Sunday, June 10, 2012

Afon Irfon, Saturday 9 June 2012

As we'd had heavy rain in the preceding few days, a trip to the Irfon was decided upon on the Friday evening. Four of us met at the Indians on the A470: Matt, Adam, Steve S., and me (Hywel) at 09.30. As we reached Llanwrtyd we realised we'd come on a busy day. We found out later that it was a Man v Horse Marathon.

We parked for a get-out by the pipeline across the river described in the guides: Chris Sladden's book and UK Rivers Guidebook. When we arrived the river was about 2 foot below the pipeline. We eventually got on the river below Camddwr Bleiddiad gorge at just after mid-day. We had lovely sunshine then and for the whole trip. Getting to the river from the road involves walking down the hillside. The next major task was getting Matt's spraydeck on. I had to get out to help him! On the river, it took only a few minutes to reach the first rapid requiring inspection. There were quite a few of these rapids and I lost count. I remember we all walked around at least one, and Adam and I walked another one or two, or bits at least. (It felt a bit like taking a boat for a walk at times). Adam swam once and I - not knowing what was downstream - had an exciting bit of paddle and chase boating. Matt ran well to grab the boat at the bank from me so luckily it didn't travel far. Adam had to swim wade/swim across the river to get the paddle though as I'd thrown it to the opposite bank.

One that Adam and I opted out of finished with a gap little wider than a boat width. While inspecting it we were caught up by a paddler running the river solo, Sam. Both Steve and Matt capsized there but both rolled. Sam glided through.

Down to Abergwesyn, there was open hill land either side of the river. From Abergwesyn down the nature of the river changed and we were mostly surrounded by trees, with many branches to be avoided. We'd scouted the two major falls we thought we might run in the lower section of the way up. Not fancying inspecting again (as it would just make me more worried) I ran the first relying on my (poor) memory, though following Sam and Steve. It's not a particularly complicated line (though clearly too much for me), it's just that most of the flow hits the left wall under the bridge and piles back in on itself making a big mess. I capsized but managed to roll on my second attempt. Adam got it just right, as, I guess, did the others.

The second fall was more complicated, with a number of layers. With the water level we had there were two lines, one easy river right and one more complicated river left. Steve went left and capsized above the last drop and although he rolled he hit a rock and made a fairly spectacular drop backwards into the white stuff. He swam. Matt took a similar line and hit the same rock at the top of the last drop but at least he was the right way up. Sam showed us it it should have been done, breaking out river left before taking the last drop. Adam and I both took the easier line river right, neither of us even managing that particularly elegantly:(

Sam left us after that. We proceeded on, all portaging the next drop (as advised by Chris Sladden). There was one small drop after that but the main remaining obstacle was the overhanging branches. The water had been dropping all the time and by the time we reached the get-out the river was about a foot lower than when we left. Look at the chart and you'll get an idea.Water level of Afon Irfon at Abernant

This was a fantastic day out. Although some of the rapids and falls are grade 3/4(or more at different levels) they can all be portaged fairly easily and there are substantial grade 2/3 sections. The whole trip reminded me of trips I've had in the Alps. Great water, scenery and sunshine! A long day though. We got off the water about 16.15 and I arrived home at about 19.15 - a much earlier start would be needed if this was a winter trip.

Unfortunately, we passed the scene of a motorbike crash on the way home, before an ambulance arrived. It didn't look good. I hope the final outcome wasn't as bad as I fear. UPDATE: I learnt that Colin and Sue Eades of Cardiff Canoe Club were the first on the scene, being in the car behind the one involved. I understand that the motorcyclist was not even referred to hospital by the paramedics.

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