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Jan
09

Scary Glen

The first rapid and dropping down to the first gorge

Few people will even be aware of its existence as they drive by along the A5 past the Conwy Falls cafe, just above the River Conwy but the Fairy Glen is the stuff of myths and legends. 

Widely regarded as a test piece paddle the question we were always asking is just how hard is it. Shown in the guidebook as a 5 the difficulty can vary on that scale depending upon flows.

Many of the locals run it daily irrespective of what the gauge says, they know the lines and how they change as the levels vary.Tales running down in 20 minutes abound but we dont see any other boaters, we figure its too low for Glen regulars and purists but for me its been a day a long time in coming.

The Glen has been getting spoken about for longer than I care to remember and for a variety of reasons we just never seemed to manage to get round to doing it.

The forecast on Friday looked good, persistent rain moving in late afternoon, clearing and dry on Saturday.  Lew and I planned to go boating and come Saturday Morning Mike joined us and a couple of texts later Nice Guy Tony was coming out for the day.

As we crossed the 62 Mike phoned the Conwy guage and reported that it was on 1193.  I had it in my mind that around 1200 was considered optimum level for first timers, although the guidebook doesnt mention it, UK Rivers does.  It didnt take long to agree to drive to Wales.

I texted NGT and we arranged to meet at the Conwy Falls cafe, in the time it took us to drive over the guage was upto 1208. 

Getting on we grouped up in the eddy above the first rapid, sticky hole Mike advised the line and led off, moving one at a time, Lew followed and signalled me down.

I was nervous and wooden as I followed the main flow as Mike had advised, unsettled I pushed a little too far left towards the end of the rapid, corrected but was well on the way to missing the eddy were Mike and Lew were sat, Mike shouted paddle hard and I looked ahead to see the sticky hole part of the rapid ramping back in on itself in that I dont want to be in there way.I boofed and landed on a support on top of the pile, as I felt the back tow sucking me backwards I got in a couple of quick strokes and was soon sat in the eddy above Monkey drop.

Monkey drop was a nasty slot at this level and we portaged on the right.The river begins to gorge up and we followed Mike down the next section each boat moving as the one in front disappeared from view.All down smoothly the nerves were beginning to settle and I was getting my yin and yang going nicely.

Cave drop was sweet as, moving right to left boofing our way downstream and we are soon exiting the first gorge and heading for the portage river left round Fairy Falls.

Back on the river as the river turns right we drop into the second gorge and eddy out above pipline, inspecting from the left reveals a real chosy line at this level, the initial drop in is a boof but further downstream two rocks guard the obvious line and I for one am not happy with a route round or over them, we portage. 

Speederbiker is next and is difficult to picture from Mikes description, Mike drops in and indicates we should enter further right than his line. Lew drops out of view and signals.  I follow Lews line and as the rapid unfolds before me there are obvious tongues that now make Mikes description clearer, a tongue of water is flowing off the gorge wall river left.

I needed a bit more speed to drive up onto it and let it take me through on the ideal line, as it is I take a roll as I drop down the crease created by the converging water and I learn that I had followed Lews line to a cm,its such a sweet little move I want the opportunity to run it again and make a better job of it. 

End of the World is all that separates us from exiting the gorge, closed in on both sides its blind and impossible to inspect.I know from conversations that this drop can be evil and is a must make boof.I also know that boaters with multiple Glen descents have been upset here and I do not want to be another name on the list, running down the river about a metre from the wall river left with speed I see the rock flake tongue inviting me to boof over the hole.

The Jefe sails out from the lip of the drop flat landing on top of the pile, propelling me forward to the still water were Mike and Lew wait with huge grins, NGT lands moments later and we shake hands.

I turn and look back upstream trying to capture an image for my memory banks, it could be a scene from middle earth as the water cascades down through the gorge contrasting with the greens of the moss that seems to lie on every rock and tree.

I am stoked at getting the opportunity of running this river with good people, maybe next time with a bit more water I can paddle one or more of the rapids that we portaged today, it will be there tomorrow and the day after that so the opportunities lie ahead.

Taken in isolation each rapid is no harder than many others on different rivers but even at this low flow there is power in the water that I have not experienced on other rivers in bigger water.

The intensity of paddling in the gorge, the must make lines that cant be seen until they unfold as you enter the rapid add to the quality of the day.

I am shattered, its only 2K in length but has taken us nearly two hours, carefully, slowly, working our way down river.

Sometimes things get blown out of proportion, over hyped and over sold, not the Glen, it lived upto its reputation and talking it through with the others it does for them too.I have my image of the End of the World and Speederbiker, chanelled as they are by the green gorge walls on a section of river that lies a stones throw from the hustle and bustle of Betwys

Another car passes on the road above, those inside blissfully unaware of what lies below them.