CSCC Reports 2004: Tryweryn Tour, 7-8 August 2004
Mark - with assistance from others - reports... that the Paddlers were in order of arrival at the campsite: Fiona & Mark, Martin & Tom, Hilary & Peter, Jim, Richard & Dan (or Dr Dan to distinguish him from the many other Daniels we have) and last but by no means least Turtle.
A plan of action had already been decided during a team meeting the previous evening which meant that there was a hive of activity around our encampment quite early on with people viewing the river, buying their tour tickets, sorting kit ’n’ boats and fitting in some breakfast.
The shuttle posse left for Bala soon after 10.00am while the rest of the team carried boats to the river which meant that the two paddling teams were setting out on the water way before the usual noon (or as Tom’s top put it, “far too early”). The nine paddlers split into two groups. First group consisted of Fiona, Dr Dan, Hilary, Peter and Jim whilst the “play” group consisted of Martin, Richard, Tom and Mark.
Both groups made their way down the lower section making the most of what the river had to offer. Dr Dan was tucked closely behind Mother Duck (Fiona) as she led the first group down the river. He was paddling the Tryweryn for the first time and initially led us all to believe he was a complete novice but his competent performance soon exposed some hidden truths about his real ability and prior experiences on white water! Peter was building his confidence minute by minute under Hilary’s tutelage and Jim was reacquainting himself with his paddling skills, warming up for the afternoon's assault on the top section. Halfway down Jim swapped over with Fiona and continued to lead Dr Dan down the river whilst Fiona had a chance to also warm up for the top section.
Meanwhile the “play group” proceeded with some interesting manoeuvres. Richard won the prize for the first roll of the day just minutes after we got on the river at the campsite play wave. Martin continues to avoid the need for rolling with determined and effective support strokes. I had cause to roll in anger whilst drifting out of the back of an eddy into some boily water – a good lesson for all paddlers! I did manage to communicate my impending doom to Richard who was sitting in the eddy. My words were “Richard I’m about to disap…… splash!” Tom meanwhile was pacing himself and getting used to moving water building his confidence slowly but surely, a tactic which was to pay dividends by the end of the weekend.
By the time both groups had reached Bala Mill Falls, Dr Dan had very creditably only sampled two out-of-boat experiences whilst I had had one when trying to play in a wave that wanted me to form a close friendship with a big hard rock!! Good rescue practice though for the rest of the paddlers.
Bala Mill Falls was shot by the majority of the group. A variety of routes were chosen by the paddlers who then tried to convince each other that these were indeed intended. Richard, not paddling in his usual manner, for once chose the more conventional route. No dramatic rolling after coming out of the top eddy a slight disappointment. We were not disappointed however when Peter as always especially unique in his approach entertained us all and during the course of the weekend I think he has earned the nickname of Freestyle Pete.
All too soon the trip was over and thoughts turned to the challenges of the Upper Section by which time we had been joined by Turtle.
At the Top Section get in, you could almost taste the tension amongst some of the paddlers, namely me. Peter and myself were Top Section Virgins whilst Richard and Martin had only done the trip once or twice before although Turtle had more under his belt and many stories to tell! Fiona, Hilary and Jim had many many successful trips behind them and we were relying on them to get us down in one piece.
Again the paddlers were split into two groups – Fiona, Richard, Martin and Me in one group and Hilary, Peter, Jim and Turtle in the other.
Turtle joined us late on the Saturday, so he was attempting the upper section cold. Hence, he could not seem to manage any swims, not even a roll, and did a clean run.
Fedwrgog got the better of Peter, the meanest rapid on the top section, this resulted in a roll. Just as he rolled up he broad sided a large rock which sent his paddles flying down the river before him. While Peter practised his hand paddling technique, Hilary charged down the river to rescue the paddles. Just before the S-bend or “Dog Leg”, Hilary hurled Peter’s paddles towards him. He only just managed to grab them in time to make the small eddy on the right hand side just before the drop.
Jim Shannon was doing some nice wave riding on the stoppers at the bottom of the S-bend and below the NRA Bridge. At one point he seemed to have his paddles above his head and was gently gliding from side to side on the stopper.
For me the first part of the Top Section was completely exhilarating as our group tightly followed Fiona from break out to break out taking control of the river rather than letting it dictate to us. With almost military precision and timing we made our way down with focused, tight paddling techniques. Fiona gave her instructions and there was no conversation from us just concentration. Before we knew it we had successfully negotiated the Graveyard all in one piece and still in our boats. The rest of the trip followed the same pattern. Down the ski jump, through Fedwr Gog round the S bend, Chapel falls etc. Richard was unlucky after the S bend when he just lost grip of his paddles which meant he was unable to roll despite a very gallant effort. I was next to suffer whilst sailing down Chapel Falls getting the line wrong and being swamped by the stopper. However luck was on my side and I managed to come up on my first attempt at a roll much to my surprise and utter relief I then continued down river to a safe eddy.
By the time both groups had reached the campsite there was no shortage of beaming faces and stories to tell.
All in all a most eventful day for all concerned and there was still Sunday to come!!!
Once again a plan of action had already been decided during a team meeting the previous evening which resulted in more early morning activity resulting in the shuttle posse leaving for the top section by 10.00am.
The groups remained the same and we launched ourselves onto the river.
The bottom section of the Graveyard once again got the better of Peter. This resulted in him being thrown over onto this right hand side. Using a mixture of support strokes and sculling he managed to maintain this 90 degree angle for at least 5 metres before recovering to make the eddy on the left.
Fiona gainfully led our group in the same structured way as the previous day working her way down the river finding all the breakouts. I however was not party to this as my paddling brain had been left somewhere else and having fallen out the back of only the second break out I had to improvise on my descent of the graveyard. Meanwhile Martin and Richard took full advantage of Fiona’s lead learning the river as they went.
All went well, the Ski Jump, Fedwr Gog etc. Richard managed to get round the S bend without trouble and was looking very confident. I on the other hand had a brief encounter with the wall at Scaffold Bridge, was frantically using support strokes but was finally engulfed by some wave which trashed me good and proper. A failed roll attempt and a nasty collision with a rock led me to bail out, abandoning my paddles as I did so, not to be seen despite the chasing efforts of Jim and Fiona until the end of the trip, more on that later. Having been rescued and with Fiona now using the splits whilst I took her paddles we all continued down to the campsite to be joined by Tom and Dr Dan.
Whilst regrouping by the campsite various members played on the wave but many were impressed by Fiona’s 360 degree turns which many a play boater who passed by could not manage – this despite Fi’s boat being at least twice as long as theirs. Deft reverence was duly paid by all and Fi’s Kayak Goddess status remains although Martin was definitely trying hard to follow!
Two groups again set off down the lower section. There were many tired arms and aching limbs and the appetite for playing on every wave was definitely diminished from the day before although Martin and Richard were determined as ever to ‘surf that wave dude’. I spent most of my descent looking into the bushes and trees for my paddles so was somewhat preoccupied causing me to pitch up onto quite a few rocks that everyone else avoided. Dr Dan continued building on his previous days accomplishments throwing himself in to the water just before Bala Mill falls to cool off as he was getting very hot. Well that is what he told us! Hilary continued with Peter’s summer training schedule and it was obviously paying dividends. Part of that training involved Hilary rolling – something which I have not known before! Meanwhile Tom who was rapidly gaining in confidence with some excellent surfing and playing was steeling himself in order to run Bala Mill Falls which was his main objective for the weekend. Jim meanwhile was beginning to look as solid as ever and it is time he traded in his RPM for something more suitable to his talents. Turtle on the other hand was a great disappointment, failing to capsize yet again, he was definitely not up to his usual standard. How else are we going to get rescue practice if he continues to paddle like this!
Just as it started to rain we all arrived at Bala Mill Falls. We quickly organised ourselves into pairs and before we knew it I was following Fiona down to the break out. Once again a variety of routes, techniques and freestyle paddling were employed effectively by all those running the falls to get down safely. Richard outdid himself by once again choosing a conventional route – quelle surprise! A prize has to be awarded to Tom for sheer determination, running the falls head on and paddling like he was being chased by a demon. The shout and the look of achievement/surprise on his face when he realised he was still upright and alive was quite something.
With every one down there was just a little time to play on the wave near the slalom gates. I was lucky in finding a spot which sent my boat vertical-looking and feeling like a real play boater for at least a nanosecond. On the third attempt however I was duly dumped underwater, failed to roll due to total lack of commitment and energy and bailed out being rescued by Richard and Peter.
By the time we exited at Bala car park everyone seemed well satisfied with their paddling performances, more stories to tell in the pub on Tuesday nights.
Fiona – a big thank you for leading so well, also for showing off on the campsite wave – it is definitely time for you to get a more radical boat.
Hilary – a big thank you for leading so well and good to know that you are not infallible and still have your roll to fall back on in the unlikely event of your capsize.
Martin – turning into a surfing junky – is Colin a bad influence? Watch your back Duncan!
Richard – very close behind Martin in desire to find that ‘perfect’ wave dude
Turtle – is there a new world order – two trips and no swims?
Dr Dan – bit of a dark horse but a big well done to you on your first Tryweryn trip
Tom – cancel whatever you’re doing first weekend in September and come do the Tryweryn again! We’ll have you surfing on the Upper and doing Bala Mill Falls blindfolded.
Jim – superb ferry gliding across top of Bala Mill Falls and some of the most outrageous support strokes on the top section I have seen
Peter – what can I say – this is Freestyle paddling at its best
Mark – no one knows how much suffering Fiona has had to go through in getting me to a standard where I can attempt the Upper Section.
All images © CSCC / Peter and Hilary Lawrence, Dan Ajzensztejn, Tom Ward