Wednesday, 15 April 2015

British Universities Creek Race

Friday evening and Jon, Patrick and I met up in Perth and all piled into my car. Figuring (wrongly as it turned out) that the Kingshouse would be rammed with paddlers, we stopped at Bridge of Orchy and camped by the Orchy. Well, when I say camped, Jon and Patrick camped, I slept in my car. It was really rainy overnight.
The next morning I was woken up by the hammering rain at 5.30am. By 6.30 I had given up and got into my drysuit so I could go outside and wake up the boys. With little to do before registration at 8am, we decided to go look at the Etive, which was pretty high for the middle section.

This was the lowest level all day (about 7.20am).

Back at the Kingshouse, we went to registration then kitted up. The weather was not improving and the snow had started melting, so the river was getting higher by the minute.

Some deer came to watch while the SCA tent nearly blew away.

Some shuttle faff and we were off down to Twist and Shout, the final fall on the middle section. Usually this drop looks like this:

Today it looked a little different:

However, the left side of the island, normally dry land, was a nice grade 4 paddle with big but avoidable holes forming above and below the rapid. Soon the timed runs were off with a mandatory left line.

Small amounts of carnage happened, but surprisingly little! I helped pull one guy and all his kit out of a hole right before the finish line, he was gutted he didn't make it.
Finally the Alumni boater cross was up and Calum Strong gathered us all together. It appeared to be a bunch of sponsored guys, one other guy and me. Great. Deciding that maximum carnage was the way forward, the line was left or right optional and all eight of us were launched immediately upstream of the munchy river wide holes. Calum shouted go and I'm guessing there was some crazy carnage involving the guys but I was too busy doing an epic ferry of fear right across the river to sneak around the holes on the left!

There's me on the left, running away. Photo by Shaun Etherington

This worked to some advantage given that I paddled past Mark Mulrain having a fight with one of the holes. My line wasn't great down the left and I got stuck on a rock for a bit allowing everyone to get way past me, but I made it to the end upright and alive! Victory. Plus since I wasn't in the first five I didn't have to race again in the final.
While I had been having fun getting stuck on a rock there had been a massive pile up in the hole below the drop on the right hand side and Dan Rea-Dickins had swum out allowing Mark, who was late to the party after his tangle with the hole, to sneak into the top five. We all settled in to watch the final, hungry for carnage!

Mark, charging in the lead.

A surprise appearance from the famous Liquidriot duo.

Mark charged to victory, then we packed up and headed to the Coupall.

There was a tiny issue where the trailer nearly fell over.

A nice double rapid grade four, the Coupall runs rarely as it needs a lot of water and runs off really quickly. It was in fact running off while we were there, the lines changing through the afternoon.

Patrick's run did not go entirely to plan...

We rescued a random boat that floated down to the end and
pinned itself.

I had a run down after most of the timed runs were done, it was quite low and technical by then but still nice.

Photo by Geoff Cooper

Photo by Elizabeth Lennon
Properly knackered, we drove up to Kinlochleven and nosed about the Ice Factor looking at all the expensive things we can't have. When we got a bit hungry we went out into the car park and had a race between a Trangia cooking gnocchi and a gas stove cooking pasta. I'd finished my pasta before Patrick's water had boiled.

Then we turned up really early at the prize giving and nearly fell asleep before it started. Calum Strong was knocked off the top spot to the delight of the rest of the organising people. Congrats to everyone on your random swag and to Jiri Tykal, race champion!

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