Cevennes/Ardeche 26/10-1/11, the true story!
Volane and Besorques
Earlier in the week the Ardeche had seen one of those typical autumnal floods but the water was running off at an alarming rate and by Sunday, it was unclear whether there would be still some paddling possibilities.
Short phone call with Fredo07 resolved the problem, still paddleable levels on the Volane. Arriving at the river confirmed low but OK level. We chickened out of running the little gorge at the put in feeling a bit rusty and due to group dynamics.
Some carnage of team BAH later on that week showed that this maybe was not the worst decision.
The Volane starts off with some smaller drops and then a series of blocked rapids that were a bit too tight for BC and his fullsize Vector, one off. Roberto and me rather quickly arrived at the crux rapid, a dam followed by a twisting channel, clean line but we decided for the middle route over the rock slab….
After this, a small river brings significant extra water and the Volane entered several small gorges with clearly more push to them than the upper section. Reccing and putting security not always easy…. We finally got a little tired which did not really improve paddling accuracy resulting in a few sketchy moments (especially at a weir that can be run on the right but that conveyes you straight into a very powerfull ledge/stopper combo on the left, surprise!!).
After 9km of remarkably continuous grade IV, we welcomed the take out and some lunch. The day was not over though, with some sunlight left and BC still full of energy, we decided to have a short run on the neighbouring Besorques, putting in halfway the standard section below the big weir/slide rapid. Somewhat less continuous that the Volane and overall less difficult, this section kept some nice rapids including a fast no brainer 5m chute, big fun and a good end to the day!
Volane: 11m3/sec at Vals
Volane: BC styling one of the first drops
Volane: ohh yess, granite slides, sun and 20°C…
Volane: narrow drop with big rock on the left….
Volane: second half, lots of drops in small gorges, pull hard!
Bezorgues: slide next to the road
Bezorgues: clean drop, great fun!!
Monday evening it started raining again big time, so Tuesday we opted to go check level on the Beaume with high hopes of paddling maybe upper Drobie or even the Sueille. Unfortunately, we only found 35cm on the gauge, even 10cm below the recommended minimum for the Upper Beaume. Speculating on increasing flows due to the ongoing rain, we opted to put in halfway on the Upper Beaume and continue through the standard section down to le Gua. The upper part revealed some nice constricted rapids in small gorges followed all too quickly by the 1km grade 3 (very bony at our level) that leads to the start of the standard section with the grade VI slide. At this point, a river adds water from the left and although still low, the remainder of the section provided some good sport, nice drops and blocked rapids in great scenery, one of my favorites in the area. Although none of the rapids are overly difficult, a quick scout now and then could be a good idea.
Beaume: 11m3/sec at Rosieres
Beaume: first rapid where we put in
Beaume: put in below the grade VI rapid
Beaume: Roberto takes the chicken route to avoid nasty pin spot on the main line
Beaume: BC, hey I think I swam here 2 years ago!!
Thursday, small international posse arrived in the area with Birdy, dirty Harry and August the frenchie. They brought snow, quite uncommon this time of the year in Ardeche, and had some cold and wet fun on the Volane. With heavy and persistant rain forecasted we took our chances and went checking the Beaume gauge again. Unfortunately this was even lower than on Tuesday so we continued our drive to the upper Ardeche catchment. A lot of water came down the Fontaliere, in principle a good sign for the other rivers around… We probably made the worst choice of possible sections by heading to the Upper Ardeche, low at the take out and merely wet rocks at the put in. Due to short days and pouring rain that would pump up any other river, we put in any way. To our disappointment, water level did not really increase and only shortly before the take-out, some side rivers brought enough water for clean lines. After 7km of rock bashing, the sudden increase in volume took some getting used to and we had some surprises in the final short gorge. Probably a good section if you are lucky of finding the right water level.
Ardeche: 4m3/s at Meyras going off the scale in the evening
Ardeche: runnable weir with narrow landing zone
Ardeche: one of the last rapids, pin spot…
Ardeche: time to get out, Pont de Diable
Also read the story from Dirty Harry and Birdy