The annual AU dinner was held on 29th May. A fantastic night was had by all, and a huge congratulations go to our Captain for 2017/18 who won the AU Club Captain of the Year award. His motivation and tireless efforts over the course of the year, along with the rest of the Committee, has led to the biggest development of the club ever. We’ve expanded into more disciplines, had the largest intake of new members in September and competed at 4 BUCS events this year. His award is thoroughly well-deserved, and he’s given next year’s committee a lot to live up to!
Last weekend (26/27 May), a group of EUCC white water paddlers took a trip up to North Wales for our annual Alps training weekend at the National White Water Centre on the Tryweryn River. After loading 2 minibuses and multiple cars with boats, kit and people, we eventually left Exeter. 5 hours and a trip to McDonalds later, we arrived at our campsite just outside Bala.
The main aim of the weekend was to improve river confidence and skills for everyone going to the Alps next week. Saturday started with us sessioning one section of the Upper Tryweryn to practise getting in and out of eddies. We had a couple of runs down the river before lunch. People rolled, people swam, we tried to avoid the massive rafts and a few people managed to stay upright the whole way down. Saturday afternoon involved a couple more runs down the river and then we did some swimming practise. Defensive swimming, live baiting, throw-lining, how to swim into a hole and how to successfully climb out of a river were all practised.
We stopped off for fish and chips in Bala on the way back to the campsite, and then had an evening campfire. The thunderstorms and rain woke most people up in the middle of the night, but even thunder and lightning didn’t deter us from returning to the river on Sunday morning. It eventually brightened up again and we did some more runs of the river. We had lunch and then finished off the trip with a BoaterX race down the Tryweryn.
Thanks to Jess for organising the whole weekend as Trip Sec, Nic for planning the river groups and training and to all our river leaders and safety (including our Ex-Members) for helping to reduce all the carnage on the river and for chasing after our boats when people swam!
Probably the Best University Alps Trip in the World
A large part of any trip with 20 people is the social aspect. With 40 or more it is still important but there is plenty of room to get away from individuals or certain cliques. It is surprisingly easy to become isolated from the rest of the group of 20. Therefore, a lot of thought needs to be put into “what happens after the river?”. It’s the job of the organizers/committee and social secretaries to keep moral high and, if required, to organize a night of fun and revelry for all. This is common sense, but can be often overlooked, especially in times of high stress. A day trip to a couple of runnable waterfalls was a great way to spend a recovery and chill day. The beginners could bathe in the pool at the bottom, the intermediates could try their luck on their first waterfall, and the advanced guys had fun on some harder rapids. The following days led the group to a different area of Austria where a couple of grade 4 rivers were discovered and paddled, either side of the club paddle, which nicely rounded off the stay in Austria. All in all, everyone was satisfied with what Austria delivered. France had been finalized for a second destination but simplicity was not the name of the game for this alps trip, so a visit to Slovenia was also scheduled.
The plan was to leave Austria early in the morning and paddle several sections of the Soca and then drive through the night to France, arriving at the new campsite roughly 24 hours after leaving the one in Austria. A heavy storm, that devastated the campsite, caused a need for committee discussion. One important part of communication is when to communicate information, and who to communicate it with. Having a whole group discussion would have been faff that a sleep deprived team didn’t need. Once it was agreed that Slovenia was still the best option, the rest of the attendees were notified. Controversy came from drivers who had little to no sleep due to the destruction of their tents. However, they agreed the plan was the best course of action because they trusted the committee. This is a key trait, as a committee that has a track record of bad decisions would not have the trust and respect of the group, required to make seemingly reckless decisions. If you do lead a group on a similar trip, you must have the trust of the entire group, but also accept any misfortune that falls on the group directly due to your actions, as your fault. This is a two-way street, and you must trust them to get on board and not cause more faff. One main aspect of a rogue trip with 20 people such as this one is keeping positive and making a flexible, but solid, plan, while silently creating a plan B.
Plan A worked and Slovenia was a great success, despite extremely low levels. The remaining time in France saw great progression from all and contained many in the groups’ favourite moments which shows that the southern French Alps still has a lot to give. Including the drive home, there were four out of 14 nights that were either taken up by driving or a storm. This meant that the days were almost all free for paddling, but by the time we got back to the campsite we crashed. Therefore, in terms of paddling, it couldn’t have been a better holiday, but this hindered the social aspect. If the trip could have been longer, we could have perhaps been a bit more relaxed on timings and not sacrificed any night’s sleep; aside from the trip to and from continental Europe that are inescapable.
That being said, one of the reasons we didn’t have many fallouts due to lack of sleep, was because everyone had a perfect balance of being relaxed and prompt at the same time. This means that you need to cut faff wherever possible, to the point it doesn’t exist at all.
That rounds off the trip, but a couple of months after returning I’m still working out how it all happened and what I learnt from the experience. To conclude, you need a heap of communication, do your research, and don’t leave anything to chance, be on it with time management so there is room for last minute changes, remember it’s a holiday that everyone has paid equally for, balance social and paddling aspects of the trip to ensure a great holiday and progression rate, and finally, keep a plan B tucked up your sleeve for all situations no matter how big or small. This is a lot to ask for, especially for an unexperienced team, but all can be achieved by keeping yourself and the group relaxed and flexible. For a full brief of the trip, check out the informal Exeter University Canoe Club news page on their website and marvel at how a series of unfortunate events can be twisted into a holiday of a lifetime.
Was it the best university trip in the world? If you tweak and apply this algorithm the possibilities are endless, so probably not. I’ll leave that up to you, to find the answer.
This trip would not have had so few hiccups if it wasn’t for a handful of influential people. Firstly, big thanks to Hugh Graham and Matt Robinson for telling me how good Austria was, convincing me to go and giving me resources to make my map with. We wouldn’t have been able to run a trip like this without knowing what the levels were like in Slovenia and France on a daily basis, so I’d like to thank Andrew Bonney for updating us (as well as advising before and during the trip) while working for Gene17. Thank you for the constant advice on and off the water coming from a combined 9 alps trips of experience, Sam Rice and Adam Finley. The trip wouldn’t have run as smoothly if the group was lazy and inefficient so I would like to thank all the attendees on the trip. I’d like to give my biggest thanks to the Alps committee; James Dommett, Felix Haigh, Florrie Kirby, Chris McAdam and Emily Swales. A third of this team had never been kayaking outside of England, yet they were still able to organize the trip while in England, manage the ups and downs during the trip while dealing with my constant indecision and generally helped out in all areas, even when it was not in their job description. Finally thank you to everyone who contributed towards the production of this article in some form or another.
Written by David Brearley
Probably the Best University Alps Trip in the World
For those not acquainted with the University of Exeter, we have a saying that our university is “probably the best university in the world”, hence the title of this article. However, for now, I shall try and convince you over this two-part article, that if you have a competent organizer, or a team of organizers, you can make a great trip by following a few simple guidelines. The focus will be on the trip that was conducted by Exeter University Canoe Club (EUCC) in June 2017 to Austria, Slovenia and France but the same principles can be applied to any trip with a group of 15 or more people in a club based group. This is perfect for a university group that wants to do something different from two weeks in the southern French Alps camping at Camping des Ecrins at l’Argentiere Slalom site, but can also be outfitted to work for a city club or a large group of friends who share a common love for kayaking and the great outdoors.
This segment can be skipped for the experienced European kayak road trippers; but for those unfamiliar with the Briancon region and the usual trip that universities do there, let me brief you on it. Year after year, British universities frequent the same campsite in the Alps for roughly two weeks. Logistically this is minimal faff and each year it is run in a very similar way with the main difference being the attendees. The comradery linking individuals in a chain with many twists and turns makes for a highly entertaining trip. There will be fall outs, bonding moments, exceedingly large quantities of alcohol consumption, carnage, highlights and more faff than you would expect from ordering pizza to share between 10 people. Sometimes this can be the trip of a lifetime and other years it will be a conga line of epics. Which category the trip falls to is partly due to luck, but also due to the committee running the trip. Overseeing the trip can be unfulfilling, especially if they aren’t getting paid, but I’m about to tell you that with the right team and group of attendees who are willing to trust their money to the team in the hope that the trip will be a success, you can break away from the status quo and venture deeper into the unknown.
A French alps trip can be great for a few years in a row, however it can get tiresome for the experienced members. A way to avoid this is keep the trip fresh by changing it to a general European Alps trip. Many clubs do this by going to Slovenia and employing a coach to show them the beauties that the river Soca has to offer. For several years, Exeter have done a week in Slovenia and a week in France which is a great progression combo trip. Slovenia isn’t as continuous as France and twice as stunning, a perfect way to introduce first years to the alpine club trip lifestyle. This is a simple solution to refreshing a stale trip and entices ex-students back to experience a new area with the club and their friends. If this is enough, read no further and look up the copious amounts of river guides and online resources. With these, decide if you need to hire a coach or if you can be self-sufficient within the club in running the trip. For those of you who wanted to hear about an amazing trip and how you too can run a similar trip, buckle up because it’s time to get down to business.
After three consecutive French Alps trips with a school club then two university trips to Slovenia then France, I wanted to do something new and exciting. I can’t take all the credit for this train of thought, as I was told that the Styria region in Austria had rivers of Slovenian style and then had help in finding an online resource, of which there aren’t many on the area, from ex-EUCC members.
The little I found was a description of a river like the Soca and after a little convincing, the committee agreed it would be fun and interesting to try out somewhere new for us, as well as the recent club. Thorough research must be done before conducting a trip like this, as English guidebooks are few and far between for a region such as Styria. I found it useful to make a map of the rivers surrounding our campsite with the grade, get in and get outs and any other points of note. For a university club trip, you are limited by the end of the academic term when you can venture to the alps, therefore you are limited to areas that are in season around this time. A trip such as one to Pyrenees would not work in June, so research into regional seasons is also key. Now, it’s also potent to point out, that you can’t take a club out to an area that is way above their ability, even if “there are a few easy rivers” as this can be said about any region and is a relatively selfish move on the part of the organizers and safety if the beginners only get to paddle the same river every day for two weeks.
Unlike France, Austria and Slovenia do not have the quantity of rivers that allows a university club to go out for two weeks without getting bored (although I would argue if you have the right levels and patience, both countries have much to offer in the way of a two-week progression in a more pleasant way than France can). Therefore, the only question left was, where to go after Austria? The plan was somewhat set when I found out that levels in Slovenia were very low. The plan of Austria-France was devised that would satisfy all parties within the group. This too fell through as we found out France was far higher than expected, a week before we were leaving for the continent. Sounding like a bit of a train wreck? The indecision, so close to the leave date, was stressful for a lot of the committee and caused some tensions. But as we shall see, that indecision was a crucial trait that would benefit us as the trip progressed.
Setting off from Exeter at 8am, we arrived in Austria 23 hours later, so we decided to go for a paddle. With grumbling and complaining from the whole club, we got on a gentle, yet scenic, grade 2 section which left the majority of people smiling for the rest of the day. For the two consecutive days, we slowly upped the difficulty of river to settle people into the alpine life style and remind everyone it’s not a race of ability progression, but a holiday for everyone to enjoy. What many experienced members will say is that they paid for a holiday and not to supervise everyone else having fun while they suffer. This is a great point, but at the same time, it is the job of experienced members to ensure everyone has a fun time so the future club alps trips are manned by a committee that have fond memories of their first alps trip. Almost everyone who goes to the alps will say that their first trip out there as a novice was their best experience, as there was no pressure or responsibilities on them and subsequently, their rate of progression was the strongest. For this reason, the committee of a complex alps trip needs to be proficient in the type of trip you want to run.
Stay tuned for part two coming soon…
The alps trip 2k17 started at 7am on the 16th June. Despite all audio being unavailable in the bus, the convoy set off (although only Brearley knew where to). After catching heatstroke and nearly missing the ferry the alps team reconvened at Dover. As per tradition the captain whipped out his favourite form of entertainment, jubilee top-trumps! However, the only entertainment found was taking the piss out of him…
Docking at Calais, heatstroke persisted as we continued the second stint of our journey. As the vehicles in the convoy raced for first place, there was a slight descent into madness as we realised it was still a crazy long way off! As night fell the lucky among us had a nap whilst the rest of us tried to navigate across Germany, some succeeding better than others *cough* bus and car *cough*.
The graveyard shift started and progress was happening in a steady fashion. We crossed into Austria circa 4am with the final shift underway (after a couple of petrol stops and a to attempt to buy vehicle vignettes in German), the phrase “I don’t want to be that guy, but how far away are we?” became increasingly more common. The answer, 2 hours later, proved to be correct as we cruised into the campsite at 6am!
We won’t mention the conversation about Great Dane Dick…
Day 0? Completed it mate…
Although many refer to this day as day 1, it was in reality just an extension of day 0 due to the complete lack of sleep or any notion of when day had become night and day again… No sooner had we arrived at the campsite and set up our tents, we left for an early morning paddle down a gentle grade 1/2 (everyone’s favourite) “It was lit”- Hammo 2k17. Apart from the time that Ivan tried to get into an eddy realistically only suitably sized for the one person already in it and binned himself in the process, there were no rolls or swims. Following this we went shopping for food, cooked, then went to bed for an early morning start.
An 8 o’clock star for a 9 o’clock leave quickly went downhill after traditional EUCC faff led to us leaving half an hour later than planned. Brearley’s excellent navigating led us past the get in, then back the other way towards the get in, for a morning of paddling on the Salza river. This stretch of grade 2 with a bit of grade 3 slalom towards the end unfortunately took down some of us, resulting in the first swims of the alps 2k17 trip (*cry*). Everyone tackled and defeated the giant hole at the end of the slalom course, especially Ella who crushed it with 2 rolls no swims! Some of us also practiced their hands at surfing in the hole, which also helped to create some of the carnage mentioned above. After a quick car park lunch, we headed to the river I only know as “that boofy one”, a river characterised by a series of 20-30 successive weirs to practice boofing on (or in some cases, pencilling off), ranging in size from 1 foot to about 6-7 metres. If you ignore the 1km of complete and utter scrape-y carnage at the start of the river before the boofs, this river was pretty sick, and a good river that was something different, but not crazy difficult for those of us who hadn’t had much opportunity to do white water this year. To put in the words of Swales…
“eeeeeeee booof eeee booof eeeee booof tschkkkkkkkk”
(??? I would like to apologise now for this, Swale-ese is a difficult language to master and correctly written pronunciation of this is a subject that requires years of study to fully be proficient in)
After boofing/being pinned for a few hours we went back to base camp to cook dinner (no, Esme and I did not set fire to our cooking stove….) and went to bed (we had to be quiet by 10 as not to disturb the cows so they wouldn’t call the farmer on us)
On this day we actually managed to leave the campsite by 9am (shock horror I know 😮 ) to carry on paddling “that boofy one” and go onto the slalom course just below this. Shout out to Miss Willow Allen for her first ever proper river roll here! There was very little carnage in this run (thus not really worth writing about ? ) so we got out and drove to the get out from the other river yesterday to paddle down the “short” (7km) grade 2/3 paddle back to the campsite. I am not really aware of what happened in the other groups, however within our group this paddle resulted in Climber Dan and Chris trying to take out Ivan’s bung and sink his boat by sitting on it with their boats, (nearly succeeded but not quite). After food shopping and cooking, Brearley, Adam, Dan and I tried to frantically fix leaking boats whilst the rest of the group egged us on to hurry up so we could start the much anticipated tent crawl…
TENT CRAWL SPECIAL
Being a T-totaller at drinking events is always an interesting experience, as I always remember every moment from these socials, and in this occasion had the log book to hand to be able to record the details. Unfortunately typing them all up would take forever, and would also be quite boring to read, so instead here are some of the highlights and best quotes…
-Florrie getting annoyed and throwing a whole bottle of water at Felix
-All the teams getting aggy when “the crushed zesty mojito” (real name) won the votes for best drink
-Tipsy Crouch giving anyone back massages (unfortunately I am 100% ticklish so cannot rate them out of 10 as I couldn’t sit still for long enough.)
-A group went to skinny dip in the river
-“It’s not rank, the texture’s just quite off-putting”
-“It’s hard to tell if I am drunk or if it actually tastes good”
After the carnage from the night before, today was put out as a rest day. Starting with a gentle swim in the freezing cold river next to the campsite (“The water is so cold my balls are in my throat”-James 2017) and some sunbathing on the rocky shoreside, Brearley forced us all to get up by pulling our towels out from underneath us and dragging us round the shore, then made us get in the car/van to run a waterfall on a “rest day” (we love you really Brizzle ? ) After driving 20 mins past the get in “I only put the map down for a second”- Felix, we found the waterfall, and whilst from the front it looked fine, after scouting around realised the get in was rather trickier than expected. The heroes that could be bothered to get kitted up and drag their boats up to the get in ran the waterfall, whilst the rest of us perched precariously like sparrows on the cliff side to take photos and watch. Unfortunately at this point Crouch got stuck and held at the bottom of the waterfall, and after a gnar 40 minutes of trying to save his boat we ended up tying Chris to some throwlines, and like Ironman (his choice of superhero when I asked him which one he wanted to be compared to in this writeup) and dragging him into the crushing darkness of the waterfall to livebait Crouch’s boat, #NotAllHeroesWearCapes. The last run was from our very own Captain DJ Brizzle who decided that he wanted to run the upper section leading into the waterfall. Once we were done we went back to the campsite, almost running over a poor englishman’s tent in attempt to park our convoy, then spent a chilled evening at the river frisbee (not very well), and riding El Diablo the inflatable unicorn (this apparently was “minimal packing”). Dinner, then sleeeeeeep
Well rested from yesterdays “Rest day” we headed to the Enns to run some speedy rapids and partake in some quality rock dodging. After safety’s grade 4 paddle, resulting in another swim from Crouch and some failed live baiting from the team fresh safety team (though we got his paddle and him, ignoring the fact we almost choked him in the process,) the rest of the team joined in for the first solid bit of grade 3 paddling, with everyone successfully passing the first set of rapids dry-headidly (not sure this is a word), followed by a few fatalities on the 2nd set. Safety/the Scotland crew then did another Grade 4 below the club section whilst the rest of the club chilled in the sun, attempted to recreate the dirty dancing lift, and tries to stay hydrated with very limited water supplies. Upon realising we had no keys to the vehicles (which were ironically locked for once) and no food for dinner we went to wait for the rest of the crew at the car park, where James, Ed, and I made friends with an overconfident butterfly, and other slept on the cement floor. The bus arrived 26 minutes before the shop closed, so Swales drove us like a madwoman (the bus is still recovering) to take us there in order to get dinner ingredients. Once back we cooked, ate, and went to bed ready for a well needed 12 hours snooze…
4.25am James and Ivans tent cover blows off due to the gumball sized hail and alps-style winds
4.56am The ex-members tent collapses and they end up sleeping in the communal dry room
4.00-7.00 Adam and Chris annoyed everyone by bragging about how dry their stuff was ?
Tensions were high in the camp due to the lack of sleep, the high volumes of soggy kit, and general 6th day frustrations (as is only to be expected when one is subjected to spending such large amounts of time with these weirdos ;p ). After some quick morning debate and negotiations, it was decided we would travel to Slovenia to run Strep1, Strep2, Siphon Canyon (club run obvs ? ) and the Etona for the intermediates. After the disastrous morning we arrived at the get in with mixed feeling, however the cool splashed of the waves across ones face soon got us into the boating zone. Unfortunately this run ended up being an extreme carnage run as people tried to avoid being pinned to the giant boulders, resulting in 2 broken paddles, 7? swims, and another fantastic live bait from our very own Chris in order to save a rather pinned Florrie. After this the braver paddlers scouted and ran the slalom course, and the mad 3 (Sam, Brearley, Adam) ran siphon canyon. The intermediates and advanced then completed the treacherous portage down to the start of the Etona, whilst Team Fresh went to the bottom of this stretch for a cheeky swim in the turquoise clear waters, and some coasting from Ella and myself (creating some Oscar worthy footage on Crouches go-pro in the process). During this day we also said goodbye to the left bus wing mirror (who need wing mirrors anyway?), and had a “minor” incident with the bus and the hire car, however managed to leave Slovenia in 1 piece for a quick pizza break before hitting the road for a 12 hour drive to France. The prize for the best front seat passenger goes to me (Natalie) as I definitely did not fall asleep when I was meant to be keeping Nic awake and get demoted to middle row…
We arrived in France at 7.25am, tired and very warm, ready for an exciting day of….sleeping in the sun and eating food. Some of safety ran the section above the slalom course before lunch, whilst the rest of us chilled and went to the supermarket (or Supermerché if you will, clearly I should have done French GCSE.) After this a few of us went to the flatwater slalom course to paddle, swim, and float around in inflatable donuts and flamingos donated to us by the other universities. This was followed by some frisbee, handstands, and a crash course in handstanding 101 courtesy of yours truly. Once we went to bed another thunderstorm occurred, however we had all learnt from the previous experience and properly pegged our tents down.
This day started nice and early with a morning wakeup call from Brearley asking if we wanted to paddle on the Slalom course. Thankfully only a few people were keen, which was foreshadowing really as the course was closed anyway… Instead we ate breakfast before leaving with the least club-faff I have ever seen (we deserve a medal) to paddle the upper and lower Guisaine. This river was super wavy and quite bouncy, creating its fair share of fatalities from assorted fresh due to the shallowness of it meaning that once you were over there was no rolling back up (this river takes no prisoners.) An intense army drill style eddy out before the S-bend led us to go and scout this feature. Some people portaged this whilst some of us ran is *INSERT FANFARE IN PREPARATION FOR A RARE MOMENT OF ME BEING SERIOUS” As someone who is a well known nervous paddler, I want to take this opportunity again to thank Felix and Alex A for talking me into running this feature even though I was about to be sick, and for supporting me all the way down. It might seem like a small thing that you two did, but it has made such a difference to me/my paddling, by doing this section my confidence in my own river running skills has increased and my nervousness decreased, so thank you both ? *INSERT FANFARE FOR END OF ME BEING SERIOUS*. We also managed to get some sick photos, curtesy of Sam Rice. A swim from Crouch led him to go and run this section again, without telling anyone…2 weirs later and we got off the river to eat lunch and for safety to run the lower, whilst the rest of us napped. We then went to run the Briançon gorge, resulting in a semi-carnage run (a few swims, a couple of pins, and a concussed Swales.) The day finished with Ready Steady Cook, featuring some very questionable foods being served, such as a full quail, “peen”, deep fried leek and egg, and 5kg beetroot. Congratulations to my group for winning! Some late-night star gazing and socialising and we went to bed.
Today was another early morning start in order to paddle the Agailes gorge, another rock-walled gorge where a fair amount of carnage ensued (including another broken paddle *ay*.) This gorge was continuous grade 2/3 and yet again had a lot of big bouncy waves. Some adventure lines and accidental backwards paddling through the gorge did occur, though luckily no lasting damage… After this run the inters and advanced ran Chateaux Q whilst the rest of us ate chocolate and sunbathed in a car park. More club faff and the advanced crew ran the middle Guile, whilst James (the saviour that he is) drove the rest of us to the shop to buy food and drink in preparation for the social…
STAG AND HEN SPECIAL
Pre-drinking began at 5.00pm when the guys and Florrie got back from the middle guile having drunk many funnels and beers already. Back at the campsite more funnelling (real verb?) and drinking happened, and as per tradition Sam spat alcohol all over me *angry emoji*. At 7.00 the girls left the camp to find a restaurant. Unfortunately despite Esme’s best French, all the restaurants were closed or full, so we ended up in the same place as the guys, however sat on the outside whilst they sat inside. Highlights from the rest of the evening included…
– The guys leaving the restaurant early in order to avoid getting kicked out
– Other customers leaving the restaurant because the guys were annoying them
– Chris getting lost for about 2 hours and us finally finding him in a wheelbarrow
– 90% of the guys getting eyebrow slits
– Ella and Ivan getting married, and Ella demanding a divorce 5 minutes after the ceremony finished
– Overall it was a mess.
Another “rest day” (Brearley and Adam “shall we go boating?”)
Those of us keen enough went and ran the Fournel, a river equivalent to the boofy river in Austria, whilst the rest of us headed to Briançon to try and pick up more paddles and some more food. After a quick lunch we then headed to le lac for some chilled swimming, diving, jumping into the water, and general sunny fun-ness. After this the safety team plus Florrie and myself (I like those safety ratios) went for a quick paddle of the Guile, a sick grade 3+ rapid with a cheeky weir in the middle. Here unfortunately is where I stopped writing in the log book, so everything from here onwards is entirely from memory, apologies if it is inaccurate.
On this day we did a river (shock horror I know) What it is called I have absolutely no idea. Someone probably swam. People probably rolled. We had dinner I assume
This was our last full day paddling in the alps *cry*. Unfortunately I was not able to paddle on this day, so what the river was like I have no idea, but Ella managed to break another paddle (hence her nickname …………….) Whilst the others paddled I followed a different tributary up the mountain, draped in James’ hoodie and Adam’s coat (it was super cold up at the top), going past a riding school, through some foresty and fieldy bits, and climbing up parts of the side of the mountain as there was literally no other way up (which was fine on the ascent but I may have caused a small landslide on the descent)… When the others go off the river it started raining so we bundled into the vehicles and some people went off to do another river whilst the rest of us went back to camp to shower and eat.
Today was the day we left ready to start the long drive back. Before we drove we went to the sunshine run intending to have a run of it, however due to fatigue and the weather we just ended up taking a load of photos in front of the RAB wave instead, and then driving off to wait in a park. Whilst some of us re-stacked boats in the van, and some of us played catch, Swales, Chris, and James got postcards to write the end of alps trip awards. When they returned we piled back into the vehicles to begin the long drive back to the cave (unfortunately not a destination recognised by google maps.) We stopped at around 6.00 to have a meal, give out awards, and then go to a cocktail bar just to kill time, before finishing the drive to Calais. As we arrived in Calais early we stopped in a service station to all have a sleep in the vehicles, which was much needed, even though it meant we missed the ferry we wanted to catch, so instead had to wait an hour (an hour well spent playing frisbee and trying to work out how to eat a whole watermelon with no utensils or cutlery (the answer? Drop in on the floor until it smashes, then eat the pieces.)) On the ferry the boys were treated to a quick crash course in colouring in ones eyebrows from Willow, so that they could still attend various formal occasions such as weddings and graduations without being shunned by their families. After we finally made it to the cave we sorted through all the equipment, then said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes, tired but ready for whatever next year was going to throw at us…
Afterword: I just want to say thank you again to all of you who were on this trip or to those who helped make this trip happen, I honestly think I can say it was the best holiday that I have been on, and not just during alps but since September every single member of EUCC has made we feel welcome and part of the group. The comradery between everyone and the way that everyone is always looking out for each other and willing to help each other is just amazing, and I am so grateful to be a part of this. Thank you everyone, you are all heroes and I am very glad to be able to call you my friends!
On 28th – 30th April, EUCC members headed to BUCS in Nottingham to pit themselves against other universities in the niche but fantastic sport of canoe polo. During this weekend filled with cake, glowsticks, and getting lost (it’s hard to believe we found time to play any polo really!) I somehow managed to find time to write down stuff for the following writeup…
Wahey, we made it! The Polo event of the year, British Universities and Colleges Sport Canoe Polo Championships. The event was held this year in Holme Pierrepoint, a 5 hour drive from our home ground. Team Bus met at the cave at 12.00am on Friday 28th, ready to load up the bus with the boats, kit, and camping stuff, then hit the road relatively quickly (if you ignore the time taken to stop off at Sainsbury’s for barbeques and food.) Those of us in the front (Sab and Myself) were treated to a free driving lesson on the perils of driving on motorways; “DOUBLE!!” before Adam stalled and a lorry driver glared at him. Some dubious and rather questionable jokes from Hammond and top notch banter from the back row, and we made it to Nottingham in one-piece, despite the emergency stopping of the bus a mere 10m before parking so people could dash to the toilets and pee. After this we set up our tents and got our kit scruntineered (no issues there then… ), before lighting a barbeque, eating, and settling down for the night.
The open team got off to a 5.45 am start on Saturday and were on the water 45 minutes later to put in some good practice before their first game against Warwick at 7.00. This game was an intense one, ultimately resulting in a 4-0 loss. However the true steel and grit of our players really came to play after this match, despite being placed in the bottom half as an outcome of this preliminary match, over the course of the weekend they rose through the league tables. Cheered on by a horde of screaming girls, a nail bitingly close match with Liverpool (coming down to golden goal) and Bath resulted in us placing 16th out of 29, a 12-place improvement on the previous year.
Unfortunately after all my hype in the SW Uni final review about BUCS, I managed to trip over my own feet and break my foot the week before BUCS. Encased in a very fashionable but rather oversized leg boot, I was physically unable to fit into a boat, rendering me a little useless to the team. Thankfully Swales stepped in to save the day, and completed the team. Unfortunately, the ladies pitches were 100 miles (…or 20 metres) away from the viewing area so it was a little hard to watch what was going in these matches, however from what I could see the ladies team played very well, winning matches against Swansea and Teeside, alongside some close losses. Overall the Ladies Team came 21st, which for a team that was formed 2 months ago is a massive achievement, and shows huge promise for the future.
At the end of the weekend we packed up our stuff, and after a quick vote for next year’s team captains, and a round of goodbyes, we began the long drive back to Exeter tired but proud. Thankfully this is not the end of polo for the year, as plans to compete in London in the summer are underway, and despite exam season training continues so we can come back even stronger next year!
Photos courtesy of Noble-Photography©