One of my favorite things is taking someone down a section of whitewater for their first time. Not just any stretch, but one that they have propped up on a pedestal as being THEIR big goal; their personal benchmark on their road to whitewater bliss. Ben Macdonald, now just 15, has had his eyes set on the Etive for quite some time. Today was the day. So critical to his personal development infact, that his folks gave him a pass for the day off school. Here's to having your priorities in line!! Thanks Ben's Mom!!
Nell, Justin, Ben, and I made our way into the highlands to likely the most infamous piece of whitewater in all of Scotland. The Etive is a right of passage for whitewater boaters in the UK. It is not the hardest run in the land, but it is likely the most photographed and videoed runs around and is ALWAYS a blast to paddle. Check out my post from a few years ago here.
Ben drops into triple just below the put-in. If things don't go as planned here, you may as well call it a day. This drop is indicative of the rest of the run, and is within sight of the shuttle rig. He styled it!
Nell hits his line on this sweet angled boof move. Is that a Topolino? Oh yes it is!
Justin styles the move here too. If you punch out too far you can nail the wall opposite the drop. He did well here with a sweet side boof.
The crux rapid on the run is Right Angle Falls. The lead in is tricky and technical involving a class IV move into an eddy right at the lip of the drop. Those that miss the eddy typically end up dropping over the falls with less than ideal results.
Ben absolutely stuck this one. How's this for your first waterfall?
We just weren't done yet. When we got to the take out it seemed our vertical addiction was only made worse by the previous drops, so we hiked up the glen into the Alt a Choaruinn to find a fix. I remembered this one from my last trip. It's unbelievably fun. While it looks "a bit dodgy" it's good to go and go we did! Never before has so many feet per mile felt so welcoming. I compare it to a water park for big kids. It's a MUST if you've had a good day on the Etive.
The view down into the Etive valley is incredible from high atop the Alt a Choaruinn. Justin, Ben, and I posed for this shot after running "Speed" to start our descent. You can really get a sense of the gradient here. The horizon line is enough to raise even the most seasoned paddler's eyebrows.
This is the first drop on the Choaruinn is called "speed". Hey diddle diddle...right down the middle! Ben drops in as Nell plays catch at the bottom.
I don't think he will be able to wipe that grin off his face for a week!
"Pinball" is the crux of this trib. You basically come bouncing off the lip into a center rock that projects you down into the right wall and off a slide into the pool below. It was described to me my first time down as "a bit physical." (elbow pads are not a bad idea here).
Chasm is the last drop in gorge and is by far the easiest. Just tuck your paddle and hang on for the ride! Justin show us how it's done. I challenge anyone to drop into this one and not come out with a smile a mile wide. It's just too much fun!
A little flesh is a small price to pay for such a memorable experience. Justin is heading home today, so Nell and I will have to find someone else to boat with tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for rain. I need to get my 14th day in a row in tomorrow!! The addiction is like any other... it needs to be fed DAILY.