Rough Justice on the Wharfe

Posted by Swaledale Outdoor Club on 2010-01-24

by Pete Bridgstock

Have you ever felt under pressure ? Well, it was really laid on on our trip to the Wharfe. There were thirteen of us, so who would be the unlucky one to end up with the ignominy of doing the write-up ? After doing the shuttle and ending back at the put-in at Kettlewell, it had not been decided. Various ideas were being thrown about. Firmly in the frame at this stage was Pete Ball, who, having organised the trip used the weak excuse of being stuck on a rig somewhere in the fog-bound North Sea just to get out of paddling.

Anyway, thirteen of us set out from Kettlewell. Water was lower than might have been expected given the amount of snow which had been melting. The river passes through some lovely scenery, with a few rocky drops and lots of boulders to dodge.

Rocky step early on the Middle Wharfe. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Rocky step early on in the Middle Wharfe

Eventually we arrived at Conistone Falls, which is a rocky drop of about a metre, where inspection allowed time for flapjacks and working out the best place for photos of swimmers. Was this selection time for an author of the write-up ? No swimmers, no excitement, no write-up!

Ann dropping over Conistone Falls. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Ann dropping over Conistone Falls

The river picks up a bit more interest from here, and it's not far before Ghaistrill's Strid is reached. The river takes a narrow channel on the left. We caught up with another group here, and watched with interest as various lines and styles were used - breaststroke and front crawl were the most common. No mishaps here for us, so still no author.

Mary in the channel, Ghaistrill's Strid. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Mary in the channel, Ghaistrill's Strid

Sarah on the rockstep below Ghaistrill's. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Sarah on the rockstep below Ghaistrill's

Soon after, we reached the big weir above Linton Falls. The correct line here is on the right hand side, close to the old mill building. The previous week, we had paddled this in much higher water, and getting the line here was fairly important, as the left hand side is dangerous. We had had a long discussion about the right line. Of the five of us on that trip, I was the only one who had paddled it before, so my memory of the line was invaluable. If I'd remembered it correctly it would have been valuable! Anyway, despite my best effort, no mishaps here either, so Pete was still the main contender for the write-up.

Iggy on Linton Weir. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Iggy on Linton Weir

All that now remained was Linton Falls. This is a rapid where the river drops about four metres down a rocky chute, ending in a short step dropping right into the bottom pool. Just to add to the excitement, there is a footbridge over the river, where hordes of walkers stand to watch the antics of the paddlers.

Four of us decided to run the drop, first Stuart, then John who got a slightly tidier line...

John, mid-channel, Linton Falls. Photo: Andy Waddington.
John, mid-channel, Linton Falls

... then Neil who also added a breakout halfway down.

Neil on the first chute, Linton Falls. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Neil on the first chute, Linton Falls

I was left wondering what I could add to make my descent stand out. Enter the top chute, over the rock, clip the wall, turn sideways, capsize, roll, run the bottom drop spot on - that did the trick!

Pete nails the last drop. Photo: Andy Waddington.
Pete nails the last drop

So, despite being one of the only four out of our group of thirteen who ran the falls, and most likely being the oldest on the trip, and giving at least twenty five years away to the others who ran Linton, I ended up doing the write-up 'cos I was the only one who capsized - call that justice ?

Article copyright © Pete Bridgstock 2010; photographs copyright © Andy Waddington 2010

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