What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than packing a minibus? After two days of annoying the union and five minibus swaps, we finally had roof racks and set off to grab the 8 extra boats we needed from Heston. Four stalls later, Noah hadn’t killed either of us and we were many a boat heavier. As a perfect coincidence, we then drove by Sacha’s house just as she needed picking up and began the process of minibus Tetris. Both buses had left by 6.30 and we successfully rendez voused at Warwick services after a lovely shout out to the twats with the boats from the closest thing we could find to Flex. Turns out the extra time the other bus spent picking up Jake and Andrew was equal to that we spent driving straight past the turn off and faffing around getting back. Nailed it. We arrived surprisingly not too late at the Bryn “Luxury Walk-in” Hafod mountain hut and managed to not end up in cows, despite only having mainly phone lights.
We woke up early to a friendly “RISE AND SHINE” and had some non-fry up for faff reduction purposes. By 10am, we were out and driving to the Lower Tryweryn, a nice 2-3 (4) – perfect to train up beginners. Willem, Jake and Rob Macrae managed to get ready faster than us and drive ahead and go off onto the upper Tryweryn, which was intended for a mission. We split into four groups and set off after discovering that withholding river chocolate from someone until they sort their kit speeds the process up a lot. The river was pleasant and sometimes even bouncy with a few good spots for eddying and ferry gliding practice. There were many honoruuu swims from freshers, but we found that some just needed some chocolate every two or so swims and they were fine. There was also some nice improvement seen from returning paddlers, like Enique and Will. A lot of us got some much needed rescue practice, which freshers kindly provided by getting their boats lodged places. The last group, led by Para and Maeve, was lucky to have Sacha and her friend join them to chase some boats too.
The lower section is concluded with Bala Mill Falls, which was not the grade 4 promised, but rather a friendly 3. Although all new paddlers portaged, the rest of us went on, as the river became a lot bouncier and more fun in the lead up. Some took the sneaky canal route river right. I personally had the greatest time as I dropped my paddle and was floating towards the drop with my blades just meters ahead of me. A technical, a clamber down, a jump, a Rory’s boat and a climb back up with a paddle later, I had managed to mess up significantly less and actually run it. We reached take-out well before dark and headed back to happy warm hut.
It turned out that leading and seconding was more tiring than just sitting and waiting in eddies so most of us keen-beans, myself included, were just too tired for another river. The upper Tryweryn ended up being a distant dream for the majority.
Saturday evening was a brilliant mash up of Rory’s drinking game master abilities and spinach. A few special talents were discovered, as Noah and Tom can play jenga together with a foot each, Maeve can pick things up off the floor in the weirdest ways and I can apparently beat Rory at line of fire – a personal achievement, now on my CV. Rob Macrae, Maeve and many happy helpers did a great job of dinner and Rory did a fab job of opening stubbies with absolutely anything at hand, including poor replacement Skeletor.
Sunday morning was surprisingly efficient, as we were again up at 8 and cleaning the shambles we had left from the night before. Although there are many great rivers in South Wales and they were much discussed before the trip, the yearn for the Dee was just too strong and we were at it again.
We set off after Sam had a hilarious adventure attacking a dead sheep he mistook for a pile of foam and managed to get some more edging practice out of the fresher people. Serpent’s Tail looked fine until the tiny drop at the end, which looked like you would get a rock to the face in 7 out of 10 lines. Newer paddlers passed on this enticing opportunity and luckily so did those who paddled it. The slalom course section proved entertaining thanks to Para (see the video) and was another great place for teaching some new skills. Force falls had split into more distinct drops and I was frankly the only one that got the line spot on – backwards and far left, right?? We were lucky to have a totally not at all hungover Rory on the bridge with his camera, so we have some nice photos of our run.
Salami Garden met us like an old friend and we sunk deep into its greasy, delicious embrace. Both buses left by 7pm and we met at Beit to find that the other one had managed to drop off all its passengers. We were somehow back by midnight and concluded the night by breaking a minibus parking it cough well done Noah cough.