So, here is a blog of my feelings, perceptions and memories of this year's Alps trip. It will no doubt be factually inaccurate cos I can't really remember what happened when so hopefully some other people will also post blogs which are better. Day one involved driving, this is neither fun nor interesting. A bag fell off the roof of the M6 and Sam had to run into the middle of the motorway to fetch it and Ben's car broke within the first hour, but all this happened before I got picked up so were not my concern.
Day two also involved driving which is not fun or interesting, paddling the slalom course which is both fun and interesting and eating pizza. The weather when we got there was fairly bollocks but luckily picked up.
Due to high levels on day one we went and did the Lower Guil followed by the sunshine run. Many swims were had (leading to Sweet Cheeks adopting 'Swim until you can't see land as his theme tune) but also a lot of fun. Other aspects of the day involved the owner of a French bakery refusing to sell us breakfast despite her advertising her business as a provider of pastry based products (no wonder the Euro's screwed).
Next day we did the Lower Claree, usually described as a 5km long eddy it was passably good with the higher water. It was made particularly interesting by trees with one very last minute portage to avoid a tree choke. The afternoon saw a run of the Briancon gorge which was back to its previous funness following the works on the barrage last year with the slide re opened and decent levels. It still smells of poo though and Gretel, Callum’s boat did a large section without him.
The Guisane is one river which in my opinion gives all abilities a classic French Alps experience and we got both the upper and the Lower done in a day. The lower was particularly awesome at pretty meaty levels and our notable lack of fitness became very apparent by the end. Meanwhile those not keen for the lower headed to do the section of the Durance from the campsite down. Sweet cheeks so nearly making it a no swim river but alas it was not to be. That evening while sat next to the slalom course a kind German man in very tight spedos gave me a detailed explanation of why my carrabiner was wrong, unfortunately this explanation involved quite a lot of bending over.
The next morning Harry lied to us and told us we’d need to get up early for the drive to the Sunshine run, when we were all up he announced that we were not in fact going to the Sunshine run but having a morning’s training on the Slalom course which was very useful despite his deceitfulness. After this we ran the Gyronde which all went fine despite Kirsty’s best efforts to get vertically pinned on the weir. The day was concluded with a quick run of the Onde accompanied by a strange man from Bath uni who claimed to have spent the previous night sleeping in a bush in Grenoble (his claims were corroborated by his odor), he then stole our food.
The group split up the next morning with most of the group heading off to the Gyronde which while some swim ffaff occurred I understand went well while a few of us went and did the Durance gorge. Fortunately we were accompanied by Sam’s mate Pilky so we didn’t die! In the evening we headed up to the Fournel for tea and for Pilky to show us all he’s much better than we are.
The next morning I think we did the Briancon gorge again, Stella’s boat went off the barrage and mangled its nose meaning Sam had to go abseiling (I think this is a word for a type of masturbation, but that’s not what I mean in this context if anyone is confused) to fetch it. Some criticism of the technique was received from another uni boater but it was later clarified that he’s a Dick. Next a quick and fairly uneventful run of the Gyr followed by an extremely ffaffy run of the Gyronde before heading out for a meal.
Rest day saw a morning of boat welding before everyone sobered up enough to drive at which point most folk went sight-seeing in Briancon while Fraser, Sam and I headed out for a climb. I gave the locals a demonstration of the British technique of squeezing into a crack and humping my way upwards, they seemed unimpressed.
After rest day was Ubaye day. The upper Ubaye was extremely cold and rainy but the racecourse was a good laugh and saw a freak of nature so rare even David Attenborough is yet to capture it – Kieran swimming! His paddles ended up stuck in a gorged in section which turned into ffaff mainly due to my very ill advised attempt to traverse back along a cliff to it. The plan was duly abandoned and Sam and Rupert just paddled back down the section to fetch it.
Guil day began with the upper upper which was pretty cold and rubbish followed by us getting on the Upper at the same time as team Pyranha, including Anton Immler which was a really fun grade 3+ run. The piranha paddlers carried on down chateaux Q, guardian angel and the middle Guil but got off above the Guil gorge. This should probably have told us something but a few of us decided to get on while everyone else headed back to get dinner on, fortunately Pilky came along to stop us dying again.
The abseil in took us an hour and the initial rapids which looked big from the road were even bigger at river level but they were manageable. Unfortunately it turned out that these were the warm up rapids. The first portage featured a must make ferry glide with probable death awaiting if you missed it. After this we got back on to some grade five read and run which eventually led to Rupert getting an absolute tanking in a hole before a grade five swim with self-rescue of boat and paddles. After continuing a little further and with only about a kilometre left we decided it was getting ridiculous and ran away like little girls, walking out up a very steep, long, hot path before collapsing by the road and asking a nice lady for a drink from her hose pipe (not a euphemism). We’ve since found out that it was a few feet higher than the level the guide book is based on so we feel a bit better about our yellow bellied fleeing.
Our return to the Guisane saw a few extra people get on the lower and everyone get on the upper. A good day was had by all.
Our last day was pretty easy with a run of the Sunshine run allowing time to get sorted before heading home.
Other amusing incidents included the bus being locked into a car park and having to do a spot of off roading to escape, a feud with Bangor involving a duct tape penis and Sam Gregory stealing a woman’s dog while she was having a Barry. Callum also vomited all over their tent (known as the tenthouse) but fortunately only got it on his own things while Paul Walker slept through it and Sweet Cheeks made an escape. Strangely, even though Rupert was supposedly a resident of the Tenthouse his whereabouts are unaccounted for during this incident, hopefully Claire will shed some light on this mystery in her Blog post.