Nine Nomads returned to Bala in North Wales on Saturday 27th April aiming to run the Tryweryn. However, breakfast in the Y Badell Aur Café was interrupted by news that the dam release was cancelled due to high rain forecast, which promised to turn river levels from rags to riches.
The destination was switched to the River Dee, which was rising from 2 to 9 on the Mile End Mill gauge. Two groups formed to match the experience and aspirations of our paddlers. Ian Williams led an eight mile journey on the highly underestimated stretch from Glyndyfrdwy to Mile End Mill, whilst Anthony Vecchio led a white water skills day between Horseshoe Falls and Llangollen.
Storm Hannah brought lower temperatures and moderate winds along with rising water levels, so full white water safety equipment was carried. No wave was left unplayed from Glyndyfrydwy onwards, which provided a series of grade 2 rapids in quick succession. This was the perfect venue for developing white water skills and all paddlers threw themselves into each feature.
Ian Walker’s large volume kayak tackled each wave head on, whilst Martin kept his boat vertical, switching neatly from bow to stern. Simon used every rock as a break out target, whilst Matt was in his element, picking out the smoothest lines down river.
Teamwork was the underlying theme, with each paddler maintaining line of sight. This paid off at the final feature before Horseshoe Falls when a submerged rock separated paddler and kayak with a fast flowing rocky stretch of river between. The team responded well, capturing the stray kayak and towing it across to the safe bank. A double throwline was paddled out to the paddler in the middle of the river, who was recovered to the safe bank. As the split paddles were being prepared, the team recovered the paddle down river, allowing the journey to continue within a few minutes. Once again, the experience within the Nomads ensured that the equipment, training and teamwork provided a safe environment for all involved.
Meanwhile, Anthony, Ewan, Fane and Charlotte were testing their white water skills on the iconic features of Chain Bridge, Serpent’s Tail and Mile End Mill, which were changing each time as the rain continued to fall. By the time the two groups met at Serpent’s Tail, they had mastered these features and were able to show us the line.
By Sunday morning Storm Hannah had passed, the sun shone and water levels continued to rise as the rainfall slipped off the hills. An intricate shuttle plan, carefully formulated in the Curry House the evening before using bottle tops and cutlery, allowed two runs on the stretch from Horseshoe Falls to Town Falls before driving home. Serpent’s Tail had become Serpent’s Chute, with some unpredictable currents requiring instinctive support strokes. The drops at Mile End Mill had become deep holes and jets, which launched the kayaks across the river.
The group divided again at Town Falls, with Anthony and Ewan leading an exciting route straight down the feature, whilst Ian Williams led a lower risk option. The allocation of paddlers to each route worked perfectly, with all boats arriving at the bridge safely as the pre-positioned safety team looked on.
In summary, this was another enjoyable and challenging weekend of white water paddling, which we would highly recommend to others who are keen to make the transition from sheltered water to white water.
Many thanks to Ian for leading the trip and this report.