- Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 17:30
- Written by St. Andrew's Uni, Frazer Pearce, Mark Rainsley, Jim Wallis and many others.
GUIDE TO THE RIVER ETIVE
(Triple Falls to the Allt A'Chaorainn)
NAME OF RIVER: Etive.
WHERE IS IT?: In Glen Etive. Heading south on the A82 from Glencoe and Fort William, it's a minor right turning.
PUT-INS/TAKE-OUTS: Put in at Triple Falls, the first falls seen from the road (guess how many falls there are at this point). Or consider a start on the Upper Etive. Take out at the confluence of the Allt a' Chaorainn or continue down to Dalness Falls.
APPROX LENGTH: 3 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This is a LOW WATER TRIP. If the first fall on Triple Falls is river wide and you can't see the bedrock making the fall, it's probably too high for ordinary mortals. Obviously you need enough water to be able to paddle. If the river is high, consider the Upper Etive or the Lower Etive.
Real masochists won't be put off by cold weather...
GRADING: Grade 4 (5).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It's ALL falls. But there is an advisable portage.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Quite possibly the finest canoeing river in Scotland. The Etive commands cult status among paddlers. This is not a river to be recommended for beginners as it requires a good competence of technical paddling. Access is from the Triple Falls. This is probably the preferred access point for most as it marks the start of a truly remarkable stretch of river. From here to Dalness falls and slides of which most are paddleable are pretty much continuous. All the falls are grade 4 or harder and inspection and bank support would be recommended for all. This section is normally run in low water conditions and is most pleasant in late spring with the sun shining...after all those photos won't come out so well otherwise! In high water this section is very dangerous.
Triple Falls (Grade 4): You won't be surprised to learn that there are indeed three falls here in this superb rapid. The first two have to be run together (the second may have quite a stopper in anything less than low levels). The third drop is a four metre plunge which really clears the sinuses and gives 'down time' if the river is flowing well....
Block Falls (grade 4): This drop of about 10 feet has a number of boulders close to the base of the drop and a slot on the lip which can trap a kayak. Normal route is towards the left. This fall is worth looking closely at if you don't want broken ankles. Also known as 'Letterbox'.
Ski Jump falls (Grade 3-4): A straightforward spout propels you out the way and a landing on your bum. Interesting.
Crack of Doom (Grade 4): Boulders lead to a drop sideways into a fissure quickly followed by an 8 foot fall into a clean pool. Catches many people out, perhaps one of the most technically difficult rapids?
Enjoy this quicktime video of Mark Yates making a t*ts-up of this rapid. Nice!
Crack of Dawn (Grade 4): A 10 foot drop into a mini gorge. The water at the bottom is rather shallow not to mention the close proximity of the rockface in front where the river takes a turn. The fall recently collapsed (Easter 2000) on river left allowing a tight route which bounces off boulders. In spring 2002 it collapsed again, and becomes more or less runnable from one year to the next...inspect.
The Great Waterslide (Grade 4): A ramped fall with a small drop to finish (15 feet). Nice playhole halfway down if you're awake to catch it.
Right Angle Falls (Grade 5?): An awkward right angle drop around a rock dog-leg leads into a small eddy on the brink of a long fall. There is much potential for a pin at the right angle and it can be tricky to get out so bank support essential. A capsize in the eddy is not advisable! The fall itself is the largest and most scary to this point. The drop is about 20 feet and can create what can be a severe boil at the bottom. The unwary can get into quite a bit of bother here and rescues are not overly simple. We had to deal with a swimmer with a dislocated arm here (don't run the fall with arms outstretched!). Boofs are painful here(!)
Downstream of this take-out is a section with more falls and a 'nasty' called Dalness Falls.
OTHER NOTES: Frazer Pearce offers an alternative view on the Etive....'The Etive is a ditch. Often paddled at ridiculously low levels by masses of paddlers who would be much better off walking in the surrounding hills. Worth paddling once in your life, but only for the photos to impress your mum. Most of the drops are massively overgraded, except for the portage on Crack of Dawn. Nothing else rates anything more than a 3 at the levels the Etive is normally paddled at. The paddlers who get the most out of the Etive have usually only been paddling for a few weeks, certainly less than a year and haven't run big drops before. Not much technical skill required unless things are honking in which case the whole thing is a different kettle of fish. Hint: you aren't supposed to be able to jump over a river.'
Tom Downey has paddled it in painfully low water...(July 2000)'I recently "paddled" it, and it was extremely low (hadn't rained for weeks and it was late July). Much lower than any of the photos show. As you drive down glen etive at such levels you will see hardly a drop of water in the river until the triple falls. It is O.K and the falls are quite fun but you'll find yourself walking agonizingly along the river bed 75% of the time, as there is rarely anywhere deep enough to float a boat. Having said that, the falls are all possible, fun and do surprisingly little damage to your boat since the rocks are smooth and coated in algae. Only worth it if it's that low on a really nice day because the endless struggle between falls would be incredibly miserable otherwise. The falls need little skill (except a couple), but strong nerves are handy if you're not used to it. A fantastic trip among the amazing scenery of Glen Etive if you can bear the bits in between!'