The British Universities Kayaking Expedition‘s are entering their tenth year. Students from around the country were invited to submit paper applications which were scored by previous team members, with the top twenty being invited for a 3 day ‘selection event’ in North Wales.
The hugely rainfall dependent boating conditions in Wales has required us to improvise in the past, however much to everyone’s relief the rain gods were smiling on us and came up with the goods.
Friday morning saw the 8 car convoy heading en-masse for the Mawddach. The gauges were reading low, but the constant rain gave us hope that it was on the up, so we made the call and got on.
The final expedition team would be selected by means of a vote later in the weekend, so the twenty applicants were split into smaller groups to give everyone the opportunity to paddle with people they’d not paddled with previously, to get to know them, and see how each other approached a ‘new’ river.
Following the Mawddach and some shuttle related faff a few hours of daylight was left. The Rainchasers online gauges were telling us the nearby Wnion was high. I’d not paddled this since 2002 and was very keen for a repeat descent – especially a descent with good water levels. The groups were mixed up a bit giving everyone more new people to paddle with. The outright highlight of this run was the gorge – a few hundred meters of steep powerful class 4 whitewater forced between ever-narrowing walls, before spilling out (over a tree) into a wide pool. The groups who got on first managed to crank out a second run in the deepening gloom, with the groups who got on last (or who suffered a little carnage) having to settle for just the one.
Friday evening has traditionally been “destination” evening. Each applicant researches the destination they want the trip to visit and presents it to the rest of the group. We then whittle down the destinations to a final two or three which have the most potential. The destinations that remain at the end of the evening contribute a couple of points to the team selection vote, so it is in everyone’s interests to get some good beta on their chosen country.
Every year there are some really inspiring suggestions and this year was no different. It is a testament to the quality of the research that a number of the destinations that have been discounted in the past have since been visited by ex-expedition members – Sulawesi, Borneo and Sri-Lanka to name a few.
Saturday saw slightly lower levels, but this provided ample opportunity for the staple diet of the uniyaker selection weekend. A warm-up on the Glaslyn (including a le-mans style start mass boatercross), and as many laps of North Wales’ test-piece – the Fairy Glen – as everyone could manage.
Saturday evening commenced with haggis, neeps and tatties – courtesy of the Scottish contingent, which soon descended into drinking games before the team vote was made. Each boater got 6 votes to choose their ideal team, the votes were counted and the team chosen.
Sunday saw those with long journeys (or possibly nursing bad hangovers) set off early, whilst the other half of the group headed to the lower Cynfal to make the most of the last of the water.
All in all, a spectacularly good weekend. Many thanks to everyone who applied for a place on this year’s expedition, and if you didn’t get on this time, then don’t let this put you off, there’s literally a world of possibilities out there.
So, many congratulations to the chosen 2015 British Universities Kayaking Expedition team, and good luck for your 2015 expedition to Madagascar.
Many thanks to Jack Gunter, Dave Burne, Rob Moffatt and Ant Stewart for the images in this post.