Monday, 19 August 2013

Project Espionage- What went down.

Day 1: 
Woke up early to finish making my hammock, stressful! Packed car, pretty rammed. Tried to adjust tires broke the valve, had to empty our neatly packed car to change wheel and look for a new valve on the way. Driving down fine, 60mph all the way. Traffic jams, sexy ladies and Lambourghini's, KFC in Dover. On the ferry for a pint!
Idiot abroad on in the car on the way down kept us all entertained in the boring bits. Crap nights sleep, slow driving down.

 Day 2: 
Drove to the Val Versasca. The further up the valley the better it got. The river looked amazing and the water crystal clear.
It looked to be running, although straight into some Class 4/5 with some really sticky holes meant noone was overly keen. After all we still have a Month to get into the swing of things! We set up camp tried my hammock out and had a bit of a dip in the sun. Probably going to get eaten alive by bugs due to the lack of net. Tea was tomato pasta and salami based, was actually pretty good! Cooked to perfection in a lay-by. Followed by doing the dishes in the river, "Ganges style"

Day 3: 
Dan couldn't handle his hammock, slept in the car. Got the tire fixed. Paddled lower sesia first as a warm up, they all saw snakes I thankfully didn't. Molten Brie onion and tomato sandwich for lunch, top notch! Middle sesia in the afternoon, good paddle. Really good fun. Henry's hole was munching! Trip to the supermarket was long and arduous. Camped on the side of the egua. Epic campsite, with toilets and no fee as of yet. Camp fire and carbonara ish tea. Swim chart begins!
Day 4: 
Campsite warden caught some of us still sleeping, had to pay to use an awesome campsite in the middle of nowhere! Damn. Paddled the egua gregs helmet came off on a drop and was a lot of inspecting and some portages he walked out with a broken helmet. Last 3 drops still to be done! Thunderstorm before we got packed away, meant lunch was delayed to 4pm Tea was good, campsite was a layby in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Although along the side of the Heidi Run which had water in from the rain, and we went to a restaurant on the mountain that was really random but good! Toilets especially lovely!
Day 5: 
Eggs in the jetboil, explosive results. Sorba slides were good, meat line everytime for some epic airtime! Then dan swam and we had an epic with a stuck throwline. Then the rest of the unguided river was gnarly and manky and so we climbed out, moral of the story only stick to the guidebook, was written for a reason. Bought loads of shit in the supermarket though. Couldn't fit a chainsaw in the car. Greg passed a guidebook through the window to the back at 30mph. Tea was made, bangers and mash! Was the best meal yet. Solar shower was excellent turns out you don't need to completely fill it, as it takes forever to warm up. Found that spirits in supermarkets were cheap, and so Johnny walker red label around a campfire at a campsite near the land wasser waterfall. Which we are going to do in the morning, another night of bromance sleeping in our Bivibags under the tarp with stu who snores like a rumbling train.
Day 6: 
Rained in the night. We camped at a place where helicopters land, strangest wake up call ever. No signs or anything but not the best idea! Landwasser was good fun. Dan lost his knife in the pool. Then we walked around Varallo for like two hours looking for bread, it was hot. Then paddled the mastallone which was really good. And saw massive toads! Camped at the egua again, which looks bigger today. Fajitas for tea, winning! Jessica's getting a bit smelly inside. Might be time to get some washing done.

Day 7: Camping was free! We paddled the sermenzina today. Was good, still to be finished due to a group wide caffeine crash. Rain prevented the washing of kit we all need desperately. But did mean we had options for something that needed water. Stu took a swim today after messing up a Boney lead in to a technical mess. Survived though.... Jessica seems to be scrubbing the insides of the rear tires pretty badly, so fingers crossed that doesn't develop into something much worse.

Day 8: Thunderstorms and lightning made for an interesting nights sleep. And a minor hammock problem meant the table I slept above I ended up sleeping on. Wondering what to paddle today and how long this weathers going to last for. Lunch with Fred and Sam we decided to head to the gronda. Everything was good till I got back looped and swam, bit premature but I didn't want to run the next drop blind, on my head or swimming. So swam early! Loads of water. Now trying to dry out! Pizza at campertogno before we went to find a campsite, novelty of wild camping has really worn off now. Everything is soaked and the weather isn't showing any signs that its going to be dry and sunny anytime soon.

Day 9:
Shit nights sleep next to a busy road means I can't really be bothered with kayaking today. But we shall see. Paddled the lower sesia after drying our kit in the morning. Levels really good! Going to camp at campertogno this evening, luxury!
Day 10:
Brilliant nights sleep and a relaxed morning. Egua was a bit too high. So we paddled the sermenza which was also pretty high. It was really good. Loads of clean drops that looked hurrendous but they were all good! Swim wine was a horrific idea, rule of the trip if its cheaper than petrol don't drink it!
Day 11:
 Lazy morning due to some bad heads, paddled the alpine sprint section. Was good to paddle with someone else, who joined us. And knew the section well. Final rapid was a little bit messy and caused two swims at the same time. Dan and Greg swimming in unison. Two boats and a set of paddles ran Mollier falls unmanned, a tricky rescue to get them out. Currently on the way to the airport to drop Chris off. With Chris dropped off, back to the campsite for sausage and mash. Drinking and songs with the Irish was good! Day12:
 It's my birthday! Icecream BBQ and some kayaking was a top day! Sambuca gas chambers were a terrible idea. Drinking is bad.
Day 13:
Bad head today, paddled the middle to quare, really hungover! Tea and pizza were good. Limited myself to a litre of wine tonight in favour of kayaking. Early nights for all. And a good nights sleep, meant we left the campsite at 8:30am
Day 14:
Left campsite at 8:30am to get some food and head up the egua valley, to tidy up some of the rivers we started and got hungry!  Egua was really good level. Paddling with two Swedish guys. Got off before that last three drops, with a aching shoulder and didn't want to risk it.
 Day 15:
Paddled the sermenza today. Took us under an hour, was brilliant! Said good bye to the swedish guys, a Quick lunch stop then on to Milan airport to pick Chris up. Super warm in Milan, but will be in Briancon in a short while. Drive over to Briancon was hot and uncomfortable, no air con in the car. Tea showers and a swim in the lake. Couple of beers and an early night in order.
 Day 16:
 Woke upto the sound of the sawmill. A familiar and quite frankly annoying sound to wake up to. Swim in the lake to wake up certainly worked wonders. On the way to look at the guil now. Dam releasing and overflowing holy shit balls! Paddled a trib of the guil, was ok. Then a group had an epic, not our group and we rescued the shit out of them, they were useless. Then some did the section above chateau q. And Greg had a swim involving some thorny bushes. Then a person search on the gyronde at 7pm by me and Andy butler. Swimmer ok, but kit lost. I spotted the paddles though.
Day 17:
 Paddled the Gyronde was nice, pretty full on at times. Took a tree to the chest, and rolled. Dan swam and the longest boat rescue ever began.
Day 18:
Relaxed get up, and the sunshine run down to embrun. With some playtime on the way and a couple of swims. Then a brisk cycle on a chuckle vision bike. Top day.
Day 19:
Thunderstorms in the night made rivers massive! And an epic car rave last night meant there was some sore heads in the morning. Boater x good. Plenty of carnage. Risotto for tea. Boom! Group decisions on whether to move to Slovenia. Not massively a fan myself.
Day 20:
Paddled the lower guil into the durance group had one swim. Then the slalom site in the duo with stu, no dramas also did some rescuing! Night out was epic. Involving an arrest! And a factory....
Day 21:
Andy was bailed out. Paddled the upper guil, was really good. Then a trip over the isard? Pass was good. Day 22:
got up early to scout Briancon gorge, too high. Guisane too high, paddled upper durance, onde and gyronde was really good. Epics had by most.
Day 23:
Upper guisane and the lower guisane. Lower was full on. Including and swim by James and his boat creating a new drop, left it till the morning to go and get. Fornel might be running later. Fournel was good, 2 clean runs, Chris had a swim!
Day 24:
Rescued James boat from a nasty pin this morning, pretty trashed, but still intact! Briancon gorge with no dramas. Pretty nice little run. Claree with a portage in the middle, boring otherwise. Gyronde in the afternoon, getting lower levels now. Lots of rescuing Hannahs' kit at the slalom site. Punch and BBQ night tonight.
Day 25:
Paddled the upper ubaye today. Was quite a bit higher than previous. Then paddles the racecourse with plenty of water it was really good fun.
Day 26:
Packing up wasn't too hard, finding a tyre for the car was. Set off in good time for the ferry, fingers crossed we can find a tyre. Bought one new tyre. Also borrowed another from the tyre place.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Project Espionage

Preparations have been underway for the Longest trip I've ever been on.

Here is the low-down on what we have already done, what we want to achieve and anything else I can think of.

The Idea:

One Car, 5 Paddlers, 5 lots of kit, 10 paddling days in Val Sesia, Italy after the end of our Exams. For some  grade 4/5 creeking on the melt water that the Piemonte Valley has to offer.

Now the scary bit putting that plan into action

Seeing as we set a date from the 2nd-13th June for our adventure to take place, and then some of us were planning on returning to the French Alps for another paddling holiday a week after we were due to return. The suggestion was made by myself that it would make more sense to stay out there. It took very little convincing to realise that a whole months paddling > two seperate trips! 

Our group was finalised and money was taken, and many discussions were had in Scotland at Easter (A little inebriated) about how we should plan this. 

Paddlers are:
Liam Chambers (Myself)
Stuart Earnshaw
Greg Mcdiamond
Chris Kayley
Dan Greenwood (from some Scottish uni, none of the latest gear, probably the most ideas)

We needed are car so we searched the internet and papers until we found something suitable, cause we were going for 4 weeks we needed a big estate. That would not only carry our stuff but also get us there and back reasonably cheaply. After all we are all tight students living on bread and pasta!

This is the Vehicle we found:
We promptly named her Jessica since its a good name since she will be having 5 guys in here for a month!

We each own a 5th of the car, and the insurance is split between us. The car was quite cheap, well looked after and only requiring a new exhaust. Walnut on the dash, electrics all round and a 2.0 HDI Engine means that its cheap to run. 
 At least we won't get caught speeding as a test drive soon pointed out that some of the original 90 horses have clearly bolted and left the field or worse are sat there lame and unwanted. 
Adding our extra wide roof bars that were acquired from a skip. We went for a few test outings.

Having booked the ferry, added roof bars and a few frustrated hours spent sewing a hammock its finally happening.
  Apart from one last exam to do, oh and packing, and my elder sister to have her baby I am pretty sure that I'm all set to go. Got my SLR and my GoPro ready for catching all the action. What could possibly go wrong? 

*Touches Jessica's Walnut trim*

The Trip

  Leaving on the 2nd June and returning on the 29th.

Full European breakdown cover will be bought, after all 3000 miles is a long way.

Camping will be as and when we find a suitable car park near a river get on. 
No doubt the Doggers Guide to Europe will come in handy!

We plan on paddling some of the Grade 4/5 Classic slides and drops out there until Chris is leaving us for some boozy trip to Prague. (Where apparently they don't use Euro's as I thought)

We will then head down to France where we will paddle more hard stuff along with some leading for the Uni Trip as well as competing in the Student Boater X

I am pretty sure that by then we will be grateful of a proper campsite and tents to sleep in. 

 Hopefully I shall try to update this blog every few days whilst we are out there, but we will have to see what happens. 

See you out there!

Cheers Liam

Reasons behind "River A Week"


  Firstly some of you may have seen my videos that have the Title "River A Week" This was a way for me to practice my video editing skills as well as showing some of the lesser known rivers that I have been lucky enough to paddle this last year.

  All of them can be seen here on my Vimeo.

  All too often I have been paddling shot video on my GoPro or DSLR and then just put it on my hard-drive at home and just forgotten about it. Some of my favourites include:


 A spate ditch just above Hebden Bridge in between Manchester and Sheffield.
I genuinely don't think I will get to paddle this again,not at least for a while. That and the Black Clough needs to be done! 

A super tight and steep river with some good drops tucked away near the Prysor and other rivers/
Bit of a walk up from the road at the bottom and two clean 25 foot drops. The whole gorge has a pretty magical feel to it, and its a really pretty area to be in. Remember Leave No Trace.


God it was biblical levels that day.

Spate run near Capel Curig. Big trib of the Llugwy that day!
River A Week 7