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Cullaun 2: Taming bare rivers

Sunday June 19th 2016

Members present: Adam Walmsley,  David Willis,  Joseph Smith,  Rachel Findlay,  Will Scott

Report by Adam Walmsley

‘Twas a wild and wet day on the west coast of Ireland. While the rest of the team changed in the shelter of the spruce forest, I reluctantly changed into my wetsuit in Will's car. Will was not amused.

After scrotting around in a couple of false starts, we found the cave and ducked through the first waterfall into the meandering passage beyond. We soon joined the streamway and followed its sinuous course to the first vertical feature: a miniature Niagara Falls.

The passage beyond this was carrying a fair quantity of water, which the next waterfall entering from the right at least doubled. The smooth, narrow canyon funnelled the water into a powerful chute. At this point some of the team were struggling with the flow and had concerns about getting back out. While they dithered on the traverse above, I entertained myself by floating down the stream on my back beneath them. Findles was not amused.

Joe and I continued into the unknown. Joe seemed to be more at home monkeying around in the rafters, while I much preferred to stay at stream level, ambling along with the current, occasionally being swept off my feet and carried a short distance for free; a pleasant existence. This continued for some time, until another large waterfall inlet was encountered, engulfing the passage with tumultuous white water. We passed through this with caution, unsure what it would do to the stream power below.

Beyond, the passage widened somewhat and became more variable, with ledges and underwater bridges making the going more hazardous to shins. Suddenly I saw a small light float past me and heard a distraught yelp from Jo behind. I realised that he had dropped his gopro-alike, so I charged after it downstream. I had nearly caught up with it and dove into the water to grab it, but fumbled and missed. As I looked up I saw that I was heading face first rapidly towards a block in the channel under which I was about to be thrust, so had to abort. The camera floated away into the abyss, never to be seen again… Joe was not amused.

Soon, we reached an area of large blocks above a steep cascade. There was absolutely no way of getting down (or rather, back up) in those conditions so we traversed out above to admire the view. Joe ate a mars bar and I had a tinkle over the raging torrent.

The return trip was even more entertaining. The power of the water was phenomenal and in places it was impossible to make any progress in the stream. We alternated between strenuous traversing and forcing our way through the water. Joe was tired AF. The 'crux' was a long, straight section of narrow passage in which the water was particularly fast and deep, and there was little to traverse on above. The water here couldn't be beaten, so it was a case of chimneying along above the flume, and trying to avoid dropping down and getting swept back to the start. Great fun!

Once back to the Niagara Falls, the going got easy and we were out in no time. Apparently we had been gone 3½ hrs. The others were not amused. Oops :)