“Struggling at the Back” – the 2016 French Alps tour, 18-25 June

Tour members:

Team Astra” – Shaun Parmenter, Mark Poole & Kris Dudley

Team Passat” – Keith Tyler, Gordon Barker & Kevin Dudley

Team Teepee” – Tim Machin, Alex Briant, Wayne & Josh Beck

We all know that teamwork and togetherness are essential for a successful white-water kayak trip, which is why we were all so pleased that Team Astra sacrificed themselves to go a day earlier than everyone else and make sure that all was well for when the rest of us arrived.

Day -1 was a run on the Romanche, Upper Guisane and then the Briancon Gorge of the Durance all run by Team Astra who had found their “inner Irish” by the second river of the day and were to set the tone for the week.

Team Passat met with the Astra boys on the Saturday morning and Day 1 of the trip began with a run down the slalom course on the Durance from Argentiere down to St. Clement – not the full Sunshine run float trip but a significant part of it. This was followed by a medium level blast down the Onde where the first OBE (Out of Boat Experience) was ably undertaken by Keith. To ensure the river was working properly Team Astra decided to run the Onde again. Team Teepee joined us at the end of the day.

Day 2 was a lowish run down the Middle Claree which was followed by the Briancon gorge – a couple more OBEs were awarded on these runs. Once again Team Astra sacrificed themselves to ensure all was well with the river by a second trip that day down through the gorge. Can you sense a bit of a theme here . . . .

Day 3 started on the Upper Guisane, followed by the lower Guisane for all but Team Passat. The Lower Guisane finishes in the Durance so technically this was 3 rivers again for Team Astra – they may have gone on to do something else but it all becomes a bit of a blur.

Day 4 was scheduled fora trip over to the Ubaye, unfortunately Tim wasn’t well so we just left him and carried on regardless. A simple run down the Upper Ubaye was all for Team Passat but everyone else carried on to the Ubaye racecourse section and then back up the valley for the Bachelard. Keith went for a swim in Lac du Serre Poncon whilst Gordon and I had a beer!

Day 5 was when Wayne had to go over to Turin to pick up Josh (exams for the start of the week) so we had a split in the groups – Astra (plus Alex) went for the Durance Gorge while Passat (plus Tim) ran the Durance from Briancon to Prelles. A bit of confusion then reigned as Passat went up to the Claree to meet Wayne and Josh whilst Astra waited at the slalom course for a lift . . .

Passat had all the lunch stuff so we ate and then went on down the Lower Claree and eventually Astra found us and everyone then trooped up to the top for another run on the Middle. Another run down the Briancon gorge and then the day finished with Astra doing a medium/high level run down the Onde – their inner Irish was strong at this point!

Day 6 was the Guil – inspection at Triple Step left a possibility of a solo for Kris later in the day but it was then up to the top for the Upper Guil for everyone but me (hip – I fell off my new bike a week or so before we went and ruptured a bursar) and Tim (still suffering from the previous days).

A stop at the top of Château Queyras for everyone to check out the famous (or infamous) run. Gordon and Josh were joining me and Tim with the rest getting ready to run down. Wayne had a last minute epiphany – after going under the bridge! – and so climbed out but the rest had a successful run. Then off to the bottom of Ange Guardien gorge for lunch before returning to Triple Step.

Kris decided that the levels had risen enough that the last drop was a bit too sketchy – thankfully both the Dudley’s have looked at this in earnest and walked away for another day. Team Astra finished the day with a run down the Middle Guil whilst Passat and Teepee went on to the Lower Guil finishing on the Durance..

Day 7 – a run down the Gyronde for most of us was the last time for everyone together as Team Astra needed to get back to the UK a day early for a Lionel Ritchie concert (this was their feeble excuse for starting a day early!!). After lunch at the Argentiere slalom site they went off for another run down the Briancon gorge before heading home – just two rivers that day – wimps!! The rest of us headed for the old town in Briancon for and ice cream.

Unfortunately that brought the week to and end and the rest of us headed back to the UK Saturday morning but not before an excellent meal Friday night in the hotel restaurant in the village we were staying in.

Particular mention to Keith, far less experience than the rest of us but he did brilliantly well despite a couple of swims, this was true Alpine paddling with levels rising all week.

Apologies to the team if I’ve got any of this wrong, loads of pictures and videos to come I’m sure.

Oh, I should also mention absolutely brilliant accommodation (a sauna after paddling is really nice) and almost wall to wall sunshine with temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s – being on holiday really sucks!!

Bring on 2017!


P1000451 P1000452 P1000455 P1000456

The accommodation


The Upper Guil

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