Boating in the French Alps

Last week I saw a post from some kayak buddies that they were looking for another passenger and boater for their trip to the French Alps. It took a lot of phonecalls and emails to arrange others for all my kayaking duties for my club and getting some time off from work, but luckily it worked out. So I’m now in the Alps instead of the flat water of our club, 4 weeks after my trip to Slovenia (trip report still coming, hopefully soon …). Thanks for the opportunity guys!

After driving the whole day saturday, sunday would be the first boating day. As the guys I’m with are a bit more experienced and know some of the local rivers, we would start “easy” on the Upper Guil.

After some scouting at the put in, just below a dam, we spotted a siphon with a tree in it a 150m below. Thomas had rescued a British guy a year earlier from the same spot, but now the siphon had broken through the concrete, so it was even worse than last year. Speaking to a raft guide about the dangers, the guide thought the middle guil with chateau querax and the guardian angel gorge was a much better and safer option. After some consideration we decided to skip the first few hundred meters and get in a bit below to skip some of the troubles but still do the upper Guil.

For me this was totally different than the easy going flows in Slovenia, the flows in the French Alps really flow in June. Everything went fine technically, mentally I wasn’t that ok with how I felt during the day and worried about the days to come, as this was just the easy start.

The day after the Upper Ubaye and Ubaye Race Course were on. The Upper Ubaye just flows hard but has nothing special in it, just a class 2-3 run. After doing the 12km in something like an hour (normal is 2,5 hours), we were ready for the Race Course. This went much better mentally then the Upper Guil as it was a bit easier and wider. A good day, maybe a bit too easy for the others but fine for me. Talking to a french guy from a rafting company the others could paddle with him for the La fresqueire (4-5) part and maybe the ubaye gorge. We’ll see if that happens tomorrow, if he has time. I’ll just stick to the race course propably.

263013_175626269168867_100001644859510_476878_6712899_nToday the Middle Guil was on, according to the others a bit harder then the Upper Guil. I’m glad I paddled it, it is one of the most beautiful whitewater tracks in Europe, but at the upper end of what my skills can handle. I skipped the most difficult sections, that the others did, like the triple steps with the curtain on the put in, the Guil Staircase (or Kataract) halfway and the first two holes of the Tunnel Passage. Technically I might be able to handle those, mentally I’m not there yet. Thomas and Arjan did the whole run, respect! After the Tunnel passage I wanted to stop as my energy levels were really low. According to the others it was just some easy going down, no reason to get out. It went great till some 50meters before the takeout, I lost my balance on a crossing wave or maybe a stopper, anyway, felt over and luckily rolled up after some meters, so not having to swim the last few meters into the lake. But “easy going” was not really the words I would use for this last section. Anyway a great run, if you have the skills, the Middle Guil should be on your list if you are in the French Alps.

3 days left, might run some rivers around Briancon like the Gyr, the Onde and the Gyronde. We’ll see,