A weekend in the Fort

By Bill Anderson>

A flyer from work on Friday afternoon saw a group of us heading north to Fort William for a weekends boating and the Paddle Sports evening of this year’s Mountain Film Festival. As we drove through Glen Coe in the dark things weren’t looking good for paddling, with plenty of snow lying on the ground and clear skies above. We pulled up at our home for the night, a car park just outside Fort William. While the others tucked themselves into the van bunk beds I dived into my Sky High sleeping bag in the bivvi outside. After a toasty night’s sleep I was awoken in the morning by the sound of rainfall. Heavy rainfall. Things were looking up for the days boating.

The heavy rain had brought the rivers up nicely so we decided to go and check out some runs we’d never done before. First up was the Fassfern which flows into Loch Eil to the west of Fort William. This was a fantastic run with plenty of slides to keep us smiling with many stoppers with a bit of bite to keep us on our toes. Next up we headed to the opposite side of Loch Eil and to the Abhainn Sron a’ Chreagain which flows into Loch Linnhe on the opposite side to Fort William. We hiked in with our boats until the river flattened out in front of us, inspecting each rapid as we walked. The river looked good to go – narrow and steep with the rain still battering down. The first few rapids were good fun with a couple of tasty moves. We then came to a horizon line we had scouted on the way up. An angled drop with a hole at the bottom, run left. Easy enough I thought and peeled out the eddy. Getting to the lip of the fall and I had a shock. The hole was huge! I dropped in and went a little deep and popped back up side surfing. When upside down during a good beating I felt a big thud on my boat – I later found out this was my friend using my boat to land on and clear the hole! After a while I was getting tired and bailed. My first swim on a real river (plenty of times on the barrage when I was learning though!). I was annoyed with myself at first but it was a good lesson to learn – our group had been getting very confident and just blasting rapids when a little more respect for the river was possibly needed.

With daylight fading fast we caught the Corran Ferry and headed to one of my favorite Scottish runs – the Coe. We pulled up to the river and I had never seen the Coe anything like it before. It was huge. The upper section before the gorge reminded me of Norway with continuous, fast rapids with a couple of tasty drops. In the gorge it was a case of keeping your boat in the centre of the flow and straight, then hanging on for the ride. An excellent way to round off the day.

That evening we headed into Fort William to watch some kayaking movies. There was some really inspirational stuff shown, especially the Hucking Huge Crews’ trip to Japan, definitely a destination I’d like to check out in the future.

Waking up Sunday morning bleary eyed looking at a now low River Nevis we were a little down hearted but decided to check out the upper sections of the Spean. With only two pipes releasing though we decided it wasn’t worth it so just had a snowball fight instead! The snow started falling heavier and heavier so a little worried about our journey home we headed off, stopping at the Pattack to make a snowman on the way.

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