Losing Contact on the Lledr...
Assuming my usual luck of missing the best water I still headed west and was pleasantly surprised.
Having just read this I realise it doesn't say much about the river. I guess I was just feeling creative. Enjoy......
North Wales 12/12/99
Rich's eyes lit up. "Pull over here I've a phone call from Australia."
It was 10 am and we'd been making the most of the free tariff from Orange for Sunday calls. Due to unforseen circumstances we'd had to become less flexible than we had planned and although we had a host of level reports from the Lakes, South Wales and the North East, we were still heading to Betws-y-Coed, North Wales, because Clive had left his car there overnight and we were planning to paddle with him.
The previous evening's level report suggested that the water wasn't at optimum levels and they had had medium level runs down the Ogwen and the Upper Llugwy, so based somewhere in the Midlands we had been using the contacts and the mobile to best decide in which direction to hit warp factor nine in Will's super tractor.
Rich's girlfriend had rung from Oz just as we had passed a truly honking river dee. A fantastic level to be sampling the delights of the Dee tour. We continued our journey along the A5 and slowly realised that it wasn't just the Dee that was going to provide some stonking boating. Gradually we formed our team of five, firstly by being greeted by an excitable Clive and then an introduction to Peter, who was generally enthusiastic, which is probably the best way to describe him.
As we drove along the river, having left one car at the take out, I got glimpses of serious white disappearing round blind corners and large boulders. The views weren't ideal but they certainly were getting me thinking and itching to get my boat off the roof and onto the water, this was also going to be the perfect river to test whether paddling in contact lenses was the way forward.
Things were staring to buzz as we wandered along the first rapid at the takeout. Straight in no warm up, this was going to test the nerve. Under the bridge, keep left. Boof, stay left, boof and then choose. Stay left and take the curving ramp down the three metre height change or head right and go for a extreme grind off the boulder forming the drop. You might say this was the crux move but directly below the river sped off down the right through two more crashing waves requiring a cross to the left to make the eddy straight after. Not a line to mess up. As it turned out only Pete paddled the crux and opted for the grind option. Myself and Will put in directly below, me in boat in case Pete had trouble, and Will on the bank with a rope to keep an eye on the action. Pete cruised by, having completely styled the crux, I waited for Will to join me in the eddy and then broke in to the fast moving current. Enough time to blink twice I'd made the cross broke out and was looking directly at Pete.
"That was fast."
"Nice line Pete. Have I got something in my eye ?" The contact lens had obviously not coped with two powerful soakings and was hanging on my right eyelid. I fiddled with the thing trying to re-shape it whilst trying to stay in the eddy. It tore, so I resigned to the fact that I would only have 50% improvement in my eyesight. Looking around though and taking everything in I realised that this was far more than I was used to.
River 1, Contact Lens 0.
We still had the last little piece of the rapid to do, a simple left to right cross over a chute once you had got there from river right. Awesome. This was going to be one fine river.
Carrying on downstream the river threw a couple of lovely drops at us. One straight into a boil that proved difficult to paddle round for some of us, but for me I had been able to predict what was going to happen and choose more definite lines because this time I had the upper hand.... I could see. Every now and again I would have to pause to blink following a facefull of water but this slight inconvenince was worth it for the improvement.
River 1, Contact lens 1.
The river disappeared out of view to the right. Time to inspect. The first narrow fall was straight into a chute wide stopper with a nasty boil right below it. Maybe ok on it's own but this led into a powerful flume with quite a large hole in the bottom of it. None of us were keen but the rest of the gorge below this was looking good.
Break in, surf the cushion, back-loop roll up recover, paddle behind rock, break out, remember line, head right, on end out of first hole, stay heading right, lean forward hit second hole, recover head right, miss pourover break out right, back in take fall, break out right and rest. Watch the others. Excellent, these drops are alpine, it's fast and thinking paddling, no room for mistakes, be prepared to re-act.
We run another significant drop with a beautiful surf wave just below it. A wall forms up on the right bank, what looks to be a major piece of engineering, this is the viaduct. No time to fool round here. Head right and get the breakout. What follows is magnificent, the line is tempting, but on closer inpsection the holes are definitely big and some of them wont be letting you go for a while. Those that will, will only release you into a blocked and rocky route.
From the footbridge we decide to walk and put in just below a ski-jump/pourover. Carrying on downstream there are a couple more drops, one a boof over a well covered rock which alledgedly has a nasty slot on the left. And the final test is just after a road bridge a straight drop with a meaty yet strangely fluffy hole in the bottom. From there we relax. A large brown river joins from the right and provides some swirly entertainment down to the takeout.
Wow ! Why do we paddle ? For memories like these..............
Have fun - roo