GUIDE TO THE RIVER SPEAN
(Monessie Gorge to Roybridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Spean.
WHERE IS IT?: Keep going up the A82 from Fort William and you'll find it, flowing through Spean Bridge. See below for ideas of how to put in for this extremely difficult stretch.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Numerous possibilities...see below.
APPROX LENGTH: Unknown.
TIME NEEDED: Anyone's guess....
ACCESS HASSLES: See the SCA ACCESS NOTES ON SCOTLAND.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: You almost certainly would want to do this is low water...but there are sumps which vanish in high water...so you tell me.
GRADING: The section described here is mostly Grade 6...enjoy. Joining after the gorge makes for a more sensible Grade 4 trip, though.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Many, not least some appalling Grade 6 gorges and waterfalls...see below.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: I've certainly not paddled this, it looks pretty awful at all levels with huge shallow falls and sumps; Grade 6. But I assume it's been done...? Let us know. When the Laggan Dam is releasing a trip is possible just BELOW the gorge.
Big Al Collis (April 2005)...'Reading your guide on the Spean...the Monessie section has had at least one descent. Ben Starkie and I paddled this section one evening after work in 2000. We were going for a gentle run on the section downstream but when we got to the railway and found that the river was on one pipe and this had just been shut down and the river was dropping we ran along the railway and saw that the sumps were all covered and the maelstom was feasible. We hopped on and got jiggy. The first fall under the foot bridge was tall and a small pool. There was a tree in the base of this which made it hard to get out of the pool, tree is still there (saw it only two weeks ago). Swiftly the big fall comes up. Best line was kind of centre, Ben was to the right and just missed an overhanging rock half way down. You are now in the guts and as we paddled the sump section we could see the nasty bits. With no bank rescue (not enough time) it was on memory of one run along the railway lines that got us through!'
Kris Waring...(Sept 2004) 'Just back from the Middle Spean (Below Monessie Gorge) with four pipes releasing and water spilling over the Dam. This is a classic grade three section with nothing too pushy, EXCEPT the long grade five rapid bang in the middle of the run. Problem is, many people tempted to paddle the grade three part would struggle to make the breakout at this level. The consequences are serious as missing the eddy would lead you to the worst, and most painful route down the rapid. However, for anyone who didnt find the Upper Spean too pushy at the same level, this makes a fantastic, if short addition. The put in and portage are an adventure all of their own and the trip is probably worth doing at least once just for the view back up into Monessie Gorge at the start.'
Iain McKendry...'Middle Spean below Monessie; You need to recce a route to get in directly below Monessie Gorge across the railway line, but at good levels (say 3 pipes on the dam), this is a great wee pushy Grade 3+ with a possible walk in the middle. I say "possible", as it runs depending on the volume flowing - too much and the move from left to right on the main chute is just too much for your average mortal to avoid the horrible hole river left. Plenty of good biggish fast surf waves and boily stuff, worth a look definitely.'
This section takes you down to Roybridge, where you have the option of continuing on the following easier section.
OTHER NOTES: The Spean Gorge is an unusual and brilliant trip, well worth a look if the section from the dam is switched off. The Spean also has some excellent tributaries; consider the Roy, the Pattack, the Allt Ionndrainn and the remarkable Ossian and Ghuilbinn trip.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Kris Waring, Al Collis and Iain McKendry.