With a dry February and start of March we weren’t very optimistic on finding much water for our weekend of awesome river paddling. Thankfully storm Doris gave us a deluge the weekend before which probably saved the trip. Blair, Campbell, Derek, Graham and Grant set off for Aviemore on the Friday evening, not a particularly nice drive as drizzly rain fell for most of the journey. Reaching Aviemore we checked into the Youth Hostel which we could not praise higher, friendly staff, clean comfortable rooms and excellent communal lounge. Off to the local for some refreshments then back to hostel to prepare for Saturdays paddle, note: always take room key when you need to visit the wee boys’ room, corridor carpet not that comfy.
Saturday morning we decide over breakfast that we will paddle the mighty Findhorn upper and mid-section 19km grade 2/3 with the odd grade 4 for a challenge. Off we set taking the B9007 over the Cairngorms with spectacular views as the skies were now clear. We stopped at Dulcie Bridge to look at the first major rapid of the day; right on cue a group of kayakers came into view showing us how to run what looked a daunting grade 4. Having watch this group take on Dulcie Bridge with ease we completed the shuttle and were ready for our adventure. Putting on some 2km above Dulcie Bridge we quickly come across some interesting grade 3 rapids which certainly woke us up especially for those that took an early bath, confidence dented we continued down river quickly overcoming our fears and enjoying the start of our day. Dulcie Bridge rapid was on us before we realised it
Blair and Grant decided that a portage was the option for today, Graham briefed Campbell and Derek the does and don’ts and lead us round the corner of no return. Derek rounds the corner to find Graham sitting in the eddy he had planned, Derek decided that eddy wasn’t big enough for two and shouted over anxiously “I’m going down”. Having memorised the line from the bank hit first wave bang on line but deciding that the rock mid-stream was too close for comfort and moved to river left only to find a huge cushion wave which made mincemeat of him attempted roll failed and 2nd no better so swim was now on the cards. Graham having witnessed the carnage chased down river only to get stuffed in massive hole where only his bomb proof roll saved him. Campbell however didn’t fare as well as hole wouldn’t let him go, after what would have felt like forever he capsized and swam this getting him out of his “near death experience”. Graham having got Derek into an eddy was now chasing boat no2; Campbell had managed to make it to the bank on his own.
Having all survived Dulcie Bridge a bite to eat then carrying on down river where we found Campbell’s paddle 1km later. Some more exciting grade 3 rapids with a few more swimmers along the way, we reach Leven’s Gorge and a rapid we considered “wall of death” with a known syphon under a gigantic rock on the right. It it wasn’t the wall we were worried about but the nasty entrance to the rapid where nothing short of a perfect line would put you in mortal danger, as brave as we all were we portaged first fall, with only Derek and Graham going for the “Wall of Death”, launching just below the entrance rapid with Derek taking a much closer look at the wall than he wanted. Continuing down river more good grade 3 rapids and swims as we reach Logie Bridge a group decision is made that time is not on our side as 6km still to go and only 1 hour of light left, we end our days paddle here and grateful to the friendly fishermen that drove Graham to his car. An excellent day’s paddle relived round chat at dinner in the Royal Tandoori where we discovered that water levels had peaked that day 1.4 on gauge “High Level” just as we went through Dulcie Bridge.
Sunday a less energetic day where Blair, Campbell, Derek and Graham took on the River Feshie a much shorter grade 2/3 river. More time to enjoy the scenery today with some nice bumpy grade 2 while watching the gliders, a few grade 3’s to keep you alert with an unusual portage when river ran through a forest. The finale of the weekend was the gorge section leading to Feshie Bridge, we scouted river deciding our line entering gorge with a couple of grade 3 falls, only the brave Graham took on Feshie Bridge rapid. With bank protection set he approached getting his line bang on, having had to brace on a wave found himself going over a rock slowing his approach into final pool which could only be described as a cauldron, Graham survived after a brief moment of panic while rest of group looked on with respect and thinking to themselves they had made the right choice. Just for the record having looked at the pics on google images, the river was pretty high.
The weekend ended with coffee and cake at Loch Inch, Many thanks to Graham for all his efforts in arranging weekend from competent river
guide, taxi driver, selecting accommodation, praying for water and even sunshine. “Flawless”