River Findhorn Descent (well pretty much...)
Since Terry started gaining his passion for his beloved camera, we had both thought about making a canoe film on the River Findhorn, we thought about trying to show a different side to what the canoe could do, not just the stereotypical view that most people have of this wonderful craft. With the lack of snow around, warm temperatures and a few friends off, we thought we'd give it a bash. What's the worst that could happen? Liam and Josh were on board and we knew with the limited day light it would be a challenge to film all the main rapids while lugging all the heavy camera equipment around, but no great adventure ever comes easy!
Day 1 Randolphs Leap/maybe the gorge as well??
7.00am start, boats loaded, we headed off towards Randolph's Leap, unloaded, kitted up and dragged our boats down to the entrance of the gorge. We had planned to do this section first due to the levels being low, it makes it a little less 'swampy' in the bathtubs. Terry got the drone set up, gave us the signal and we started paddling through the rocky entrance.
I had previously made a full descent of the Findhorn back in Nov 2014 with Andy McKinnon all the way to the town of Findhorn, up there with the Rannoch Moor crossing, but I hadn't paddled two of the main rapids in the gorge as the levels were too high. I was excited to get a chance today to give them a bash! We filmed the top section and portaged the undercut rock at the huge boulder. This was tough going with all the filming equipment, especially the 'jib' a homemade concoction from Terry that had 5-kilo weights attached to it for a smooth shot! I had the misfortune of moving the 'jib'... something that seemed to become a bit of a habit. We organised ourselves for the bottom drop, chatted about our line and got ready for the signal. Terry was all about timing to get the focus change when we came into shot, after some camera angle chat and some drone shots, we had what we needed, we thought about filming the rest of the gorge but agreed it was too late in the day and it would result in an epic! (Experience from a previous filming trip...) While getting the boats back to the van, Terry had some cool ideas for 'B roll' shots, so we dragged and carried our boats along some sections of the steep paths (a lot!) to get what he was looking for. All in all a very enjoyable & successful day!
Day 2 Upper Findhorn
Boats still loaded from the previous day, over the moor towards the upper Findhorn we went, parking at Dulsie Bridge. We unloaded and shuttled to Ardclach church, I felt lucky I was doing the shuttle and not moving all the heavy camera equipment down to the river! While driving over Terry had mentioned the type of shots we were hoping to get from today, we got on the water and paddled down towards the gorge while Terry flew the drone past, to be honest, we just paddled when Terry said! We grouped up and chatted through the shots of Dulsie gorge, we had decided the day before we wouldn't spend too much time here so we could get the other shots needed from Levens gorge and any other areas of the upper section. So after a few shots, we paddled down through the upper reaches taking in some nice sections of white water. Keen to keep time in our favour we kept paddling to maximise time at the main events, just in case we had to drag the boats back up and re-shoot. We arrived at Levens, had a quick scout, set up some safety and rock-paper-scissored for first go, I won (lost? not sure but I was the guinea pig!). I wanted to see if I could get the line through the rapid by using the features to maximum efficiency which would mean for minimal effort by me, I went too far left, clipped a rock and went for a wee swim! Josh learned from my mishap and nailed a good clean line :) As we continued down the lower sections of the river I had a thought that always crosses my mind on this section, "this feels longer than last time!" It's always longer than I'm expecting, even though I've paddled it around 20 times... Another cracking day and it looked like we got some great footage.
Day 3 Dulsie Gorge
After looking at some of the footage from the day before we had decided that we could get some better shots at Dulsie, so back we went to spend the day taking lots of footage. We must've run the same rapid 7 times each! The best part of the day for me was when we found Joshs CAR KEYS while emptying out some excess water for Liams boat after the 5th run. Liam had gone for a swim at the start of the day, self-rescued, unknowingly that Joshs keys had been under his airbag the whole time, some good karma and luck. :) The whole day was pretty hilarious, Liams a bit of a comedian (as you can see from the picture above. He's also very English!). Some bad luck was to follow; later while filming with the drone, Terry sat down the controller to chat to us, it proceeded to slide into a puddle of water... so that was it out of action for the day... Luckily we had taken most of the shots we needed from the air earlier in the day. We finished up after a few more takes and headed home to see what damage we had with the controller, we dismantled it and left to dry above the radiator. Time would tell...
Day 4 Lower Findhorn Gorge
Another early start, a little tired but pretty excited for the gorge, unfortunately, Liam couldn't make it today due to work commitments! There were a few rapids on this section that I hadn't paddled, 'triple steps' & 'corkscrew' due to the levels being too high on the last descent which included a broken finger (that's a whole other story...) We parked at the Craft Centre to save some time paddling the flat section from Randolphs, it was Terrys turn to do the shuttle, so myself and Josh started dragging boats down towards the river. Surprisingly Terry turned up before we had finished, I had a brain wave, we could tow my boat and kit with the bike! Think hard work easy! :) pity we only had 400mtrs left to go... but it was funny nonetheless. We paddled down towards 'pinball alley' set up and chatted through the line, this was probably the tightest line all day, there was a tree stuck river left of a big rock, which had around 75% of the water flowing through, it had high potential pin hazard, not the best place to take a swim! We set up some safety and ran it in turns, tight, but we got through pretty clean. Next it was straight into 'triple steps' we decided where to film, set up and had a fantastic time running through while taking some shots. Unfortunately, it was too windy for the drone, so it was up to the 'slider' to do some moving shots. I was pretty pleased to get to paddle this, and it was smoother than I was expecting, just as long as you don't swim after the second step! 'Corkscrew' was just a few hundred meters further, we knew this was a pretty technical line with a high chance of pinning if you took a swim. It went without a hitch, clean lines, good shots, great times! We knew time was starting to get on so we tidied up and begun to get a move on. One last little drop before 'the slot' & sod's law, Josh got a 10" crack in the stern of his boat while running the drop :(. Keen to keep moving we portaged 'the slot' (it has a real bad undercut with who knows what stuck under there, just not worth the risk.) Duct tape to the rescue, well kind of, tbh not really but we lashed it on anyway to minimise the sinking of Josh and his boat, it was very amusing how fast it was filling up! We were so close to the end we just paddled on anyway, boats stacked into three, on top of 2 portage trolleys and we dragged them up the hill and into the fading light... What a great way to finish off this great little adventure, I love the feeling of being tired while feeling like you've just had a great experience with some great people. This one will stay in the memory bank for a log time, even better that we captured it all on film. Check out the full film at Crossdeck Productions.
Scotland has a variety of classic trips, for more information check out some Scottish Journeys on our website.
For our full range of expeditions, courses & trips, check out:
Scottish Rock for our land based trips & courses
Scottish Water for our water based trips & courses
Scottish Winter for our winter walking, mountaineering & climbing courses
If you would like to keep up to date with our blog and special offers please feel free to join our mailing list.