Certainly this is the best open canoe river descent in the UK. We start in the calm waters of the Insch marshes and end in the sea at Spey bay. In between we have the fun and adrenalin of canyoning in the Feshie gorge and canoeing the “washing machine” and Knockando rapids. Training and guiding are given to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience however it is important that participants are confident and have experience in water sports.
The practice expedition will take place between Kingussie and Boat of Garten and the qualifier from Aviemore to Spey Bay thus completing the entire river journey.
Students should make their way to Kingussie for day one of the practice and expect to return from Aviemore on day 4. For the final we will meet in Aviemore on day 1 and aim to be at Spey Bay by day 4. The best method of travel for both practice and the start of the final is by train from Aberdeen changing at Inverness for either Kingussie or Aviemore. For the final pick up at Spey bay a bus can be organised by participants.
On the river
We operate as two self supporting groups accompanied by an Instructor. During practice there will be additional canoe and camp training designed around the needs of each group so the qualifier can be completed with minimal Instructor intervention. Due to the nature of the river, instructors will be available for the majority of the more technical sections however we expect groups to be able to make their own judgements and devise strategies to cope with the prevailing conditions. During practice and in addition to personal paddling skills, a number of river tactics and management skills will be used including river signals, rescue, assessing rapids, identifying routes and wading/lining skills.
Clothing and equipment
We issue tents, stoves and all related canoe and safety equipment. In addition each person will be given a 60 litre waterproof barrel for food, equipment and clothing. We also recommend bringing a small 10-20 litre dry bag for use during the day.
Please bring all your kit in a rucksack or collapsable duffel bag (rig bag). You can then decant everything into your barrel leaving your bag in the Bigfoot van.
The best way to view your clothing system is to think of it as one which can cope with either warm shorts weather or cold wet conditions where nothing will dry during the entire expedition. Even without falling in, canoeing is a very wet sport which will bring with it the threat of cold. To this end we will have wet suits available which will help you to stay warm when wet. For your part please do not bring items made of cotton as they will never dry out. In addition there may well be midges in the evenings so we need to be able to cover up exposed skin and put a midge net on.
Refer to the kit check list on the website if uncertain.
If you are inadequately kitted out we cannot allow you onto the water
The camping locations are best described as wild however they are often near farm buildings, bridges and other river users. With this in mind we need to be aware of our impact whilst supporting our basic needs. There are a number of fresh water pick up points and even the odd toilet during our journey.
It is likely we will use our normal mountain tents, however if the weather is particularly good we do have the option of using 8 person wigwams and improvised shelters.
We will be using Trangia stoves and carrying food in our barrels and dry bags. With this in mind we have additional space to normal hiking trips and can therefore adjust our food choice accordingly. Although items are still likely to get squashed we can start to consider carrying fruit and tinned food.
Just in case you wondered?
- The canoes are two person open boats powered using a single bladed paddle (not an oar)
- There are seats in the boats however more power and balance can be obtained kneeling
- In the event of odd numbers we have one 3 person boat
- Basic steering comes from the person at the back
- Trainers with a good sole make ideal foot wear. They will be wet most of the time
- Wet suit boots are not recommended. Thin soles can be very uncomfortable and dangerous as we do a lot of wading and bank work
- Capsizes, when its not you, can be deadly funny or just deadly. It rapidly becomes the thing not to do