D of E – Pre Kayak Expedition Training

On my return from Scotland there was just enough time to unpack, clean and dry my mountaineering kit and dig out my paddling kit to provide two days of kayak training (including an overnight camp) for 4 lads from a private school as a precursor for their Gold D of E Expedition for ProAdventure.

The lads on Bala Lake

After introductions, the first day was spent on Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) to ensure that the fundamental kayak skills were in place (forward paddling, reversing, stopping, turning and moving sideways). As the day progressed, it was great to see the lads handling their kayak with confidence and looking after each other on the water. As we were working towards the south west end of Llyn Tegid, I took the opportunity to paddle a section of the upper Dee to practice moving water skills such as ferry gliding and breaking in / out of the current. Soon it was time to make our way back to the launch site before trying out a few simple rescue techniques.

Our overnight camp location was a secluded forest site near Cynwyd and I was extremely pleased how efficiently the group chose a campsite and set up camp. To round the day off we lit a campfire which provided both warmth and a convenient location to debrief  on the days activity.

After a breakfast, it was all hands to the deck to strike camp to make and set out for our next paddling adventure. A quick check on the river levels and  it was off tp paddle the River Dee from Glyndyfrdwy to Horseshoe Falls and then portaging to the Llangollen Canal so that we could finish the paddle at the Wharfage Cafe. After a quick safety brief (defensive swimming, signals etc) we we were soon on the river and the look of excitement on the lads faces said it all. We had an unplanned event at the first rapid (a capsize) but the lads remembered their training and we were soon all back in our boats with smiles on our faces.

On the River Dee with the Berwyn rapid in the background

After a little further training, I was able to take a back seat role with the lads taking turns in leading the group and deciding the line to run the rapids. Unfortunately, the weather gods were unkind to us middway throught the trip and we were treated to hail and stong winds so we decided to stop and have lunch in the comfort of the group shelter, which was appreciated by all. Soon we reached the Berwyn Rapid (Grade 2), which after discussion and a quick look the group decided to paddle and which they run with relative ease. All to soon we were at the Horsehoe Falls, which was awash wth debris from the exceptionally high water levels in January and it was at this point we left the river to join the Llangollen Canal.

The paddle along the canal was pleasant enough and allowed the lads to reflect on the trip and how they might incorporate what they had learnt into their practice expedition in April. Once the lads had changed into their dry clothes it was time to debrief on the training and for the lads to feedback on their experience. I’m pleased to say they thoroughly enjoyed the training and they particular liked the overnight camping experience, the river trip on the Sunday and especially how they were able to take charge on the latter stages of the trip.

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