Steph recounts her first experiences of the Tryweryn

Still fairly new to the game of white water kayaking, once I’d found out I was accepted on the Tryweryn trip I’d started asking around about the river. The reaction was always the same from my more experience kayaking buddies; a smile and a fond look of joy behind their eyes as if remembering a first love.

Everyone loves it!

My next reaction was to watch any videos I could find on YouTube. It looks amazing!

The river is in a beautiful part of North Wales and unlike many river trips I’ve been on, its dam release so isn’t dependent on rainfall. You just have to make sure the dam is releasing the day you want to paddle (posted here https://www.nationalwhitewatercentre.co.uk/water-information). Our weekend the dam was releasing on both Saturday and Sunday. Excellent! 2 days of guaranteed flow and fun paddling.

Day 1

Our plan was to paddle the Lower Tryweryn and then for those who still had energy to go on the Upper in the afternoon. We all pile out of the bunk house and head to the river, park up and pay our river fees (£10 for club members).

The Lower Tryweryn is a beautiful 4km stretch of grade II and III rapids finishing with a grade IV rapid, Bala Mill Falls a few 100m away from the get off, and has been described (several times repeatedly) as “the best river of its grade” by a member of our club, but everyone agreed with him! Including me now.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on this run! I learnt so so much, including that my roll worked in the flow… which is good to know… (same event helped me to learn how to spot “ninja rocks”, submerged rocks which are big enough to tip you over… best avoid following too close to other kayakers as by the time they spot it, it’s too late for you.)

Our leaders lead us down fantastically, challenging us to catch as many eddies as we could and even small ones I didn’t even know were eddies until I actually caught one (like I said, still fairly new to it). The rapids are all fairly nice, just have to spot those ninja rocks! Then you come to the crowning glory, Bala Mill Falls. We stop and get out to scout the line, watch a couple of people give it a go. At first look it looks daunting to freshmen like me, but I’m keen to give it a go. I’ve been told to punch through the “roosters’ tail” (whatever that is…) to the eddy at the top of the falls, break out strongly avoid the rock in the middle and paddle hard over to the end. We get back in the boats, the leaders go ahead and are going to meet me in the eddy. I’m bricking it but excited to try. I go. Here we go! I punch over the top of the rapid, (Oh that must be what a rooster tail is) and hit the eddy. The leader shows me the line again over the rapid, and then the other leader shows me how not to do it… he hits the rock… he’s ok, he has got a good roll. I break out hard and manage to get the perfect line! I’m elated and let out a woop. Then it’s all over… the car park was just around the bend. Well I suppose it’s good to end on a high (and a bag of chips from the chippy in Bala)!
We regroup back at the Upper and those who want to paddle that, I didn’t as I was feeling it. We packed a lot into the Lower that morning and I wanted to save myself for the next day when I was fresh. I did enjoy watching everyone go down though. There’s a path that follows the river so you can watch your friends or plan your lines for the next day. There were some really excellent paddlers to watch (some even from our club, tee hee!).

Day 2

Upper Tryweryn (then Lower again if you fancied it). 2km of grade III rapids (be careful if you do go over as some of it is pretty shallow and rocky). There are 7 main features to this section and all of them are fun and exercise different skills and getting the right line can be important! I enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude watching some people get it wrong the day before, but you can learn a lot from mistakes… and they don’t necessarily have to be yours! I’m not sure how much to say about the Upper other than it was serious fun and if you are a kayaker and haven’t been there yet, go! You are in for a treat!!
After lunch some of the group stayed on the Upper and some of us did the Lower again but at a faster pace than the day before. Enjoyed it, it was good… but this time I got stuck in the hole at the bottom of Bala Mill Falls. I did, however, learn how to surf, very quickly… before dropping my edge and having an invigorating swim! Oh well!

Day 3

River Dee, Mile End Mill. This is the river that RCC takes their freshers as a first real White-Water trip. I’d missed it after my intro course and was pretty excited to see what everyone was talking about. The river was lower than usual as it’s been dry, but at a good level to paddle. I’ve been told its fairly reliable all year, even summer. I was expecting some nice friendly features, and for the most part it is! I’d heard people talk about ‘Serpents’ tail’ but I was thinking if they take Newbies down it, it’s not going to be that big or hard. My leader for the day felt confident that we could all take it on without getting out for a scout. We all nod and say “can’t be harder than what we did yesterday, sure!”. He gives us the line “go right, avoid the rock in the middle, then go left”, sounds ok. He sets off, 1 behind him, another, then me. Go right. where’s the rock in the middle? Is that it? Ok… maybe, Woah that’s a lot of water. There’s a wall with a big point rock to the right… I try to go left… it’s too late… it’s too narrow to roll at the bottom of this feature but I try… my second swim of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one in my group to swim… We get out and this time inspect the feature and plan the line a little better. We all get it this time! It’s not too bad when you know how. If you are more advanced, there’s actually little eddies you can catch down Serpents Tail! Maybe next year!