While our local whitewater course has been closed the past couple of months due to extremely high river levels, I have tried to get out to Trent Lock which only runs when Nottingham is in severe flood and get out to do some more river paddling as well. Trent Lock is a man-made weir in Nottingham which when the river is high enough produces one of the best waves in the country, at lower levels a wide glassy wave surfable in longer boats and at even higher levels a truly fantastic wave with shoulders both sides and pretty much all moves go! I managed to get down to the wave at varying levels which was great fun to get on some decent waves, while even the Thames Valley was completely underwater which usually provides consistent wave boating throughout the winter.

TrentLock

TrentLock2

At the end of January to celebrate the end of exams I had the oppurtunity to go to North Wales with my housemates along with some local welsh boaters. On the Friday night we travelled up to Chester to stay at David’s parents house to save doing the big drive to Wales in the morning. At first light we were up and awake, excited to see what the levels would be like after a nights rain, unfortunately after checking them online all the gauges were still showing low but with more rain forecast we thought we’d head over there and see what was running. Upon driving to Wales we headed to the Welsh classic, the Fairy Glen on the River Conwy; after inspecting we could see the levels were very low but after travelling all this way we thought we had best get on the river anyway! Half way through the run, one of our group managed to snap their paddle on the Elbow rapid just after Fairy Falls; luckily someone was inspecting the rapid at the time and he was able to grab another to finish the run with. After our run on the Fairy Glen we decided it was just too low to give it another go with the high likelihood of breaking more kit, so we decided to head to Pont Cyfyng. This was a very short section consisting of an entry rapid, a 15ft waterfall into a big slide. Despite being a short run lasting only 10 minutes, it was great fun and with no more water about we headed to one of David’s friends houses in Bangor for a spot of supper. With still some energy in us, we all headed to the local climbing wall in Bangor which we soon realised wasn’t the best of ideas as we were all still shattered after the days paddling but it was good to get to try out a new climbing venue I haven’t been to before!

Pont

After a good nights sleep we awoke to the sound of heavy downpours which would surely mean the rivers would be up finally! At the break of dawn we headed back to the Fairy Glen to see if we could get a run in on this river in decent water levels instead of a bump and scrape like we had the day before. We arrived to find the river absolutely stonking and at levels far too high for the majority of our group to run, a small group decided they would run it but I decided to sit this one out having only run the river once before and not having a great deal of big river experience. We then headed to the Mawddach which proved to be an absolutely fantastic run in high water and certainly made the trip to Wales worth it with its big bouncy wave trains and a few big drops. After the excitement of the weekend it was time to make the long drive back to Nottingham.

Mawwdach

Mawwdach2

After really enjoying my time on the rivers of North Wales, I decided I wanted to get out on some more river trips. With a phone call late on a Saturday night whilst out in town from a friend at Sheffield University saying the River Swale was up a plan was formed. Myself and housemate James left in the early hours of Sunday morning up to North Yorkshire to get on with some boating. We started off with the River Greta with some people from Sheffield which wasn’t too much of a challenge followed by the River Swale which is a great pool drop river and much more fun. We got on the Swale in late afternoon at Medium/High levels and had a great run with no incidents or wrong lines until the last drop…upon my decent of Lower Kisdon, the last drop of the run I felt a big impact in my spine as I landed. I’m not entirely sure what happened, my line went how I planned but this impact at the bottom was probably the most painful and horrible experience I have ever had. Lower Kisdon is in a gorge so walking out usually is a good 15-20 minute hike out and with my back in this condition there was no way I was going to be able to climb out without assistance. Two of my group went off to call 999 and get Mountain Rescue whilst I sat in my boat just trying to keep myself still to avoid doing any further damage. I waited what seemed like hours for Mountain Rescue to arrive and to decide how they were going to get me out of there, after much deliberation they put me on a spine board and hoisted me out of the gorge with a team of nearly 50 firefighters, paramedics, doctors, mountain rescue and local people all there to help. In all it took nearly 5 hours from the time of the accident until I got into an ambulance, which by this point I was very cold.

Upon reaching Darlington Memorial Hospital, I was taken for X-Ray’s and CT Scans of my spine and was told I had fractured my C1 and possibly my C2 vertebrae as well which was not good news to receive. My parents were not particularly happy about this either, having just driven the 6 hours up from London to see me. Luckily the next day after further inspections by spinal specialists it would appear that my back was in fact not broken, and it was just soft tissue damage. Although still very painful, this was brilliant news to hear that I should be able to make a full recovery and I wouldn’t have to be in a neck brace for much longer which I found to be very uncomfortable. After another couple of days in the hospital with numerous tests, I was free to go home with a big bag of strong painkillers to help me for the next few weeks.

Hospital

MountainRescue

Moutain Rescue

For more information on my rescue check out the news article on the Northern Echo website.

Two months on, with physio 3 times a week and lots of exercises I am slowly getting back on the water, unfortunately just on flat water at the moment but I am hoping to move back onto whitewater in the next few weeks. What’s keeping me busy is planning lots of paddling trips for the summer so hopefully I’ll have made a full recovery by then! I would just like to say a massive thanks to the guys I was on the river with, the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team, the fire team, paramedics, doctors and all the people who helped get me out of the gorge and into the hospital!

Photos by Dale Mears, David Bain and Swaledale Mountain Rescue.