FCC Alps Trip Report 2010
Once again this year I and a few guys from Forest Canoe Club headed off on our annual trip to Briancon for a week of kayaking in the French Alps. This year our group was stronger then the previous year, and we had every intention of pushing our paddling and overcoming the river demons that some had from the previous year’s trip.
Saturday: Durance St Clements to Embrun
Thomas Award: Bezza (German Porn Star)
“Cosmic at Rabioux – easier than last year!”
After the long journey down over night we arrived. After a quick shop in Gap we dropped our food and non-paddling stuff off at the house, and then headed to St Clements for our first run of the trip down the Durance all the way to Embrum, a perfect way to get everyone used to the faster speed of alpine water. Once again the Thomas the Tank engine bib had joined us for those who had performed the most stupid thing that day, to wear on the river the next day. The award went to Mike Berry on the first day for his tight black rash vest being worn sleeveless, thus resembling a German porn star.
“Jim at Rabioux wondering what will happen next!”
Sunday: Gyronde, Onde, Gyr
Thomas Award: Andy (Onde swim)
After a long discussion the previous night of what to do on the Sunday, it was decided that we were to head off to do the Gyronde, Onde and then the Gyr. For some the tight and fast nature of the river at the start was a bit too much to jump straight into, and it wasn’t long until we had our first swim of the trip. After blasting down the rest of the river and having a quick look at the weir, which took the second swim of the week, it was straight on up to the Onde, which for us was a new run.
“Bezza straight into the groove on the Onde”
The trees at the top didn’t look like much, but caused problems for most, including forcing a certain Andy Fenney to take an unusual technical dismount from his boat. The rest of the Onde didn’t cause anymore problems and was a nice scenic run down. The last run of the day was the Gyr. After a quick check of the top section to make sure the strainer wasn’t there any more, a few of us got on. For my Dad and Mike this was a step up from what they would normally do, after telling them it got easier after the bit they saw (which it doesn’t, it just carries on going) they decided they’d give a shot. The next 10 minutes was just a non-stop run down into Vallouise, where after no real problems I hopped out, only to have to grab a very out of breath Mike before he carried on down followed by my Dad. We then enjoyed a well earned beer in the bar overlooking the river! The Thomas Award for today went to Andy for his misfortune on the Onde.
“Cosmic starting to look relaxed the Onde”
Monday: Upper/Lower Guisane, Briancon Gorge
Thomas Award: Bezza (Eddy swim and rope throwing skills)
It was decided on the Monday that we would head over to the Guisane to get both the Upper and Lower sections followed by our favourite run, the Briancon Gorge. The Upper has a long build up to its main rapid the ‘S bends’; nothing really happens until suddenly you are paddling the one real rapid. Once again it caught a few out, with people being too close together and unsure of which way to navigate around some of the rocks. This caused a few people to go over and take a few bumps, but luckily enough for us no swims. At the bottom of the Upper we regrouped and those that wanted to carry on down the lower did. For Colin this ended in a few swims, before having to be taken across the river only to go back to the side he started on and walking the rest of the way out. The funniest part of the day, which also achieved him the Thomas award for the day, was Mike’s swim in an eddy, having done the rest of the river without incident. This ended up in his boat being broached just below, where a couple of Irish guys helped us fish his boat off the rocks. Mike’s comical rope-throwing skills didn’t help move things along.
Tuesday: Upper/Middle Guil, Durance from St Clements to Rabioux)
Thomas Award: Andy (Paddling the Middle Guil with no air bags)
“Jim in the gorge on the Upper Guil”
The Tuesday saw us head over to the river Guil. The Guil for FCC has claimed many a swimmer and until this year, we hadn’t paddled down either the Middle or Upper without at least one swim on both. First off we headed down the Upper, where unlike before we’ve got off and set up ropes on the rapids, we decided just to run straight down and this worked for us. As we paddled out of the gorge part, everyone was happy with what we had managed to accomplish.
“Adi setting up for Triple Step on the Middle Guil”
On to the middle we went, where on previous years just Andy and I had paddled it. This year Nathan, Mike and my Dad joined us. The river didn’t cause the problems, but instead whilst taking a look at the Staircase, Dad, whilst trying to avoid getting his boots muddy, ended up bathing in it, hurting his knee, and claiming to a concerned Swiss paddler that he was in shock.
“The Don washing the mud from his kit on the Middle Guil”
“Steve taking off on the Middle Guil”
“A very focused Mike on the Middle Guil”
The Thomas Award, however, was presented to Mr Fenney for paddling the Middle Guil where he had swum both times he had paddled it previously, with no air bags.
Wednesday: Gyronde, Argentiere, Briancon Gorge
Thomas Award: Colin (Poor rope throw)
Wednesday saw us have a bit of a more relaxed day, paddling the Gyronde again down to the slalom course at Argentiere to start the day. After a ‘relaxed’ lunch overlooking the lake, a blast down the Briancon Gorge was in store. The Thomas Award today went to Colin for his horrendous rope practice on the side, which ended up with most of his rope in the trees.
“The group unusually all upright on the Gyronde”
Thursday: Upper Guil, Chateau Q Gorge, Middle Guil, Durance
Thomas Award: Andy (Drain bung)
“Andy boofing on the Upper Guil”
On Thursday we headed back over to the Guil to make sure that it hadn’t just been good luck that had got us through unscathed. After running down the Upper Guil myself, Andy, Nathan and Dad carried on to paddle the Chateau Q Gorge. This is a short section that’s in a very tight gorge, and is like a non-stop water slide until you get out the other side.
“Ben on the first drop of Triple Step on the Middle Guil”
“Nathan’s first ever run down Triple Step”
It was then on to tackle the Middle one again, before finishing with a run down the Durance to Rabioux for everyone, followed by a couple of beers whilst watching some of the carnage. The Thomas Award once again went to Andy, but this time for having his drain bung undone.
“Ben and Andy head off down the Middle Guil below Le Tunnel”
Friday: Gyr, Briancon Gorge
Thomas Award: Bezza (Broach in the Briancon Gorge)
Friday was a short day for us, as everyone was getting tired due to it being the end of a tough week. I had been set the challenge of paddling the Gyr with a dustpan and brush, which I did. Unfortunately though the dustpan wasn’t that strong and snapped after a while, leaving me to rely on my sweep stroke to get me the rest of the way down.
“Ben employs the sweep stroke on the Gyr”
After that we finished off the week with a run down the Briancon Gorge once again. This allowed Mike Berry to once again achieve the Thomas Award for getting broached on nothing of any concern, crying out for help and then just as help arrived, moving himself off of the rock.
Thomas Award for the week: Colin (can’t remember why!)
“The group enjoys a beer in the sunshine at Rabioux”
Once again a great week was had by all, but for me it was definitely my favourite. This was because it was nice to see a lot of paddling getting down, very little faff, and people pushing themselves and thus achieving what they had set out to achieve with out having any regrets at the end of the week.
Report by Ben West
Group was: Ben West, Steve West, Mike Berry, Jim McPherson, Andy Fenney, Nathan Woodhouse, Colin Ray, Chris Davis and Adrian Green.