DaveBland wrote:Thoughts? Other grade step up requirements?
For me, a major turning point was when I got a piece of cord and tied my glasses onto my head instead of leaving them in the minibus.
Grade 5 was, and I suppose still is a bit of a boundary for me - that's the level where I feel I need to be able to stay in control to be successful, grade 4 I can get away with if I'm a bit off my game, grade 5 I can't.
But what was/is the skill that enabled me to start running 5's (and I make no qualms about it - I only run 5 drops, not continuous).
I think learning to really read the water was the most important factor, read the water, and relate it to what I can or can't do in the boat.
We were reminiscing about the Orchy on FB the other day - Easan Dubh is one of the classic 5's (whatever youngsters might say). I have seen people get horribly mauled by it, and I have seen people mess up and break boats, and I have seen people make it look dead easy. The difference is in how each of them read the water and used that knowledge to position their boat on the lead in, and/or at the crux of the rapid.
Most of the people who get mauled have misread it so badly that their fate is sealed soon after leaving the eddy - they approach from the wrong side of the river. Some of them have planned to just PLF, hit the hole hard and hope to pull through the towback caused by a large submerged boulder blocking the exit - I think I've only seen this work once, he is a very good paddler! Others have read the crux OK but forgotten to read the lead in and suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a shallow patch unable to get onto the line they planned into the crux. Again, I have once seen someone start down this route, find the end of the shallow patch, break out midstream at the end of it (maybe an S cross) and ferry onto his line briefly pointing his bow upstream almost on the lip to get there. (Is it coincidence both paddlers are from the lakes?). Those that remembered to read the lead in and got to the right side of the river as soon as they left the eddy (before it gets too shallow in the middle) always make it to the crux OK, but even then there are 3 possible outcomes.
The crux is to hit the diagonal wave at the upstream end of the slab with good speed and enough angle to the left to counter it pushing you right so you climb over it onto the slab proper,.
If you don't have enough speed or angle, the diagonal bats you off the right side of the slab - there is a block of rock in there, at lower levels you can see it, at higher levels you can see the spray, I've never known a boat pin on it, I've heard plenty smack it and seen a couple split by it. This side flushes, you might get barelled rolled by the water falling on your right side all the way along, but it kicks out strongly.
If you have too much speed or angle you will get over the wave and your momentum will carry you over the hump and drop off you off the left side of the slab into the hole, where you will be no better off than if you had tried to plug it from the other side ofthe river.
Get the speed and angle in the right range and you will come over the wave, onto the hump, steer towards the centre of the slab and guide yourself off the end of it, clearing the hole, keeping out of the transverse hole to the right and paddle easily away. - there are probably 6-8 important strokes to make the easy line.
First time I ran it was at a huge level, there was no hole just a wave train, you could hit it anywhere :-)
In lower water I have always got up onto the slab, on one occasion I didn't steer very well on the top and ended up coming off it a bit left, but clear of the hole and just had a bit of a frantic paddle off the tow back, otherwise I have always nailed the line, BUT only because I saved it up until I was able to read AND run the line. I still portage it any time my paddling hasn't felt perfect up to that point in the trip, the ability to precisely paddle the easy line is key.
I know I could do it in a canoe, but I would have to have been on fire up to that point!