The SOC trip to the alps 2010 has now returned to the UK with well over a thousand photos and several hours of video to wade through (the activity level was sufficiently high that we didn't have enough time to keep up the daily reports...).
Ann and Alan arrived in Argentière la Bessée Thursday, via the other Argentière near Chamonix, so they had a scenic drive. Famille Waddington arrive a day later having dragged a caravan over the Col de Lauteret, whilst the Florences arrived Saturday despite one of them having started in Nigeria two days earlier... Westies and Adamses were not far behind.
Very wet weather greeted the first arrivals, and the Durance was well up and very cloudy on Friday, but soon dropped and went back to a pleasant blue shade on Saturday. A few of us spent a couple of hours warming up on the St. Clément slalom site before we started some more serious paddling...
SOC out in force on the Durance sunshine run.
Quite a few of the group took some coaching, so there was a lot of activity on the two slalom sites (and the lake and rolling pool), but we also managed to paddle rivers - the Lower Guil, the Durance from Argentière to Roche de Rame (and/or the aerodrome), the Durance sunshine run and the Upper Guil.
Doug on the biggest drop on the Upper Guil - low water.
Our high point was the Ubaye Racecourse, done in two waves of four paddlers on each trip. This was at a pleasant level, perhaps a bit lower than on the trip two years previously.
One of the bits of the Ubaye Racecourse that you can spectate from the road.
Our next plan was the Upper Guisane with a big group. Here, a reccy showed the level to be quite a bit lower than on our last encounter, two years ago, and we rather complacently assumed that this would mean that it was no harder. For the majority of the river, this was entirely true - there were no significant hazards and the water was not especially fast moving. A few rather shallow shingle rapids hung a few people up, but mostly just a jolly bimble with plenty of breakouts to regroup. The S-bends (the only grade 4 bit, which hadn't seemed grade 4 last time) proved to be quite a bit harder in low water, as many boulders in the top section make it difficult to get a good line. We ran this in pairs, with bank protection. Claire was the first victim, but was out of the water almost at once, whilst a certain amount of running down the bank was required to catch her boat. Next pair, and one capsize was saved by a heroic roll from Nikki, whilst Mary, close behind did some swift re-routing to avoid running her down. The next pair fared less well, with both Andy and Doug having a swim, but both caught their boats and were able to put back on and run the rest of the rapid. Kids in playboats (Sarah and Rosie) made the whole thing look trivial. Grrrr.
Sarah and Rosie have no trouble avoiding the rocks, Upper Guisane.
We finished the trip with another all-inclusive group on the Sunshine run, ending at the Rabioux, where Michael managed to jump off a rock and swim through the wave no less than four times, whilst Sarah was the only one brave enough to get on and surf it:
Sarah paddles out and gets onto the Rabioux - a deliberate capsize was required to escape!
There was also some canyonning and walking, an immense amount of Via ferrata and all the usual off-water activities that accompany any holiday in the sun... Tragically, no-one had the courage (dutch or otherwise) to take the inflatable armchair down the slalom course :-(
Article and photographs copyright © Andy Waddington 2010 except where credited: photograph copyright © Rosie Florence 2010