The other week I ventured to France’s Southern Alps for some warm whitewater paddling in the sun. This was my first trip paddling out of the UK. I learnt a lot! The first thing I noticed about the rivers compared to Scotland was the speed. In the fast flowing melt-water I realised I had to be more on the ball with making eddies, and that if anyone swam there would be some hard work chase boating. I won’t deny that this un-nerved me, but I was brimming with excitement for what the next fortnight had to offer.
We started easy to help build confidence and comfort in these Alpine rivers. Our first day involved eddy practice on Les Argentierre’s slalom course. The following day we paddled the lower Durance section known as “The Sunshine Run”. Many swims indicated how we were not used to this type of paddling. We had an epic on the Rabioux wave, where about half the team were spat out the boils without their boats. Despite some frights, we had to smile: it wouldn’t be a student trip without some carnage!
Other rivers we explored included the lower Guil, the lower Claree, the upper Durance and some of the more experience tested their ability on the Gyr. Personally the lower Guil was my favourite, as it wound round the countryside displaying beautiful patchy snowy mountains, steep sided cliffs with waterfalls and tree-covered banks. The river itself was bouncy and provided plenty of eddy practice.
After two weeks of paddling, and enjoying a slower pace to life with a few beers always awaiting us at the end of the day, it’s a wonderful feeling to look back and reflect on the experience. Some lessons were learned and it feels great to see and feel how my paddling has improved over the holiday. My thanks go out to Sam and Sandy, who organised the big adventure, and everyone who pulled me out me when I needed a hand!