Eskimo roll on the river.

Huge thanks to Simon, Helen W, Neil, Joe, Steve and Blake. There was a lot of activity from us trainees; good, bad and indifferent but as ever you kept us all safe and imparted knowledge throughout the weekend. Having Steve running down the bank with a throw line in hand shouting advice and encouragement was real commitment to our progression and much appreciated.

All in all a great weekend Til the next time compadres.

- Stu 'Team Bullet' Bryden -

Photos by .