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Thread: So just how 'good' do you have to be for Grade 2 rivers

  1. #1
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    Default So just how 'good' do you have to be for Grade 2 rivers

    It has come to my notice that some quite proficient paddlers are avoiding rivers because they think they cannot paddle well enough to survive on moving water.

    Now, when I paddle the Tay and Spey, which a do quite often, I usually come across groups of beginners under instruction. Indeed, I have on about a dozen times, been in such a group. (not as the canoeing instructor, but as an adult with responsibility for the youngsters off the water).

    I know the level of experience of the groups I've been involved with, and can see that other groups have similar skill sets. That is to say they have done a day, maybe 2, on flat water. Almost to a man they 'cannot paddle.' I mean that they are really unable to put their canoe when and where they want it as they progress down the river.

    I have seen and paddled in groups where I was glad I had no responsibility for what happened on the water.

    But the point is, nothing ever did happen, save for 2 capsizes that came to naught.

    Now, at the risk of upsetting all the Pros out there who make a living out of instructing folk (as I used to years ago), I would suggest that if these groups of kids can do the Tay and Spey then anybody who can control their canoe can do so, and with a greater safety margin.

    I think that if you can paddled with determination/speed in a straight line, paddle backwards and in strong wind ON FLAT WATER then you can do rivers like the Spey and Tay. This is on the understanding that you will line up at the top of a rapid and paddle down it, as opposed to trying to get unnecessary eddies or play about.

    I bet half of the paddlers over the summer on these 2 rivers cannot control their canoes to this extent, yet they get down in one piece and have a great time. Obviously they benefit from having experienced saftey cover form the instructors. I'm not suggesting that we all jump in and paddle Gd1/2 on our own. I'm just saying that the skills required to just run the river are maybe less than you might think.

    Right, now I'm going to hide under my desk, and not come out for a week!
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

  2. #2
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    I would be happy enough trying grade 2 water as long as there were others there to catch the canoe if I capsize. Up till now I have just not had the opportunity to try out this type of water.

  3. #3

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    I suspect I am the only person here who doesn't know, but...

    I hear people talking about grades of rivers, but what are the differences? Can some one help me out here?

  4. #4
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    Tenboats is right. Even a sack of potatoes can 'paddle' a grade 2, probably better than most!

    Now why would that be. A little bit of science & psychology [i.e Engineering] coming up.
    The sack of potatoes wins because:
    a) it stays low in the boat. Hence all the stuff about 'kneeling'.
    b) it doesn't get scared. Much instruction is just a way to show you not to be scared.
    c) it doesn't jump out. Newton showed that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". Experience (on muddy paths) shows you that when things get wobbly (e.g. slippy), driving in your heels gains purchase. If you are sitting, and the boat wobbles, you drive your heels in and the equal and opposite reaction is you JUMP OUT OF THE BOAT and it floats away to the side. IF YOU KNEEL you can't jump (see a.)
    d) most boats have 'tumblehome' and no keel. So there is nothing to catch on rocks [**], and has high secondary stability [that means: they may feel wobbly at first but they don't actually tip over (because 'tumblehome' = pulled in sides [gunwhale] keeps you nearer the centreline]

    So now you know how sacks of potatoes [a/k/a beginners] to get down grade 2.

    A little bit of instruction on which side of the paddle is which [***] and you'll be laughing.

    Philip


    [**] My coleman outrigger has a keel, and has solid bouyancy seats so you can't kneel easily - result - when we did the Dochart (see trip report), Me & pal went in (got wet!) when the keel caught on a rock - very embarassing.

    [***] the drive face is the one that presses on the water [usually facing backward as you paddle forward...]

  5. #5
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    My opinion is the same as Magikelly's. I would be quite happy ( in fact keen ) to try grade 2 rivers when I knew I was in a group of fairly competent people.

    I'm probably more precious about my boat than myself ( shouldn't have bought a shiny new one, though the first few scratches weren't as traumatic as I first thought.)
    In a lot of ways I'd rather do rivers than flat water, at least your never far from the shore on a river and living on the East coast there is a lot more scope for river running than Lochs near us.

    I'd love to join in the Spey trip in a couple of weeks but Childcare is my main problem. My partner (Paul C) also doesn't have a hugh amount of experiance on moving water either, but will keep a prospecter going in a straight line on a loch when its gusting force 6. Its just down to what you know.

    I guess I'm not sure exactly what classes as a grade 2, many of the rapids I've seen at this grade look easy enough to find a line and often have quiet stretches of water at the end whereas others seem to have large boulders, steady drops and go on for a long time. We looked at a weir on the North Esk last week which is in the touring guide as a grade 2 and it is hugh . After having seen the metal work sticking up through the bottom of the fish ladder I don't think I'd ever have the confidence to try it because if it went wrong it could go spectacularly wrong.

    The Spey and the Tay on the other hand I know reasonably well and wouldn't have any fears about doing them in a group, but wouldn't feel happy taking my kids till I was more confident.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

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    Quote Originally Posted by useless
    I suspect I am the only person here who doesn't know, but...

    I hear people talking about grades of rivers, but what are the differences? Can some one help me out here?
    As far as I know rivers are graded.
    Grade 1, Easy, ocasional small rapids easy, no real problems
    Grade 2, Medium, fairly frequent rapids with easy eddies.
    Grade 3, Difficult, Lots of rapids, course more difficult to see, higher drops.
    Grade 4, Very difficult. Inspection from bank usually nessesary. High falls.
    Grade 5, Extremly difficult, High waterfalls, risk of injury
    Grade 6, don't go there. Risk to life.

    OK someone tell me I'm wrong.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

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    For some ideas on river grades these may help,

    http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/grades.htm

    this one may be less official but it's definately closer to how I feel

    http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/a...ivegrading.htm
    JD
    He knows not where he's going, For the ocean will decide, It's not the destination, It's the glory of the ride

  8. #8
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    I did the Spey last year as a complete beginer. There were 6 boats in all 2 solo instructors, and 4 tandem boats paddled by 8 landlubbers. Only 2 of the crews went swimming (1 twice) nobody got hurt and after the second day the instructors were happy to let 2 of the crews lead and pick the lines. If you read Path of the paddle I feel you will have enough Knowledge to sensibly tackle moving water.Just learning the differance between upstream V's (rocks) and downstream V,s (Channels) will get you down grade 1 and most grade 2 safely. Learning more skills eg catchimg eddies and ferryglides will of course add to the enjoyment.

    If you don't need drying you ain't been trying.
    David B

  9. #9

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    Part of the problem is that grade 2 covers a wide range of rapids and these of course vary with level. Hap Wilson splits grade 2 into two levels grade 2 bouncy and grade 2 technical which requires the ability to back ferry/ eddy turn. I think this system describes rapids much more clearly and gives paddlers a much better idea of what to expect.
    The issue of levels is a real complication. Higher levels wash many grade 2s out and they often tend to get easier (less technical) provided you can keep your canoe straight and don't swamp. When we paddle the lower Dart although only grade 1/2 in the guidebook at low levels it is not dangerous but it requires a fair skill level to work the river properly and to avoid rocks rather than take the "kayakers" route- pinbaling off boulders.
    The only definite thing is to make sure your canoe has sufficient bouyancy to make rescue easier if you do swim. And don't think that just because its only grade 2 that there is no chance of damaging a boat.
    "All right" said Eeyore "We're going. Only don't blame me"

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    Default So just how 'good' do you have to be for Grade 2 rivers

    Hi guys & gals,

    Tony you do not have to be worried about your comments I think they are very valid.

    I think (brave choice of words) that any folk on here could go down Gd2. The only questions would be how wet they were at the end, how close to an incident were they (luck not judgement), did the boat make it?

    1) Water levels- can make things easier or harder technically, safer or more dangerous.
    2) Prior skill level,knowledge and experience.
    3) Boat- flotation usually keeps the boat safer than without, some designs will feel better/safer than others.
    4) Personal confidence to suceed. I WILL SWIM!! compared to I will not swim.

    With a competent leader/team (not necessarily qualified) to guide, sweep-up, give advice in the right places then the chance of incidents happening should be decreased. There will always be risk, do not stray away from that thought, you cannot pass the blame all the time.
    The leader can choose appropriate rivers, conditions and coach (in the broadest sence) in an environment that is the best for the participant to gain experience, knowledge, skill and confidence in safety.

    For example, a number of companies take 9yr olds with a parent on the Nahanni for 14 day trips. If there is proof that a younger person has experience of big rivers they will let 8 yr olds go. I do not think that I am being brazen but I think it would worry quite alot of experienced paddlers
    about entering some of the canyons there when they see a 17/18' boat disappear in the wave trains. It is not technical just huge volume and fast.

    Get out there and find a good competent paddler that will take you along, once you have experienced it then make the choice if you want to go again. Belive, you can do it.

    Paul B.

  11. #11
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    Default Advice

    Some other advice?

    What happens if you swim - swim away from the boat. You trapped between a boat full of water (exerting some big pressure) and some other non moving object is not good news.

    Also a length of floating line to swim with to retrieve the critter (safely tucked away when not in use)?

    I use this system when soloing rivers.

    A final thought - how did the Native Americans & early trappers learn?

    Alastair

  12. #12

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    All interesting reading.

    On a beginners instruction day on Loch Tay, we learnt strokes on the loch for about 3 to 4 hours, and then paddled the river to Aberfeldy. We had instruction about getting in and out of eddies. The 'easy grade 2' rapids at Chinese Bridge were very straightforward - a modest degree of steering the canoe at entry, and then minimal effort to keep in the main channel. We acquired about 2 pints of water going through. Bear in mind that at this stage I had no more than 4 hours experience in a canoe!

    I never once felt in any danger. We did manage to tip the canoe later on - tried to enter an eddy too late and were paddling very hard and at one moment, paddling on the same side. Bad move. By this time we were only 4m from the bank and never felt scared or cold. Although the instructors tale of a 3 km swim on an another river was a bit enlightening.

    Like the other guys here, I would hesitate to do this on my own, but in a group, no problem. I wonder if the Kenmore to Aberfeldy run would be a good practise. I would be up for it if one of the experienced folk is there.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc
    All interesting reading.


    Like the other guys here, I would hesitate to do this on my own, but in a group, no problem. I wonder if the Kenmore to Aberfeldy run would be a good practise. I would be up for it if one of the experienced folk is there.
    It is too early in the week to hold me to this, BUT if there is no more rain this week that might fill some of the other rivers we might well be doing the Kenmore-Aberfeldy trip next Sunday (or maybe Saturday).

    As long as we can keep a reasonable balance between experienced and less experienced paddlers, and a party of say 6 boats max, then we could be in business.

    Maybe. Like I say, bit too early yet. (There are other Tay options, like Aberfeldy-Grandtully, Balinluig-Dunkeld)

    I'll post on the Trips forum later in the week.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    As David B has already said just knowing the differences between upstream and downstream v's is more or less basic stuff and there are many books that can give you the theory (but don't try reading while shooting a rapid). I would always advocate surveying the rapid from the shore preferably both banks in order to pick the best course through (a pair of bino's comes in handy) make sure you are well practised with your strokes as you will probably have to use them all . And if you can follow someone with experience of W/W all the better. Its things like this that let you know your really alive...Mike B

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    Default So just how 'good' do you have to be for Grade 2 rivers

    Hi,

    Most folks will get down ok. What will you do when the s**t hits the fan. If you have not got folk around that can rescue the boat or you then you are scuppered.

    By definition, Grade 2 will have an obvious line through. But it is very easy to get a boat pinned wether it has air bags or not. When your pride and joy is immovable and you need rope, pulley's and jammers and man power to release it and you do not have the skill to do it you are going to be upset. It does not need a great lot of water to have the boat wrapped round a rock and your in tears. Hey your boats royalex so don't worry, new gunwales and she will be ok.

    PB

  16. #16
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    Can't do next weekend Kenmore to Aberfeldy. The only time I was on this stretch of water we carried on to grandtully but the water was so high it had compleatly disapeared. Didn't even notice there was supossed to be a rapid there.
    Maybe next time I'll get a feel for what it Can be like.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

  17. #17
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    Grade two is only the next step up from grade one.
    beginners have to start some where. swimming on grade two is not usually very dangerous. at the worst you will get a few bruises.

    When I started paddling I wasn't in a club and would regularly paddle grade two on my own. It never struck me as particularly dangerous. I wouldn't do it now but not from the safty point of view, I just prefer to paddle with friends.

    Kit is important. Bad kit can make grade two quite unsafe. I saw a group on the Usk this weekend and many of thier open boats had no air bags!
    Rogue

  18. #18
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    Default So just how "good" do you have to be for Grade 2 Rivers

    I am not and don't believe anybody else is advocating that anyone should attempt any grade of rapid or for that matter any sporting activity without the backup of experienced persons who can be on hand to help get you out of difficulty should such a situation arise. I was trying to make a Humerous point that experence is not gained from books only knowledge is, experience is gained by getting out there and doing it, but do your homework first choose the right kit and the right people preferably someone with good experience of the stretch you intend to paddle. You will never know if you don't ever try...

  19. #19

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    This weekend might be difficult for me, but it looks like there is reasonable interest in tackling some 'easy' rapids if it can be done as a group.

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    I've just typed and lost a long reply, so I'll keep it short this time. I suspect that I might have been part of the group Rogue saw on the Usk - (Sunday- Talybont on down??)

    I had asked about the necessity of airbags for this river and been told (by a highly qualified coach) that they weren't. What are other views?

    Rich

  21. #21

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    have a look at at my report on the Usk in the bloggs section. Have seen even the most experienced paddlers blow it on what should have been a straightforward rapid. Boats wrap even on grade 2 and one without airbags is going to be more of a liability if something does go wrong. Have seen people get canoes stuck at Symonds Yat when playing and it doesn't take long to fill an open up if you mitakenly lean up stream when pushed up against a rock. The coach may have had good reason to say what he did but in my opinion he was mistaken.
    "All right" said Eeyore "We're going. Only don't blame me"

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    I think we have covered airabags in another thread.

    They are a MUST for any paddling, even flat water.

    Any swamped boat in moving water is dangerous. With no flotation in fast shallow water (like the Usk this weekend) and its deadly at best you have a written off boat.

    Well fitted, designed for the job, air bags are the only way for me.
    No inflatable donkeys.
    Rogue

  23. #23
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    My kevlar Prism has built in air tanks. However, these will only just float the hull, ie stop if from going to the bottom. I always paddle with additional air bags, even with this flat water boat.

    In fact I wonder why manufactures don't supply tailored air bags for all their canoes. It would be nice to have air bags that conform exactly to the shape of the hull. I suppose it is a question of cost, but to my mind they are not an optional extra. If they were supplied as standard they could incorporate a dedicated cage, all very strong and neat.

    Mind you, it would take the fun out of outfitting!
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

  24. #24
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    Wink Personal Risk

    Can I add my two penn'orth?

    I've been canoeing about 3 years, and learning with a club for one. I started by being set off down the grade 1 Wye having done a bit of reading up...

    For me, this all comes down to PERSONAL risk assessment. I may be fairly new to canoeing, but I've done a fair bit of hill walking in the past, often as the planner/navigator for a group of friends, and a major element in that is looking at conditions, people, terrain, etc and thinking, "Is this sensible?"
    I've done some bits of Grade 2 on my own, because I had inspected what I could, felt that I could handle it comfortably, and that if I swam the consequences wouldn't be dangerous. I'd rather do G2 in a group, but sometimes it is on your own or don't go, and then the judgement has to be made. Factors like closeness of roads, likely phone reception, nearness of someone to come and bail you out if you call them...
    I know some club-bred paddlers who wouldn't go anywhere without a coach, but even if you have a coach with you the need to take personal responsibility is there - the coach is just another factor (and a strong one) that enables you to tackle harder things.

    Waffly as ever - key point, learn enough to make a well-judged assessment, and pick what you do in a way appropriate to who you are with, and the level of risk you are comfortable with given the whole situation (not just the water.)

    I didn't tackle G2 until I'd had some lessons (from my fantastic club coach!), and I'm glad - I had enough skill to feel that I was in control, but challenged, and that was much better for me than fluking through would have been.

    Ben

  25. #25
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    In addition to thinking what risk am I putting myself at. Think, what risk am I putting others in. (And not just those you are paddling with)

    If you take a bad swim everyone will all try to save you. Will the way you have your canoe rigged put the rescuers at risk?

    Many people say they are happy to self rescue but getting this idea across to a group of kayakers you happen to be passing at the time is difficult while swimming.
    Rogue

  26. #26
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    Default Well said

    Yes, well said about risk to others - I didn't think to say it last night.

    I'm pretty cautious myself - I just feel the key thing is that you ARE making a judgement (or you would just sit in your armchair) so make it consciously and with consideration , not just drift into doing things .

    Ben

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