Sunday 1st March 2020: Ain’t it a shame to go fishing on a Sunday?
Listening to the howling wind and hammering rain through the night, one could only wonder what the next day would bring.
The morning found our intrepid adventurers on Borgan Bridge, staring up at the final rapid of Waters of Minnoch, scheming up routes to defeat its formidable stoppers in hopes of finding that graceful right line to finish.
Leaving a car and heading to the put on at Stroan Bridge, the gang spent a few more moments in imagination land, eyeing up the ferocious ‘Dog Leg’ rapid with its swirling nightmare water before electing to start the day below it.
A review of river signals and a chat about who’s got what, saw the team get on to the river.
Battling through the flat water with occasional whipping head winds for added fun. It felt somewhat anticlimactic after seeing the start and the end of the section, although 2.5km later the nature changed.
The group were presented with an option; left, which seemed like oblivion or right; a fun bouncy rapid. Right it was. It continued like this for a while then the approach to the first big rapid began.
It was safer to continue in smaller groups, so the canaries went first, breaking everything down and signalling instructions back to the rest of the team. With two distinct stages of the rapids established, the first pair entered alongside a huge boulder, crashing through waves and evading rocks before edding out and signalling the rest of the team’s decent. With everyone collected in eddies after cruising the first section, the funky fast left swooshing finish was tackled in a similar way with one swooping down first and providing protection for the rest of the gang as they styled their way past.
There was barely a minute to chat about how excellent the rapid was before the next big one presented itself. The gradient was steeper, it was difficult to see down and there was a thick mist spitting from a menacing looking bulge. So, to the bank to inspect. The choice was clear, tree or rock? A line was established as was a plan. Once again, the canaries would test the way (with varying degrees of style) and put on bank protection for the next group.
There were irritatingly clean and dry lines, bumpy lines, backward and partially upside-down lines. All made it down successfully and proceeded to their positions to provide cover for the rest of the team.
With everything in place, the rest set off with the first boat carving its way on line for the crux move but then, abruptly, there was a stumble.
Within a second, a green Mamba crashes up onto a monster rock splitting the flow, and suffers a horizontal pin. A shout rings out and movement can already be seen below. The next boat is on it quickly, managing to swerve but still suffering a glancing blow. A grunt saw paddler freed from boat and a short wrestle would see boat freed from rock, which was collected promptly at the bottom. A casualty no more but Lord of the Rock by right of conquest. A calm face looked out from the rock pondering the path of least resistance back to the bank.
Meanwhile, on the other bank, rescuers had descended a mossy scramble, and a rope was ready to be thrown to swing the Lord of the Rock into a conveniently placed eddie 5 meters downstream. Slightly less convenient was the powerful jet of water to cross before achieving it or the unpleasant swim that would undoubtably follow if it was missed. To aide success a catcher was deployed in the eddie to pull in. A line was cast and we reeled us in a ‘big un’. Unphased, the merry band of paddlers scuttled their way across the rocks back to the boats to continue on their way. Fortunately, the only injury sustained was a green Mamba with a ‘Glentrool smile’.
After hardly any time at all, the river turned left and a bridge that sparked memories from the morning loomed just in front. The group descended Borgan Bridge like wacky racers, and what an outstanding rapid it was. The majority would choose twisting and turning toward the right line for a fluffy flourish but one would go the pointier left although, it has to said, successfully.
With everything packed away, an ace weekend drawing to a successful close, all eyes watched up from the bridge one last time, looking for phantom boats skipping across imagined lines.
The overwhelming majority of paddlers in this team have attended professional safety and rescue training and continuation training, which was clear when dealing with a potentially serious situation efficiently and therefore keeping it a minor incident. If you play on white water, you have a responsibility to your friends and cohorts to undertake safety and rescue training. There are many excellent providers in the Lakes. Additionally, you can request training from the Club and they will be happy to help.
Paddlers Pete R, Mark H, Brian, Mark M, Dave G, Ian Mc