GUIDE TO THE RIVER NEVIS

(Steall Gorge to Polldubh Falls)

NAME OF RIVER: Nevis.

WHERE IS IT?: In Glen Nevis. Yep, as in Ben Nevis. Head up the valley from Fort William, keep on going until the road ends at a carpark...and stop.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in some way upstream of the end of the road...follow the path from the car-park a few hundred metres until you see a track heading off to the right. Follow this down to the river (NN 17311 69187). Take-out above or below the lower Falls where a bridge crosses the river (NN 14512 68422). Another alternative is to continue downstream on the Lower Nevis.

APPROX LENGTH: 3km.

TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours first time.

ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Use the Sepa Gauge. Below 0.8 it’ll be pretty bony and chossy. Between 0.8 and 1 is a good low level and everything should go quite nicely. 1 to 1.2 is ideal range, everything is clean and fun but not too scary. Over 1.4 and it’ll be pretty hard, definitely check the eddy above Scimitar before getting on at that level.

GRADING: 4/5, continuous 5/5+ in very big flows.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Take particular care at Boulderblast and Scimitar Gorge. There is a siphon river left in the mad mile just after the supply bridge that has potential to be problematic at medium levels.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

The first rapid, Boulderblast (Grade 5) is a 200m long boulder garden (funnily enough), ninja-paddling at its best! Loads of rocks to dodge and at good levels a few pretty chunky holes. Plenty of lines available so take a look for yourself, but messing it up will probably hurt. The exit from this rapid can have a surprisingly large hole at higher levels.

 Jamie MacManaway dropping into Boulderblast at sunset, photo by Duncan Stewart

 

Jamie MacManaway dropping into Boulderblast at sunset, photo by Duncan Stewart

 

Good grade 3/4 rapids lead down to the start of the first gorge. This gorge gets progressively harder and ends in Dave’s hole (Grade 4+/5) which is a funky drop into a very sticky hole on the right that is best avoided on the left. If the level is high or it is your first run it’s probably worth jumping out to check the whole gorge on river left just before the river drops into it, you can spot this by an old metal pipe on a concrete bank on the left with several eddies nearby.

The river eases to grade 2/3 for a while with nice views in the lead in to Scimitar Gorge (Grade 5). Get out on river left BEFORE the gorge walls rise up on either side. Inspect or portage from here. If levels are high or you don’t know the river, scout this eddy before you get on as it can disappear above 1.4 on the gauge. You can cross the footbridge from the road below the Narrows and walk up river left to find the eddy and scout the gorge. The gorge itself involves a fun grade 4 lead in to a straightforward 2m boof ledge. After this, go left down the easy channel on the second drop to avoid the siphoned mank on the right, and left again down the last drop. A bit chossy in low water, it is an awesome rapid at medium-high levels with 3 super clean and fun moves. Higher than 1.4 and it will be a pretty serious undertaking with a very big hole on the first ledge.

After this is the Narrows section (Grade 4+) with plenty of options. The line varies with water level although it is usually possible to get down the far left and centre left channels, although people have pinned here in low water levels. The channels converge and plunge over a 1m drop under the supply bridge with a bit of an undercut on the left-hand wall (Grade 4+). In low water boof this on the left, in higher water a great fun and clean flair line opens up on the right well away from the undercut. The next 500m are called the mad-mile (not the best name ever…). Just fun read and run grade 4, but watch out for a siphon opening up on river left about 100m past the supply bridge.

Duncan Stewart coming out of the narrows, photo by Arthur Norton

 

Duncan Stewart on the drop under the bridge taken by Arthur Norton.

 

 

The mad mile ends as you come out of the gorge and the rock changes colour from grey to pink. Get out on the right-hand bend to look at the two next drops which are usually run together. Leg Breaker (Grade 4/4+) is a great fun boof at most levels, just watch out for the recirculating eddy on the left at medium levels and higher. After about 20m this is followed by Dead Sheep Falls (Grade 4+/5). This is at its hardest in low water where it is quite awkward and chossy, and many people have a had a fun ride in the depths of the stopper. The hole gets bigger as the level rises but the line cleans up a lot. Over 1.2 on the gauge it is possible to run a super cool line off the midstream flake of rock. Set safety if you think a swim on leg breaker is likely as swimming over dead sheep would be unpleasant.

Duncan Stewart on dead sheep falls, photo by Arthur Norton

 

The river then calms down on the run in to Polldubh falls (Grade 4+/5). This  is an awesome drop, the only hazard of note is the nasty slot on river left known as Spid’s slot. Provided this is avoided, the fall itself is straightforward although it can be a fairly big hit in low water. In medium levels it is a great place to practice freefall technique, boofs, melts, paddle-tosses and freewheels are all possible, and the landing is pretty forgiving if you mess it up.

Anthony Stewart runs Polldubh falls in his C1, photo by Daniel Jones.

 

Below here is a Grade 3 rapid and you can take out below. Or you could consider paddling the remaining river down to the sea...the Lower Nevis.

OTHER NOTES:  In high water this is extremely hard and serious.

In super high water, when there is no longer an eddy above scimitar and the upper part of this section is looking a bit unfeasible, I have heard that the stretch from the supply bridge down is excellent, although I haven’t done this yet myself.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Duncan Stewart, Mark Rainsley, also Neil Farmer and Jim Ellis.

 

 

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