GUIDE TO THE AFON GAIN
NAME OF RIVER: Gain.
WHERE IS IT?: Snowdonia, near Dolgellau.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in at a forlorn windswept bridge in the middle of nowhere, or SH 734312 to be more precise.
APPROX LENGTH: 3 km on the Gain, at least 3 more on the upper Mawddach.
TIME NEEDED: Minimum of an hour on the Gain.
ACCESS HASSLES: Not known. It's pretty bleak...you won't meet many folk up on the moor.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Medium-high water is ideal, with direct run-off from several hours of heavy rain; if it's not too high, this gives you the option of paddling the final gorge. It is difficult to imagine wanting to do the Gain in a low level. All rocks well covered at the start is a good indicator.
GRADING: Grade 4+, Geade 5 in the final gorge.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Plenty of falls with dubious looking rock formations, be careful. The final 500 metres of this trip is a series of darned hard looking rapids, eventually disappearing over a massive waterfall - Pistyll y Cain. This bit will most likely be a portage...
The whole trip is away from roads.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This trip starts on a bleak moor exposed to wind and rain...and it's flat.
Thankfully, things start improving as the treeline is reached. The gradient slowly increases until you have continuous technical drops which keep you guessing and can just about be paddled on sight. This is classic ditch creeking!
You will certainly inspect a number of recognisable harder rapids; eg. a rocky channel where the water piles into a dodgy rock formation on river left, and a later rapid leading into a slot drop on river right. The latter saw two paddlers sharing the stopper for a time...
When you reach a stone arched bridge, stop quickly (not easy, so be awake) and take out. If the level is high, your trip will have to finish here and start walking; if not, the gorge below is fantastic, but a step up on the previous section.
Downstream of the bridge are a series of impressive drops and rapids which increase in difficulty and commitment the further you venture. You need a medium water level for this fantastic gorge to be a goer...there are 4 or 5 Grade five rapids with the last stopping directly above Pistyll y Cain, a massive waterfall.
Shoulder your boats and make the long (1 kilometre?) portage down a track on river right to the upper Mawddach. This launches you directly below Rheadr Mawddach, another heinous waterfall. The last few kilometres of the upper Mawddach will be stomping if the Gain is high.
Chris Sladden (Jan 2004)...'An awesome paddle. I have run all of the drops below the stone bridge but you have to get ideal levels. They are class V in my estimation but you need a medium level to be able to run them. In flood they are frightening (at the level of the pictures in 'The Welsh Rivers' they are way too high) and in low water I could see no clean line, but at least not quite the potential to flush over that bottom drop - which incidentally I have seen some pics of a paddler doing - I still cannot quite believe how he avoided being wiped out and it still makes me shudder.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Chris Sladden.