I’ve been meaning to write about CAP’s Easter trip to the Lake District and the Tees since before we headed home, but a deluge of rain, work, and life kept on washing over me, and to my sin I’ve only just reached for my keyboard.
I was going to write about the serious lack of rain that lead to low water levels, of gambling on sheep, of chasing sheep, and of midnight sheep rides, of the poor quality of Coniston beer but CAPs nonetheless insatiable appetite for it, of quaint walks that turned into mountain scrambles along knife edge ridges, of the fussy nature of Youth Hostels and their inability to stock Kendal mint cake, of mass planking to amuse Chinese lesbians, of sitting against walls without chairs, and of swimming in mountain lakes, but none of it’s particularly relevant for what was, foremost, a club white water paddling trip.
Even though lack of rain and low water levels would usually spell disaster for a white water trip, Mike’s meticulous planning pitted us against the river Kent on Friday, the Tees Barrage on Sunday, and then the river Tees on Monday.
The river Kent was mostly a story of bump ‘n’ grind (not the kind of bump ‘n’ grind that a certain coach practices regularly within the confines of their bedroom) and there was just enough water to make it passable, with coupled with a couple of features made it the perfect entrée for the weekend.
Afterwards, full of hope and desperation, we eagerly traipsed to Backbarrow bridge hoping the river Leven would be paddle able, but alas, the flow was little more than the offering generated by two hung over Squirrels relieving themselves after a particularly heavy night. It most certainly didn’t even vaguely resemble the angry water demon of legend. It was pretty obvious to all concerned that the Lake District had little to offer our intrepid group, so we headed to the youth hostel for a night of commiseration and of beer.
After spending Saturday mountain climbing Helvellyn, we headed across the Pennines to spend Sunday at the Tees barrage. Although resorting to a man made courses instead of rivers seemed a touch dirty. Given the dire state of the rivers, and the wonderful flow of the barrage, it was the most excellent choice.
The course was not only practically empty, but the combination of its short, 95m course, and the changing levels of the longer 300m course made it the perfect paddling day for everyman. From playing the waves, through to fast, furious wave-train runs, a lot of swimming, some more playing, some fast demonstrations by Darren of his Hand of God, and some paddle-smashing high jinks by Rob, it was a brutal and enthralling day that ably showed how much fun a well-placed man made course can be.
Suitably tenderised from Sunday, the final day of the trip saw us head up the River Tees for a sojourn from High Force to Low Force falls. Recalling that the last time CAP undertook this paddle, the Tees almost drowned half our winter membership, the day was hotly anticipated by all. However, after starting with some more bump n’ grind it was quickly obvious it was a remarkably different river.
Salmon Leap falls had movement but was pretty dry, which made for a tight but passable run, after which it was on to Low Force falls. Low Force was noticeably light on the water, and a pale shadow of the beast that almost swallowed Darren two years ago. Even so, it made for a pretty drop and still had enough power to make a paddler defecate their dry suit.
As I said at the beginning, I’d been meaning to write about CAP’s Easter trip since before we headed home. While I was worried there wasn’t much to say bout the trip, it was a most excellent weekend. Water levels were bad, there was a serious lack of rain, and the Coniston beer really was poor, but the combination of cunning planning and the group’s natural inclination to misbehave made for a tub thumping getaway from Easter’s deluge of religion and chocolate.
CAP's Easter trips are, without doubt, the only way to go at Easter, and even although the country was descending ton the darkest depths of drought and all the group (including Ed) were old enough to know better, the combination of paddling and pleasure made the trip worth writting home about.