The sun is shining, the rivers are high, and we're getting spanked!!

By alpjim

The day started well. We’re up in the alps helping Jason (editor of Canoe Kayak Magazine) photograph the Guisane. The upper was much longer than we all remember. Heavy rains just a couple of weeks ago had brought almost record river levels to the area and until recently many of the rivers had been closed to paddling. Evidence of the flooding was obvious, oil cans 8ft up in the branches of the trees and torn up trees lying beached on the river banks. The weather looked like it might cloud over but the sun held and we got some great shots of the upper section.

After a quick lunch break we set off to run the lower but by now the sky had darken and it was quite late in the day. We progress down the river without incident until we reached the weir the guidebook suggests a portage. We had chatted to paddlers earlier that day who had ran it without incident and Jace stepped up to the plate. Guisane 1 - Paddlers 0. Jace popped out of the bottom hole only to be pinned to the rocks and swimming. Wiggs was quick on the line and then a chase ensued for the boat. It took us about 1km to catch and retrieve the boat and after some more walking to gather kit strewn over that kilometer we were all set to go again.

Spirits were high and excitement was running through my veins as we paddled into the boulder garden that the lower Guisane is renowned for. We were probably all a little to close really as Wiggs signalled to avoid a hole, Steve and I paddled straight into it. I came out clean but Steve wasn’t so lucky. Pressed up against some rocks he took a good whack on the head and then a knock to the shoulder and was now swimming down a pretty nasty piece of whitewater. We went either side of a boulder but met the other side and I had to turn my boat to avoid hitting his head. My change of line set me on course for a fallen tree and I was pinned. Fortunately Steve managed to get himself in the eddy immediately below me and grab my boat. As he grabbed the bow the water took the stern and now I was going under the tree and out the otherside…. sans paddles!! Now I was swimming too but another quick bit line work from Wiggs had me out of the water in no time.

We composed ourselves and gathered on the bank. Our boats we’re gone, our paddles we’re gone, our dignity badly wounded. Wiggs and Jace set off to find the boats and Steve and I followed along the bank. We soon found mine beached on an island in the middle of the flow. Steve and I told the other two we could retrieve it and they should go on and try to find Steve’s. Soon our walk of shame was now burdened with a boat as well as our heavy heads.

We met Jace and Wiggs at the get out, they had found Steve’s boat and pulled it up the bank on the otherside of the river. Knowing Steve’s boat was secure we took Steve to hospital to get him checked out. Given the all clear we set off back to the campsite to eat humbled pie, drink swim beers and wear the swim cap of shame (we shared this because there was only one).

Guisane 3 - Paddlers 1 (R)

No Jan I wasn’t wearing your B.A!!

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