Its June, exams are over (well for those still young enough to be subjected to them) and it is time for a loose collection of SUCCers young, old, very young and Dr Matt’s age to head off to the Alps for a week (or so) of sun, red wine, pain au chocolat and of course quality white water. Unlike other SUCC adventures the Alps is a group of loosely organised friends heading to a campsite in cars. This year a grand total of 25 brave souls in 7 cars made the trip. The cars were:
The Breakfast Club: Chris, Tim, Beth and Tom
The Wheels of Squeal: Laurent, Elly, Stave and Morely
Cupids Conveyance: Mike, Michelle, Toby and Emma
The AA (Alopecia Anonymous): Aidan, Andy Webb, Danny and Doctor Matt
Baby 1: Iain, Julie and Susie
Baby 2: Ian, Dawn and Tom (the flirt)
Bens Car: Ben, Alex and John Willoughby
Some photos of the trip can be seen here if you just want to look at the scenery and miss out the over written detail. This report is written from the biased point of view of Chris’s car and Chris specifically enjoy, laugh and poke fun as you wish……..
Friday 15th June
After getting an unfeasibly large pile of kit into the car having had to negotiate it around the ever helpful boaties we left the boathard for Dover. Thanks to Tim’s driving skills honed on the interesting streets of Nairobi we managed to make the ferry with just enough time to get some supplies (read fake Red Bull and sweets) for the journey down France. Being cheeky cheap skate student types we (well Tim) managed to re-heat some chilli to make an excellent meal before watching the sun go down over the White Cliffs.
Saturday 16th June
The great problem with going to the Alps is the seemingly interminable drive down the length of France. This done in the middle of the night leads to some bizarre situations such as Tim being woken up at a Payage and opening the door at 50 mph thinking he need to get out and pay right then. A random Belgian family also didn’t seem to be enjoying the game of pick a lane any lane that we had at four in the morning.
After a brief sojourn around the suberbs of Lyon trying to find Hawaii sur Rhone with no more information than “I think it is under a motorway bridge somewhere” we grabbed some breakfast in Grenoble to eat on the Col du Lautaret. All good. After a lengthy stop in Geant in Briancon to buy lunch and an even longer faff sat at the castle waiting for everyone to appear we got on the Briancon Gorge for a lovely run with water. Laurent got to discover that Alpine rivers are shallow, Beth got to lead her first Alpine section and Mike got to recall the time he almost died their in high water. So all in all a good start to the week and it was off to the Campsites ready to set up our homes for the week. Having no wish to have to deal with the owners of the Rab (they can be troublesome at times) the Breakfast club killed time going to se the olds in their campsite, checking the Boulangerie would be open in the morning and scouting the local ditch o see if it went. Just to prove that cheats never prosper we still ended up dealing with the much improved management! After eating Tim, Beth and Stave went for a play in the Rab regardless of the less than bright conditions.
Sunday 17th June
Sunday started much as an Alps trip should do; we were woken up by bright sunshine, headed up to the village and got a supply of pain and then sat around waiting for Mike to wake up! Regrettably the sun having risen to make sure our tents were soon unbearably hot it decided to then hide itself away for the rest of the day behind large clouds. Despite this we headed up past Briancon valley to run the Upper and then Lower Guisane with lunch in between. The Upper ticked off the harder lower remained. The last group on the river was Tim, Toby, Mike, Chris and Laurent. As they broke in after the two portages Tim warned Mike that Laurent would be fine just as long as we didn’t break out. Mike forgot and the inevitable painful swim resulted. This gave the rest of the group the opportunity to indulge in a kilometre of boatercross to get the boat back. By the get out Laurent’s legs were starting to look like they had lost a fight with Tom and Susie having a multitude of bruises and scratches from the knees down.
Monday 18th June
Monday was the 21st Birthday of young Richard Morely so in an attempt to make him an excellent birthday we all headed up the Guil for a grand slam. The traditional grand slam runs the Chateau Q and l’Ange gorges and then onto the classic middle Guil. Arriving at Chateau Q in the damp and cold some of us felt less than enthused by the whole idea so off we all went to run the Upper Guil first. This gave the committed 15 km of high class alpine whitewater rarely dropping below grade IV. It was regrettably a little on the chilly side so some of us had to take photos from the comfort of the inside of down jackets. This did allow us to view a myriad of lines down triple step and to predict who was going to get spanked where.
For the evening we planned to have a huge BBQ but this turned into a meal in Embrun as this was both warmer and drier. Returning to the Rab Rich was given two wonderful presents; a succession of evil strength beers from Mike and Toby and then a bottle of salad dressing from Cardiff Uni whom Morely referred to as “bastards”.
Tuesday 19th June
Finally the weather improved so we drove round the Lac de ##### to play on the big bouncy Ubaye race course. Originally plans had included Fresq but there was a little bit too much water to make it sensible so instead we ran the race course twice. Dwan was even aloud to take the day off mothering duties to have a play for the only time of the week (though if you are her doctor reading this then she didn’t go near a boat all week). Laurent and Stave got their first taste of Big Water and had slightly different reactions; Laurent loved being able to be upside down without hitting rocks whereas Stave was finding being pushed about in his little G-force a bit disconcerting. Despite this everyone enjoyed themselves
The evening was spent watching Aiden re-light our BBQ at the Rab beach whilst Laurent and Morely played on the wave in a rubber dinghy before Tom (W not F) had to rescue them!
Wednesday 20th June
To ease the logistics of getting people from two campsites to the same river at a sensible time the two campsites split for their respective boating fun. We (the student scum from the Rab) decided to head off to the Claree as it is one of Mikeys favourite rivers and unbelievably pretty.
Last year we ran the Claree too low, this year I was low but considerably better. Whilst Chris and Elly were running the shuttle there appeared to be a small localised rain storm as when they returned they found everyone decidedly damp and at least one boat containing several inches of water. The river itself was all good for everyone except for Laurent who didn’t really enjoy the small part of the river he ran. Over Laurent went, rocks and his body made contact and out Laurent went. The river being quite fast moving Tim and Morely had fun chasing the boat and paddle both of which decided to visit a giant undercut. Eventually Laurent and his boat were reunited but his paddles were missing so Tim and Morely headed off to the bottom to send a rescue party to go and collect him from the side of the river. After a lunch of local Goats Cheese (yum yum) in an attempt to find Laurents paddles we headed up to run the river again with the exception of Cupids Conveyance who had to head back towards Le Lac where they had left Emma reading a book.
Lauent quickly found his paddles so we had no need to go slowly on the way down to look for them. 20 minutes later we were all at the bottom having run 4 km of river! Tim had suggested a boatercross and having given the playboaters a suitable head start Tim won with Chris proving he was an old man and coming last. After this exuberance and effort the only way to end the day was to return to Le Lac for silliness involving lilos, footballs and rope swings. Once back at the Rab the sillyness continued with mass games involving bouncing on the remnants of the dinghy and Mike, Michelle, Toby and Emma headed down to the Rab wave for a bbq and wine supping.
Thursday 21st June
Feeling shamed at our lack lustre attempts the previous day we decided to repeat the Guil Grand Slam for a days boating After yet more fun in Chateau Q and L’Ange nearly everyone jumped onto the Middle for another excellent session. This time no one felt the need to run triple step though several excellent lines on Le Tunnel were executed. Somehow everyone managed to avoid making too much of a mess on the staircase and on the final section though not without some prolonged effort. Having reached the get out we were treated to the sight of some French rafters changing with out the aid of a towel or anything to cover their modesty.
Not content with this for a days boating we decided to head up over Col d’Izoard to go paddle the Gyr and get the obligatory group shot at the top of the Col. Reaching the summit with Stave still just about holding himself together we posed, took photos and set off car alarms before heading down towards Briancon as fast as we could hoping to get to the Gyr in time to run it. By the time the paddlers had walked up the side of the river it was a bit too late and it was time to try and find some food. It turned out it was too late and we ended up having Pizza in Guilestre.
It being Mid summers day there were all manner of festivities underway in the village square so we got some pizzas and a free bottle of Rose wine and sat around enjoying the pizzas and realising why the wine was free…. The entertainment comprised of a dubious band described as Ska/Reggae but more correctly described as average. After having our fill of French village life we returned to the Rab via the olds campsite for a chat and a beer or two.
Returning to the Rab it soon became apparent that things hadn’t been quite so laid back for the rest of the residents of the campsite. Earlier in the evening the campsite owners, the raft opperaters from the Rab wave and the local Police had all been looking for Southampton Uni. It transpired that after Mike and Michelle had left the fire on the beach the previous evening in a neat and tidy state some other people had gone down and used the same fire for a party; smashing bottles, littering the place and braking into the raft company’s wood store to get more stuff to burn. All the local police had to go on was a SUCC t-shirt that Toby had dropped the night before whilst playing on the Rab. It being late there was nothing anyone could do but wait for the morning.
Friday 22nd June
Having quickly cleared ourselves of any guilt we headed off to the Durance Gorge, another river we had run too low the year before. It was higher but still low, never the less it was an excellent run. Slot and Drop had just too little water flowing over it to make it possible but with Chris standing in on the side of the drop Rich, Mike, Toby and Tom all got a handy boof off the rock and into the flow. A quick play down the slalom course at L’Argentierre and lunch we headed to the Sunshine run to let our ever wonderful shuttle bunnies get a river in. This was Elly, Michelle and Emmas first Alpine runs and all enjoyed it to a lesser or greater degree and possibly more importantly there were know relationship issues as a result.
In the evening the olds had invited us to their campsite for a BBQ and to go and watch some of the films that were being shown at the neighbouring raft centre. A pleasant evening sat chewing the cud was had by all before some of us went to the rafting centre to see a variety of different boating films presented by the aforementioned Olaf of Sickline fame. The highlights of the show were the free beer, the premier of another Painkillers video of Foamies and a film of a German expedition to the Indus Gorges.
Saturday 23rd June
After much discussion the night before we had decided to head to the Veneon on the other side of the Gyr glassier. On the road up to the Col de Lautret it was soon discovered that Tim had been talking to Ben about his patented blind hairpin corner overtaking technique and was applying it to a disturbing proficiency. Arriving at the get on for the normally run section of the Veneon we found everyone sat around playing with the babies as the levels in the river weren’t high enough to make it worth while. After sitting about for a good couple of hours waiting for the level to rise it was decided to head upstream to see if something could go up there.
The Veneon valley was stunning with stunning peaks on both sides and what looked like an interesting river in the bottom of the valley. Reaching the road head at La Berarde a select group jumped on a river that looked a bit like fun. It being a new and unknown river there were lots of portages, inspections and new rapids. The group slowly reduced in size as more people decided that they had seen enough or in Johns case staying in his boat was getting a bit dull. With everyone off the river it was time for people to say their good byes and head off in their desired directions.
In the case of the Breakfast club this was over towards the Bonne and Severaise for a couple more sections with Iain, Julie and Suzie and a night in a very plush campsite with an excellent view of an Alpine outcrop. A very civilised evening eating curry and sipping beer ensued.
Sunday 24th June
Waking surprisingly late in our well appointed campsite we headed off to the Bonne. Having spoken to a couple of people in the Durance valley we were expecting to have to portage the first gorge due to a number of trees thought to be lodged there. Just to check we walked down to find that the gorge was in fact totally free from any obstructions and therefore good to go. Iain and Tim headed off first followed by Beth Tom and then Chris. We broke out above the gorge and Iain and Tim headed off round the corner.
The first gorge on the Bonne is only about six feet wide and is guarded at the entry by a series of stoppers the last of which is walled in and not a pleasant place to be. Iain got a few ends, Tim got a trashing and a lovely bruise on his face for his pains, Chris got stuck in the first of the holes and fluked it through the last, Tom bobbed down as if there was nothing there and Beth got properly worked including a massive loop and the inevitable swim. Once all was recovered we meandered down past the portage and into a large tree across the river which Tim tried to clear by head butting. A quick shuttle and we got on the Severaise for a bit of grade III/IV fun on a much changed river from some floods in the spring. At the get out Sussie made the most of her last chance to play up for the crowds by filling Tim’s helmet with stones and clapping in between.
Leaving Baby mobile 1 behind we headed back to the Rab in the hope of finding people to paddle with for our last few days in the Alps. On the way we intended to get some food but forgetting that the French don’t do long opening hours we ended up in a restaurant in Embrun eating pasta and trying to order potato juice (take a bow Tim). Arriving back at the Rab we managed to get ourselves a good pitch and then sat around chatting and discussing what to do next.
Monday 25th June
Not having a shuttle anymore we decided to have a look at the Onde, it being a short enough stretch that we could walk the shuttle. Arriving we found a low and sketchy level so rather than scraping the bottoms off our boats we headed up to the ever faithful lower Guisane on the principal that so many people run it we must be able to get a shuttle. Luckily we were proved right as Tim managed to blag a shuttle with the Army who were being looked after by Mary one of the Reading olds. We had a pleasant run down if a little lower than the previous week. Catching up with the Army guys at the get out we had the pleasure (?) of a bunch of squadies showing off and fooling around, lucky Beth!
Wondering what to do next we headed back to the Onde to see if the sun had brought any more water into the river to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately the level was pretty much the same though we did bump into John Dyke of Polo fame out with some of his mates from home. At a loose end we headed up the Valley and inspected the Upper Onde which looked good. The evening was spent hiding from the rain and not sorting out a shuttle for the next day.
Tuesday 26th June
The morning brought much improved weather so we decided to follow the crowds and assume that we could find a shuttle at the Guil. Driving up the valley it became apparent that even with the heavy rain the day before the levels had dropped significantly from the previous week. Not seeing an obvious shuttle we decided to run Chateau Q, forcing Chris to actually man up and get on it for the fist time of the week. All went well despite a cheeky roll before the gorge even started, in fact it went so well that Tim and Tom decided to run it again whilst Chris shuttled.
After a brief discussion we felt that running the middle Guil again would ruin the memory of the section so we headed off over Col de Vars to the Ubaye valley for a bash down the racecourse. Tom managed to do an excellent job of being sociable with random people and we had ourselves a shuttle. The levels were considerably lower than the previous week (do you see a recurring theme here?) but still it was all good. Just before the end Beth had a nasty nasty experience with an undercut and a very deep swimming experience. After stopping Chris from faffing (spoil sports) we all headed to the get out. The supermarket in Embrun supplied us with food of sorts and most importantly Mertal tarte for pudding. Regrettably we didn’t think to pick up any more beer so to entertain our evening playing with cameras and torches.
Wednesday 27th June
With not much in the way of water around we decided to head up the Onde Valley to have a play on the upper upper Onde, but not until after a good long lie-in first! Driving up the valley Chris, Tom and Tim jumped on as far up as we could with Beth scouting ahead and taking pictures from the bank. Chris’ nerves were once again to the fore leading to some interesting unnecessary rope work but in amongst the faff there were some excellent drops amid stunning scenery. At the end of the section was a sweet clean 4 foot drop which Chris missed out on but Tim and Tom ran a number of times until they were happy with the photos. In all we had travelled about 500 m downstream in 4 hours but worth every second!
With Tom and Tim feeling very much up for it we headed over to the Gyr valley for them to end the trip in style. Eleven minutes after getting on they were jumping off in Vallouise with massive smiles. We also managed to met up with the people that we had shared a shuttle with at the Ubaye one of whom had a less than pleasant trip down the Gyr and was off to hospital to get himself looked at and then to Embrun to buy a new helmet.
Our ferry was not leaving until 7 the next evening so we had plenty time to make the journey so decided to head out of Briancon via the very cold and misty Col du Galibier. By the time we got to the top of the Col it was -0.5oC and we could see exactly bugger all. So like all sensible young people we got a group photo of the four of us in shorts t-shirts and sunnys. After stopping for a meal on the side of the Col de Telegraph we carried on along the national routes eventually stopping in a slug infested lay by for the night.
Thursday 28th June
For some unknown reason the slugs were disproportionately attracted to Chris who ended up with them all over his sleeping bag, nice! After clearing up and heading out we headed up through France mainly on the national routes and despite having 24 hours to do a 12 hour drive we only made it to the ferry with -5 minutes to spare, Tim putting in an epic eight hour driving shift. After another using of the microwave on the ferry (this time to boil water for tea) we had lunch in a pub over looking Dover and headed back to Southampton for some well earned rest.
This may come as a shock but this is a shortened version, the long version can be read here.