First descent of Fairy Glen

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Molly Agar
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First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by Molly Agar » Sat Dec 15, 2018 7:01 pm

Does anyone know when the Fairy Glen on the Conwy was first run?

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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by jmmoxon » Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:42 am

This thread mentions 4 groups of paddlers who think they may have been the first, but the Welsh rivers claims it was 1982:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=98163

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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by Jerry Tracey » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:40 am

Hi Molly!
I worked for a while in the late '70s at an outdoor centre in North Wales. At that time there was a mythology about 'the gorge below Conway Falls', but no known actual attempted descents. I tried a solo run in October 1979. I can't claim it, however, since I crawled out from around halfway down with a smashed slalom kayak, although I did not actually swim...…. !!
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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by purelandexpeditions.com » Sun Dec 16, 2018 2:27 pm

Manby, Bailie etc to my knowledge.
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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by jmmoxon » Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:11 pm

Dee, teifi & Usk had recorded descents well before the 1960s / fibreglass revolution (see above link).

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Simon
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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by Simon » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:27 am

In my opinion this is a question that cannot be answered.

In my experience there is no such thing as a simple, single first descent of a river, although there might be possibly a first descent of a single fall.

Most rivers have a number of first descents, on an iterative, stage by stage basis, each descent building on the previous one. To take the Upper Dart for example.

1. It was run in the 1930s in canvas canoes, presumably with quite a few portages.

2. It was run in the 1970s in long GRP boats with no portages, but with quite a few stops to inspect, and a stop to patch up and repair the kayaks with masking tape.

3. It was run in the 80s in Dancers, with absolutely no stops to inspect or repair boats.

Which one was the true first descent - they all were. Each one a first descent measured against a new higher standard of paddling, made possible by better kit or better knowledge.

4. and who can say that, three or four thousand years age, the river wasn't attempted by some young adventurous bronze age explorer in a skin and wood boat.

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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by Jim » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:23 am

Simon wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:27 am
4. and who can say that, three or four thousand years age, the river wasn't attempted by some young adventurous bronze age explorer in a skin and wood boat.
The rapids will have changed since then so that definitely wouldn't count, which opens up another can of worms - how much does a river need to change before you get a new first descent?

I probably haven't run the Roy gorge for about 15 years because there were a number of collapses about that lead to some dangerous siphons. More recently there have been more collapses and the section is getting run regularly again (I just haven't been) but are they significant enough that they constitute new first descents for whoever happened to be in there just after the major change?

On my last canyon trip we stopped to scout a new rapid which had formed about 3 weeks earlier - some of our guides had run it the day after it formed, as confirmed by talking to all the other outfitters after they got off and pin pointing which day it had appeared. The concern there was that it was such a fresh debris flow that it wouldn't have settled down and there could be a few months of features evolving in the rapid - it hadn't had any bad holes 3 weeks earlier but they needed to be sure before dropping in with loaded rafts (It had got easier). The guiding community could probably nail down which trip ran the new rapid first (it may have washed away by now), but I don't think they will be claiming a new first descent of the canyon, in fact I think having read bits of John Wesley Powells account, even though he had portages and was using wooden dories (which now run everything), I think it is safe to conclude that no-one would have attempted it previously or could have survived running it accidentally - small sections perhaps, we know the indigenous people used to hike down to the canyon floor to grow grain in some places and there are archaelogical remains all over the place, but they would have used the river as a water source, not a route. Again, one of the hardest rapids in the canyon today (Crystal) only formed in the 1960's, and the rapid the Powell and his men considered the most dangerous (3 of the group actually hiked out rather than portage it and carry on into the unknown) is still buried in the backed up waters of Lake Mead, even when the water recedes (it is, a lot!) the silt deposited in the mean time has formed hard packed deposits which will take years to erode away to reveal anything like the original rapid the Powell found.

Rivers can change quite quickly!

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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by davebrads » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:35 pm

Simon wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:27 am
In my opinion this is a question that cannot be answered.
This may be the case on some rivers, but the Fairy Glen isn't very easy to exit once you've set off. I guess it is possible to get on our off just above Fairy Falls, but anywhere else would be something of a mission. I would expect that there is a definitive answer, I'm surprised Dave Manby hasn't said anything yet, it's quite likely he was there or knows who was.

I suspect it didn't happen until the advent of plastic boats though, and it would have been very hairy in those old Dancers or even Mirages. These days the lines are well known, and most paddlers will be guided down on their first run, something that was not available to those pioneers.
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Simon
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Re: First descent of Fairy Glen

Post by Simon » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:53 am

"I suspect it didn't happen until the advent of plastic boats though".

I wouldn't be too sure about that. Those guys in GRP boats did a lot, as did the guys in canvas or ply boats (the upper Dart for example)

And let's not forget Phil Bibby's attempt on the Glen in an open canadian, a standard aluminium Coleman I seem to recall from the video, not a modern plastic WW job with all the flotation bags. But I use the word attempt advisedly, There wasn't much left of the boat after.

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