NAME OF RIVER: Corriemulzie (A.K.A Abhain Dubhag)
INTRODUCTION: Pool-drop bedrock is the name of the game on this one! The Corriemulzie is a fantastic river which makes for one of Scotland’s finest grade 4 days out when combined with the Einig. It loses just under 100 m over its 3 km length, and with the exception of a short scrape at the start, every inch of that height is lost over quality grade 4 rapids. The rapids are all tight and technical but never get above class 4 or below class 3, and the many horizon lines and mini eddies provide a great training ground for any aspiring 5 star leader. To top it all off, this run spends most of its time in a scenic gorge which, although completely sheer -sided in some places, is not too deep and never feels very committing. Way out in the middle of nowhere, it’s not a river many folks have paddled, but if you get the chance it’s not a day you’ll forget in a hurry!
(It’s ok I said one of the best not the best! I didn’t mean to insult your favourite local run or that tiny ditch you found in the floods of 2004! Can you please put those pitchforks down now?).
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The best take-out is to continue down the Einig and take out at Oykel Bridge, but the bothy at Duag bridge makes a convenient take out if levels are too high for the Einig. To reach the take out, drive to Oykel Bridge Along the A837 (assuming you are coming from Inverness), then turn left down the minor road immediately after crossing the Oykel. Follow this road as it becomes a dirt track and crosses the Einig, and follow this road up as far as you can on the river right side of the Einig. You will eventually reach a gate marking the entrance to a private estate. If the gate is unlocked, you can drive on further and park at the schoolhouse bothy (NH 33993 97450) 300 m from the gate (space for 2 cars). If the gate is locked then unfortunately it’s on foot from here! For the put in, drive or walk over Duag bridge and continue along the main track for about 2½ km. You will pass a small bungalow and then see a car park (NH 32716 95276) marked “Climbers must park here” – this is where munro baggers stop of to do the hills at the head of the glen, but it is also an ideal spot for us! Walk down to the river and put in at the small footbridge.
APPROX LENGTH: 3 km
TIME NEEDED: At least 2 hours for a first time down – it’s a surprisingly long 3 km!
ACCESS HASSLES: You are parking entirely on a private estate on this one, and it’s only through their openness that we have car access to this run, so unless you want the next generation to be shouldering their boats please be as considerate and respectful as you can. There are also a lot of fishermen on this river - They have generally been really friendly to us, but try not to do anything to hack them off! The bothy at the takeout is a great place to sleep after a long drive up, but it’s not really in the ethos of bothies to have folk drive up to them – no one has ever complained to us when we use it but make your choice for yourself. Maybe make a donation to the MBA as thanks?
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Definitely needs more water than the Einig, but not too much more. There is a stick gauge in a pool about 100 m upstream of Duag Bridge. 1.3 on the gauge was good for a first time down (the Einig was medium at this level), but we were often left thinking “that rapid would be incredible with 6 inches more water..”. I would say 1.3 is a minimum and 1.8 ish would be optimal. A max level will depend on your personal fear factor but it will definitely become continuous grade 5 if you add too much water! For online gauges your closest thing is the gauge on the Oykel – the Oykel should at least at low but ideally medium on the gauge for the ‘mulzie to be on. If you have a bit less you can always do just the Einig/Rappach, which need a bit less water. Note that this river drops very quickly – it fell from 1.6 on the gauge to 1.3 in the 2½ hours it took us to do the run.
GRADING: 4 (last set of falls is 4+or 5 depending on level)
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The set of falls below Duag Bridge as the ‘mulzie falls into the Einig are very photogenic and by far the biggest on the section. They go nicely at 4/4+ in low water to 4+/5 in high water. Definitely worth inspecting before you put on – if nothing else than to gauge the flow! You can choose to take out above or below these.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the put in the river is wide and open, flowing only through a few artificial weirs designed to make pools for fisher folk to play in. The river is often quite scrapey at this point, but it soon gets better once it cuts into the gorge. After a few scrapey grade 3- rapids a trib joins in from river right and this is your signal to wake up a bit. Immediately after this there is a 2 ½ m boof drop into a small pool (4) (I’m not going to bother putting grades from here on in as it’s literally grade 4 the entire way down..). This is a sweet boof but could get quite sticky if you have high water. Thankfully a chicken line opens up on the left in higher levels which would slide you nicely away from the hole. Another small drop immediately follows and the river flattens below a small footbridge. If you have the energy it is easy to do laps of the good bit of this by hiking back up on the river right and putting in on the trib (high water first descent anyone?).
The first gorge. Paddler: Paul Brear, Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
The river is flat for a few 100 m as it leaves this first gorge, but it quickly steepens again as you enter the second gorge. From here drop follows drop follows drop, and there are way too many rapids for me to describe in detail. I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun anyway! Suffice to say that it’s literally all grade 4, you’ll want to inspect a few of the drops, but inspection is generally very easy and escape if you need it is never very far away on the river left. Notable highlights include an S-turn rapid that has an annoying flake of rock that tries to knock you into an undercut (4), and a constriction rapid where the river gets worryingly narrow but still runs fine. The gorge gets progressively more impressive as you go down it, and the rapids level off near the end to give you some time to admire it.
Dropping into the second gorge. Paddler: Jen Hartnett, Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Finally you are in the pool with the gauge stick, and it’s time to get out and set up the cameras for the final set of drops.
In low water (1.5 on the gauge worked fine) it is possible to run the slide just below the bridge then climb out on either the left or right (both are steep and a rope for the boats was helpful!). This slide is much easier than the staircase of drops that follows, but check carefully to be sure you can make the eddy.
Bethany Carol on the slide. Photo by Jon Harwell.
First slide in the final gorge. Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Paul Brear.
Final cascade (1.3 on the gauge). Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Final cascade (1.5 on the gauge). Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Once the gnar has successfully been hucked/beatered, there’s a great spot to have a picnic on the beach by the confluence with the Rappach. Now it’s time to contemplate the next stage of your adventure – continuing down the Einig, which should be at a great level at this point.
OTHER NOTES: The Rappach, which joins the ‘Mulzie to form the Einig is also a fun grade 3/4 run. Hike up on the river right side for about 2 km and enjoy!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell, Kirsten Rendle