Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

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Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Daffers » Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:10 am

Been paddling for many years now and this weekend was a massive break through for me – on the Loop. I lead my first group, rescued people and chased boat. All this went on while other guys from RUCC paddled the Upper Dart. For some of them, it was the first time.

Even though my paddling has come on this year, I am not sure I will ever have the balls to run the Upper. Its always been a section of river where I have thought you need to be very good to paddle and its been so built up in my head that now, even if I paddle a river of similar calibre, that I don’t think I will ever paddle the Upper Dart.

This posting has come from Keven F’s posting about his video (which I can’t see at work, but looking forward to seeing later), and then Buck 197 saying “Phew, I can watch this from behind me couch as the Upper still sends a chill down my spine!!!“

Why does the Upper Dart make people concerned about it? Is it a media thing, where it its spoken about so much in which a way that people are (a) more away of it & (b) more scared of it, when maybe they shouldn’t need to be?

I can’t think of any other rivers apart from maybe the river in North Wales that has “public toilet falls”, that I can never remember the name of and Fairy Glenn rapid.

I’ve seen mates paddle the Fairy Glenn so I know that I should be scared of it. I’ve only ever seen photos of the Upper, so I’m scared of it by stories only.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by steve4746 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:31 pm

Hi Daffers,

I think the best thing you can do is find a group of good experienced paddlers who don't mind the possibility of plucking you from the water and just go and do it, if i only ran rivers that i hadn't heard anything bad about i'd still be milling about on the Don in Sheffield! I myself ran the upper Dart a couple of times this weekend and thought that it was amazing!!! I had a swim on saturday but ran it clean on sunday and will probably go down as the most enjoyable river iv'e run to date, if you need to the main features can be walked but definitely just need to go and make your own mind up.

Cheers Steve.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by banzer » Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:44 pm

Daffers, I don't know you but I bet you've paddled rapids harder than anything on the Upper. It's reasonably continuous and plenty of grade 4, but hardly anything at a 'normal' flow that a good roll won't get you out of. It's also very suitable for a 'follow my leader' style if you want someone to show you the easy lines. Get on it- it's lovely!
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Randy Fandango » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:05 pm

It has its reputation for a few reasons as I see it:
- Its the stretch (as you know) that flows into the start of the incredibly popular loop stretch, so for years boaters starting the loop have watched other paddlers finish the upper and then been told tales of its gnarliness causing its mythical status to grow in the collective subconscious of most kayak clubs.
- Terry Storey graded it 5e in his then 'bible' of ww paddling, British White Water. In fact unless paddled at bonkers levels its nothing of the sort but it is very continuous at its grade for a good stretch without a lot of let up.
- Walking out for groups who've bitten off more than they can chew is a bit of a ball ache. The closest road points are really the beginning and the end so it has various epic tales of people forced to carry their boats (and occasionally injured mates) long distances along (at points) rather inaccessibly rough paths to regain civilisation.
- Owing to its ludicrous booking system that until a very few years ago most paddlers still adhered, lots of people paddled it at levels they might not otherwise have chosen to do as generally its weekend tickets (obviously the most sought after for non-locals) sold out a season in advance so you either paddled it on the date you'd booked your tickets for months in advance or you missed out (or you... da da daaaah!! 'Bandit ran' it -- in the parlance of the period -- shock horror...)
- Back in the day before the internet and the networking opportunities that paddlers enjoy these days, many paddlers as far as I recall had a bit of a habit of running the same streches over and over again. Unless you were lucky, local, extremely brave and of the adventuring kind, you often simply didn't know about other runs that you could do. Plus you were often reminded that you didn't have 'permission' to paddle other rivers and believe it or not, lots of paddlers -- especially if they were paddling as part of a club -- took that very seriously. The Upper Dart was one of the harder (for those days) stretches that was regularly run so it again gained something of a reputation as a bench-mark hard run that many paddlers aspired to.
That all seems rather amusing now but I still remember my first run down it clearly. Suddenly it felt like I was elevated into some sort of big-league and that nothing would ever be the same again... :-)
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by mrb333 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:06 pm

Daffers - I can certainly sympathise with what you're describing. I've spent a good few years paddling the Loop (and similar), listening to stories of the Upper Dart and, like you, convincing myself that it was a monstrous piece of river that I should avoid at all costs. I was pretty confident I had the skills for it, I have a good knowledge of safety having done the BCU WWSR course and I knew I had the kit for it, but still I stayed away.

But then this year my curiosity finally overcame my irrational concerns. I had the opportunity to run the Upper with an experienced group and so I went for it – and LOVED IT! When I’d finished the run all I could think to myself was why had I not done this before? It is a fantastic piece of river – steep, technical and with some awesome features. For me I know it is going to help me take my skills on to levels that would never be achieved by sticking to the Loop.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what it’s capable of especially at higher levels and I’m not going to underestimate it. The runs I’ve done to date have all been at ‘on the ledge’ levels or just below, which from my experience has been a great intro to the Upper . I don’t plan to do any 3rd Arch runs just yet. My game plan is to keep pushing myself, challenging my limits, without getting out of my depth. As my skills continue to develop and these limits grow, I know the Upper’s got plenty more gears to step up through.

Others can advise and share their experience of the river, but at the end of the day you’re the only person who can definitively say whether or not you’re ready for it. All I would say is that you should try and make this decision based on rational information – your skills, your experience, your confidence etc, but don’t be put off by the ghost stories!

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by clarky999 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:37 pm

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.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Jones Chris » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:55 pm

Daffers, you can probably take comfort from the first time me, Jamie Austen and a few others ran the upper. We were told that it was a fairly chunky level and certainly the loop was an entertaining play boat run. We got on and paddled down with no major problems and no inspections always wondering when the Dart would live up to its infamous reputation. After a couple of hours we rounded a bend and saw another paddler just getting on the water, innocently I said hello and asked how much further it was until the hard bit. The look of distain and disgust from the paddler as he said, "you've done it!" was priceless and something Jamie and I still find much humor in, he must have thought us right cocky gits.

Now we are not gnarly grade V boaters, more like competent grade IV but at no time were we out of our comfort zone and after all the stories we'd heard of the upper we were surprised at how pleasant a paddle it was. Sure, it is pretty continuous at the grade and it's relative isolation should definitely be taken into consideration but its reputation is probably worse than its bite. Go for it, I'm sure you'll be fine.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Frank Spencer » Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:14 pm

Agree with all that's been said so far. I too only ran the Loop the first couple of times I went to the Dart & the Upper always had this mythical aura around it. I promised myself that I would improve enough to run it one day & when I finally did I loved every minute of it & have done ever since. Pick the right level and the right group to paddle with & you'll be fine. I still walk around Euthenasia more often than I paddle it as I just can't seem to get my head around it but the run as a whole is one of the best & while it requires respect, you should definitely not be too intimidated by it.

We ran it on Saturday at a low medium level (I stand corrected should others feel it was different to this) & some of the lines were easier then when it's lower so it's not always the case that low is easier.

Get on it, stay safe, then emulate the dance moves of your Avatar at the take out :o)

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Stuart J Woodward » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:15 pm

A friend of mine paddled the Upper Dart for the first time a few weeks ago (level was just on the slab). He could not believe how great the run was and why why!!! had he not run it before. Bob has paddled down many of the worlds classic ww rivers. Worked (as a ww coach) in North Wales for many years and know lives and works (river coaching) in the South of France. He was annoyed that it had taken him many years before getting on the Upper. At this level the run is mostly class 3-3+ with some 4. Its not that its difficult, but the paddling needs to be more dynamic than the Loop, because the rapids are more continues. But the lines are clean and the eddies are big, it is also pool drop.

I feel one of the main reason's for its "infamous" reputation is its remoteness, its set in a very deep valley that almost like a gorge. This location should be given the respect it's due. Have you walked down it (river left) that's an adventure on its own.

With the short winter days its good to start early and go prepared for a long day, with lots of inspection and maybe some portages. Go with a very experienced solid group of paddles who will give you good guidance.

If you can make most of the eddies on Lovers Leap rapid on the Loop, you should have a crack at the Upper on a sweet level.

Good luck and have a great day.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Daffers » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:16 pm

banzer wrote:Daffers, I don't know you but I bet you've paddled rapids harder than anything on the Upper. It's reasonably continuous and plenty of grade 4, but hardly anything at a 'normal' flow that a good roll won't get you out of.
And is part of my issue - still no roll...(http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... =automatic)

A mate did say that he think he could get me down in low levels if I walked one or two features (of witch I have no worries about doing at all), but I feel I would be so apprehensive about even getting on the Upper that I would mess up before it even started.

I know I paddled some interesting stuff, and I am no way swimming as much as I used too but not rolling stops me doing things like the Upper. The last thing I want to do is put my mates and me in danger.

I think my best photo of me is doing Force Falls on the Kent - if you look closely enough you can see how scared I am! (It been so long since I've posted regularly on here that I can't remember how to add a photo).
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Daffers » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:23 pm

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.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Steve B » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:54 pm

Daffers wrote: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.
Hmmm. I was going to mention that when we met, a few years ago now, you were on the Tryweryn and doing pretty well. Just the occasional swim if I recall :-) No doubt you've progressed a great deal since then (while I have regressed to armchair paddler).

The Upper at the right level (slightly on the low side of medium) is not much harder than the Tryweryn, except for certain very specific rapids which you can easily walk. However it's much more physically demanding because it's four or five miles of fairly continuous paddling. It's mentally demanding too, for the same reason. But the rewards it offers are fantastic - exhilarating paddling in (for England) a pretty remote location.

Some of the big boys (and a few girls) here paddle it at very high levels and that's a totally different kettle of fish.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Stuart J Woodward » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:55 pm

A walk down the Upper Dart.

The walk is pretty rough but not that bad. Just need good boots, warm/waterproof clothes, map food drink etc.

From Dartmeet the track is river left and is quite good for some time. But as you descend it does become fairly indistinct. Don't wonder to far from the river, as there are many sheep trails that will lead you well off the route.

Pick a sunny day plus the company of a fit friend, set out early as it will take about 4 hrs.

Have a good day.

Stuart
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Fenris » Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:36 pm

Hi Daffers,

I was really apprehensive the first time I ran it, and I know what you mean about having built it up in your head. It is a river that evokes that sort of response. I first ran it in low-medium levels, with three guys who I was confident would be able to look after me. We portaged Pandora's Box (I thought it was something my bracelet lived in) as the boys said it was a bit dangerous at that level. Everything else was very do-able at this level, as long as you have confidence in the people you're paddling with. I felt twelve feet tall at the end of it - it was an amazing bit of river! Like you, I'm happy leading a group on the Loop. I can't believe I'd ever like to lead the Upper.

Choose your mates, choose the right level, and give it a go!

Best Wishes,

Jen

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:14 pm

In 'English White Water' I wrote;

"The upper Dart can offer all things to all men (and women) looking for a challenging trip. Club groups looking to stick their necks out and seasoned hair boaters will both find their personal nirvana on the dart; or if the water level is wrong for their needs, a personal Hell. This is the best grade 4 river in England, but it needs to be appreciated that this grading encompasses a very broad spectrum of difficulty and character".

Nearly a decade on, and I see no reason to change any of that. It's runnable at a huge range of levels, ranging from a quality technical Grade 4- trip, to a quality big water Grade 5 trip. Most WW paddlers should be able to enjoy it; just choose a sensible lowish level first time. Anyone who gets off it disappointed simply needs to come back with more water; their view of the river will change.

I've had all manner of experiences and adventures on the Dart, almost all good. All things considered, it's generally the place I'd rather be, and my favourite paddle anywhere.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by caveman_si » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:31 pm

Daffers wrote: I know I paddled some interesting stuff, and I am no way swimming as much as I used too but not rolling stops me doing things like the Upper. The last thing I want to do is put my mates and me in danger.

I think my best photo of me is doing Force Falls on the Kent - if you look closely enough you can see how scared I am! (It been so long since I've posted regularly on here that I can't remember how to add a photo).
Daffers you mean this pic?
Image

To wade in here as some that has paddled with you a bit recently daffers, you can roll but bottle it and you can run hardish stuff when youve not over thought it and talked yourself into a swim. Hence running force falls on the Kent, you didnt even know it was there but trusted the group you were with and we didnt show you it was there because we knew you wouldnt get on, but you did and you had a cracking days paddle that day.
Paddling over this weekend especially sunday you had to step up your game as there wasnt any experinced people babysiting you down the river in fact sunday as you say you were leading and rescuing with your group and you were really helpful on saturday too. This shows you can do it when you have to and dont have time to over think and worry about your paddling and talk yourself in to swimming.

As for the mythology behind the upper dart, its like any other river i imagine people big it up after epic sessions and the ledgend gets born. Just beacuse theres a mythology doesnt make it any harder just means more people have done it to talk about it.
But paddling on any given day comes down to how you are feeling that day, I have never paddled the dart until this weekend and ive wanted to run the upper for a while as everyone talks about it so much. (bit of commute from the nw and when I had the lakes and nwales so close didnt seem worth it). Daffs as you know I choose just to paddle the loop this weekend cracking run and load of fun with the group I took down. I had the option to run the upper and i just wasnt feeling it. And thats what it comes down to, getting in the right head space. If you can do that daffers you will be able to get down anything you want including the upper.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by buck197 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:31 pm

As Daffers referred to me, I have done the Upper 3 times but never in a relaxed state, it isn't such a daunting thing it is just I get anxious about it, I need to MTFU I guess. I shall be back on the Upper in January and I am sure I will get to grips with it but so far I have been very nervous but without too much justification. It has an aura but Daffers get on with a good team and I'm sure you will be fine.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by DaveWortley » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:37 pm

If your nervous about running it, try running it multiple times on one day, following somebody who knows the lines, and stop making so many eddies and don't bother inspecting.... That sorted it for me... Much more fun like that.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Simon » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:56 pm

Daffers wrote:Why does the Upper Dart make people concerned about it? Is it a media thing, where it its spoken about so much in which a way that people are (a) more away of it & (b) more scared of it, when maybe they shouldn’t need to be?
It is partly history.

Back the days of Fibreglass boats which were about four meters long and quite fragile, you could only attempt the Upper Dart at a level where you could almost guarantee a full descent in a four meter boat without impacting on any rock. Because if you hit a rock you risked breaking the boat.

So back in those days the LOWEST level you would consider paddling it was about 18 inches to 2 feet above the slabs at Newbridge, a good level was a bit higher. i.e the lowest level at which you would do your first descent is almost two foot higher than what is now considered a good medium level. So it got a reputation as a pretty daunting and testing bit of water (along with the remoteness, the continuous gradient and all the other things mentioned above).

Now that it is possible, and perfectly appropriate, to consider paddling the Upper in much lower levels, that daunting reputation may not still be needed. At a low enough levels it is a fun and safe water-slide for even quite inexperienced boaters.

But reputations persist, long after the cause of the reputation fades away.

I hope you get to do it one day Daffers. And if you are not quite ready then a walk down the left hand bank from Darmeet to Newbridge is a fun thing to do. Just follow the river, don't be worried when the path disappears, just clamber over the boulders following close to the river, and about 3 hours start to finish. There are also quite a few places you can get down from the road if you study a map closely.

Enjoy.

Simon

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark Allen » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:09 pm

The Upper Dart is great, but the levels are important. Too high and you will have nightmares.

As a guide and as a few of us local coaches/guides see it:

6 inches below the ledge to lapping the ledge and up to maybe lapping round the rock at the top end of the ledge makes for a plesent first trip. Pools are big and flat.

Lapping the ledge to ledge 1/2 covered, things in general are getting a bit faster, bouncier and more continueious however there are still pools and large eddies. Still good for fist trip if with a good team of mates. A very playfully level. (rock spins etc).

1/2 covered to bottom first step, things step up a gear with pools and eddies alot smaller, it will feel preaty continious from top to bottom. Holes will needed to be avoided. - Amazing fun at this level.

Bottom of the steps plus - Things are much harder, big holes, waves, trees to avoid, line of sight is difficult etc. A swim will more than lightly be a long one.

Up the steps - Well you wont catch many people there at these levels - hard, fast and to be honest pretty dangerous!?? With alot being huge volume class 5.

I hope this helps people?

When we talk about lapping the ledge/slab, we mean where this chap is standing!!!

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Mark R » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:20 pm

Simon wrote:So back in those days the LOWEST level you would consider paddling it was about 18 inches to 2 feet above the slabs at Newbridge, a good level was a bit higher.
Sorry...whilst I'm sure it really was all bigger and harder in the old days, that has to be nostalgic nonsense. With the ledge 2 feet underwater, you're up towards the steps and flowing well through the third arch - and in the conditions needed for such levels, the river is either rising or falling sharply. Whilst the river is commonly run at these levels and higher these days, most (experienced and skilled) paddlers would consider these levels to be high and pretty demanding - I simply do not believe that such big water conditions were the 'LOWEST level' you'd run it at.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Simon » Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:03 pm

Mark R wrote:
Simon wrote:So back in those days the LOWEST level you would consider paddling it was about 18 inches to 2 feet above the slabs at Newbridge, a good level was a bit higher.
Sorry...whilst I'm sure it really was all bigger and harder in the old days, that has to be nostalgic nonsense. With the ledge 2 feet underwater, you're up towards the steps and flowing well through the third arch - and in the conditions needed for such levels, the river is either rising or falling sharply. Whilst the river is commonly run at these levels and higher these days, most (experienced and skilled) paddlers would consider these levels to be high and pretty demanding - I simply do not believe that such big water conditions were the 'LOWEST level' you'd run it at.
Hi Mark,

I admit that I am working from memory from quite a long time ago so I have no problem with people challenging what I am saying to make sure I get it right.

I am not saying you could not do a descent at lower levels. You and I both know that the river has been run much earlier by guys in canvas kayaks, but you can only consider how many portages that must have been, and who wants to do lots of portages?

It was the belief of those who made the first high water GRP descents that the lowest level which you could do a full descent, without portages, and without too high a chance of smashing the boat up, was with water above the ledges. That was the level those people taught me when they guided me down a few years later. Then as we got more experienced, and tried it at different levels, and started to use plastic boats, then we did it at progressively lower and lower levels to get to where we are today.

That is the point I am trying to make. The Dart's daunting reputation is a legacy from those days, and may not be valid today.

My memory is that in those early days it was only paddled it when virtually all the ledge shown in the picture in the posting above was well covered, which would be about just above knee level for the guy in the photo. Where that is on your steps and arches scale, I have forgotten?

And yes this was a level that only happened a few times a year, and yes it was considered high and pretty demanding. But Sam Ellis in Cauldron Snout, and Chris Sladden in S. Wales back in the day, did stuff that was challenging and pushed the envelope, and was considered beyond the envelope by some. But now the Upper Dart and S Wales is routine, and Cauldron Snout may be routine sometime be in the future. Those guys who first ran the Upper Dart, about 5-10 years before I got there, were pushing the envelope too.

Best wishes

Simon

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Eliza Dolittle » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:55 am

Mark R wrote:nostalgic nonsense
My first upper Dart experience would have been ca 1990. I was in a new MI370 plastic slalom boat. Many of the other paddlers in the club were in their grp Hunters (old style, high volume 4m slalom boats). The ledge wasn't covered. Nobodies boats got wrecked. We took the alternative, left hand side of the island with Euthanasia and didn't portage anything. On subsequent trips I have never paddled it with the ledge covered.
I would definitely go with people I had paddled with before and trusted.

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Pete the kayaker » Thu Dec 08, 2011 10:06 am

In answer to Daffers' opening question; my answer would be that infamous is the wrong word. It is rightly highly regarded as it is a very beautiful and amusing stretch of water.

Some people talk up the difficulties, but on the whole these are rarely desperate at most levels - although the river does require respect, it is still a very enjoyable paddle.

I first paddled the upper in late '95 also in a 4m boat (a mountain bat - the one that looked like a fat-boy's magic bat) and it was immediately evident that the boat was too long. Later shorter boats were much more suited to it's nature.
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by BigPhil » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:07 am

Pete the kayaker wrote: I first paddled the upper in late '95 also in a 4m boat (a mountain bat - the one that looked like a fat-boy's magic bat) and it was immediately evident that the boat was too long. Later shorter boats were much more suited to it's nature.
I think the mountain bat I paddled at uni was 3m long (bat 300) - was there another version. I was thinking recently that it might not have been a bad boat looking back on it. Fast and not that much longer than a modern creek boat - maybe shorter than a dagger green?

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Simon » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:25 am

Interesting comments about boat lengths, and how what is considered long or short at various times will change.

In the very early 80's when I took a Perception Dancer down the Upper Dart I was told off by one of those Dart pioneers for daring to take a dangerously short and low volume boat on that river.

All I am doing is describing the choices that those early guys made in the mid 70s, I am not defending them as being the only choice or the right choice. I respect what they did greatly, and understand why they did what they did, and why that led to the Dart having a certain reputation. But later on I then spent a lot of time myself proving that the Dart wil go in lower volumes and shorter boats.

We all know of stories where those that did a first descent did it a less than optimum level (or even dangerous level) due to lack of knowledge - and later paddlers expanded the range of possibilities.

Simon

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john smith
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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by john smith » Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:02 pm

For me it is the isolation.

You can't just get off and walk 50 metres to the road. Once your in, your in!

Added to this is the fact that the first half is more difficult than the second half and the grade increases with flow.

I have paddled it low and it was almost easy. I paddled it huge and it made me pooh my pants!

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by Kayak-Bloke » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:03 pm

Great thread. A question I've been thinking about asking for sometime.

I remember my first trip to the Dart Loop and the two exeperienced paddlers talking about running the Upper after we had done our 3rd run of the Loop that day. I listened in awe to the stories including, sadly, one where the chap looking after me that day recalled losing a member of a group on the Upper.
From that day to this I have always avoided it as if it has some mystical property of difficulty and danger which is above and beyond its medium level grade of four.

I have to say the recent Gene 17 vid, which sparked the question, states medium flows and even says 'friendly.'
My thoughts are that this may be the usual case of perception as if the guys running it are used to it being through the 3rd arch and stonking down maybe this does seem frinedly and medium. It looked high (ish) to me!

I've paddled the Tawe, The Mellte, Ned Fechan and whilst I appreciate they aren't the same sort of rivers as the Upeer they are graded (for good reason) in the same scale yet I still am nervous about the Upper?!

Out of interest how does it compare (in terms of difficulty) to the Lower Guisane which I would say in terms of features is similar .eg continuous and very read and run?

A very small group of us are travelling down to S. Devon for some paddling in the New Year and the Upper keeps getting mentioned...
Hopefully we can hook up with some locals and I can get rid of the demons!!

Nige

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by W5RAY » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:06 pm

To get back to the OP by Daffers!
IMO the Upper definitely has a strange and surreal feel to it - whether that is because of it's placement in the surrounding topography or as Mark says it can be everything to everybody - nice or hell!
I first paddled the Upper before my time, ie before I was ready, about 3 years ago and had a couple of swims. This then added to the aura about the place and even though I progressed as a paddler over the next couple of years it wasn't until last year that I paddled the river again, even though I had done reasonable rivers elsewhere. I went with a reputable local coaching firm and learnt a lot, however I was still very edgy about the descent with eyes on stalks and a general nervousness. I went back and paddled it a few more times with the same coach and even though I rolled a few times I started to enjoy the river. To be honest the rolling actually helped as it meant that I took what the river had that day and came back up, however if it had been a swim I think it would have been very easy to go the other way and not paddled it again.
Now a year further on I enjoy paddling the river at a medium-ish level and would probably paddle it up to the steps level but no way in full spate! I think the risk factor would far outway the positiveness of a descent at this level.
My advice would be to crack your roll so it is pretty bomb proof, there is nothing like swimming to dent your confidence and then get yourself a good team or one of the local coaches to guide you down.
Definitely don't do it before you are ready - the river will be there tomorrow and your skill set will be better. Do it before you are really ready and you may enjoy it or you may not!!!
Lots of people of varying ability paddle the Upper with varying degrees of success - make sure you are one of the successful ones!
Look forward to hearing all about it.
ps perhaps get back to the Upper Tryweryn - as rivers go it is fairly safe - practice making the eddies at the top and when you are confident here go for your nemesis!
Happy Paddling
Ray

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Re: Upper Dart – Why is it infamous?

Post by jmmoxon » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:42 pm

The Tawe is quite a similar run when it's more than one metre on the gauge.

Mike
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