Conwy and Llugwy

Day 1 - Afon Llugwy

We had been praying for rain, but when we woke on Saturday morning we could see our prayers had fallen upon deaf ears. We checked the Conwy gauge board, it was too low... We checked the Tryweryn, it was too low... We had now choice, it was off to the Llugwy for a slightly daunting run down the falls at Pont Cyfyng . We had portaged them on the last trip as from the bridge over the river they looked pretty serious. In fact if you read our last trip report they were described as the 'you must portage around this or die' waterfalls. Water levels were slightly lower than last time though and so after checking the guidebook and planning our lines, with a slight feeling of apprehension we launched off into the flow.

With hindsight a bit more warming up could have been a good idea, as were literally straight in at the deep end. I'd decided to lead and after a couple of small drops we were in a twisting, fast and very narrow chute. Bashing into the wall at the bottom I came out feeling pretty surprised I was still upright, Gwyl came out next, backwards but alive, Higgo was not far behind. It was then pretty much straight into a very sticky hole that gripped onto me and Gwyl for a little bit too long, I was wondering if I was going to spend the rest of the day impressing the passersby watching from high above with my frantic side surfing, but we escaped and Higgo somehow sailed through with no issues hmmm... The most exciting feature was next, a 4m waterfall drop with a very awkward line into it. I set a fine example by almost landing upside down, the other 2 followed in a slightly more stylish fashion. Kind of shocked no one had swum we whooped and hollered and then decided to run the section again, lugging our boats back up the cliff to the get in. Gwyl as always was slightly premature and dropped his boat on the way and we watched with a mixture of horror and hilarity as it slid down towards the river, getting caught on a rock just before it plunged into the falls.

Run 2 was just as exciting, we styled it through the chute, I rolled in the stopper, Gwyl lurked in it for a while, Higgo again just floated through everything!!! I'm pleased to say that this time Gwyl managed to fall sideways off the narrow line into the waterfall and I followed his lead, very impressive. To be fair though it was a very tricky line and our first proper waterfall drop. We scouted the next 2 drops, both looked sketchy, so we set Gwyl up for a slippery seal launch around the final one and then dragged our boats back up the cliff to the road. We'd only paddled for a couple of hours but with all the climbing, scouting and adrenaline I was exhausted. Kit fondling at Cotswold in Betws y Coed, followed by pub food finished us of for the day. The world record waterfall drop is 189ft, I reckon we should be able to nail a 200 footer on the next trip

DAY 2 - Afon Conwy

It rained a bit during the night so were relieved to find the Conwy was just about paddleable when we got to the gauge board. The gauge has to be on 3 or above to be allowed to paddle the river and we were lucky, if you looked at it from a certain angle it was definitely on 3. Launching at the A5 bridge we headed off downstream. It was a much more leisurely paddle than day 1 and the Conwy is a beautiful river, winding in parts through a wooded, rocky gorge. A few good rapids are scattered along this middle section and we ran the 2 best ones more than once. One was called Bryn Bras falls, the other one was the rapid on which Gwyl took a 'swim' last time, he will deny it was a proper swim but I definitely remember seeing him breast stroking in the water as his boat floated off.

Clawing our way back up the slippery rocks to get to the top of Bryn Bras falls, I managed to crush myself under my boat in the icy water and then had to leap to the rescue of Gwyls paddle which floated past me. The only consolation was that he got pinned on the way back down, much to our amusement and earning himself a 9 out 10 for the effort.

To anyone going on a white water trip I would strongly recommend taking a length of nylon tape and a carabiner, which you can use to drag your boat around with. I used mine loads on this trip and it was definitely the most useful bit of safety and rescue kit I had with me. It also came in very useful on the last trip when I had to lasso a tree to stop myself going backwards over a drop we hadn't scouted.

The rest of the paddle was a pleasant bimble with a few smaller rapids to bounce down. We spent a while honing our incredible surfing skills on a wave as Jen looked on with pride in her eyes. Oh the simple joys of kayaking. After my crushing incident and with the thought of the long drive home looming over me I decided to get off the river with Liam and Jen. Gwyl and Higgo soldiered on though and ran another 2.5km down to the Conwy Falls Café. It was a bit of a scouting expedition involving two portages round dubious rapids. Hopefully next time with the rain on our side though we will all do this section. It's always good to have something to look forward to.

- Joe

Photos by Jen.