With university finally finished for the year, a group of us headed up to Scotland for our annual summer kayaking trip. The group consisted of 5 experienced paddlers and 9 freshers from the university Kayak Club and our designation was to be Scotland’s West Coast around Fort William.
After an early start Monday morning and a long drive we arrived at the get on for the Awe. The Awe is a dam-release river I had never paddled before but the guidebook stated it was a river which we could rely on for water and would offer Grade 2/3 paddling. What a perfect river it turned out to be for our beginners. Continuous grade two rapids allowed us to work on river skills the whole way down with the odd grade 3 rapid to push people that little bit further. The river eventually opened out into Loch Etive, a beautiful ending to a good trip. After that it was off to the Clagaig for some food before heading to Glen etive to find a camping spot for the night. As it was getting dark, John and myself managed to squeeze in a few laps of Triple Step on the Etive whilst the otheres finished pitching the tents.
Tuesday morning came around too soon after the long previous day. However, after we had aroused everyone from be we decided it would be a good wake up for everyone to be thrown off Triple Steps in their boats. Normally this can be a very pushy rapid but in the low water levels it was a perfect introduction to waterfalls for the group. After this we headed to the Spean Gorge. I had never seen the section this low before but it turned out to be a fun little run. All the rapids were run except for headbanger which at these levels exposed a hideous looking siphon. The river was fun, if not a little frustrating with the rock bashing and constant stop-starting with such a large group.
After a search for water we had run out of options for the Wednesday. I had never seen all the rivers this low, even on previous summer trips. We therefore decided to head to the Nevis Range and hire some bikes for the day. The weather was perfect. Clear blues skies with nice views all around. After a brief play on the various skills loops we all headed off on the Blue Witches trail. A fun day was had by all even if it did get a little competitive between the boys!
Thursday we all headed up to the River Garry, another dam release guaranteeing us some water. The river was a pushy grade 3 and allowed us to really push the freshers ahead of our Alps trip. A few swims later and everyone got off the river happy as we headed to Fort William for the luxury of a hostel and night out.
Friday we all awoke bleary eyed but keen to paddle. We thought we’d end the trip on a high and headed back to Glenn Etive to slide down the Allt a Chaorainn. After carrying our boats for ½ and hour up the side of a mountain we reached the get in. Disaster! There was not enough water in the river! We had to then, downheartedly carry our boats all the way back down. We all wanted to get wet so we finished the trip by swimming down Triple Step on the Etive and finding some good jump spots.
All in all a fun trip was had by the whole group despite poor water levels. The west of Scotland is an area I love and I still consider it to be the most beautiful place in the world to paddle.