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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

River Tummel – 29/7/2006

The day before my evil twin arrived for her visit, we arranged a trip on the River Tummel with Bram, Amy and Bram’s neighbor Richard. The Tummel was on uber release mode because the dam was broken. Richard had never been on a river before. It promised to be an interesting day. The Tummel is rated as a grade 3 run. I can sort of see why. It’s mostly grade 2 with a grade 3, a 3+ and a 4. Uber release meant the first 3 was bigger, the 3+ was still a 3+, but with a few more options, and the 4 was entering into 5 territory.

Amy was kind enough to let me borrow her car that weekend, so we met up with everybody at the river. After puttering around for a while at the get-out, waiting for Bram and Amy, we decided to scout the river. We found the S Bends (3+) without difficulty – it was the mass of white semi-visible from the road. Hiking out for a better look confirmed that the line would be challenging for sure. At that water level, the Forward Backward of old was not really necessary. Further driving to the get-in revealed no major rapids. Sawmill (3) was not visible from the road. Watching the rafts walk past the “No access” sign and over the gate at the get-in brought me joy.

Bram was nervous about the level, but we decided from scouting that it would be a good level to run. We unpacked and Lucas began assembly of the Pakboat while I ran shuttle. I ran into Bram, Amy and Richard about halfway to the get-out, so I left the car there and folded myself under the boats in the back of Bram’s estate car. Maniacal Richard drove to the get-in with Amy and Bram sharing the front passenger seat. Amy’s descriptions of the river made Richard quite keen to have a go. Bram’s efforts to convince him Grandtully was a better idea were futile.

I returned to the get-in with Pakboat mostly assembled. Not bad timing. I got airbag inflation and extra gear ferrying to Bram’s car duty. Again, not bad. :)

We carried down and the rest of our group was nowhere to be found. We launched and found them a little ways downriver, after the first bend. The river was bouncy and fun. Each bend had lots of fun bouncy shoals. Richard did quite well following Bram down the rapids. Somewhere in there, a not-so-graceful break-out resulted in a head-on collision between Pakboat and rock. We found out later that the rock won – one of the Pakboat frame pieces broke. The impact threw me forward, too, resulting in a large bruise-to-be on my knee.

The first grade 3 rapid was Sawmill. I was not in a grade 3 mindset, so I found a nice little perch mid-rapid to take pictures. The quality of my spot inspired me to try the camera’s video mode. I shot Lucas running it first, followed by Amy’s stunt boater line. Richard’s run turned into a bit of an epic. He flipped at the first drop and swam the rest of the rapid. The water bottle holding his car and house keys got sucked out of his boat and was nowhere to be found. He was not happy. Bram hiked down to make sure everyone was ok and then hiked back up to run it. His line was perfect.

More bouncy fun followed. Richard’s mood suffered and rightly so. No keys meant a huge hassle awaited him at the bottom. His mini-epic had sufficiently humbled him, too, so he was very tentative.

We reached the footbridge that everybody likes to jump off. With really just the S Bends and a little bit of grade 2 left, Richard decided to call it a day for paddling and see if he could find his keys. Amy’s car was nearby, conveniently enough. As the details were sorted out, Amy jumped off the bridge at least 10 times.

Finally, we continued downriver toward the S Bends. I opted for videographer duties again. I found a nice perch on the rock just downstream of the main funny chute. The S Bends are interesting. At normal flow, the main current starts on river left. The first drop runs left to right, into another eddy where you set up and run back toward the left again. Water pouring over from the left makes the line similar to the Ell on the Big South Fork, where it’s sort of a wacky pillow tunnel that you have to hit just right. I think the Ell is a bit more serious, although I have seen only pictures. At spate like the day we were there, the river left start is not really necessary. There was enough water to bop down the right to the eddy before the bigger drop. Lucas wanted to run the Pakboat through it. I wished him well.

As Lucas set up to run, I watched a bunch of kayakers run it, some upright and some not. Lucas got started on the line and promptly got stuck on a rock in the eddy. A little bit of wiggling and a helpful push got him back in enough water and he slowly turned the Pakboat downstream. He entered the drop looking pretty good, but the funny rock near the bottom got him and flipped him left toward the river left pourover. The Pakboat’s first swim seemed to happen in slow motion. The entrance was fine. The fluid motion of the flip to the left could have been set to music. It was that graceful.

After watching all of the kayakers run it, Amy decided to have a go. She found someone to follow. His line was sloppy. Amy was a bit off his line and did a careening boof off the rock that pins boats in lower water. She landed in the pool below and with a couple of wobbles, finished the rapid upright. Bram opted for the cheat chute just behind me on the rock. There was just enough water to scrape down it in a kayak. At normal flows, it wouldn’t be an option.

Lucas decided to have another shot at the S Bends. He wanted to get it right. He carried the Pakboat back up to the staging eddy and waited his turn. I kept my rock seat for video. His setup was fine as he entered the rapid. This time, the slow motion Pakboat flip was to the right, chalking up another swim for the Pakboat. S Bends 2 Lucas/Pakboat 0. I have it on video.

We had a few more grade 2/2+ bits before reaching the Linn of Tummel (4, prob 5 on our trip). Some bad information from otherwise nice people had us looking for the portage trail on the wrong side of the river well upstream of where we had to get out. After a minute or so of faff, we paddled down to the appropriate eddy and went to have a look at the Linn. I brought lunch. A much happier Richard joined us. Somebody from a raft found his water bottle and carried it with them to the bottom. The key hassle was averted.

The Linn had a bit of a carnival atmosphere. People were scattered about both sides of the river watching the entertainment. We enjoyed watching the rafts run it, as well as the odd kayaker. The raft approach was strange. The rafters were allowed to paddle up to it, but as soon as they got to the drop, the guide made them all stop paddling and crouch into the raft until they reached the bottom. Um, if I paid money to raft something, that’s not how I’d want to run it.

The first kayaker that I saw run it got a bit of a stuffing. The Linn has two drops. After the first, you have to make your way a bit to the right to avoid dropping into the beefy river left hole at the bottom of the second drop. The kayaker didn’t get right enough and dropped right into the meat of the bottom hole. He hung out in his boat as the hole worked him for at least 20 seconds. The beating invoked fond memories of Paddlesnake videos. Finally, the hole spit him out and he rolled up to a few cheers.

Three other kayakers ran the Linn while I was there watching. I was able to video each run. In between, I munched away happily at the feast that was lunch. The third guy to run it had the smoothest line – he looked totally in control. Lucas got bored of watching and carried the Pakboat around to the pool below. After the fourth kayaker ran the drop, we decided to mosey toward the get-out. A much happier Richard enjoyed the bimble to the get-out.

Disassembly showed the extent of the damage to the Pakboat. The front support bar was broken and the front cover had disappeared, swallowed by the river. Despite the “dings”, the Pakboat had remained intact and its performance really didn’t suffer. We were well impressed! All in all, an excellent day on the water.

The videos from the trip can be viewed here.

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