Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Mighty Etive

Parking at the put in starts to get a bit rammed...
If you ever go kayaking in Scotland, chances are you'll end up on the Etive at some point. Touted by many as the classic Scottish kayaking experience, it's certainly an awesome river. The typical English boater, up for a bit of boating over the Easter break, might happen to head here on Easter Sunday, when it just so happens that nothing else worthwhile is running. Well, Scottish boaters do this too.

Get in the queue for Triple Step!
The river starts with Triple Step, a sweet grade 4 that's sticky at higher flows and fairly amusing at lower flows. It was low! The first two drops are in quick succession, then there's three pools to gather pieces before the third drop. I ran the section twice - the left bank is easy to walk up for multiple laps.

Jon on the first drop.

Cheeky roll in the pool below the second.

Boofing the third.

The next section is shallow and rocky! In low water it can be a bit of a grind (literally), but with a bit more water it's fun grade 2/3. Today it wasn't worth mentioning...
Next up is Letterbox, a mean drop that tends to recirculate paddlers, in and out of their boats. Most people portaged as it was looking particularly hungry today. Maybe next time!
Just round the corner is Ski Jump, the easiest drop in low water - the line is just right of centre and is best approached in the "paddle over and fall off" mindset.

John falls off the Ski Jump... in skins...
An amazing mini gorge follows this drop. There are no real rapids in here, and the still waters are so clear you can see far down in to the depths. There are some small grade 2/3 rapids that are rocky scrapes in low water, before you come upon "The Crack of DOOOOOOOM". It's actually a very nice grade 4 rapid, with very little doom about it.

Rory in the Crack of Doom.

Jon boofs off the second drop of Crack of Doom.
A couple of corners and some rock scraping later and you come to Crack of Dawn. This used to be runnable down the main drop, but the cliff collapsed a while ago and now the main shoot isn't an option. In high water a line opens up on the left, but I've never had the guts as if you get it slightly wrong you end up going down the main drop backwards. In low water the only option is a fun seal launch off the now dry left hand line.
It was at this point on the river I found out that Rory had decided to paddle naked, due to forgetting to bring a change of boxer shorts. As I pulled my boat out of the river and looked over at the edge of the fall someone was just about to be pushed over the edge, assisted by Rory. Who had just bent over. Enough said. Scarred for life.

Crack of Dawn (behind the vegetation).

Seal launch!

Patrick goes flying, assisted by John.

A bit more scraping down and we got to Rock slide. Aptly named. Start at the top. Slide to the bottom.

Boof left to avoid the wall!
A couple of hundred meters downstream and you're here. The big one. Right Angle Falls, aka Easan Fir Mohr (Big Man's Falls). It's about 20ft high with a tricksome lead in. Boofing flat makes you shorter via compression of the vertebrae. About a year previously I over-rotated in the air and landed on my ear, imploding my left eardrum and doing a bit of damage to my ability to hear! I wear earplugs now, funnily enough. Today my line wasn't bad, though I came up upside down, at least it was in the nice calm eddy on the right hand side of the drop and I could just paddle happily out.

John pulling out of the middle eddy. The right angle is just visible behind him.

Free fall! Picture from Dave Manley.

Patrick taking a risky boof stroke!

Packed with paddlers.

A good day!

It's worth noting that with a bit more water you could paddle down to the Allt A'Chaorainn confluence as there's a nice grade 4 fall before the bridge called Twist and Shout. You can do it when it's low, but it's really shallow and really rocky, although the fall still runs fine.

Pictures by me, my husband Davey, and Dave Manley.

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