Saturday 8th January
River: Lower Rawthey, 2.1m
After deciding to go to the Rawthey, and on seeing it rise within the half hour faff period, we bumped into Dave Hewitt at the bridge in Sedbergh. Dave was looking with consternation at an impressively high river Rawthey. Mark, Mark, and Dave were doing their own trip on this day, and their plans had gone out the window with the rapidly rising river. My plan was simpler. Run the lower Rawthey on high, portage if we need to.
Five of us on the improvers trip today, two had paddled this exact river, at this (almost) exact level, with me a few weeks prior on my assessment day. I had the benefit of knowing what to expect, and I was not disappointed.
Chris tipped in at the exact same point as on the previous trip. At least I was prepared for it this time, and Chris was quickly on the bank with his paddle. What I wasn’t quite prepared for, was the significant effort it would be to find an appropriate eddy to which to shove his flooded boat. 500m down river I dragged it out, emptied it and left it peacefully sitting in someone’s garden. I was glad to see Chris and Rhod had walked down to meet me. Suggesting Chris ask politely at the house to have his boat back, I had a walk back with Rhod to the top to meet the group.
The Rawthey isn’t that hard in high water. There’s not massive holes or nasty tree hazards. All the features remain reasonable. It does have a lack of eddies though, so picking our way down, always having a plan of where to go, although the right way, isn’t the easiest. After only one other swim, we were on to a very meaty looking Railway Falls. I always portage this on improvers trips anyway, but it was an impressive sight. Some lines actually running easier than usual, but a huge recirculating hole is waiting if you mess it up.
A ginormous fallen Oak blocked the penultimate move of the day. Russell taking pride in telling me it was about seventy tons of wood. I’m certain he wasn’t far off. We had a way out up the footpath though, so took the choice to walk out, quickly changing my mind as I realised the huge eddy formed behind the fallen tree. We easily sneaked past and gathered for the ferry across to the get out. With the force of the water today, this required determination. Chris didn’t quite have enough, and enjoyed a bonus rapid below. I was glad to find him smiling in the eddy below the bridge. Everyone else made it across, each learning something in the process.
We rarely paddle high water, but I think there is something to be learned from doing so. You obviously have to plan well, and be organised on the water, but this was great. A challenging trip and vastly different than usual.