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Scotland: A trip of two halves

Scotland is always unpredictable when it comes to weather, and at easter it lived up to its reputation. The trip started driving north in the sunshine, stopping off at Glasgow for an epic kebab en route. The first few days were pretty dry, so instead of using the usual fallback option of falling off a crowded Etive, the first stop was the mighty Leven – the hero’s Etive! It was my first time down, and despite the lack of rain, the dam at the top was releasing enough to pad most of the drops and enjoy some verticality.

The tricky lead-in to Mackays falls… 

…and the reward for nailing the lead-in.

Impressive horizon line from the top of the “End of the World” on the Leven.

…and mid-way down the same set of drops.

Next up, Falls of Lora for some tidal playboating. Whilst the main hole didn’t dole out as many beatings as I’ve seen in the past, the whirlies behind didn’t disappoint with some funky downtime roulette waiting for unsuspecting victims. The highlight of the session for me had to be being the first person to catch the forever wave as it was forming, and carving back and forth in the Loki on the continuous glassy slab of water as it poured out of the loch.

There’s some excellent playboating pics from the Sunday’s tide in this album, for any freestyle junkies out there…  

Sunday dawned damp and miserable, your classic Scottish fare, but still the rivers didn’t rise. Back to the Leven for some crunchy waterfall action, then to the pub to wait for the rain to make its way into the rivers.

Eventually we decided the Dubh Lighe (pronounced doo-lee) – a new run for most of us – would be the best bet, and after a slog up to the put-in, we got on the water about 6.30pm. Sadly it turned into a bit of a race against the light, having to portage more rapids than most of us would have liked. Still, the feeling of flying off the final 4m fall in the deepening gloom made it all worthwhile.

Martyn boofing the final drop in the dark…

The next day saw an early start, followed by much faff, with the Cononish first on the hit-list. Read and run was the order of the day, with Martyn having an interesting moment after missing his boof on a 3m drop and getting worked with others boofing over him ‘till he smashed the glass and swam.

Final river of the trip was the Falloch. The fall is well known and has been run countless times, but I’ve always put off running it till it was at a level that I could do the rest of the run too. Both the fall and the run didn’t disappoint, with the 7 Dwarves rapid getting the blood pumping hard with a series of moves to make, one on top of another.

Thanks to Phil Higgins and Martyn Butler for the photos.