CSCC Reports 2009: Dart - November 2009
Just three of us went down to Dartmoor to take advantage of lots of rain this weekend: Fi, Mark and Martin. Tom was also there for a course, and joined us in the bar on Friday night. There we planned a pleasant bimble down the Walkham.
The next day it was raining a bit. Our shuttle was remarkably organised, leaving the shuttle car at the bottom on the Tavy on the way with dry kit. At the get-in, levels looked ideal, enough water but not too much. So we faffed and got on.
Quite early the river split in two, and heading left with the flow we found tree across the channel. There were a couple of eddies before where we could get out and walk round. In the end levels were OK to go under one bit, but at higher levels that wouldn't be possible.
As we eddy-hopped, another group were catching up with us. Then we saw they were catching up with us very quickly, mainly because they were walking along the bank. We asked if something interesting was happening, and they said the next rapid was the slot. Avid readers may recall Fi inspecting this drop thoroughly 5 years ago: http://www.civilservicecanoeclub.org.uk/reports/dart0105/pages/14-050122-PH-IMGP0047.htm.
We joined the other group in chin stroking, and managed to spin it out long enough to watch two of their group down the drop. We spotted a theme. Both capsized immediately once through the slot. Ho hum. With Mark as safety cover, Fi and me thought we'd try that game too. Fi went first. I've no idea what happened, but after seeing Mark relaxed enough to hang his throwline on a tree and wander off, I could see it was nothing to worry about. I remember starting down the drop, and then things being quite wet, but was glad to roll up in an eddy rather than hurtling downstream. The rest of the other group followed, most of them making it look easy by taking a line noticeably more upright than previous goes.
Soon we joined the Tavy, and about then it started to rain a bit. Then a bit more, then quite a bit more, then quite a lot more. The Tavy is a big enough river to take it, but it was soon chocolatey brown. That was useful, as it meant we could tell the difference between the river and above the river, both of which were similarly wet. When we got off, the river at the get-out was clearly higher. A huge deep puddle had formed in the road. Our efficient shuttle was wasted as it took about 20 minutes to put my roofrack together. We started getting changed, but as some passing cars went through the puddle more carelessly than others and the rain kept falling, we gave up and drove to the get-in where it was a bit drier.
Looking at the river, we now saw a turbulent brown stream about 2 feet higher than when we'd set off.
We found a nice tea-shop in Yelverton before returning to watch Scotland beat Australia in the rugby.
That evening after dinner we started getting phone calls from concerned club members. That was how we learnt that that afternoon a paddler had died on the Upper Dart in the floods. The following morning as it was lashing down with yet more rain and the gales were blowing, we didn't really feel like paddling the Dart! So saving it for another day, we didn't paddle on the Sunday.
It was all a bit dark for photography, but these are the more presentable from my and Mark's photos:
Plenty of water and a beautiful autumn day
A rapid easy enough to stop for photos
It was getting dark, and the water was fast
Stroking our chins at the slot
Fi shows one line
Martin tries much the same
Martin goes back for a look
As levels rose, the footpaths offered a viable alternative