River Carron (Easter Ross) / Abhainn Carrann (Rois an Ear)

Ok, so today we had a blast down the Easter Ross Carron. It’s a great section of river, but just a wee bit far from Inverness for those of us used to having things like the Findhorn on our doorstep, so we don’t get up there all that often. On, and for the first time in literally years, 15 Inverness Canoe Club paddlers hit the river; normally we’re pushing hard just to get a quorum these days.

Levels were good; not too scrapy, but not to pushy. A whole lot better than our last visit there in 2011 when the river rose by a few feet within half an hour! And it was sunny to boot with no wind, which is very rare for the Carron when it’s a half decent level for paddling…

Anyhow, only a couple of swims in the first gorge, then after a bit of a slog, we reached Granny’s Hole. Most of us ran the river right route after the bridge, while the others provided safety. Just as well it was well protected, as there were quite a few swimmers and, after doing most of the rapid on its own, a holed Fluid Solo belonging to Foo…cracked from the bow to the cockpit…ouch!!

After the flotsam and jetsam was collected, we pushed on down to the Horseshoe Rapid (not sure if it has a proper name or not). Now, save in high water, this is never the nicest of rapids, but today it was horrible. Not a nice line in sight, but plenty for options for a stiff beating. So, most of us decided to scrape down the river right route; including Matt ‘Super’ Speke, who’s never one to skip a feature unless there’s no option!

Then, after some more flat stuff and minor waves, we reached the gorge at the get-out by the footbridge. Matt, Robert and Me went down the first section to show the rest of the group the lines, and then provided cover. No major incidents at first, then two, sorry, three swims in quick succession; these things are sent to try us!

Anyhow, with all boats emptied and folk ready for the final leg, we pushed down to the last section in the gorge; two stoppers, one narrow and grabby with an overhang and the second steeper with a big tow-back in the right (wrong?!) levels. We spent time checking out the lines and discussing options and scenarios with the group, then cracked on.

Matt, as ever, made it look easy. Robert over-cooked it and forced a roll. I paddled it quite well – even though I say so myself! In fact, everyone gave it a good shot, and we only one swim, which, to be fair, almost resulted in a sideways pin (nasty in that hole), but thankfully all worked out at the 11th hour and Martin manage to wash straight through into the waiting arms of a Palm throwbag.

So, and grand day on the river and great to see so many paddlers out and about, enjoying the fine paddling conditions; roll on the summer!

Easter Ross Carron (Carrann Rois an Ear)

Had a fantastic day out on the Easter Ross Carron today, with Ray and Kenny.

It was hammering with rain when we reached Croick and the cloud was down low, but the river was running on low and it looked like a nice, relaxing run was in store for us…

However, all that changed as the river rose 1ft while we were running the shuttle and another 1ft in the space of time it took us to run the short top gorge section – although, to be fair, that included 15mins freeing Kenny’s boat from a stick re-circulating eddy and then getting it from one bank to the other using a line!

By the time we reached Granny’s Hole (Poll na Caillich sa’ Ghàidhlig), what had looked like a solid yet perfectly doable Grade 4 rapid, turned into a raging Grade 5 with one line, which if missed, would result in you entering the boiling pothole river left – and you weren’t going to come out of their in one piece or breathing!

So, we portaged Granny’s Hole and then got back on below. By this time the river was pumping and travelling at quite a speed. We arrived at the Horseshoe Fall before we knew it. However, unlike previous features, Horeshoe looked much nicer than when we’d scouted it earlier in the day, and Ray and I ran it slightly rover left, cutting across 2/3s of the way down to finish it dead centre.

Once Kenny rejoined us from his portage, the three of us bombed on down the river, passing a few Grade 3 features and friendly fishermen at speed…yes, they were ALL friendly and chatting…there’s a welcome first!

On arrival at the gorge, it was clear that things had changed drastically from the morning’s reccy. The gorge had risen about 1m and was full of large waves and holes. There were few eddies and the hole at the bottom was both huge and retentive.

I’d only just snuck through the final hole a year or two ago while paddling it at a marginally lower level. So, given we’d had an epic in the first gorge and the weather was turning for the worse again, we decided to call it a day and opt out of a kicking right at the end!

Anyhow, the Easter Ross Carron is a fantastic run. Plenty to keep you occupied and some lovely features; don’t underestimate it though. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to run it quite so high (it went from low to high while we were paddling) so that all features could be run by all and run safely; will just have to come back and do it again!

UPDATE: Thanks go to Ray for reminding me to tell you that a huge salmon lept out of the water mid-way down and landed on Ray’s deck…not sure who was browning themselves more; the salmon or Ray?!