Sunday, 19 February 2012

An Ossian and Ghuilbinn Adventure

Having talked of paddling the Ossian for so long, it was great that finally Dave and I were heading to Fort William train station with rain pouring down all along Scotland's West Coast. The put on for Loch Ossian and the start of our adventure is located two thirds of a mile from Corrour train station, high up on the edge of Rannoch Moor. We took the late night train and arrived at Corrour in the pouring rain and gale force winds. As we hid in the shelter on the platform we decided that it would probably fit our tent, so we set it up inside and had a cosy nights sleep. Walking up in the morning the wind had fortunately died down but the rain had turned to snow showers, so we started the cold walk to Loch Ossian to warm ourselves up and dragged our boats along the track. This turned out to be a mistake as the plastic on my poor old boat's hull was very thin and the rough path managed to wear a hole below the seat without us noticing.

As we started to paddle the Loch I began complaining that I had a cold bum. With the realisation that I was sinking we made a dash to the shore to assess the problem and fixed the hole in my kayak's hull. Having only paddled about 400 meters of the 15 mile trip this wasn’t an ideal start, but with no way to back out we kept going.

Once across the loch, which wasn't too bad with the wind helping us, we started down the river Ossian which is a gentle grade 2/3 and a lot less rocky then we were expecting, having read the various guides and letting us know that it was a high water level. The only interruptions were the occasional empting of my boat as the duct tape was scraped off. The river then flowed into Loch Ghuilbinn, and a bit more tape on the bottom of my boat ensured I made it across the loch without sinking. We could now finally enjoy the stunning scenery between the snow storms that surrounded us as we paddled towards the more exciting section of our trip: the Ghuilbinn river.

After a flat start we reached the first main rapid which Dave ran first, making a bit of a mess, but he signalled for me to follow, which I duly did and managed to have a similarly messy line. It turns out that paddling with the weight of camping gear in the back of your kayak makes a big difference to its handling. This rapid then led into a continuous gorge which looked like so much fun with several big long rapids, but with the duct tape running out and the hole in my hull getting bigger I wasn’t keen to run it with a boat half full of water. Dave got a super line on a lovely double drop but with his back band broken from a previous rapid we chose to walk some of the harder stuff, leaving it for another trip and ensuring we finished with only our boats broken rather than us as well. Watch this space, we'll be back...

Sandy Douglas

Thanks David Maltby for the photos and to Level Six for their support

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Landsborough Mission.

The Landsborough river is born from the glacial melt water flowing from the Hooker Range in the heart of New Zealand's Southern Alps. From its headwaters; Danger Stream, Omen Torrent, and Repulse Creek (amongst other interestingly named tributaries) it flows Southwest through the rugged snowcapped mountains, silver beech forest and tussock flats for 50km until its confluence with the Haast River, which continues to the Tasman Sea on the West Coast.

Yet again our boats (lucky things) would be flown into the valley by helicopter and dropped off with a good load of food above Kea Flat in the Upper Landsborough Valley. To fully appreciate the awesome scenery and remoteness of the trip, we walked in over three days, from the Hopkins Valley on the other side of the Main Divide, up the Huxley River and over Brodrick Pass down to Creswicke Flat on the banks of the Landsborough. From here we continued up the valley on foot for another day to the gear drop and the put on...

Walk in from the Hopkins valley:

Walking up the Hopkins Valley on Friday Evening, Views of Mt Ward and Mt Williams.

Hopkins Valley, Saturday Morning.


Heading up into the Huxley Valley.

Katja crossing the Huxley.

The upper right fork of the Huxley River. View from Brodrick hut, Saturday evening.
Heading up to Brodrick Pass. Sunday morning.
Looking back from Brodrick pass towards McNulty Peak and Taiaha Peak.

The Landsborough!
Fraser Hut, Sunday afternoon. 
Creswicke Flat.

Dinner time :-)
Dakka dakka!!
The easy way.

Reunited with our boats. We hide from the rain on a wet Monday afternoon.
The River:

After  the long trek to to our boats, we were looking forward to a sunny relaxing cruise down the river the next day, with a bit of sunbathing and book reading in the afternoon. However, as soon as we were getting comfortable in camp, the pitter patter of rain came along and soon developed into a good steady downpour that lasted all night and most of the next day. Tuesday morning we decided that we weren't too keen to leave the dryness and comfort of our tents, let alone get really wet on the river and have to set up another camp on wet ground with soggy gear downriver. So we decided to stay put and have a little play on an upper section of the river just above our camp.

Matej and Katja shoulder their boats for a wee trip up river.
The bush.
Ben in a minging little glacial tributary of the Landsborough.
Wet wet wet.
The following morning, the sun came out! We packed up our camp and set off down the river...

A precarious boulder. Wednesday.

 Thursday Morning, heading into the Upper Gates Gorge.

Matej and Katja.

After the fun rapids in the Upper Gates Gorge, a few nice grade three rapids followed as the valley opened up for the last hour of easy floating through the braids to the confluence with the Haast River at Clarke Bluff.

Packing up before the final mission to get the vans back...

Ben :-)

All Content Copyright