The best thing about any kayaking trip to a faraway place is, of course, the kayaking. The worst, possibly, the travel. That is why on our return to the French Alps this year, we had a revised strategy for coping – stopping at a Whitewater course on the way!

The St Pierre de Boeuf Whitewater course is just outside of Lyon – a small detour on the route from Calais to the Alps, and feeding off the Rhone river. It is a great course, with a wide variety of features, from tall waves to gentle stoppers – all with green surroundings and pleasant luke warm water. The features are separated by long wave trains, and rocks to ‘splat’ off. The water is sourced by an inlet from the dam, which means it is very cheap for a day’s paddling and the onsite restaurant was great.

As the day went on, the temperature inevitably increased – to the point where paddling on the surface would not suffice to stay cool. In the absence of squirt boats, we dipped a toe into Whitewater swimming – never a bad idea to do it voluntarily, since you may not have the choice next time!

Having broken up the drive, the final leg to the Alps didn’t seem as bad – so we were refreshed and ready to paddle the Durance River the next day. We were met by other paddlers from the UK, so our flotilla of Jackson boats grew even larger, ranging from Fun 1 and 1/2’s up to a Karma, 9 boats in total!  We paddled at the usual places – the L’Argentière-la-Bessée salmon course, Rabioux wave and the freestyle feature at Embrun (and of course every inch of the river between them!).

We also had some inflatable fun at the Saint-Clément slalom course, testing out not only the new LVPC club mascot, but a new NRS Outlaw inflatable kayak, which performed superbly throughout the week, and sustained no damage from any of the rocks! It was very stable on the wave trains, and was super easy to climb back into from the water if you had a surfing mishap!

Finally, we headed to higher altitudes to run Le Fournell – a series of drops in the mountains. As it turns out, they were still navigable, but to be safe Danny used his NRS Zen Rescue Buoyancy Aid to check depth at the bottom of the drops, with Will ready to pull him out ona throwline!

Overall it was another great trip – major thanks to Dan McGaley for organising it, everyone for the paddling fun, non-paddlers for food and photos and finally, Aaron Dempsey and Squarerock for all the superb kit and support!

Photos courtesy of Jack and Dan McGaley, Chris Pamplin and Halcyon Mandelstam!

By Hugh Mandelstam