Aug 26

EUCC Alps 2017: Austria, Slovenia and France

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…

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…

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!

EUCC Alps Crew 2017

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