So what do you do when there isn't any water and you just happen to be in North Wales? Go in search of stupid runs of course! Why wouldn't you?!
Well, back in the depths of Winter (you remember: absolutely no water, ice everywhere and yes, you guessed it - chuffing cold!), a large group of young and old (sorry, experienced and not-so-experienced!) set off in search of 'some' moving water. Most people were going for the coaching courses being run by FlowFree (do you have shares in them Chris, or are you really that besotted?!?), some were there to do their own thing and a likely trio were looking for something different.
Sitting around the bunkhouse table with Dave Fairweather (our guide for the day), we explained what we were looking for... Chris: Erm... I want something bigger; Monkey Boy (aka Craig): Yeah, yeah, I want some big stuff with some drops; Me: Well... erm... I'll just go and change my trousers...they've gone a bit brown! So that was decided then...drops and slides it would be but I had no idea what that actually meant (it'll be OK, Wales doesn't have any Victoria Falls like drops and there's no water anyway so things can't get that big...can they?).
Now what you should know is that I don't scare easily but it does take a ridiculously long time for me to overcome nerves once they have set in - not disimilar to many I expect. So, last year when we portaged a scarily big and nasty series of waterfalls during another North Wales adventure (see video below), I was certain that I'd never even contemplate running it but that was exactly what was on the cards today! It was safe to say that I was now 'bricking it' more than ever, particularly as we were currently discussing the danger of the final drop where an omanous looking siphon awaited - certain death if you got it wrong further up - those of you who know my ponciont for swimming on the easy bits above features will be able to understand my state of mind at that moment.
Anyway, we scouted around the top and then set up the ropes to abseil down to the bottom to discuss and setup the safety - little did we know at that point that today would be as much about rope work and working out the ifs and buts as it was about the paddling. There was easily an inch covering every surface so team work and carefully placed ropes were essential. From down here the scale of the paddle ahead was even more evident - every fibre of my being screamed, "back away, don't do it!" However, that little fizzle deep down was saying, "yeah baby!"
With everything setup, it was time for the off. Dave F. and Chris were first up. They climbed back up to the top and left Craig and I at the bottom of the first drop, Craig clipped onto a throwline ready to livebait if things went wrong. After what seemed like ages, Dave F. made the boof look easy and Chris followed in (almost!) equally impressive style. Unfortunately, the camera wouldn't work...
"It won't turn on," said I.
"Maybe it's too cold?!" suggested Craig dangling on the end of his line.
"No, it is rated to -30!"
"Perhaps the battery is dead?"
"Can't be, I charged it up last night especially. Argh... I've spotted the problem. I've left the battery in the charger...at home!"
Now it was our turn. The fizzle had gone. What ifs were there - big time. Looks like I'm going first. I'm tense - not a good start. Fizzle building again. Let's go! Around the first boulder, river left... There's the first hurdle - a short sideways slide down the slope into the channel...whack! I got that a bit wrong, now I'm struggling to regain my line, Christ this is not good. There is the edge of the drop. Steady. Must get the timing right. Boof stroke on the right at the lip and thrust the left...
Slow motion falling is such a weird feeling - especially when you are trying to turn in the air too to land at right angles to the take off point in order to make the tiny exit point. The first drop was about 3-4m but it seemed like such a long free fall then...
Splash! Under I went and up I came! Blimey, I made it! Oops - not quite! Again, in slow motion - over I went - just didn't get my weight forward enough. Upside down in a circulating mess with certain death waiting below is not where I wanted to be! This was time for a quick and positive roll (and again for those of you who have paddled with me most will know that my river roll is far from bomb proof!) not my usual cock up. Chris, standing ready to be livebait, had no intentions of jumping into the ice cold water and must have been praying good and hard to the rolling Gods! Up I came sure as you like! "Yeah baby!" Damn that felt good!
Finally, Criag was given the go ahead and over he came without incident and with the largest smiles you'd think possible, are attentions turned to the next bit!
To be continued...