france river

After a super weekend at Cranafest and an enjoyable evening in Dublin with Martina, I had more time booked off, as normal all my plans changed and was left with no plan, having been at Mick Reynolds in France the week before we had talked plans and rivers. I took a look at cheap flights and booked a last minute flight to La Rochelle grabbed a hire car and drive over to Micks where the adventure would really begin.
DSCF1201Arriving Monday evening just in time to check the levels and make a rough plan, the van was loaded the scooter shuttle in the back along with full expedition kit for any eventuality and a pair of lovely Dagger Nomad 8.1s a size smaller than I would have been accustomed to but beggars cant be choosers, luckily she was lime green to match my kit 🙂
So Tuesday we awoke early to drive down to the Allier a 16km stretch varying from grade 2 -3 with a couple of 4/5s. During its entirety it never really let up. An enjoyable paddle, great to familiarise myself with the new boat,
This is an amazing stretch for a group or club giving something for everyone, smooth lines to read and run with S moves galore you could spend all day hitting flares and spins on all the rapids,
So that evening we made a plan by pure guess work and a little hope as well as some of Micks aspirations we picked the Number one river in the region the Fontaulière. Dropping 149m in 3km this is also the steepest river in the region.
We drove over to the river staying in Chateaux Traffic and awaking to a freezing morning with cold winds and just generally fairly miserable, with low motivation we set our shuttle, using the scooter and the van made for easy work. Kitted up and ready to go we descended down to the waters edge, the cold water and the chilling breeze kept us on our toes,
When we met the river we were welcomed with drop after drop,as the gradient fell away so did we, some smooth lines and some big moves this river was a great way to go. At the halfway point we found the big drop, Micks eyes lit up with that look that nothing was stopping him, having spent nearly 5 years without much gradient he was finally home! eyeing up this drop a stlick slot entry leading into a 10m vertical slide. Before hitting the kicker and ejecting away from the base on a huge plume of white water sending you up and out a spectacular drop. By this point the flamingo was flapping he was ready he was up. A slight wobble on the entry and the smile as he reached the lip before plummeting downwards at Mach 10 he hit the kicker and planted into the whitewater below grinning from ear to ear, Reynolds was back in the game!
My turn as he set the camera I hit the entry slot taking the wobble and driving hard to the line I was looking as the boat kicked up the rush of air as I hit the kicker I drove with my knees to get the bow high up into the air landing flat with the noise echoing around the canyon the line was beautiful (even if a little sore)
but at this point we had come to the right river, descending and dropping further down the valley with the gradient stacking up behind us from smooth chutes and cascades to cruising rapids, a little more water would of cleaned up a few of the lines but we were having fun, some pinball fun in the bottom drop and we were out.DSCF1253
The short shuttle made easy with pizza delivery boy Mick and we were away to find our next run,
This time heading south back towards Millau where I hurt myself all of those months ago we headed for the Haut Tarn another absolute French classic, dropping some 223m with most of the gradient in the first two thirds of the river. The levels were low but runnable with a quick text to the local boys to confirm it was on, dropping into the valley and the walls just seemed to lift, greeted by horizon line after horizon,  this river had us smiling from the off.DSCF1304
A short way in we were greeted by the biggest drop of the run a technical series of rapids coming around a left elbow of 90 degrees before swinging right onto a sliding kicker dropping maybe 15m from the top. The drop was on but the lead in was tight, Mick had his mind made up to portage the lead in and drop in above the chute as he took off down the flow he was but a passenger plugging hard below,DSCF1327
I was already sore and looking at the right hand stroke I was starting to walk, having seen crash dummy Reynolds forget to pull any stroke and realise the run was easier than the portage I booted up. Ferrying out onto the flake pulling a left stroke through to lift the nose as I hit the crux lifted the knees and sailed through the air, bow high, once again landing flat on another big drop, it looked and felt stunning but knowing I’m going to be sore tomorrow. Continuing downstream being met by horizon lines meant plenty of scouting, with some incredible cascades and rapids the river left a lot of flakes to run with sticky holes hiding keeping the bow high was essential. Another committing rapid opened up in front of us on inspection 4 drops with the crux the constriction style drop as the third down a a 8 foot channel where the water had to flow uphill to leave the pool causing a huge towback and recirculation,
on inspection Mick was out, but something on it felt good, to link the 4 drops in one series looked good, with Mick on camera and rescue I fired it, drop one right flake, drop two left flake, then charge at the third, on the green chute pull a right stroke to keep the bow high of the first wave and plant the left into the pile to keep it moving, the small nomad skipped and sailed straight through the drop not stopping to look back, as I reached the 4th drop I was far to excitable and forgot to pull the stroke so came through a little tail happy but wow what a line.
The river didn’t let up throwing in  gradient behind big boulders some with consequence scouting was the order of the day.

Another big flare leading to just off vertical pour over made me think of champions killer, again I was paddling well and it was on, probably because the flare entry just looked soo sweet, it was worth the rest of the rapid, again the line went and stayed the nomad flying through with ease, at last I was back on my game, paddling with confidence. the bigger the water the better I got.
Mick was back in his element after so long off of big rivers, many would joke he cant paddle big rivers anyway too much water for him, but I can assure you all he held his own, safe and strong, knowing he had the line and would pick me up was a good feeling, his lines were improving as the trip went on shaking off the rust quickly to paddle these 3French Classics at last minutes notice.
As we eventually reached the dam to mark the get out after a full day on the water he was already planning the next adventure…… Jura
A short flight back to Dublin with a bank holiday weekend upon us time to load up and hit up this magical place called Kerry before my holiday ends.