The Trip Report
My wife and I have just bought a couple of Alpacka packrafts for an upcoming trip in April when we are going to paddle down the River Spey from source to sea and then bike back to the source. We have some learning time planned with pack-rafting super guide Andy Toop at backcountry.scot to bring these two landlubbers up to speed before undertaking a serious paddle like the Spey. And only a few weekends to practise paddling by ourselves.
Neither of us has paddled before. I nearly drowned as a teenager and have a deep mistrust of water as a result. But we feel the call, the mixed mode adventure travel beckons us, offering a seamless way to move across the wilderness. We think that preparation, education and planning are key. Hence hiring a guide. A serious attention to safety and rescue techniques as I remembered the stories from paddling friends about the trouble they got into. The start of our education was Packrafting! An Introduction and How-To Guide First edition by Roman Dial. A quick read, but packed with lots of great info and anecdotes. Here is someone who has lived his life.
The plan was simple. Pack up our Brompton bikes which we are going to use for the Spey trip. Take the train to Aviemore and pedal out into the wilds for a weekends wild-camping and paddling on Loch Morlich. Not too far to pedal, we wanted to be close to civilisation in case we needed to dry out or warm up. The forecast was a few degrees above zero so we thought we would spend some time paddling then practise some rescue techniques ie one of us throws ourself in the water, the other assists with throw rope or we can practise getting back in the boat. Maybe practise firelighting at which I am really bad. So a micro adventure, a bit of this, a bit of that, nothing too strenuous! Aye!
- Bromptons, very custom build, article coming soon. Simply a great bike for microadventures. A huge amount of gear can be lashed to the front luggage frame.
- Alpacka Yukon Yak/Denali LLama
- Celtic Paddles 4 Piece Packrafting Paddle
- Astral V-eight PFD
- Benchmade Triage rescue knife
- Light my Fire firesteel
- fire lighting tinder (I’ve since swapped cotton wool for firelighters which means I can start a fire!)
- Lifesystems whistle
- HF Weasel throwline
- Clothing for paddling: waterproofs, Salomon Speedcross shoes, Buffalo pile jackets, Powerstretch leggings, liner socks, Sealskinz socks, neoprene gloves (which are ace for bikepacking and paddling), balaclavas and warm hats. Not enough as we got wet from splashed water and wading out into the water to launch/land the boats. Next time we will try knee length SealSkinz socks, the Alpacka Cruzer decks and another upper body layer. (Update: we have since discovered neoprene booties which fit in our Salomon Speedcross shoes just fine if the footbed is removed. Hello warm toes.)
- Suse used a Patagonia CragDaddy 45 pack, I used a LoweAlpine Cragsac (there is no link as this pack is nearly pre-internet, but it works superbly.) Both have full length zips allowing for easy packing and gear management. We line them with large Exped Schnozzel pump dry bags to keep gear dry and inflate our Exped mats.
I have since figured out that I can record paddles with my Garmin Fenix. Here are the bike routes for the weekend:
Home to Edinburgh for the train
Aviemore to campsite
Campsite(ish) to Loch Morlich
Cafe to campsite
Campsite to Glen Feshie
Edinburgh station to home