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Thread: The amazing Ardeche

  1. #1
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    Default The amazing Ardeche

    Having started our week long tip on the Sioule (http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...wn-the-Sioule). The main event was to paddle the Ardeche.

    John (Elveys) made the plans and off we (Adrian (aka Granddad), John, Karen and I) set from Le Pont de Menat to travel down to the campsite (Camping de la Falaise) near to Balazuc. Before I continue, if anyone is making a similar trek to the Ardeche, I would highly recommend driving in along the N102, where you traverse a winding road that loosely follows upper sections of the Ardeche. This road starts from a high elevation before descending to Aubenas, though you will be treated to absolutely stunning scenery along the road for a good hour or so. I digress though, as this blog is not about the driving... but the canoeing!

    Arriving at the Balazuc campsite we were swiftly joined by Matto and Trudi, who had endured an 'interesting' journey to the Ardeche in quite terrible weather. So it was good to see they had made it safely to Balazuc with their canoe still on the car roof.

    Camping de la Falaise is a great little campsite, which gives direct access to the Ardeche, whilst being close to sample the Restaurants of Balazuc. Though make sure you take a mallet with you, as the ground was more like concrete than soil, which made pitching a tent 'interesting'... I opted for the hammock.



    The following day, we readied our kit and boats for the off. The plan was to leave the cars at the campsite, paddle down the Ardeche for three days to Saint Martin where we had arranged for a lift back to Balazuc with one of the kayak rentals vans & trailer.





    So off we paddled. The first feature on the river (round the corner from the campsite) was the village of Balazuc.





    This was the first trip I had been on where I had taken a DSLR (having purchased a small Peli case). So I was often keen to dart down the rapids to capture the action from my fellow paddlers.





    There were a number of small rapids, which offered nice interest through a small gorge, though on the whole the river levels were rather low, and required some walking / dragging of our canoes over the shallows.

    I like this photo as it shows the chivalry of the guys pulling their ladies over the shallow sections. Granddad and I were a little lighter, so didn't ground out as often.



    Karen started a poll for a tea break, which John relented to... for which we stopped in a stunning spot along the river.



    Madeleines consumed. We were off again. Quite a distance to travel before the first nights camp.



    There were some further rapids along the way.



    Though the real attraction to paddling this part of the Ardeche is the mini gorge that weaves slowly towards a large'ish rapid.





    The rapid (not sure of the name if indeed there is one) was a little disappointing as the low river levels had exposed a hidden rock, which could have caused unwanted trouble. So we all decided to line past the rapid.



    Once past the rapid, the gorge opens up a little. It also plays tricks on your eyes as the strata seems to take an angle very different to that of the flow of the river. Quite mesmerising.



    Granddad striking a pose.



    The river then starts to flatten out somewhat as we approach Ruoms.



    The reason... the first of our weirs and our first Glissier!



    After Ruoms the water levels get even lower! Cue lots of dragging, walking and groaning at the sound of royalex grinding over hidden rocks. I was convinced there would be little left of my boat by the first nights camp... Once out of the rock fields, we paddled on towards Sampzon. There was occasionally some water, which granted the odd interesting rapid.



    Though it wasn't long before even longer stretches of flat water began, leading up to the planned campsite stop beyond Sampzon. We were really pleased there was no wind for these stretches.

    The flat water however meant only one thing... another weir and glissier. This glissier was a little trickier than the first with the flow of water changing direction at the end of the shoot. Last year we had heard that a certain someone had taken a swim at this spot (while lying down over the bow or something like this). Well... what's that saying about lightening striking twice...



    The end of day one. To be continued...

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mw-fox View Post

    The rapid (not sure of the name if indeed there is one) was a little disappointing as the low river levels had exposed a hidden rock, which could have caused unwanted trouble. So we all decided to line past the rapid.


    Wow, what a difference with how it was last june:


    It looks you had good weather to go for a swim

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digger View Post
    Wow, what a difference with how it was last june:


    It looks you had good weather to go for a swim
    We've been going September for the last few years but this years day 1 levels were well down on previous years. Typically it has been similar I think Erik, probably a bit less that you had in June. Taking a dip at the end of day 1 is becoming a tradition



    Great pics Matt. Always surprises me how many people don't do the sections up river of the main event.
    Last edited by elveys; 19th-October-2018 at 07:24 AM.

  4. #4
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    Once past the rapid, the gorge opens up a little. It also plays tricks on your eyes as the strata seems to take an angle very different to that of the flow of the river. Quite mesmerising.



    Similar levels to last October .... and from experience those strata must be sloping rather than level ......
    You don't stop playing because you get old - you get old because you stop playing.

  5. #5
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    it’s good to see the higher sections. I haven’t paddled those yet so I must make the effort ... when there’s some water.

    Levels here have been a “task” all this season, we started off with the Irish guys in endless torrential rain and super high rivers all the way into the end of June, then nothing until last week meaning super low levels over the area. Each one meant lots of client trip juggling, but we seem to have got everyone some paddling at least.

    Looking forward to to the next installment.
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    We will make your trip work



  6. #6
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    And here's a few shots from my camera




    Setting Out



    Trudi's first taste of the Ardeche



    Weaving through the rocks



    Balazuc from the river



    Matt finding just enough water



    Adrian (AKA Grandad), looking cool and relaxed as ever



    Matt crusing along



    Impromptu celebration



    Checking the map



    Are we really going downhill?



    Tricky right hand bend






    Phew! Glad that's over



    It's getting greener



    It looks like find, but you should have heard the noise going down this glisserie - can't beleive we had anything left of our boats after this ones.



    Chilled out paddling



    The bridges at Sampzon



    Landing at Les Trouilleres



    Frankly at the end of Day 1 I was amazed to see the bottom of my boat still intact. There was a lot of scraping earlier on in the day.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  7. #7
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    Fabulous stuff, folks. Some really strong images, Matt mwfox that DSLR is paying you back in style. Matt O, some great people shots as well as the fabulous landscapes!

  8. #8
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    Wonderful photos Matt. And proof I was actually there!

    So following on from the 'splash'. We camped just outside Sampzon at Camping Mas de la Source. Another great campsite, where we could pitch in a wooded area immediately next to the river. It also afforded a much needed shower.

    The morning was extra special, with low level mist and a glorious sunrise. This was going to be a good day.



    Setting off in the morning, it wasn't long before we encountered another Glissier. Slightly easier than the last one defended the day before, it still provided some intrigue for some, who I'm sure were convinced they were in for another swim no more than 30 minutes into the day.



    Also Granddad was showing off already.



    Matt gaining some air on another glissier further down the river.



    The paddling was rather tame between Sampzon and our first destination Vallon, with lots of flat water broken up nicely by the odd glissier.

    We paused at Vallon, where we stocked up on food and cake, confirmed the return travel arrangements and tried (but failed) to book our camping spot at one of the Bivouac sites along the Ardeche gorge.



    Leaving Vallon, the river becomes really interesting as we near the main event, the gorge. Beyond Vallon (or rather the Chessezac) the water level became notably higher, which was great. Though the number of tourists joining us on the river also increased significantly. Though not as many as I had been informed by John and Matt would normally be on the river during the summer. The number of Tupperware kayaks in the parking yards at Vallon hinted at the chaos summer can bring.





    A few interesting rapids follow from Vallon, though nothing too challenging. The Charlemange rapid is fun and you could spend all day watching the plastic rentals crashing at the bottom. In fact there are snorkelers at the bottom of this rapid. There to scavenge a hapless tourists go pro camera no doubt.

    Though once negotiated, your eyes are immediately drawn to the highest natural arch above water in the world. Pont de Arc.



    While the others had lunch I went for an explore of some of the caves under the arch.



    The on we went, and no sooner had the rentals joined us they had left us to the gorge alone. I find this amazing, that most tourists only really experience the arch and miss out on the rest of the scenery. Anyway, this worked out in our favour once they had gone!



    There were some further nice rapids.

    Matt & Trudi up first


    Followed by John and Karen


    and the odd stretch of flat water. But the scenery was unrelenting. Simply stunning all the way.




    One rapid (I don't know it's name) was rather bouncy and fun. With one of the tandems needing to bail out at the end.


    The end of the second day led us to the Bivouac site at Gournier. We chanced our arm on this one. There were lots of school children already pitched up and we seemed to blend into the background. Though the rangers sniffed us out, and we argued our case to stay for the night. Well it wasn't much of an argue. We'd pitched our tents and had money.



    I hear they say it's an alcohol free river Granddad...


    What a place to wake up to in a morning. I didn't really want to leave.





    Morning paddling




    At one interesting rapid, John and Matt went tandem and had a play gutting in and out of the flow.



    Having not paddled much tandem before, I was impressed by the display!

















    With all the fun paddling through the gorge, none of us wanted to reach Saint Martin. However this is where we ended up.



    We pulled ashore, loaded our boats and kit onto the rental vans trailer, then set off on a 'speedy' drive back to Balazuc. I really thought I'd see my lunch again after that drive. But we made it back safe and sound.

    The Ardeche was a truly fantastic river to paddle. We had great weather, reasonable water levels (after the Chessazac had dumped its barage flow), fine camping spots and above all excellent company. Thanks to John (Elveys) for organising this trip. Paddling white water in a dry suit will never seem the same again after this luxury.
    Last edited by mw-fox; 19th-October-2018 at 11:17 PM.

  9. #9
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    Move over boys, David Bailey has arrived!

    Some from me of day 1. I think I have more pictures of us out the boats than in!

    Ready for the off at Balazuc



    I'm sure there wasn't that much kit when you did your trial run in the garden!





    At this point we realise just how low it is compared to previous years when this is a nice bouncy left hand bend with a rock magnet on the right











    It wasn't long before Karen mentioned stopping for a brew. After carefully explaining what a long day we had ahead and how much longer it would take with these low levels and the possibility of arriving at Sampzon in the dark we stopped for a brew!























    He doesn't get out much!







    A very different day 1 to previous years but still enjoyable and all part of the journey.
    Last edited by elveys; 20th-October-2018 at 12:17 PM.

  10. #10
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    Here's a few more photos of the awesome views and great paddling on Days 2 and 3.


















































    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  11. #11
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    Great blog. I felt that this statement...…..

    "I like this photo as it shows the chivalry of the guys pulling their ladies over the shallow sections. Granddad and I were a little lighter, so didn't ground out as often."

    …..was an exceptionally brave statement and I hope it worked out for you


  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    Great blog. I felt that this statement...…..

    "I like this photo as it shows the chivalry of the guys pulling their ladies over the shallow sections. Granddad and I were a little lighter, so didn't ground out as often."

    …..was an exceptionally brave statement and I hope it worked out for you

    These guys are the bravest around
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    We will make your trip work



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    Great blog. I felt that this statement.....

    "I like this photo as it shows the chivalry of the guys pulling their ladies over the shallow sections. Granddad and I were a little lighter, so didn't ground out as often."

    ..was an exceptionally brave statement and I hope it worked out for you

    Oops... I'd never make a good politician.

  14. #14

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    So nice colors, such a clear water and warm weather! I like it.
    But imposible for my fragile Ally.

    Some years ago we had much more water, but mostly cold and cloudy weather. The high water levels allow us to paddle 80 km from Aubenas to Pont-Saint-Esprit (Map, Video).

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spartaner View Post
    So nice colors, such a clear water and warm weather! I like it.
    But imposible for my fragile Ally.

    Some years ago we had much more water, but mostly cold and cloudy weather. The high water levels allow us to paddle 80 km from Aubenas to Pont-Saint-Esprit (Map, Video).
    What time of year did you go. I'd really like to do the trip from Aubenas one year but probably means doing much earlier in the year, maybe March/April.

  16. #16

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    We were there at the end of March, beginning of April 2013.

    Flow
    Flow at the gauge Vog from 22.03.-05.04.2013. The period of our journey is marked with the red bar. During the rainy day March 28th the flow increased from 30 to 43 m/s. The night to March 30th again brought much rain and let the flow swell up to 50 m/s. The regular peaks and slumps of the flow are due to changing power plant operation at the tributary Fontauliere northwest of Aubenas.

  17. #17
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    Great blogg. I find it quite nostalgic seeing Matto still tripping in the Charles River, the canoe that he started off in still serving him well.
    John

  18. #18
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    Default Oh... And we paddled the Chassezac

    Well... last but not least. Back at Balazuc from paddling the Ardeche, our attentions turned to paddling the Chazzezac. John phoned up a local canoe hire centre on the morning of the paddle, only to be told that two or three barages were releasing water to the tune of around 30 cumecs and that they advised against paddling... Well half an hour of procrastination later, Trudi made a second phone call to the centre to explain that we were experienced paddlers, and the new advice was that they were not hiring canoes, but that we'd have a nice paddle!

    So off we set for Vompdes. Unsure at the state of the river that awaited us. We needn't of worried. When we got to the put-in, the flow seemed fine. Adrian, Matt and John ran a shuttle to Tournayres.

    There is one potentially tricky rapid on the Chessazac. Not sure about the name, but there was a hole to the left with a potentially large wave on the right. Well the wave was according to John quite low, so no dramas this time.





    John jumped into Adrian's canoe and took it for a play on the rapid.





    The scenery on the Chassezac is no less dramatic than the Ardeche.





    Adrian assuming the retired person's position again...







    Adrian finding his seat again... but close to losing his head.





    I think it's safe to say he had a good holiday...









    The end of the Chassezac simply came too soon. Camping Casteljau Les Blaches, which is outside Tournayres.



    Balance camera on a rock... and RUN.



    To paddle the Ardeche and not the Chassezac would be a shame. I'm really glad we managed to paddle it, and that we avoided the rental kayaks. The reported high flow was un-noticeable apart from the fact we didn't have a bump and scrape.

    These really are my last photos from this amazing trip. I promise. Next on my plan is the Tarn.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Great blogg. I find it quite nostalgic seeing Matto still tripping in the Charles River, the canoe that he started off in still serving him well.
    Yeah there will be tears if I ever have to retire that boat I can tell you.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


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