Here are some pictures and a map of the Esk taken a few weeks ago after a lot of rain. This was the highest that I had paddled it and whilst the extra water made it very fast in fact the river was less technical. Some of the rapids had a different character and most had new ‘chicken shoot’ lines. Had either of us had a swim it would have been less forgiving than usual, however despite it being quite a while since the last paddle we both stayed upright.
Penny (and bump) next to the Esk
On Saturday Penny and I went for a walk up the Esk. It was a gentle walk but at nearly three hours it was quite a long walk when baby is due in less than a week. Continue reading
Early on, going with the flow
After torrential rain yesterday morning Mark and I made plans to hit the rivers after school. With most of my lessons cancelled due to study leave I had plenty of time to watch the levels on the environment agency website and make plans. The peak flow came and went at around lunchtime and by mid afternoon the levels were falling fast. On the way to Calderbridge the Ehen was brown and swollen, not too much of a surprise but a little daunting. The Calder was at a good level, the pool next to the bridge was recirculating well but the water was mostly clear. I think I surprised Mark by suggesting that we get on it, but after a couple of seconds to adjust to the change in plan we agreed that since we don’t catch it at a paddleable level often we should do it whilst we had the chance. Continue reading
Penny and me just after going through Penny Bridge
On Wednesday it poured with rain for most of the day. I spent much of the day keeping an eye on water levels
and by 4pm it was clear that the Esk would be at a good level. Penny was up for a paddle and Mark had Harry with him so he volunteered to shuttle and take some photos (thanks Mark!).
The river was at a very good medium level, at Doctor’s bridge the left hand channel would have gone (I can see how in really high flows it would be necessary to avoid the increasingly interesting rapid on the right). There was none of the normal bumping and in fact some of the rapids were quite a bit easier with less maneuvering required. However it was a little more serious, a swim in the gorge section would have been quite long and uncomfortable. Double drop had become one single drop with a big green wave down the first half. There were two fishermen fishing the pool above double drop but they seemed to appreciate being asked which side of the river they wanted us.
Me halfway through Doctor's Bridge rapid
In the second half Penny took a swim (sit in the water) in a graveyard section where she caught a rock and despite several attempts to push of the bottom with her hands she could quite manage it. I had to roll when playing on one of the waves and getting the tail of my boat grabbed by the eddy monster. Given the volume of my boat I think that this was an impressive feat. I must remember to lean forward/tighten my backrest to help with this. Whilst thinking about technique I noticed in many of the photos my elbows a long way from my body, this is something to work on as I am keen to avoid shoulder problems in the future.
I can now see why the Esk is given grade III, this was a quick run despite the stops to show off for Mark’s camera it took under an hour. The online gauge was at 0.88m, I’ll be looking out for a chance to get on at an even higher level.
On Tuesday night we had a parents’ evening at 8pm, this gave just enough time for Mark and me to get a quick run on the Esk. It was at a medium level with the bottom of the slab on river right just downstream of Doctor’s Bridge covered.
It was an uneventful trip, the gorge was bouncy and the greatest difficulty was seeing where you were going with the low sun and its reflection in your eyes. I shot a short video clip of Mark going over double drop from which these photos were taken from.
It was excellent to get out after work and enjoy the sunshine. It won’t be too long until it’s too dork for after school paddling!
Mark just after the put in
One of the falls on the Upper Esk
After a leisurely start we decided that a canyoning trip up the upper Esk would give us a refreshing end to the weekend. If you are unsure what canyoning involves then let me explain: Basically it involves ascending a river (or gill), by any means possible. It can be done with the intention of staying dry, but is more fun if you don wetsuits and buoyancy aids and involve a combination of walking, scrambling, swimming and some solo rock climbing. A couple of weeks ago I had explored the series of waterfalls just after the Lingcove Bridge at a very low-level with Mark and Vicky. This time there was a lot more water and we had to be careful choosing our lines as in some places it was too powerful to allow us to climb up the main flow.
The upper Esk is a series of impressive falls and pools connected by bedrock channels. It is very picturesque and despite the gorge being impressive, it is never too committing as you can escape onto the hillside if there is a section that looks too serious. Today we avoided two falls, one low down and also the steepest fall about halfway up. We called it a day at the same point that we did a few weeks ago, but this time I did not climb the ‘bloody cavers pitch’ (a dirty chimney with a torrent of cold water on your head). Too be honest there was probably too much water today for it to be possible (that’s my excuse). Some of the pools were hard work today, a determined swim was required to overcome the water flowing in the other direction.
By the time we had walked down the hillside the sun had come out. We fed the tame chaffinch whilst getting changed enjoying the drying power of the sun’s warmth (whilst wearing woolly hats). The walk was about 45 minutes each way and all in all the whole trip made an excellent end to the weekend.
A few comments from Penny:
1. The sheep were itchy, they we using walls and boulders to scratch themselves.
2. The lambs are turning brown.
3. Canyoning is surprisingly hard work.
4. It’s nice not to have a cold any more.
5. No, I’m not going to get my own blog.
6. Good night
Me at that top of the Esk
Today we took part in Seaquest, a canoe and kayak event held in the Ravenglass estuary. The format was an orienteering style, with 18 controls to visit and a three-hour time limit. Conditions were perfect a light westerly breeze and sunshine (apparently last year had been more of a challenge).
We looked at the map over a late breakfast and decided that we should attempt the Esk since it had the most controls and we would be able to go up on the flood and then return on the ebb. After a mass start from the beach all went according to plan, the Esk was beautiful with plenty of herons and buzzards circling overhead. We made quick progress up the river with the tide and wind behind us. In just under an hour we reached the road bridge and had a quick drink and took a few photos.
We had been a little too quick and the tide was still on its way in as we passed the Ollises heading back to Ravenglass. Without the distraction of visiting the controls the return journey was hard work. We had about 50 minutes left when we got back so we collected two controls at the mouth of the Mite before having a break and double-decker. I was getting a little competitive and so headed further up the river against the tide to collect two more controls before surging back down and rejoining Penny for the paddle back to base. We got back with six minutes to spare.
Some teams managed to reach all of the controls, an impressive feat. I think we did very well to cover the ground that we did with our whitewater boats. Anybody know where we can hire sea or touring boats for next year?
Once again we paddled the Esk from Doctor’s Bridge to Forge Bridge. The level was the same as last time (a bit of a scrape in places) but this time no-one fell in! We played on a few of the rapids and spent time catching eddies. In particular we practiced ferry-gliding on the outflow of double-drop and had a surf on the final rapid before Forge Bridge.
Good clean fun was had by all!
By midafternoon the snow had stopped and I was feeling like making the most of the break in the weather. We loaded up the boats and headed to the Esk. After checking out Forge Bridge and Penny Bridge we headed up to Doctor’s Bridge where the level was similar to Tuesday, low but paddleable. A quick cycle-shuttle saw us set off down the wake-up rapid and then a bump over a few rocks led to the Gorge Section. Here Penny had a disagreement with the last rock after shooting the rest of the rapid perfectly. After she levitated out of the rather refreshing water (that had been snow a few hours previously) we were back on our way. The rest of the trip was uneventful, Penny preferred double drop this time since she was given a warning and I enjoyed leading the river when it was still fresh in my mind from Tuesday. Penny said that it was good, and that next time there would be zero capsizes.
What a day! Two rivers in one afternoon. A great blast on the Duddon after a warm-up on the Esk.
Penny had been to the dentist early in the morning and by lunchtime was not feeling strong enough to join Mark and me on the Esk. We left St Bees at 13:00 and passed over the Ehen, Calder and Irt on the way to the Esk. Of these the Ehen was at a runnable but not brown level, the Calder was low and the Irt was runnable but at a slight scrape.
The Esk was up enough to run it but there were a couple of sections that made it difficult to avoid hitting the bottom. We ran it non stop with the start rapid, the gorge section and double drop being the most interesting sections. I was surprised how easy it was to surf the stopper at the bottom of double drop. As we were reaching the bottom of the Esk we debated whether it would be worth heading over to the Duddon, the risk was that Mark might run out of diesel since his fuel light was already on.
We took the risk, and it was worth it. The Duddon was at a bouncy level, covering all but the biggest boulders which made it a great ride. We put in at the bridge below Seathwaite and took out at Ulpha. This was my first proper run of the Duddon. After our spanking in November it was good to see what our nearest three star river is like in better conditions. There were three more interesting sections linked with more or less continuous II/III paddling. The first was The Slot, a left hand bend where the flow is determined to take you right. There are a couple of drops as the river turns, I hit the first one fine but had a little pause in the stopper before hitting the second right on line. Mark was taken a little off line to the right but came through with a smile on his face. The second was the gorge section, similar to the Esk’s but bigger, bouncier and with two possible routes. The flow is divided by a large rock at the start, since the river bends to the right we both took the right hand route to keep away from the left bank. The only drawback with the right route is that there is a small rock to be avoided half way down. Mark showed an excellent boofing technique off the rock whilst I was more conventional and avoided it. Further down the river splits into three channels, we took the left one which was fine but had a sharp right turn at the bottom into a big stopper that gave a refreshing facefull of cold water.
That was about that, a few more big bouncy boulders to avoid before the takeout and the best paddling I’ve had since the alps. I am keen to do it again as part of a longer run down the Duddon. It goes to show that the Duddon can be up when the Esk is a little low.