GUIDE TO THE ABHAIN DEABHAG
NAME OF RIVER: Abhain Deabhag
INTRODUCTION: The Abhain Deabhag is a portage fest of a trip, joining the Affric just above Fasnakyle hydro station at the end of the glen. The Deabhag (or douchebag as we came to know it as) is a small creek with lots of steep, bedrock rapids in narrow gorges. The catch is that the bedrock is all of the sharp, plastic ripping variety and all the drops are either extremely chossy or very sketchy. Usually both. This is not a place for clean, high quality rapids and only true masochists who like blurring the line between “kayaking” and “canyoning with 40 kg of kayaking kit on your back” will get much enjoyment out of the run. Definitely one to be described as type 2 fun! The run goes through two deep and sheer sided gorges which, although scenic, are not very fun when you are trying to climb out of them!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: To reach the river, follow the Beauly up towards glen Affric, and at the fasnakyle power station turn left over the river and follow signs to plodda falls (NH 27681 23825). Park your car at the public car park and follow the tourist trail down to check the level. The take out is either just above or just below the final big drop (depending on whether you remembered your elbow pads..). For the put in, carry on up the gravel road for 2 km to a minor bridge over the river (NH 26700 22263). There is a spot to dump your car about 100m further upstream
APPROX LENGTH: 2km
TIME NEEDED: ?
ACCESS HASSLES: None
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs a bit of rain to bring it up but you definitely don’t want too much! In order to clean up the choss you would need as much water as possible, but in order to prevent the need for brown drysuit thermals you want levels to be medium at most. Your best guage is to have a quick hike down to plodda falls and see for yourself. The spectacular drops you see are the biggest but by no means the sketchiest drops on the river. You ideally want enough water to be able to get through the bits in between the rapids without too much scraping, but not so much that you have difficulty stopping before the big drops.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Yep.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the start, a minor grade 4 rapid gives you a warm up, and then the river slowly winds its way up from flat to continuous grade 3 for about 1km as it slowly works its way into a mini gorge. Keep an eye out though as without warning the river drops into the first challenge – a 2m upstream horseshoe shaped drop, with plenty of rocks and a very constricted exit (grade 5-). At a decent level it would be difficult to stop before this. Soon after this the river flattens a bit as you approach the first big gorge, signalled by a horizon line with a big wall of rock on the other side. This section seems to have been formed by a jut of harder bedrock blocking off the flow, and the river drops steeply as it carves an S-shaped gorge around it. The action starts with a 7 m drop, which had a tree in it when we were there, although a fair chunk of the water flows over a steep staircase on the left which would be runnable with more water. Round the corner another steep grade 5 with an undercut right wall presents itself, before a final narrow constriction on the exit to the gorge. You now have a few minutes of flat water before you enter the final and most difficult gorge. As you approach it, the river gradually steepens and the grade 4 lead in rapids actually gain some semblance of quality (did I mention how chossy everything else is?). The gorge walls close in and rapids progressively get steeper and narrower, until after a nice, 4 tier rapid you run into another massive horizon line. This is an 8m drop which lands mostly on rocks, and should probably be portaged river right. Immediately after this there appears to have been a rockfall, and most of the river now runs through a siphon. This would probably be covered, and hence runnable, with more water than we had. It is also probably portageable with difficulty river right. As far as we can tell we were almost at the end of the gorge, so the only rapids remaining are probably the ones you can see from plodda falls. Unfortunately for us, at this point it was close to pitch black so we were forced to climb out of the gorge before our friends in the car park called mountain rescue on us - 100 feet of steep, mossy rock climbing with midges, while hauling kit laden boats up with us. I’m not bitter, honest! Anyone else want to take a look and complete the trip?
OTHER NOTES: This guide was taken from a scouting mission September 2016, when there was not a lot of water for anything else. The river definitely needed more water than we had, however exactly how much more water you want will depend entirely on your personal fear factor. The final gorge in particular would be very scary with lots of water, and I will bow down and worship anyone who has done this whole section in flood!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell
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This river being one of my favourite runs in the country. I find it surprising to hear it be labelled as a portage fest and chossy. I can only assume that the author doesn't has sufficient information to write a true comprehensive guide. With the correct river levels it is a pushy class 4/5 run. Everything goes, well I might add. It has every kind of drop and rapid you could hope for. When kayaking friend travel up north it is one of the rivers I always try and take them too. Also for the authors information, the last gorge is always paddled and last fall regularly gets paddled at good flows.
The final drop at the take out looks pretty fun if it goes well but pretty hurrendous if it goes wrong! If anyone steps up to it be sure to send pictures!
I did this run a fair few years ago and probably had on the low side of medium levels. It wasn't as chossy as that, I'm guessing it cleans up with more water! Provided you can make the take-out under Plodda Falls, there's an easyish track back up to the carpark. We didn't do the final big drop at the take-out but it supposedly goes fine at the right level.
Go back and give it another go! :)