My first Scottish paddling adventure

Over the weekend, I headed up to Scotland with a few good friends. Here begun my first Scottish paddling adventure...

I'd heard a lot about the white water in Scotland and was really looking forward to paddling the Etive. That is not to say that I was not insert expletive here myself.

We based ourselves out near Aberfeldy (where we were fortunate enough to be able to stay in a friends cottage - Thanks Beth !)

On the first day I paddled the Upper Lyon, and the Upper Braan. At the start of the day I was pretty aprehensive as to what the other - significantly better- paddlers had in store for me. The day involved a variety of drops, some nice sticky holes, and some technical boulder dodging. Although challenging, and damn scary, it was amazing to get out at the end of the day having kept my head dry with the associated massive sense of achievement.

/photos/upper-braun.jpg was here.

On the Sunday we spent the morning on the Falloch. The aforementioned better paddlers did the falls of falloch - 30ft of beautiful fall. I felt that I could have run the falls on a good day, but given that I was not 100% and that I have the rest of my life ahead of me I skipped this one. We ran the start of the Falloch, but it was lower than expected and as such we decided to cut our losses and run the Orchy.
We ran the Kinglass, a tributary of the Orchy, and then carried on down the middle section. After the first rapid I was reminded of the Racecourse section of the Ubaye in the french Alps. I then realised that it was the racecourse and more - high volume, massive holes, lots of fun. Did not quite manage to keep my head dry, but stayed in my boat, and ran some pretty impressive rapids. At this point in the weekend 'buzzing' is not a suitable adjective to describe how I was feeling. Scouting one of the rapids on the Orchy I felt more scared than I ever have before. As Beth M said, "This is why we kayak".

The third day ticked the adventure box. Having not been sure of water levels there was no definitive plan. We ended up running the tilt after a six kilometre walk in - my first ever real walk in. Again, aprehensive would be an understatement. My feelings were then emphasized after a pin on one of the first drops led to my deck imploding and me swimming. Fortunately it was probably the safest place on the river to swim, but it did not do the world of good for my paddling. Over the rest of the river my mind was not focussed, but although some of my lines were less than good, and i did take a couple of rolls, I did survive the rest of the river. There was one particular incident with a hole in a constriction. I thought that I had punched through said hole, but when I felt the back of my boat being pulled back my gut wrenched. Fast forward ten minutes and I was being pulled out of a nicely placed eddy with a throwline attached to my boat, nearly in tears. Once again, thanks a lot Beth H :P. The tilt, by all accounts is an awesome river - i'd love to run it again in slightly higher water - beat my demons and all that.

The best thing about the weekend was the approach to boating. So many times I've been led down rivers by better paddlers, not understanding what I am doing and why. This weekend I had to look after myself. On some occasions (some of) the others were just as scared as I was. I learned a lot about reading rivers, and got a lot of practice reading and running. It was an opportunity to man up and do some real boating, and I am really glad that I did it.

From a boating point of view, the weekend was amazing. The final day stopped me from getting cocky, and showed me exactly what I need to work on. From a confidence point of view, I have a lot more, and have a little more faith in my ability. I'll continue to push myself, and hopefully have many more amazing paddling experiences.

/photos/scotland-group.jpg was here

Thanks a lot guys !


Thomas Clowes

Thomas Clowes

I am a 28 year old software engineer from the United Kingdom. During the day I build multi platform applications. In my spare time I eat food and run marathons. Sometimes I write angry tweets.