GUIDE TO THE ALLT A' CHAORAINN
NAME OF RIVER: Allt a' Chaorainn.
WHERE IS IT?: A tiddly little tributary of the River Etive in, unsurprisingly, Glen Etive. It joins from river left just below the takeout for the middle Etive.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Park at the take out for the Middle Etive (NN 19714 51215), a layby just past the bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the markers leading up off the track to the stile over the deer fence. Do not go down the track to the house! Follow the path from the deer fence up the side of the river until you reach Speed (see photo below) (NN 19785 50588). Take out just after the footbridge near the house on river left and walk down the field to the Etive. Cross the Etive and walk back up the road to your car.
APPROX LENGTH: 500 metres.
TIME NEEDED: 1 hour including carry up, but you can lap the rapids to your heart’s content.
ACCESS HASSLES: The house at the take out was very unfriendly to paddlers, however it was recently burned down, so access squabbles are now unknown. Try to keep well away from the house anyway, just to be cautious. The bridge over the Etive is sometimes locked - in this case you can just ferry across below it.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Goes in the driest of dry weather, though is best with a little snowmelt or rain - more water makes the drops harder. You can inspect everything on the walk up and gauge how high it is.
GRADING: In low water this requires little skill, just good nerves. With more water the run comes up to a grade 4 to 4+ exciting run down. Even more water and the whole thing is one big grade 5.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Exhaustion on the carry up. Bring elbow pads.
The run kicks off with Speed, a narrow flume that’s a lot easier than it looks.
Paddler: Alison Galloway. Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Next up is Ecstasy, a long rapid of slides and small drops that is sure to get you giggling.
Paddler: Meg Rett. Photo: Kirsten Rendle. Guest appearance by Tarka the dog!
Paddler: Meg Rett. Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Pinball is just round the corner and is by far the dodgiest drop - a steep entry into a flipper rock that fires you into the wall then down a small drop. It’s fairly easy to portage the first drop and just run the second, eliminating the pinball effect!
Paddler: Jon Harwell. Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
Finally you come to Chasm, very similar to Speed but in a tight gorge where paddles can be something of a hindrance. A final satisfying boof ledge drops you down to the take out bridge.
Paddler: Dominic Williams. Photo: Kirsten Rendle.
The river past here disappears into a boulder field unless you are paddling at very high flows.
Billy Powell, Colin Hamilton, Graham Dawson (Spetember 2005)...'We've paddled this at levels where water is pouring into the chasm over the rocks on both sides. Everything still goes, but the lines on the first drop and pinball are flipped (the right side of Pinball was almost out the river and the hole at the bottom backed up). There is also a large hole on the entry to Ecstasy that needs protection, it has recirced swimmers and swimming the rest of the rapid would be... interesting. The chasm itself is committed to once running pinball and looks terrible, but appears to spit you out with down time galore (I re-broke my nose in it, but as usual I leant the wrong way!). Make a quick roll because the pourover below gets meaty. The runout at this level is however a pleasurable float as you gibber back to your car. This is the closest you'll get to Nowerigen or Californian slide paddling in the UK. Probably.'
OTHER NOTES: There are more rapids upstream, however the boat carrying we would have had to do was judged to be “not worth it”.
See Jay Sigbrandt's article on paddling it in freezing temperatures...
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kirsten Rendle, Jon Harwell, Mark Rainsley, also Kris Waring, Billy Powell, Colin Hamilton, Graham Dawson.