Wilderness Medical Course

On the Friday morning, Sam started his journey in the early hours up to Bangor, where he jumped in the van with me as I would be staying in my van for the four nights outside Glenmore lodge. I definitely regretted taking my new summer bag for Madagascar as I woke in the middle of the night with ice next to my face but after some layering up of everything I had with me I made it through the night. At least we were still having snowball fights in April.

snowThe tone was set very quickly for the course, a lot of information and a lot of questions, some more relative than others. I won’t bore you with everything as the course covered everything that could possibly go wrong on an expedition from illnesses to injuries, drugs to legal aspects to water and food. We were also shown how to intramuscularly inject, staple and glue wounds and deal with various scenarios of casualties in very awkward positions. However, as everything was covered it did highlight how many things are out to hurt us. It made me a bit more nervous and I’m definitely going to be militant about the little parasites that feed on you from the inside. You have to take a few days after the course to put things back into realistic threats.


One of the best things about this course is at the end you get a shopping list and a personal pharmacist that can equip you to kill all bugs and allow you to get prescription level painkillers and antibiotics which is crucial for us as we are expecting to be a long way from anywhere these would be available. The more we prepare the more it’s making me think that the kayaking is going to be the easiest bit, apart from when we meet a cave crocodile. That puts another level on siphons.


This course (and flights) were made a lot cheaper because of Bangor University who gave a big chunk of money to me and the team. So I would like to thank the University and Richard Bennet (Director of sport) personally for endorsing the Expedition and making it a lot safer.

British Universities Creek Race

This weekend, some of the team braved a stormy Glen Coe and Glen Etive to rally for the annual British Universities Creek Race. The brief resentment of the horizontal downpour and frustration as kit was blown around was quickly replaced by excitement as conversation turned to the river levels. It was clear as soon as the first shuttle left to go from race registration, down Glen Etive, that the Middle (you know the one you chuck your freshers down) was not going to be race-able. The surging water turning “triple falls” into more of a continuous 100m stretch of gigantic boils and terrifying holes would mean half the field wouldn’t even step up to running the course, and the other half would be ranked accordingly, by who survived their beatings and managed to actually complete a descent.

The racers therefore continued on down the glen, Guzzling the free Redbull and Tunnocks caramel Logs (thanks to our generous sponsors for a true athletes breakfast) to race on “corner falls” or “twist & shout” below right angle at the normal take out.


Team member Campbell gasping on the first course, left of the "island"

Team member Campbell gasping on the first course, left of the “island”


The first heat went well, with the majority of the field picking clean lines down through the first rapid. A mandatory left around an island followed (this island is normally not an island, it is normally a rocky outcrop several meters above the level of the river) and the finish line was to slap a banner below the take out bridge. There were a few swims but the good times seemed to be around the 2 minute mark.

The next event was the alumni boater cross…


Mr IR Mulrain taking the lead on the Alumni Boater Cross

Mr IR Mulrain taking the lead on the Alumni Boater Cross


and some casual, unrelated to the race, carnage!

Newcastle's makeshift duo is 50% effective

Newcastle’s makeshift duo is 50% effective

The second heat was to take place on the Coupall, a tributary to the Etive flowing in the shaddow of Buchaille Etive Mhor, normally a rocky ditch, brought up to be a… raceable rocky ditch for the day!

Team member Jacob sussing his line on the second course

Team member Jacob sussing his line on the second course

The good lines continued and after everyone had posted their second heat time (a shorter, 1 minute course), the massive crew of racers and safety headed to the Coe for a few laps before the prize giving and party at Kinlochleven.

A massive congratulations to all the racers, especially Jiri from Bangor, taking first place and a big phat cash prize! And our very own team leader Josh who, also from Bangor, took 3rd.

Team member Josh flying down the racecourse to take his 3rd place finish

Team member Josh flying down the racecourse to take his 3rd place finish

Thanks everyone for turning up and making it such a sick weekend! Also a massive thanks to the race organisers…



See you all next year!


Photos Courtesy of Kirsten Rendle and Geoff Cooper

Training in Uganda

With winter well and truly in swing and a massive lack of rain in Scotland preventing us from doing our thing, Calum and myself headed off to the sunny pearl of Africa…Uganda! Where the White Nile flows from Lake Victoria you’ll find some of the finest big volume river running and play waves in the world, catering from your casual kayaker to the best big wave freestyle paddlers around! With little persuading needed our team of 5 booked flights back in August and before we knew it we were in the air heading for Entebbe, followed by a few hours in a Matatu (taxi) to our campsite at NRE (Nile River Explorers – raftafrica.com) and the home of Kayak The Nile. We arrived just in time to bring in the New Year, which involved the second annual Beer Olympics (we were straight up terrible) and introducing the Ugandans to Buckfast Tonic Wine (needless to say it went well). This was the best welcome to the Nile that we ever could have expected, and kudos to everyone at NRE for making it so epic…many a funnel was seen off that night…

NRE Bar - Calum, Leslie, Jack, Roddy

NRE Bar – Calum, Leslie, Jack, Roddy

Overlooking Bujugali Lake (once Bujugali Falls) this place defines paradise, and is where we lived for our three weeks away. Calum and myself used this trip as a good opportunity to find transport, haggle prices, and generally be dirtbag kayakers living on a shoestring in preparation for Mada, and it definitely paid off! It really is amazing just how little you can get by on if you’re prepared to search and ask, also getting fed by locals was always fun (eating great food and meeting amazing people!). The first week or so was spent exploring the different channels of the river, getting a feel for the paddling style (/being wedged in a playboat that’s too small), and spending whole days lounging and surfing at SuperHole. Now I’m not much of a playboater, but even after just three weeks it’s amazing how much your skills develop and I’m sure a lot of people will be testament to that. Want to get good at kayaking? Head to Uganda.

Leslie - Nile Special Wave Access

Leslie – Nile Special Wave Access

In week two we treated ourselves to a few days camping at the Hairy Lemon Island (hairylemonuganda.com), a self sustaining island paradise where you can spend all your time sessioning the infamous Nile Special surf wave (epic), along with Bells Hole (trashy beatdowns) below, and Club Wave last (for those 6am wake-up sessions). This is where you’ll truly learn a new style of paddling, and find that getting kicked a foot or two in the air by its power is all part of surfing…bring on the air screws! Waving goodbye to the Lemon myself and two others decided to public transport it the 6hr trip north-west to Masindi in order to see all the pretty animals and check out Murchison falls, an incredible rapid where the entire Nile funnels through a 6m wide gap! If this mini-holiday taught me anything it’s two thing: avoid crocs at all cost, they’re scary; and public transport is wild, sweaty, and highly uncomfortable in general, however it was worth it considering the cost was around £4/5 each way!

Calum - Blunts For Dayzzzz

Calum – Blunts For Dayzzzz

The rest of the trip was spent with more lazy super hole days, a lot of nights in the curry house (amazing), and tagging onto raft trips in order to paddle the entire section of river – from below Bujugali dam to the Hairy Lemon island, where lots of food and beer awaited us. Home time came around way too fast, and just in time for the famous Nile River Festival we had to jump on our plane (Uni term spoiling all our fun!). However the time we spent there has opened my eyes to new kayaking styles and a totally different way of life, I think I could live there extremely easily (and perhaps one day I will). I honestly urge anyone of any kayaking ability to head out for a holiday, get some fantastic lessons from the good people at Kayak The Nile (kayakthenile.com), and just experience Uganda in all its friendliness and hospitality.

Before it’s too late, the stretch of the Nile that has become so notorious is gradually disappearing due to damming projects. Already the Silverback rapids at Bujugali have been lost, of which I am sad enough that I never got to experience, and the rest of the rapids are under serious threat from the proposed Isimba dam. This is likely to happen in the next few years. Check out the film ‘A Dam Shame’ by Sam Ward (https://vimeo.com/37428996) for an insight into the Bujugali dam impact and celebrating the rapids before they disappeared.

Huge thanks to Scotty Robinson for making sure we didn’t drop into death rapids! Also along with big thanks to the guys at KTN – Dave, Sam, Emily – for sorting Jack with boats when Brussels Airline lost his (and just generally being good to us), Flo and the rest of the NRE guys for putting up with our mess, and anyone we met/fed us when we were floating about.

Until we meet again Africa!

UGANDA: 2015 from Jack Brickell on Vimeo.

Film Produced by Jack Brickell
Photos Courtesy of Murray Gauld

Chilly Winter Training

It’s January and the team is divided, team Aberdeen (Leslie and Calum) are living it up on the White Nile, having the time of their lives in an African paradise and getting experience of high volume, warm weather paddling… Bliss!


For the rest of us however, the crunch is on with exams in full swing. Taking full days off to go boating would be great but living in the shadow of the library is proving too much for that amount of fun right now.

Making the most of the limited daylight, team members Campbell and Matt have been getting some early morning flat water sessions in before revision commences on their respective local canals of Glasgow and Nottingham.

Nottingham Canal

Glasgow Canal

The boys are preparing for the expedition by building up their fitness and dodging the floating rubbish, hopefully the Madagascan waterways will smell a bit better than our  stagnated UK Canals!

Glasgow Boat
Glasgow Canal Wide… More news to come from the Guys in Uganda soon, stay tuned folks.

Photo Credits: Murray Gauld

Another weekend in Wales

With university (almost) over for the year, Josh, Matt and Sam got some excellent boating in over the weekend with friends.
Early Friday morning there was plenty of water around, and Josh had to finish an essay due in at midday. While Josh started writing we paddled the Mawddach.

Rhaeadr Mawddach

Rhaeadr Mawddach – we didn’t feel like running it!


First fall on the Mawddach – Photo by Luke Davies

After a smooth run down and driving the relatively long shuttle (short compared to the length shuttles will be in Madagascar), we met Josh at Beaver Pool. The Fairy Glen had a bit more flow than we would like, so we got on the Lledr instead. The Lledr is an awesome river, the section starts with a small slide before entering a gorge. After a great run it was almost sunset, so we headed towards Josh’s house to eat some food.


Josh running the walled in drop at the start of the gorge on the Lledr

Saturday morning we expected levels to be low. After finally getting my car to start, we headed towards the Fairy Glen, pleasantly surprised to find it at a good level. We had a few exciting laps!

The next day, with little rain overnight rivers were looking too low at about half 7 to get a run in before Josh headed to work. But with heavy rain forecast Matt was on his way from Nottingham. We met at the Wnion and put on as it was rising fast.


Having fun on the Wnion

With only a few hours of daylight left we headed towards the Mawwdach. We split in to two groups running the Mawdach, and the Eden which is a tributary of the Mawddach with the same take-out at public toilet falls. The Mawddach was a bit higher than it was on Friday, and racing against daylight made it a slightly less relaxed run.

Josh also got some good paddling in on Monday on the Fairy Glen.

Fairy Glen

Josh in the first gorge of the Fairy Glen – Photo by Barnaby Prees

North Wales selection weekend

Fairy Falls - Photo by Rob Moffatt

Fairy Falls – Photo by Rob Moffatt

The British Universities Kayaking Expedition is a biennial event that sees a small team of some of the UK’s finest white water paddlers organise and undertake an extended trip to a location of their choosing. Often very remote and undiscovered, they’re aim is to generally find new stretches of world class white water along with any other goals that their team see’s fit. Details of the event along with previous trip reports and footage can be found at uniyaker.co.uk, some of the previous destinations look suitably epic!

The selection process for the 2015 team began in the run up to October, where all applicants submitted a two page information sheet (avoiding using the word CV…its not!) basically bigging themselves up with the hope of being narrowed down and included in the top 20 paddlers to go to the selection long weekend in North Wales. I believe around 35 people applied this year proving a strong interest in exploratory kayaking amongst UK students. On the 6th of November everyone made their way to the Imperial College mountain hut in Snowdonia, North Wales, arriving in the evening it was a good chance for everyone to make each others acquaintances and have a social bevvy!

Mountain Hut - Photo by Ant Stewart

Mountain Hut – Photo by Ant Stewart

The next morning (Friday 7th) saw us up at the back of 7 for a fry up breakfast before heading off for the Mawddach, thankfully lots of rain the previous week and a drizzly weekend meant good levels and lots of boating! The Mawddach is ace!! For its length and its continuity it was a great opportunity to paddle with new people and prove yourself as competent on the river. I’m sure we’ll all be back to conquer the Rhaeadr Mawddach…one of these days! Once off the river with ample daylight left we headed to the Wnion with reported good flows, and boy were they right! I was gutted daylight only allowed a couple of runs as I could’ve sessioned that peach of a a grade 4 gorge all day, reminded me of a high Briancon gorge…narrow, committing, and tonnes of fun!! As darkness descended we headed back to the mountain hut to get the fire on and see about sorting dinner out, spag bol was on the menu and once everyone had eaten their fill it was time to set about hearing everyone’s destination presentations.

Leslie on the Mawddach - Photo by Ant Stewart

Leslie on the Mawddach – Photo by Ant Stewart

Campbell running Fairy Falls - Photo by Jack Gunter

Campbell running Fairy Falls – Photo by Jack Gunter

The presentations were focussed on being short and sweet so the evening wouldn’t drag out all night and everyone produced the goods its safe to say, with solid destinations looking into the likes of Iran, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Laos, and so on. Once all destinations had been pitched and discussed they were narrowed down to three options, Madagascar, Colombia/Ecuador, and Iran, where they were left for decision by the final team (giving room for extra research, etc.).

Saturday 8th saw another early start with cooked breakfasts and a prompt exeunt to the days rivers…Glaslyn and the Fairy Glen of the Conwy! The Glaslyn acted as the days warm up with four or five runs down this cracking piece of short and sweet class 4, followed by a le mans start boater cross! After getting our asses handed to us for first place by Josh we headed to the Fairy Glen! Grade 5 feature after feature it truly is one that should be on every UK boaters to-do list, with a highlight being Fairy Falls, a broken jagged slide leads into two meaty boof-tastic holes/drops with a messy lead out requiring a dash right to avoid a potential pinning. Managing to get a few runs in we once again headed back for an evening at the mountain hut, with dinner left to the charge of the Scottish boys (wise?) where naturally they cooked up huge quantities of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties! Following the foreign cuisine it was onto the nerve racking part…the selection! This year it was a collective decision made by all applicants, each of whom listed their top 6 candidates that they’d like to see in the team (including themselves), this was probably the most difficult part as overall the level of paddling displayed had been incredible. The votes were then taken away for counting leaving all the candidates waiting in anticipation, upon return and after the weekends prizes were given out the team was announced as such:

The team: Calum, Joshua, Matt, Campbell, Leslie, Jacob, Sam

The team: Calum, Joshua, Matt, Campbell, Leslie, Jacob, Sam

  • Calum Peden
  • Josh Brewer-Smith
  • Matt Brook
  • Campbell Simpson
  • Leslie Simpson
  • Jacob Collings
  • Sam Lyons

Evening socialising once again commenced along with our first meeting, where after discussion and a little more info gathering we decided Madagascar would be the best option for our expedition giving us incredible scope for first descents, multi-day jungle adventures, and also the option to work in both charity and environmental aspects. This is an incredibly exciting prospect and one that we are all fully committed to getting the most from.

Overall the weekend as a whole was incredibly rewarding, a chance to paddle new (incredible) rivers, meet new people, and gain an insight into the high-level of student white water kayakers across the UK. Every paddler at the weekend (regardless of making the team) now has a wealth of information for potential expeditions and plenty of new friends to go paddling with across the country, definitely recommend applying to anyone interested in this field of kayaking!

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