Between Christmas and over New Years, a couple of the team from Hatt Adventures and assorted friends took a kayaking trip up to Scotland for a much needed break (well if you can call whitewater in near freezing conditions a break?)
For some members of the team (no names here) it had been a little while since they’d been on some proper whitewater and everyone was keen with a little warm up river to settle in. This was helped by the tiredness in the group as we were still waiting for the sun to come up since we had driven from Brighton through the night! So the River Braan (G2-3 with a section of 4) was selected and team got on to subzero temperatures and frozen fingers.
The Braan was fairly dull in the early stages despite the high volume and it wasn’t until we rounded the corner that the fun started! Chris was leading and all of a sudden disappeared into a big hole and managed to fight his way through, before Matt was eaten! Tom managed to avoid the hole only to look back and see Doug go straight in on top of Matt. The rapids from here on in were continuous high volume (for the UK) grade 4+ and the section was about 200m long with a sharp left-hand bend. It was then that another member of the group was flipped upside-down and it was time to get the ropes out! With 3 out of 6 out of their kayaks and swimming; rescuing people, kit and boats, took a while!
The Braan proved to be one on the most eventful ‘warm up’ rivers any of us had paddled and set the tone for the rest of the week!
We paddled The Roy (G2-3) and The Loy (G3-4), both were very enjoyable with some small drops and a few bits to scrape down (strange considering the amount of rain at the time!)
Was a drive to look at the infamous River Etive (G4-5) with its final 20ft waterfall as the last challenge, but sadly the rain had been relentless all night and the levels were huge! We therefore decided to head further East the River Orchy (G3-4) which was great fun! A couple of us decided on the way home to quickly jump in our boats and run some on the bottom rapids on the Allt Kinglass (G4).
The River Pattack! (G4) and one of the most adventurous rivers of the trip given the 2km up hill carry with your boat (all sorts of rucksack designs were invented to carry the boats), then there was the steep scramble down to the river and the lowering of boats, before finally getting on the river and an immediate ferry glide across the river to portage over 3 fallen trees and certain death! Once on the river it was fantastic and one of my favorites to date, with a big pourover to finish. It was so good a few of us walked up and ran the last 500m of rapids again.
On this day we linked 2 sections of the River Spean to make a good day out. First was the Upper Spean (G3+). The dam was releasing on 3 pipes and the feeling at the get on was very belittling with that amount of water roaring overhead! The river was big, fast, and bouncy with a few decent size holes to keep you on your toes! For some the experience was a little unnerving (with this being the UK’s largest volume river) and they decided the 1km walk dragging boats through dense trees was the preferred option. For a couple of us that continued on, the final gorge section finishing 50m from the lethal of Inverlair Falls was well worth it!
After that we paddled the very enjoyable Middle Spean (G2-3) down to Spean Bridge with only one drop of note a few hundred meters before the get out.
A fairly big day taking in the River Loy (G2-3), The Gloy (4) and a few drops on the Allt Mhuic (G4-5) before it got dark! The Loy was a little lower than the last time and we scraped our way down again. The Gloy is an awesome section of classic British technical grade 4 rapids with a few fallen tree strainers thrown in for good measure! Lastly the Allt Mhuic was a daft idea thrown in at the end of the day as we were nearby. By the time we got there, found the river (its more of a mountain run off that only runs in high water) and carried our boats 500m up the steep sides, it was getting dark! So, for this reason and because some the drops looked mental (requiring full-face helmets and elbow pads) we ran 3 of the drops near the top, with a crack team of safety swimmers and throw ropes in place, incase one of us took a swim and headed for a hiding!
The final day was spent on the Upper Roy (G4) and the Lower Roy (G2-3). The former was fast, high and great fun with one of the rapids eating low volume boats (Matt & Jenny’s) and spitting them out a few meters down stream! After that we paddle the Lower Roy (again) not because we had a desire to do so, but simply because we didn’t fancy the steep muddy walk, (hauling the kayaks back out,) that it would have required!
All in all it was a great trip with some old favourites paddled, some new rivers explored and some new lines taken (intentionally or not!)
Whitewater Kayaking Video – Scotland 2013
By Tom Hatt