The Hautes-Alpes region of the Southern French Alps is a paradise and perfect playground for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts of all levels of ability. Influenced by the warmer Mediterranean climate, an incredible backdrop of mountain scenery and a huge variety of white-water rivers that can be run from May-September it is no wonder that it is an annual destination of choice for many UK paddlers.
The river levels can fluctuate, fed mostly by snow melt and topped up by rainfall, in the early spring season they must be treated with respect as you can find hazards, on even the lower grade rivers, can increase significantly in seriousness. Indeed the water levels on our arrival were slightly higher that had been expected for the time of year adding greatly to the excitement and anticipation of our group experiencing alpine kayaking for the first time.
Whist the weather was generally very warm, average 20°C +, and sunny, dressing sensibly was imperative as capsizing in the icy cold water was not an appealing option.
The team was based at a campsite, Isceles Du Lac, in Egliers. This campsite was ideally situated as it was very central to the area with a number of nearby tributary rivers flowing into the main Durance valley. The campsite was well blessed with the essential facilities with the added advantage of a lake on site on which to practice flat water skills. The local town of Guillestre provided all the necessary amenities within a 15 minute drive from the campsite.
The team consisted of a mixture of mainly Adult Instructors, male and female, plus 3 Senior Cadets, male and female.
There were 9 candidates undertaking the BCU 3 Star Kayak (WW) qualification, 4 candidates undertaking the BCU 4 Star Kayak (WW) Leader training and 2 candidates undertaking the BCU Moderate Water Endorsement assessment.
As part of the risk management strategy the first morning of the expedition was spent delivering basic white water safety training to ensure that all the students were on the same page for river safety and so they were armed with the necessary skills to react with a degree of independence to any situation on the river.
The second part of the first day was spent with an introduction to alpine white water paddling a simple grade two 5Km section (the sunshine section) of the Durance river.
The following rivers were also paddled throughout the 5-days:
River Claree – 2 x runs 4Km section grade 2+River Upper Guil – 5Km section grade 2River Durance – 22Km section grade 3 (4 Star group only)River Lower Guil – 5Km section grade 2-3
The team wish to offer their heartfelt appreciation for the generous financial support from the Ulysses Trust.