Whitewater heaven... Valsesia in Italian Alps

May 11th - June 2nd 2018

Went out again to the kayaking mecca that is Campertogno in the Italian Alps, this time driving down from London with Tony B in his AMG performance paddle wagon.  Through the Mont Blanc tunnel and all those super scenic alpine roads.

The first week was fairly mellow with reasonable water levels and a number of groups already in the area to paddle with.  A group from Lincolnshire on the Gronda and irish Scouts on the Sesia.

The Sermenzina was a new river for me and a good challenge with the foursome from Bath/Bristol Uni expats.  Small world... included Tom H who was the son of a guy I paddled with in my BUCC days (approx 35 years ago).  Later that day my return to the Sorba slides didn't go to plan as I crash landed the first boof off the kicker - ouchhhh (that hurt for a while).

Had the middle week with super-guide Stu P and his two buddies Jen & Steve doing Lower Sermenza, Mastellone, Alpine Sprint, Egua, etc.  Got the falls & boof ledges of the Gronda paddled as well.

 Even had a stroll up to Heidi's place for lunch and to blether on about the "trotti" catchers and the proper line down the upper sorba!

Levels were coming up due to the daily thunderstorms so the choice of rivers was a regular debate in the campsite and some stuff became pretty tricky.  Chris & Lyndon did Landwasser whilst I stood rescue duty - I now regret not pushing my level that day. Oli and Natty were there too.

All-in-all a good 3 weeks of changing groups and rivers; lots of it at grade 4+/5- but this year without the sun of 2017.


A break from the snow; March 2018

March 24-25th 2018

So at last the weather is easing and we are entering Spring.  In actual fact I don’t think I’ve been out in the Sirius more than once this year so far!  To celebrate, my long time mate Chris and I took a sea kayak weekend down in Ayrshire.   

Day 1 was from Portencross Castle and across/round the isles of Little & Great Cumbrae.  A lovely coastline with some flat calm/sunshine to help us along.  Snow-capped Goat Fell on Arran dominated the sky line whereas the nearer Isle of Bute was fairly low-key. Chris was trying out his new stead ready for bigger trips so we just pottered on.  

Coffee stops at Deadman’s Bay (!) and on the prom’ at Millport to chill out.  Almost no other boats out & about all day.  Its a bit strange to paddle with both giant wind turbines and a nuclear generating station on the near shore though.  Watched several porpoises ambling about (is "ambling" what a porpoise does?) and saw maybe a dozen seals - the porpoises didn't seem interested in coming across to play with our boats though.

We were too late to catch the Italian ice-cream house in Largs but a good evening meal followed and a bottle of wine saw us catch up on old times.

Day 2 was a bit more blustery but still just slight sea conditions as we paddled across the Firth of Clyde to Loch Long and then Holy Loch.  Again lovely in the sun but somewhat cooler as we got into shade;  the hills towards the Cobbler (to the north) kept disappearing in showers.  Bumped into a pair of open canoes off Strone Head doing a fairly lengthy and challenging loop.  

Had a lunch stop this time on the front at Dunoon before attempting the crossing of the ferry traffic back to the prom’ at Gourrock.  
Tried a bit of surfing on the confused waves running up the Firth

Here’s to a good season of paddling and pedalling as I approach the age of 60;  and cheers to old mates who still choose to come out for a splash.


(Some photo credits to Chris Wade RCC)

The end is nigh.....

December 31st  2017

Yes, its the end of another year.  Time to start planning next year's paddling and pedalling trips.

Just managed a wee cruise down the coast from Stonehaven this last week before xmas  -  one sunny /still afternoon and you need make the most of it.  I managed to get through 2 or 3 of the cave passages as it was within an hour of high water and calm.  Dunottar Castle looked resplendant with a wintry sun backdrop.

Got home late afternoon and the local news included an item about a Dutchman going aground on the rocks at the entrance to the Bay   (just where I'd been - he wasn't there when I looked earlier!)

Peace to all for 2018, may your paddles be long (and carbon), and your bike remain upright (apart from on berms).  Slante.


Autumnal road trip

1st - 7th November 2017

On the back of having a work's dinner down in Derby I packed boats & bike for a week long road trip through englandshire.  Managed some family visiting along the way, a couple of beers too with old friends from Witts, and put 1500 miles on the campervan clock.

Autumn had definitely arrived on day 1 when I did the black + red loop at Kirroughtree (the 7stanes best site?) as I was above the mist layer lying in the Palnure Burn valley.  Proved a good warm up for the legs anyway with Heartbreak Hill the tester.

Had two sessions at the National Whitewater Centre (HPP, Nottingham) trying out a Pyranha Machno against my own Stomper creek boat.  Also had a little time in my old Vajda Sting race boat just because the poles were there.  HPP seems to be a freestyle venue nowadays with few other race boats about.

Then went all the way down to London (M25) and the Lee Valley Park courses.  Managed to pass my Legacy Course assessment and so had a play there with the Machno (now all mine).  But because of bureaucracy/process (don't ask) couldn't actually have a second assessment the same day and so will have to do the Olympic course on another visit.  The fact that I live 11 hrs driving north of LV & was just retired from Div 1 slalom cut me no slack what so ever!  On the up side, I got to meet up and chat with my mate Tony for a good while.

Then heading north again, over-nighted at Cannock Chase and did the two red MTB runs there (Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail).  Really pretty forest area with many trees in their splendid colours.  Pretty wet terrain though.  The cafe at the trailhead is worth stopping at.

Finally back over the border and a visit to Mile & Lynn's new house for the odd glass of vino.  Innerleithen (another 7stanes) was just 20 mins away on the final morning so I went and did the red XC loop there.  Lovely views from the top of Minch Mor (567m) and the return trail from there is just an endless blast - great stuff to complete the week.


Ribble Canoe Club Re-union 2017 (aka, the biking long weekend...)

7 – 11th October 2017  (... "the biking long weekend" as normally there's a deficit of river water.... )

As usual at this time of year, RCC old boys come north of the border with their boats and bikes.  As usual the paddling was a minimal session (a low Findhorn and a lumpy Grandtully) and the MTB days become the focus.  The 5 days were centred at Feshie Bridge so mountain walking, river kayaking, and MTB were all undertaken at some stage – different folk different preferences….

Map reading wasn't always perfect,  lots of cooks...
 The first ride was several loops of single track in the nearby Inshriach Forest (well worth doing if you are in the area) that added up to 32 kms – there’s some really testing wet peat/rooty downhill trails along with mainly fire road climbs.  Second day was a longer (and linear) ride up from Dalnacardoch Lodge (off A9 near Blair Atholl) northwards through the Gaik Gap and then Glen Tromie back to Insh & Feshie Bridge.  This was 51 kms all told but straight forward enough.  Then for a smaller ride the day after we did the usual Loch an Eileen / loch Morlich circuit (still came out as 44 kms !).  Another great tea/cake stop of course at the beach in Glenmore.

Day 2 and Day 3's biking

Fine men of a certain age (need stop for calorie intake...)

Yours truely cruising to Loch Morlich

In the evenings we were a group of 13 socialising in one of the Lagganlia log cabins and having the odd beer.  Cardhu seemed to win the "volume" consumed stakes.  We also had a good meal out in the bar/restaurant at Loch Insh watersports who coped very well with such a rabble.

Thanks to big Ian for organising and cheers till the next one.