When I’m 64, I hope I am paddling rivers like this, the Kiachnish, just outside Fort William.
It’s Simon’s birthday today, and this is how he spent it.
The write up in the guide doesn’t really do the river justice, this is an adventure, at 7k it’s a fair stretch of water for the UK, we were on the water for just over 5 hours, paddling, inspecting, putting safety on and portaging. A ditch of a river at pretty much perfect flows. The initial section is a bit bony and a rock bash, but you wouldn’t want too much water first time down, we’ve got a perfect level.
Starting in open moorland with water coming over the spillway of the recently constructed dam, almost a compensation flow. The guidebook states very wet conditions and we were blessed with an abundance of rainfall especially earlier in the week, anything falling out of the sky is straight into the rivers, the surrounding countryside is saturated and Lochan Lunn Da-Bhra is full and overflowing.
From the put in a straight forward drop starts the day and we pinball down for a while before the river starts to gorge in and the fun really begins. Horizon lines, read and run or inspection required, signals and lines given from the bank, portages for some or all depending on the difficulty.
There’s some stout in there, all runnable, by some. A huge rock in the middle of the river and inspection required from both banks, there’s a tree in the river right channel and a rocky landing river left, we portage, a near vertical climb on loose ground, boats hauled up on lines then returned to river level a couple of hundred yards downstream. Narrow channels a boats width wide, a horrible slot drop, a portage for all today with a sketchy seal launch in to churning water, another drop, more open but with towback, described in the guide as grippy.
The day is warm, for October, with plenty of daylight, this is not a run for the depths of winter with shorter, colder days. A final portage of the biggest feature of the day, tiredness is setting in and the effort required to get the boats out, downstream and back on the water is considerable.
And then it’s over, roadside, the A82 just south of Fort Bill, rain still falling, light fading, beers await.