Monday, 18 July 2011

Alps 2011 - the Tom perspective

This is a quick run trough of what I can remember happening during this year’s Alps trip, there may be a few mistakes in terms of which rivers got done when and in what order the days happened. Hopefully a few other people will join in on the old blogging lark and a combination of posts should give a vaguely coherent record of the trip.

We had a total of two weeks set aside for the trip, taking away the two days either side for driving and a rest day that left nine days of paddling – good shit.

The trip did not start well with the trailer lights not really working. Despite the advice of the GUSA travel convener to ‘just stick your hand out of the window’ we decided it was probably worth getting it fixed, so we went for a trip to Cat’s house. By a process of cutting wires and sticking them back together in different orders Cat’s dad managed to get the lights working while Cat’s mum gave us tea and scones, it was awesome, which is why I propose we don’t go to the Alps next year and just stay at Cat’s house for a fortnight instead. By this point we were running at the limits of our schedule and had to haul ass to Dover.

Many, many hours later we arrived at the campsite and following the erection of Cat and Emma’s scaled up version of Blenhim Palace masquerading as a tent we went for a play on the slalom course, this lead to the first swim and a shoe beer for Arran.

Day one proper saw the compulsory first river being the Sunshine run on the Durance, which was low (the Rab wave was more of a Rab hole) followed by the upper Guisane which was also low and full of rocks. After these two fairly uneventful runs we decided to squeeze in the lower Guisane before six. This didn’t happen and as we thought we’d better wait at least a couple of days before engaging in criminal activity we got off before getting into the guts of the run.

Day two began with the Briancon gorge which was low and had building works blocking the slide on the barrage – the highlight of any Alps trip which was a shame. Next we actually managed to get the lower Guisane done. It was on the lower end of the scale but still really fun and quite technical with a lot of rock dodging. Noteworthy incidents included Fraser being upside down and lacking paddles before recovering and Dan having a bit of a swim (another shoe beer). For the final action of the day we had a wee jaunt down the Gyronde, it was low but a three river day’s a three river day.

The following day we headed up to the Guil as there was more water up there than in the Briancon area. We started with the upper gorge section which was fairly high and had a few fairly meaty holes on it, a fun river which was only slightly ruined by Sean pissing in my mouth off a bridge. Emma had a swim as well which lead to a shoe litchi and passion fruit gay juice.

Day three of Alps trips traditionally ends in carnage, which raises the question why I decided to run triple step, a drop with a large cave half way down. However despite assembling literally everyone in kit with throw lines for me to spend ten seconds running one drop no carnage occurred and I managed to wash the brown colour out of my shorts before anyone noticed. After watching a few rafts run down, also with no carnage, we left disappointed.

The next day saw us heading to the Ubaye. The gorge looked a bit easy so we didn’t bother and went and ran the upper instead, a really long fun bouncy stretch of river in the sun. In the afternoon we ran the racecourse section with a little help from an utter lad of a French raft guide who was soling it at the same time as us. This was a very cool bit of paddling with a bit more volume that the runs we’d done up until that point and a truly awesome bit of scenery at the end as we paddled into the entrance of a huge gorge under a Roman bridge.

By the time we got back to the campsite Emma’s car was making some concerning noises so the next morning a recovery van came and took it to a Toyota garage in Embrum who in testament to the work ethic that France is famous for, took only a week to fix it! So with only one vehicle we were forced to stay close to L’Argantier. Fortunately a bit of rain had picked the levels up so we hit the Onde followed by the Gyr. The Onde saw Kieran looking slightly concered for the first time despite having been paddling less than a year (not that concerned though) and the Gyr had swims for Ezra and Harry. Ezra’s boat had to be retrieved from a barrage and Harry’s came back full of stones but otherwise all was well. For a quick last run we did the Gyronde back to the campsite. Nothing happened that evening.

Saturday was a rest day which gave us a chance to recover from the events which did not happen the night before and sort out a hire car to replace Emma’s for a couple of days.

Sunday saw a return to boating but I can’t remember exactly what rivers we did. I think we did the Lower Guisane in the morning (Cat manned up) and quite a high Gyronde in the afternoon. The lower Guisane was made interesting by the nose of Sean’s boat almost completely falling off and the Gyronde caused Kieran ever so slightly more concern. The evening’s entertainment involved boat welding.

A return to the Guil the next day saw good water levels yet again. We ran the upper gorge again, this time with everyone getting on. Kieran at one point had an expression which looked border line scared, but this was probably just my imagination. After this we ran the lower section of the middle Guil from ‘le tunnel down’. This was pretty cool and we felt quite proud of ourselves until some crazy Germans turned up having paddle the whole of the Guil from Guardian Angel down and made us realize how futile and pathetic our paddling achievements really are.

Tuesday was Sean’s last day, so in celebration Sean, Ezra and I along with some strange people from Bath Uni, one of whom kept calling himself Dragon, went and did the Durance gorge. This sounds impressive but it was not. It was really low and not very hard at all but none the less a pretty cool place to be and a good day out. While we did this the rest of the group ran the Onde and some tree related incidents occurred. Cat also caused some poor unsuspecting boy from Newcastle to fall in love with her before cruelly breaking his heart. That evening we waved a teary goodbye to Sean and Dan sobbed pathetically all night.

On the last day the weather was crap but we soldiered on and went and ran the Briancon Gorge. Yet again it was low and smelled of poo but this time we made friends with a crane driver half way down which made it all worth wile. Callum and Arran had a swim each and were given a good shoe beering. By the time we’d had lunch everyone was too cold and wet to be arsed with another river so we went back to the campsite and stood in the shower until the rain stopped. That night we dismantled Cat and Emma’s mansion and they were sent to stay in Dan’s tent to make them realize what its like to sleep in a tent which does not cover a medium sized French parish.

The next morning saw most of our lives take a turn for the worse as we had to leave the Alps. Our journey home involved driving, some ferrying and fun games involving listing rivers which start with every letter of the alphabet. Emma, Gregor, Fraser and Dan stayed out for an extra couple of days before driving back in the car which had been speedily repaired by hard working, sober French mechanics. From what I’ve heard their journey involved, trespassing, nearly getting kidnapped and eaten by dogs, public drunkenness and Dan freaking people out in Paris by waving at them a lot.

It was a good trip.

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