Whitewater Aptitude is an idea in development to highlight Gavin Hart's skills, adventures and accomplishments with an insight into the thoughts and feeling he has throughout his journeys. As well as this blog please visit his Photography Portfolio Website showcasing his best photography. For shorter more regular updates on Whitewater Aptitude adventures Like it on Facebook or Follow on Twitter. Get in contact via email using gavin@whitewateraptitude.co.uk

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Travel Writing #1 Leven and Rothay

Had two days paddling this week, both with Mike and Tom again. One full day on the top half of the River Leven, Cumbria, at a good level that produced a number of reasonable sized surf waves for me to practice on. Personally I've been really pushing to improve my ability and confidence on waves over the past few weeks and am starting to get comfortable at front surfing just need to work on my side and back surfing then I'll be flat spinning!!

My second day paddling was spent on the River Rothay, Cumbria. The river was super high and had burst its banks in certain areas. At this level the river produced some great sized waves which I was able to get on and surf most, which was a great success for myself. The river level made for the lower quarter to have some very precarious low tree branches that we had to slalom our way through. One set caught me off guard and decided to catch my paddle and brush me over.

The danger of tree branches hanging into/over the river (strainers) is that, if you get caught up in them there is a good chance of you getting caught up in them for a while possibly underwater. Add in the factor that no kayakers on earth yet have developed gills makes them very dangerous.
Mike and Tom on the Leven
After going over, in that moment of my C to C roll when finding the top of the water I remember thinking to myself "If I don't roll up now there is a good chance I could die". Knowing this must have made my brain and muscles go into a state of fight (or flight) mode, as I performed my best roll to date, super quick and tucked up forward ready to paddle to avoid the next set of branches. We then paddled down the rest of the river with no problems. All paddlers had done great, Mike had put on some great braces stopping himself from swimming and Tom had lead us down safely.
The banks of the Leven are lined with trees to, less lethal though at this water level.
We then came to the mouth of the flooded Rothay to recognise a friend’s boat floating upside down and people running towards it. We then also blasted towards it to see what was going on. Turns out our friend Bob and Chris had been paddling Stock Ghyll which flows into the Rothay and both swam. Chris was here. Where was Bob? No one knew where Bob was. We then attained as much information from Chris as possible about his last whereabouts to try and find him with the looming possibility that he had not managed to get out the river after coming out his boat and was stuck under the trees/ fences we had encountered earlier. We split up into three teams to search the three obvious locations where he could be stranded. At this point we could have been looking for a dead body. Luckily on our way, now running across flooded fields I see and hear Bob, safe and walking across the fields towards us. Turns out a miss communication and maybe lack of leadership created the confusion and thoughts, that our friend might be dead. We then went on to luckily find Chris's black blades and throwline at the entrance to Windermere along with the rest of the debris being washed out by the high waters. 

This was a crazy end to the day and shone a light on a real scenario/consequence that could well happen in the future due to the nature of my our sport. I often hear of kayakers that have passed away on the rivers all the stories are harrowing.

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