Welsh White Water, Drying your bits, and Chips

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    Mihael Arcan

    – Anton Walsh
    – Karl Keating
    – Mary Hopkins
    – Niall Timlin
    – Cormac Smith


    Day 0: Thursday evening was spend packing gear into the two vehicles, and strapping boats down. Much easier to do at 7pm than 4am. We brought Anton’s 7 seater and my van, as having as much space as possible makes live easier on camping & paddling trips! Day 1: After much deliberation about how much sleep we really needed, we decided to meet at 4:15am in CBC. Niall was first to arrive, and had a 4am ice-cream for breakfast because he “was on holidays” With everything already packed, we hit the road on time, a GKC river trip first. We headed to Dublin Port through the port tunnel and got to the port by 6:45, plenty of time for a chat with Pauline & co, heading to Nottingham for more paddling fun. Breakfast on ferry had our bellies full, and our travelling pharmacist made sure that nobody got sea-sick. Another 1hr spin across north wales, through the Ogwen valley, onto Betws-y-Coed to Rynys Campsite (http://www.rynys-camping.co.uk/). With a beautiful view, and choice of camping spots, we setup tents, tarps, we popped across the road to Conwy Falls Café (http://www.conwyfalls.com/) to eat some more, and went to try find a river.

    Arriving at the campsite: With everyone a bit sleep deprived, no release on the Tryweryn, and river levels fairly low, we decided the upper Dee might be a good easy start, (https://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/rivers/wales/north/river-dee-corwen-to-horseshoe-falls). After lots of searching, we found the get in (see map), did the shuttle to the get out (see map) and paid the farmer (who loves Irish people �� ) £3/person for parking. The guide said it would take 3 hrs in how water but we can do it quicker than that right? We read and run most of the river, with some eddy hopping, and surfing thrown in too. We managed to get 5 people into the worlds smallest party wave (picture), and kept paddling the river. We eventually reached horseshoe falls, with some daylight to spare. We portage the horse-shoe and split in two, with 2 going along the canal t reach the get-out, and the rest being too eager to use the big slide into the river to paddle the rapid under the chain bridge, to realise that they had a fun scramble ahead of them to the get-out.

    We got everything packed up and went in search of more food……. Day 2: A morning of coffee, scrambled eggs, and sunshine, lead to a slightly later start then desired, but it was welcome after a long first day. It was time to find the national Whitewater centre (see map) for a run of the upper Tryweryn. Under Mary’s navigational guidance, Tom Jones blaring on the radio, we got there in 40 minutes. We signed up at the white-water centre, after some faffing to find our digital Canoe Ireland cards to get a discount (have a screenshot ready before you go!).

    We got the shuttle to the top of the river, and got on the water. The upper tryweryn an amazing section of river, with plenty of features. We took our time, deciding as we went if we were going to eddy hop, follow the leader or get out and scout the next feature. This was brilliant experience for the group, and really helped up our river skills! There were plenty of thrills and spills, rolls and rescues, with everyone really pushing themselves to catch eddies, and punch through holes! We completed the 40-minute section of river, in a record 2:45! We missed the last shuttle back to the top, to the delight of the hungry, tired paddlers. It was time to pack gear and go in search of food again! Back to Betws-y-Coed for feed in the Royal Oak Hotel.

    Day 3: Time for an earlyish start. The centre offers a once a day shuttle to the Lower Tryweryn get out, so we had to get there for 10am. James popped his van to the bottom and caught the shuttle back up. We hopped on just after the WW centre, ready for a nice easy grade 2 start…. Two MASSIVE holes at the start, before the campsite had us all on edge, that and the search for a fallen tree. Plenty of nice grade 2 paddling, lots of eddy hopping, reading & running, and a lunch break in a field.

    The major hazard on the river is Bala mills falls a grade 3+/4 rapid, which has scouting/portage points well signposted, and it’s definitely worth getting out to look. We all got out and spent too long looking and talking about which line to take, and where to put ropes. Eventually three (Karl, James & Anton) decided to run it, while the rest did safety. Plenty of deep breathing, visualising the line I wanted to take, we were off, no time for butterflies anymore! A big rapid, then a couple of rocks to avoid before going over the drop and punching through the stopper! We all made it down, with Anton “catching” a micro eddy between the rapid and drop! Another 5 mins to get out, all boats onto the van, everyone into the back and all back to the centre for some food. Another record setting 3 hour run of a 1 hour section! We missed the last shuttle to the top, but luckily had everything still loaded onto the van. A spin to the top after some chips. A quick dry suit duct tape repair, and we had a quick run from the top to the campsite, cutting our previous record from 2:45 to 30 mins! Was great to see the difference once we knew the river and could eddy hop without needing to scout. Everyone was showered, and dried in the sun eating ice cream, before we headed back to Betws-y- Coed for more food, then beer and chats in the campsite!

    Day 4: The morning was spent packing up gear, tents, and washing dishes, with the obligatory morning coffees. We took the scenic route home through the spectacular Llanberis pass, which was thronged with hill walkers, climbers and tourists for the sunny Easter weekend. After a slow drive taking in the mountain views, we stopped Peats Eats café, a climbing (and now kayaking) haven. For the first time all weekend, Karl finally had a big enough meal, and didn’t need a second breakfast! A quick explore of the outdoor shops and we headed onto the ferry!


    • The Tryweryn usually runs Saturday/Sunday over summer (we were lucky with Friday), so leaving Friday & back late Sunday/Monday might let you squeeze more paddling in.
    • The upper dee in low water was a nice warm up, but very long section. The lower Dee is on tick list for future trips.
    • The campsite we used was amazing, and close to Betws-y-Coed, but the site beside the Tryweryn would save a lot of driving time, with direct river access!
    • We spent a lot of time doing some sections, but it was time well spent as we all got loads of experience reading a river, running it by eddy hopping, reading and running, and deciding when to scout and protecting features.
    • Going home through Llanberis pass gives spectacular views, and a stop in Peats Eats is now mandatory for a good feed after a busy weekend!
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