A not so chilly Christmas Dart trip

Andrew and Alex share a couple of memories from this year’s Christmas Dart trip…

Andrew

There’s a first time for everything and this time it was being led down the Dart Loop by an inanimate object (no not Krzysztof), albeit one with a great deal more charisma than most. Congratulations must go to our newest paddler and river leader, the inflatable punchbag minion with some silly name, who was given to Christine by Secret Santa and judged river worthy enough to handle whitewater on his first outing. Even though he didn’t take the perfect line and was really rather slow (everyone else was fully changed and waiting by the time we got off) he was was willing to join in all fun activities and surf some waves with a mesmeric spinning gyration.

 

Regents’ newest club member – Dave the minion

In other news, congratulations must also go to those others practicing their river leading skills for the first time. Water levels were good, first time I’ve paddled the Dart with a decent amount of water, and much fun was had. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking…

 

Craig & Adam C in a flurry of paddling glory

 

Alex

The Upper Dart is legendary, a thing of folklore, a notch that every aspiring Regent’s paddler needs to have on their belt alongside the Olympic course at Lee Valley and the Briancon Town Gorge.  Having secured the first two in 2015 it was time to hit the triple whammy for the season.  And who better to be next to me than my stellar teammate from the 2014 River Gyronde high-water swimming and hitchhiking championship –  Debs.

 

The start is innocuous. If you didn’t know what was ahead you’d consider it rather dull.  But one shouldn’t rest on one’s laurels as  they navigate downstream, because it doesn’t take long before you realise this isn’t the Loop any more.  Everything is rocky – boulder garden after boulder garden.  It would be foolish to try this river before feeling confident in your technique  – you’d spent the entire time hugging rocks (probably upside down) and that wouldn’t be fun.  The need for that technique becomes starkly apparent as you approach, and get stuck into, the Mad Mile.  You need to be limber, to have confidence, and to know how to turn….quickly. And to THINK! I swear my brain had more of a workout than my arms!

 

But I seemed to be getting it, and when I chose perhaps the very worst line on one rapid and flipped, my roll seemed to be working.  I even dropped the permanent grimace that I possess while paddling, as fear turned to sheer joy.  My fantastic Upper Dart chauffeur squad (Benjo, Christine, Mogey and Amy) had counselled me to look back as much as you look forward.  Why?  Because the rapids are so damn impressive to look at.  Of course you don’t appreciate that until you actually see them, but rapid after rapid along the way I couldn’t help but marvel what you’d just been through. Need I say it again, this really wasn’t the Loop anymore.

 

I’d already convinced myself that I’d portage the mega rapids at Euthanasia and Surprise Surprise, so when I did set eyes on them I was relieved that I wasn’t going to tackle them.  I can see myself taking on the former in the not-too-distant future.  The latter, no chance.  Christine’s perfect line through Surprise Surprise showed how it was meant to be done; Benjo’s sad outcome demonstrated just how risky an encounter it is.  Christine and Benjo headed off swiftly to get that man some medical attention, which left us with two boats. A sterling group of paddlers from Leicestershire ended up guiding those down the river – an amazing job.  It’s important that you keep your wits about you after the big rapid because there’s yet another surprise around the corner.  Blimey! That was almost the worst of the day.  And so on we went, but the fun had been lost when Benjo went down, and the rest of the route was about getting through it without a scrape.  That, of course, didn’t happen.  As with the Gyronde swim, a nasty rock came and bit me on the eye.  That took the final fun out of it. The last stretch – max Grade 3 – couldn’t go quickly enough.

 

But when the dust had settled, and the carnage that the afternoon had turned into had faded a little, I couldn’t help but think of the day with pride.  The Upper Dart is a real ‘step up’ river – sublimely beautiful, technically challenging, a thrill a minute – an outstanding experience.  2015’s progression had been sealed. The Loop, which we did on Sunday, will never be the same again.

 

 

Selina, Dave & Dave taking a moment to get to know each other

Images by Rachael & Carol