Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Daffers » Thu Dec 08, 2011 10:54 pm

I've really enoyed reading this thread through tonight. Its good to hear that others have the same thoughts. I have sence watched Keven's film and its made me think that the Upper is still a long time off. I've managed to get to a nice state of paddling this year and I want to keep this going. As with the rolling thread,I shall report back to here if it ever happens!

Happy & Safe Paddling Guys :o)
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by TonyM » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:16 pm

I think there is now more of an awareness (fixation?) about water levels than when I first paddled the Upper, probably in the early 1990's. We booked our tickets, we drove down from London and so (generally) we paddled it. Some of the rare photos I have of those days show it at higher levels than I have paddled it in recent years.

I think the use of web technology means a lot of discussion about levels (see todays Swale thread!), that simply wasn't possible then.

It is an outstanding run, one to be cherished, and your first run will almost certainly be memorable. It's the only place I've seen a live otter, preening itself at Broadstep.

Go prepared, respect the river, look in awe at the scale of the geology and appreciate what happens when you just add water...

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by banzer » Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:13 am

Daffers wrote:...been so long since I've posted regularly on here that I can't remember how to add a photo
Welcome back!

Definitely it's the remoteness. Look at the Moriston in Scotland. It's a fraction harder than the Upper (at normal levels), although the Upper does have some longer rapids. However, it's right next to a road, and every WWPF every novice club paddler can be seen descending it forwards, backwards, upside down, and the majority get some good lines. Any problems and it's an easy escape. A good team on the Upper meanwhile goes prepared for the remoteness.

There are (again at 'normal levels') plenty of eddies and big flat pools, make a day of it, bring a flask of something warm and have fun, it's beautiful! I would also suggest go with four people more experienced than you that have done it before, and one less experienced but keen..... that way you don't have the psychological feeling that everyone is constantly looking out just for you, and you may even be able the help encourage the other first timer, which will take your mind off your own paddling. And don't worry about putting others in danger. I've only done the Upper three or four times, but the guys and girls that know it well have done it fifty or a hundred times..... they know every rock and eddy, and can look after themselves!
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by mark Hirst » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:31 am

HI Daffers
having read your post. I feel you may need to look outside the box. I have never met you or seen you paddle but I would be willing to go out on a branch and say one of the big issues you have with your paddling is the head games. If am wrong I aplogise now. if not get yourself on amazon and order yourself a copy of a book called inner skiing by Timothey Galway. you may find that reading through this book may help you with a few of the the issues you feel may be holding you back and preventing you from paddling rivers that that you would like to explore.

good luck and happy paddling
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Post by Daffers » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:42 am

mark Hirst wrote:I feel you may need to look outside the box. I have never met you or seen you paddle but I would be willing to go out on a branch and say one of the big issues you have with your paddling is the head games.
Correct in man ways Mark..
mark Hirst wrote: if not get yourself on amazon and order yourself a copy of a book called inner skiing by Timothey Galway.
Book shall be on order. Will report back!

Thanks!
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by kevinf » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:56 am

Daffers, something to note is that in the video here we paddled the river pretty fast, not taking many eddies between rapids. We know the the river very well which means we paddled in 20 mins what many groups will take several hours over. If you break the river down rapid by rapid, inspect and take your time it is mostly like tripple step on the loop repeated over and over again. There are a couple of trickier rapids but you can inspect and portage easily.

Go with some boaters you trust, give yourself plenty of time and make sure the level is dropping/steady rather than rising and you should have a good day.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Steve B » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:13 am

john smith wrote:You can't just get off and walk 50 metres to the road. Once your in, your in!
That's not really true. The point where you have to decide whether you have bitten off more than you can chew is (rough guess) about a mile and a half in. Up until that point it is perfectly realistic to carry/drag your boat back to the top.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by john smith » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:22 am

Steve B wrote:
john smith wrote:You can't just get off and walk 50 metres to the road. Once your in, your in!
That's not really true. The point where you have to decide whether you have bitten off more than you can chew is (rough guess) about a mile and a half in. Up until that point it is perfectly realistic to carry/drag your boat back to the top.
A mile and a half walk is a long way Steve. Granted you could do it, what I was getting at was its not as easy as getting off with a road next to the river.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Steve B » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:50 am

john smith wrote:
Steve B wrote:
john smith wrote:You can't just get off and walk 50 metres to the road. Once your in, your in!
That's not really true. The point where you have to decide whether you have bitten off more than you can chew is (rough guess) about a mile and a half in. Up until that point it is perfectly realistic to carry/drag your boat back to the top.
A mile and a half walk is a long way Steve. Granted you could do it, what I was getting at was its not as easy as getting off with a road next to the river.
Granted I have done it, you mean :-) Twice I think. My very first time, in a situation not unlike Daffers is in now except that I was less experienced than Daffers is and I'd taken it on before I was ready. And one time years later when it was very, very high and I decided discretion was the better part of valour.

I wasn't just nit-picking for the sake of it. Saying that once you get on the Upper you are fully committed creates a completely unnecessary mental issue for a first-timer. And it's just plain wrong, you have a considerable amount of time to warm up and get the feel of the place before you reach the point where carrying on is easier than going back.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by justin-g » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:01 am

I didn't even realize it was infamous??? Well apart from the level of traffic that goes down it on wet winters weekend.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by roo » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:20 pm

I think Mr Fandango sums it all up in his post.

From my point of view......

- It's a lovely continuous and fun run. (usual disclaimers apply).

- I remember being amazed by being able to see the gradient of the river the first time I ever paddled down it.

- Back in 199?/200? I remember experiencing the infamous "Roar-wheel"of a certain UKRGB founder. Possibly on the slabs?

- I need to get back on it sometime soon.....

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Dave Thomas » Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:26 pm

roo wrote: - I remember being amazed by being able to see the gradient of the river the first time I ever paddled down it.
+1
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by morsey » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:19 pm

justin-g wrote:I didn't even realize it was infamous???
Justin that is because, having shipped in from the other side of the globe, you by-passed the British "Club Legacy Exaggeration Effect". Basically with Clee there is lots of hype and build up to a trip down a river, there is often so much pre faff; checking outfits* and equipment etc., that it becomes a big sing and dance. And when it is over there is even more hype of how amazing the whole event was and lots of hugging and what not, and before you know it, a simple river trip turns into the regional state finals and the higher echelon of protagonists line up to compete for top honours!


The reason people seem to think the river is so cut off and remote is probably down to a lack of preparation in regards to "Plan B" walk out options! Look at a map and there are options.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by clarky999 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:25 pm

^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir - river left is an absolute mission though.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:30 pm

morsey wrote:The reason people seem to think the river is so cut off and remote is probably down to a lack of preparation in regards to "Plan B" walk out options! Look at a map and there are options.
It's all relative/ dependent upon the context. Due to darkness and flooded paths, it took around five hours for emergency services to reach Chris Wheeler after he died, and all night to extract him. Some of our group walked out (downriver) to summon help in under an hour before nightfall, and those of us who remained with Chris were later able to walk out of the gorge (i.e. uphill) in darkness very quickly, also. The difference is that we knew (from 100s of descents) where we were on the river, and what the terrain was like. Many groups might not. Either way, it was heavy going for all concerned - bouldery steep ground, and footpaths were underwater.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Steve B » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:33 pm

clarky999 wrote:^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir
True if you are half way down and therefore three miles from either end - but then you end up in a place where you (most likely) don't have a car.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by morsey » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:39 pm

Agree with Mark that knowledge of your position on the river helps, but checking the map shows five or so main options which are not too difficult to tally with your progression along the river, not checking the map, however, leaves you guessing.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:44 pm

morsey wrote:options which are not too difficult
Not too difficult if you are all fit and well and safe, fully familiar and experienced with local terrain and paths, and don't want to take your gear with you.

Entirely different picture if something has gone wrong. Which is presumably when folk would be looking to get out.

Upper Dart is remote and committing. I'm not suggesting it's the Zanskar or Stikine, but trying to play down it's geographical context implies complacency, at best.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by clarky999 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:47 pm

Steve B wrote:
clarky999 wrote:^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir
True if you are half way down and therefore three miles from either end - but then you end up in a place where you (most likely) don't have a car.
But is on a road so someone can come pick you up asap, assuming not the whole group is getting off. Either way, it' a reasonably safe place off river that you can get to fairly quickly if need arises.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:51 pm

Bottom line is - absolute best case scenario, assuming it's daylight, good weather and you know the terrain/ paths well - you will reach the road in around an hour to flag down help. That help will need several more hours at the very least to reach your buddies.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by morsey » Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:05 pm

Mark R wrote:Upper Dart is remote and committing. I'm not suggesting it's the Zanskar or Stikine, but trying to play down it's geographical context implies complacency, at best.
I agree, but didn't refer to the terrain or the routes as being easy or to the remoteness as being less than what it is. I said people seem to think the river is "more remote and cut off", because they get on armed with knowledge only of the get on and get off. I was suggesting that if you go blindly into a location it will feel more remote than if you take steps to learn the location, and in turn that will help to combat the compounding issue of the location if you are left guessing which way to go. From studying a map it is not difficult to identify geographical landmarks with potential routes. You may not know the name of the rapids that the routes are alongside but you should be able to identify island rapids, tributaries feeding in, a steepening of gradient on the river, etc. Part and parcel of paddling rivers is being aware of the surroundings and not just focusing on the rapids.

I agree with the time scale suggested and it applies to virtually all rivers in Dartmoor and other National Parks and mountainous regions. Canoeists have to be prepared to deal with situations that will last a whole lot longer than the twenty minutes it takes an ambulance to arrive in the city.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:47 pm

morsey wrote:I agree with the time scale suggested and it applies to virtually all rivers in Dartmoor
Not really, no. In terms of distance from road and roughness/ steepness of terrain, upper Dart is some way ahead of probably all of them. There isn't even an official/ marked footpath in there.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Steve B » Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:49 pm

Mark R wrote:Upper Dart is remote and committing. I'm not suggesting it's the Zanskar or Stikine, but trying to play down it's geographical context implies complacency, at best.
Let's not lose sight of the context here. Only a few posts ago I was talking about whether a nervous first-timer is "committed" from the moment she gets on the river. No, and not for some considerable distance. You're talking about whether the trip as a whole is remote and committing, and whether contingency plans including alternative egresses are needed - yes, absolutely.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by JohnAllan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:47 pm

clarky999 wrote:In high water it's pretty full on, in low/medium levels it's definitely not a gnarly run. It's reasonably continuous, and there are a few decent grade 4s (portageable if you really want), but nothing that serious. Tbh I've never realised it was considered 'infamous' (although names like Euthanaisa Falls don't really help lol), but it's one fo the best 3/4 sections in the UK.
I agree with this comment, but describing the Upper Dart as Grade 3/4 is definately misleading. It's by no stretch of the imagination only a Grade 3 at any level. Downgrading the Upper to a Grade 3/4 is only likely to make groups that are not ready to run it take it on.

If you are with a good group, and you have one (or possibly two) paddlers that are pushing their grade to paddle it, then there should be no problem at all. In low levels (below the ledge at newbridge) then it can be taken in short easy to manage sections with good places for easy rescue. The first 1 mile 'run in' is a good guide and builds up steadily. It's a long, but not a hard walk out to turn back if anyone has had serious problems by Eagle rock/Tree Rapid or earlier. Usually if paddlers have made it that far, then they will manage the rest fine.

Good luck, amd don't get put off by horror stories. Remember that the massive numbers of paddlers running the Dart every week do mean that occasonally there will be nasty incidents. However, almost all of them occur when the river is well over the ledge at newbridge so paddling well below (maybe 10cm) the ledge is ideal for a first run. If it's stupidly low then it can be a bit technical and pinny in places.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by JohnAllan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:58 pm

Daffers wrote:
Stuart J Woodward wrote:Have you walked down it (river left) that's an adventure on its own.
I did ask if you could walk the Upper just to check it out, and told that it would be quite hard work.

I paddle with some very good boaters that I would have no quarms about running the Upper with (they might thought!!). So group wise, I would have plenty of coverage and support... Just taking that step I guess...

It'll always be there!

One of the reasons why I think I don't like HPP is becuase I paddled it (not at NRS), before I was ready too and it scares me now. I no longer paddle the Upper Tryweryn as its hurt me too many times, but I'd gladly run the lower inc. Bala Mill Falls.

I'd second Stuarts comment about walking it. A good idea, you are right up close to it most of the way down. It's a great walk and you can see most of the drops except Euthanasia, but that's something that you would probably wish to get out and inspect/portage anyway. We usually try to walk this once a year with the family and or friends. You do need to go up high in places, but if you are a kayaker you'll manage just fine!!

P.S. don't worry about looking at it all, just enjoy the walk you will see plenty to get the feel for it and you won't remember all the lines anyway. You do get a good look at Suprise Surprise - again you can easily stop and take a look and portage this anyway and it's fun to see who get it right and who doesn't!

It could be an idea to fix the roll of course - perhaps a swimming pool session in the winter would make the difference? On a river like this you will probably end up up side down at some point of course, so a roll does help to keep you warm and drier :-)
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by JohnAllan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:12 pm

Mark R wrote:Bottom line is - absolute best case scenario, assuming it's daylight, good weather and you know the terrain/ paths well - you will reach the road in around an hour to flag down help. That help will need several more hours at the very least to reach your buddies.

Completely agree Mark, we had an incident that started at 1pm at Surpise Surprise and although I paddled out for help on my own to Newnbridge called the Ambulance (should have been the Police to get the Mountain Rescue), the Emergency Resapond vehicle arrived from Tones in 7 mins, then we had to wait for the key to the gate so the NT warden could drive us up the bank as the ERV was a normal car. We trekked in to the incident at this point the casualty had been very cold and wet (New Years Eve) for 1:45mins. The Paramedic checked him out and gave him painkillers taking another 40 mins. helicopter was called and arrived about 1o mins before dark at 4pm. The casualty had been cold and wet for 3 hours as had the rest of th egroup. We were safed in part by the generous donations of gloves/hats/bothy/ that other paddlers donated on their way past us - The benefits of there being loads of people on the Upper dart.

We try to make sure we get on by 1200hrs of we have anyone new or the conditions are cold or difficult. Get on after 2pm at yourown risk, but don;t expect to be rescued in daylight or have a helicopter after dark.

mmh! Sorry Daffers - This probably isn't helping is it :-)
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by jmmoxon » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:13 pm

At low water I'd agree that Upper is Gr 3/4 (up to water on edge of ledge), as ledge covers it's Gr 4 & 3rd arch Gr 4+, quite when it becomes Gr 5 I'm not so sure.

It's not Gr 3 (4), grade 3 with some easily portaged 4, it is mostly Gr 3 but you really need to be able to cope with some 4.

However, rivers are usually graded for medium levels making it a grade 4 section overall.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by JohnAllan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:33 pm

clarky999 wrote:^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir - river left is an absolute mission though.
There is no reservoir on river left! It's on rover right. It's a bitch of a hill at the point at which you are likely to be walking out, but there is a track to the resrvoir.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Sharpen » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:02 pm

JohnAllan wrote:
clarky999 wrote:^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir - river left is an absolute mission though.
There is no reservoir on river left! It's on rover right. It's a bitch of a hill at the point at which you are likely to be walking out, but there is a track to the resrvoir.
...just walked out up to Vennford Reservoir this afternoon with a knackered shoulder pulling boat . I agree that it might be a short walk, but is a hell of a slog pulling your boat with something very wrong with your shoulder. Thanks to a couple of mates from the Exeter Canoe Club for carrying the boat through the woods at the bottom, and a couple more mates from Salisbury Canoe Club who paddled the rest of the river double quick to come and get us from the Reservoir car park. Luckily, we knew where we were, and we walked out on the exact same route that I walked in to do the Advanced White Water Safety And Rescue Course about a month ago.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by clarky999 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:35 pm

JohnAllan wrote:
clarky999 wrote:In high water it's pretty full on, in low/medium levels it's definitely not a gnarly run. It's reasonably continuous, and there are a few decent grade 4s (portageable if you really want), but nothing that serious. Tbh I've never realised it was considered 'infamous' (although names like Euthanaisa Falls don't really help lol), but it's one fo the best 3/4 sections in the UK.
I agree with this comment, but describing the Upper Dart as Grade 3/4 is definately misleading. It's by no stretch of the imagination only a Grade 3 at any level. Downgrading the Upper to a Grade 3/4 is only likely to make groups that are not ready to run it take it on.
At normal levels most of it is Tryweryn-stylee(ish) grade 3 (albeit fairly continuous), with a few grade 4s on top.
JohnAllan wrote:
clarky999 wrote:^^ Not hard to get in/out river right, short walk up to a reservoir - river left is an absolute mission though.
There is no reservoir on river left! It's on rover right. It's a bitch of a hill at the point at which you are likely to be walking out, but there is a track to the resrvoir.


I know, that's why I said it's on river right!

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