Next stop France

Heading off down the Middle Guil  

Paddlers: Tom Concannon, Bob Mckee, Frankie, Peter Murphy — Photographer: Donna Elsom

The French Alps are a hot spot for British paddlers during the summer, especially the Briancon area. It would have been rude not to visit this fantastic area after our excellent trip to Val Sesia, Italy. The rumours of the closure of France were not going to stop us making the journey over the border.

Camping just off the Durance Valley at a brilliant, secluded campsite at Freissinieres in the Biyasse Valley, we were able to explore and enjoy some of the delights this area has to offer.

Our first day of paddling was on the awesome Middle Guil in good levels, this was as good as always and made for a classic trip down. The longer drive over to the Ubaye race section was to follow and the high water levels greeted us again making for a playful big volume paddle in the sunshine.

Triple Step, Middle Guil

Paddler: Frankie — Photographer: Donna Elsom

A quick stop at the kayak shop next to the Durance to get some reliable, local information about the potential of a Guil Gorge run was successful. The dam was open and it would be for a while, and its levels ‘should’ be good to go. This was a legendary section of river that very rarely gets paddled due to the unreliability of the Guil’s dam releasing but with the dam open it’s up for grabs.

We had another couple of great days on the river, paddling a chunky Durance Gorge and high Guisane. It wasn’t until after some colder weather and subsequent lower flows in the Guil valley that we decided, after inspection from the road, that we would give it a go. With the knowledge that the guidebook says that the initial section should be grade 3 if the Guil Gorge is going to be an ideal level, we got on. Immediately realising there was a bit more push than grade 3…

… a portage from hell followed: the must make eddy to the usual get off was looking like a risk none of us wanted to take. 2 hours later we were back on the river. It had increased in volume and was super pushy. Many sections were walked, with huge holes everywhere. It was an adventure, and one I think we all agreed we would take with a lot less water next time.

Teacups, Biyasse Valley  

Paddler: Tom Concannon — Photographer: Frankie

The Biyasse Valley we were camping in had a couple of nice drops called the Teacups about 20 minute drive up the spectacular, glacial valley. We made the trip to find them and gave them ago (watch out for the first hole/ undercut).

We hopped back over the border to Italy later in the week to paddle the Germanasca, which was a quality boulder garden in a beautiful green valley.

With a final day blast on the Middle Guil it was time to leave the wonderful area of the French Alps for white water and head for home. It had been packed full and without a doubt a brilliant end to a brilliant 2 weeks paddling.

Tom