It’s Ubaye day! This means an earlier start than most mornings, but it’s still 8.30 before we are all ready and leaving. We head over Col de Vars with the obligatory stop to ‘take in the view’. We get to the get in for the upper upper section (I’m sure these have better names/descriptions in the guide book) and we wait there to meet up with Alex, Dylan, Tim and Jen who have stayed in this area last night. There’s a short technical section at the start here that some get on to do and the ones who opt out of this bit carry on down to the fort get in a couple of miles down the road. We split in to groups again, I’m with Keith, Sam, Alex, Matt and Rob. I’ve got my man and my safety blanket with me so I’m happy. I’m told this is pretty much a grade two bimble but I still get the new river nerves. I remember the upper section from last year and what a roller coaster it was.
We head off down river after a short brief from Keith who is leading us, I’m behind him with Alex next then Sam, as Sam likes to paddle with Alex, then Matt and Rob to tail end Charlie. It’s apparent quite early on that with a bit more water this isn’t such a bimble and some of the rapids require a little more thought. At the first blind corner Keith finds an eddy and discusses the river running plan. We will eddy hop, so he goes to the next eddy where he can see a little further, if it’s clear he calls the next person to him (me), then he moves on one more eddy, passes on the signal to the second person (me) I pass that signal up to the third (Alex) who joins me before I then go to join Keith, he goes on one more and this process continues until he can see far enough that he signals for us all to come through.
There’s a little wave train on a left hand bend at the end of this, the water is pushing up against a rock face which as you get closer you can tell this has a bit of an undercut to the rock. We skirt the edge of the wave train to keep us away from the wall, but just at the end there is a big boil in the water. It turns Keith a little, but he is quick enough with his reflexes to be almost unaffected, I get turned and tipped a little sideways, but with a bit of an ‘oh sh*t stroke’ I’m upright and paddling out. I hear Sam behind me, this is clearly more technical than she expected and her nerves are evident, she makes it through fine but she’s struggling. We find an eddy as soon as we can and gather up. We’re all doing fine, Sam gets a bit of a confidence talk from Keith and Alex, and then we carry on. There is another group on the water that we bump in to and we end up with some of them in between us, which upsets Sam a bit more. We eddy again, and let that group get ahead of us, we don’t get out of the boats as Sam says she might not get back in if she gets out now.
We carry on down, and again Sam’s paddling is fine it’s only her mind games upsetting her. There are a few more rapids, Keith turns back regularly to check on the group, as a good leader should; he expects me to not be enjoying this, but he sees I’m smiling, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m not sure what grade the river has turned out to be at this level, but I suspect it’s only a 2+. The river levels out in the town, and we bimble to the get out where the first group is waiting. The last group arrives soon after and we discuss plans for the next bits of river.
We had hoped to fit in the next section down ‘the upper’ and then the big boy group doing the racecourse after, however we’re later finishing than anticipated and it’s unlikely we will fit in both bits after lunch. It’s only me, Trevor and Sam who are not candidates for the racecourse, Sam has had enough paddling for today, and Trevor feels he has done enough. Although I’d like to do that upper section, as it’s the bit we did last year and it would be nice to gauge how I feel on it 12 months later; I’m not going to expect 3 or 4 paddlers to potentially miss doing the racecourse just for me. Sam, Jess and I also have plans to go to the inflatable assault course at Embrun while race course is being done so I have fun plans for the afternoon anyway.
After lunch we arrange shuttles, and Trevor, Sam, Jess and I head over to the lake at Embrun. Trevor is going to watch and chill on the beach while us girls get booked in and ready. We have the safety talk and get issued with an impact vest, which gives us a little protection from any falls and little bit of floatation too. There’s a 50m swim out on the lake to the ‘start gate’ and we’re falling all over the place in minutes. There’s load of obstacles and we all feel like poor contenders from ‘total wipe out’ but it’s such great fun! A thunderstorm rolls across the other side of the valley while we are there, and it gets cloudy, we have a little rain and wind but the storm doesn’t get close enough to affect us much. The life guards start closing the course up around us (deflating certain parts of it) and then we take our cue to go, after one last go on the slide of course!
After we get in to dry clothes we head over to metre pizza to wait for the others to get back from paddling. We’ve had some missed calls so we guess they are off the water and with some calling backwards and forwards we find out that they are. Matt had a swim on one section and it wasn’t a good one. He banged his elbow quite hard and didn’t feel he could carry on so he’d had to have his boat roped out of the gorge. By the time they had done this the storm had rolled in and it had clearly hit harder at this end of the valley, they had heavy rain and hail storms for half an hour and so they made a group decision not to get back on the water. The other two groups, paddling without incident, had managed to beat the storm to the bottom and just got boats on the cars before it caught up with them.
There was plenty to discuss over metre pizza, so named because we order the pizza by the metre, 4 metres to go round 14 of us eating tonight!!! The other attraction of this particular restaurant, as if metres of pizza wasn’t enough, is that when you order the ice cream Sundays you get a little toy on top too!!! It’s quite late when we all get back to the house and everyone is soon in bed, mostly through food coma!
Sorry no pictures, the wifi is playing upa nd I can't look at this screen any longer. I'll update with pictures when I catch up with today's blog, hopefully tomorrow afternoon.