From Norway a short trip back to the UK to collect my car and hit the Dee River Festival with Paul “Cheesy” Robertson from Palm. On the Sunday we decided to go canoeing, that is in a canoe. The UK tradition for canoeing is to solo paddle a tandem boat, seams a lot of work. Smaller solo canoes are a rarity as is 2 paddlers in a canoe. Still we went for it. On the first little drop at Mile End Mill, we fell out, mainly due to the lack on consideration as to what the front guy needs to do whilst the back paddler is still at the lip of the drop. Paul landed hard on a brace, meaning myself in the back simply fell over whilst still at the top of the small drop. Lesson learnt, no bracing, keep it square and true. At Llangollen’s Town Falls, our wonderful plan of down the left went great, we had little water in the boat, and were online. A small flake at the bottom left was slightly too exposed to ride over so we were reflected right into the slot, still upright we sunk into the seam. Down deep, all square until the coming up, and the boat flipped as it resurfaced, the injustice of it all. Still we gathered it all up in spite of some rescue services trying to control the situation from a raft.
On our way back up the Llangollen canal, Paul and I talked through our improved knowledge of tandem canoeing as we needed a better strategy at the Serpent Tail rapid. We finally arrived and the circus was in town, this rapid was a popular spot on a Sunday afternoon for paddlers. Amongst the masses was famed open boater and author on the subject, Ray Goodwin, whose advise was not what I would of thought. Still we lined her up and ran her dry, the Serpent was sleeping. At the end of the descent, Ray proclaimed he’d hoped we’d taken his advise as it would of clearly lead to a swim! Cheeky, still the fine line was ours. All in all, great fun. Still one thing over the weekend pained me and that was the dump that is Mile End Mill. The slow demise over a long period of time of popular paddling spot in north Wales. There is of course nice people there trying to go good things, yet the general state of the place is terrible, with either demolition or massive capital investment the only solutions. I do hope sense and good fortunate soon change the current position.
On the Monday after the weekend, across Europe I drove, a short coffee stop with Deb at Lee Valley near London to see this wonderful place and then Dover. My car was a little full of boats, yet the rocketship cruised onwards. Once at the alps, the volume of snow even on the valley floors was evidence for the long cold winter that has been just. Both the northern and eastern reaches have great snow, and the western and southern alps lots of late snow. For paddlers the coming season looks a plumb.
At the beginning of each paddling season, Gene17kayaking runs a staff training week, this is more for potential future staff who may come to work one day. From the UK tradition, with a large structure of awards is unfortunately no solid benchmark of paddling or coaching ability. There appears to be a willingness to just have enough experience to clear the hurdle of an award, yet the substance that underpins these standards is sound. Perhaps it’s the small range of rivers available, still keen as keen for paddling is evident in the UK. Alas I divest, the staff training week is always great fun, and this year we hit the ski hill, some of us went nordic skiing too over in Italy close to our base in Soča, Slovenia. After skiing we had a paddle too, the day was blue with cold and fresh snow lined the river.
For Easter I went home, and took a fabulous looking italian easter egg too. True to form and in the best italian style, the egg’s chocolate with whole hazelnuts was delightful. During the weekend, we enjoyed easy delights and family time too. The little one now offering commands in both Finnish and Norwegian was in fine form. Thankfully she understands my English, but not a single word, well “bye bye” is the only one. We enjoyed some skiing with friends as conditions were amazing, the local paper’s front page on the Tuesday after, read “Good Bye to our Dream Easter“, it was great to be home. On the way back, a clear vista of the alps revealed the extent of the snow coverage, white down to the valley floors across the ridges, this is very unusual for late March, spring was very late to arrive. In Soča just before Easter, I had seen House Martin’s some of the first summer birds to arrive, and they were later than normal, few others were evident before Easter. There is a sense that spring runoff will be a long waiting game, even now little in the front ranges on both the north and south sides of the alps is moving……thankfully I will be going to Corsica, which has had the best snow pack is years……more of that later.
Just before the Mediterranean get away, we had 2 weeks of trips in Soča, this prefect river is the best classroom for whitewater kayaking in Europe. Why is it go good, well the clear and well defined white water features makes for recognising where to go and understanding the river easy to see, then the white water is made up on deep channels around large boulders, so if you fall in, you simply get flushed through without a scratch, and the pool drop nature of the terrain means it’s easily manageable to take on the rapids in a bite sized fashion. Plus the water is an amazing translucent blue and the nature and local people highly agreeable and welcoming. On many of the rapids, there are numerous free ride moves, and of course we love to hit them. It’s great fun getting the paddlers to try, and then nail these moves through coaching, ultimately its about understanding the white water better and where the energy in the river is and can be used. But hey that’s the work after all, and more on that soon, as the series of articles reviewing “Genes” will be added too soon.