I don’t know about you, but I hardly slept a wink last night…that’s because today was my first trip down the Lower Findhorn and I spent the few preceding hours working out how I could suck oxygen out of my bouyancy bags if I got pinned by a tree in some meaty stopper!
As ususal, the mottley crew met at 10am and headed down to Randolph’s Leap to hook up with the others. The sun was in the sky and river levels were reasonably low; which was good for me as I didn’t fancy a flood water run for my first trip down this section of the Findhorn!
River Grade: 3/4
My Boat: WaveSport Diesel 75
Group Size: 12
After lowering our boats down the cliff below Randolp’s, we were ready to set off the river. Just as we were about to head off, Ron & Co. arrived by the bank and decided to follow us down in due course…
The first few kilometres of the paddle was reasonably easy going. A few drops and trickier sections, but a good warm-up for what was to come and no real situations; save me taking someone else’s advice of not eddie-hopping a wee technical section and ending up paddling too fast, missing my line and going down a small drop backwards after narrowly avoiding being pinned!
Anyway, I survived that near miss and woke up to the challenge…and just in time too as the walls of the gorge began to close in and we came upon Tripple Steps…the first of the big rapids…
The first drop was a little tricky, but we all got down without too much trouble and hopped out of our boats to inspect the second drop. This was a lot more technical; begining with a 1.5/2m drop into a grabby stopper, followed by an eddie out round a large rock, a quick break-in and then a second drop into another stopper.
A few of the top guns shot down first and made it look easy. They were then followed by Stewart Young who gently floated down the first chute into the stopper and then spent at least a minute paddling like the duracell bunny on speed trying to avoid being sucked back into the hole!
So, with all that happening before my eyes, I was beginning to brick it big style! I waited for the good-to-go signal, lined up and paddled hard. I managed to punch through the hole and carried on down to the next drop, eventually arriving safely at the bottom.
If it wasn’t for Stewart’s run before, I’d probably have ended up doing the same as him and getting stuck…so the moral of that story is let someone else go down before you and watch their line!
…although this didn’t work for Dave Young, who copied his wee bro by getting stuck…but then paddled like his life depended on it, side-surfed, back-surfed, supported high and low and eventually broke free; all to compliments from the experienced pros…well done Dave!
The next big event was Corkscrew. This rapid is a tricky wee number with a twisting central line and a lot of boiling water, holes and pillow waves. At today’s low level it seemed to be harder than many people in the group thought it normally should be…great!
Ron showed us all how not to do it in style, by taking a left-of-centre line and boofing sideways over a semi-submerged rock. He might not have planned it like that, but it looked spectacular! Needless to say, I decided not to follow this line and headed down the middle without too much of a problem…another biggie struck off my to-do list!
Pete probably provided the best moment of the day by coming down Corkscrew on edge, then performing the world’s slowest capsize followed by a roll with an imploded deck, a semi-pin on a rock and then 5 minutes of bailing out his boat on the bank…classic…but not caught on camera sadly…
A few paddle strokes further, and we arrived at The Slot. It’s an impressive looking narrow gap, through which the river channels with massive force. Looks relatively simple if you get your line right and avoid the recirculations at the foot of the drop; however ever since a girl lost her life in the deep under-cut, most people opt to portage this one…we were no exception…
A few other interesting waves, including a sweet play hole just beyond The Slot, and then we were home and dry; well almost…we still have the monumental cliff-scramble get-out to deal with…it was a cracking day out and a great first experience of the Lower Findhorn for me. Definately one to do again!