My First Whitewater

STORY BY Patrick 12th January 2017

There’s always something you can do with water in the mountains. In winter you can ski on snow or maybe ice climb, then when it all thaws in the spring we get whitewater to enjoy kayaking or rafting.  It’s a great gift, I hear some people use it to generate hydro electricity and some have even begun drinking it.

Whitewater can seem an intimidating prospect if you’ve seen action videos of rafts dropping off big waterfalls or over turning going through gnarly rapids but you can start with something more gentle- often called river rafting – to see if you have a taste for it or not.  Whilst you normally need to be a teenager at least to try whitewater, gentler rafting can be tackled by children as young as age six.

Robert Thorne, then aged 7, did just that when on a Thomson Lakes And Mountains Holidays to Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tirol.

“We had a lot of fun going down the river,” said Robert, “It was strange wearing the wet suit, helmet  and life vest but I soon got used to it. There were three rafts altogether and I was the youngest.  The guides were a lot of fun and to start with we had competitions trying to get ahead of the other rafts and splashing each other.  I kept splashing and one of the guides off another raft came and took me on to his raft before our guide got me back, that was great!”

“I was nervous at first when we got the safety information but soon I was jumping in to the water, as the river wasn’t very deep or very fast.  At one place we were allowed to just float in the river using our life vests and that was great fun,” added Robert, “It was also good to pull up on the river bank and cook up a barbecue for lunch.”

Rafts will normally have eight to ten people on board and its important of course to ensure you book with a reputable company with fully qualified guides.

Thomson Lakes & Mountains (020 8939 0740) offers a week half board at the 4* Hotel Jagerwirt in Kitzbuhel from £450 per person including, flights from Gatwick to Salzburg and resort transfers departing on 3 June 2017. Direct flights available from all major UK airports at a supplement starting from £20.

How About Hydrospeed?

If you find you love rafting then hydrospeed – facing forward on a solo float with flippers on your feet for added power and control, a bit like lying on a toboggan – could be your next challenge.

It’s a popular option in action sports resort Arc 1950 in the French Alps where specialist operator Spirit1950 offers a range of activities for children aged 8 and up including rafting and hydrospeed from Aime to Centron down the Isere river or from Bourg St Maurice to Gothard, accompanied by a guide.  Over two and a half hours you’ll travel around eight kilometres (five miles) down stream!

The company grade their rafting and hydrospeed sessions like ski runs with the easiest, green, available for children aged eight or older, for the more challenging blue descent kids needs to be 12 and up, for more difficult still red runs 14 and for the toughest of all, black, 15 years or older.

Warmer Waters of the Hautes-Pyrénées

The southerly French department of Hautes-Pyrénées is crossed by hundreds of streams and rivers, once more descending through spectacular scenery.,

There are more than 270km of rivers, waterfalls and streams, fed by snowmelt and glaciers, to splash down through whirlpools, natural water slides and clear water basins.

The Aure river is fed by the crystal clear lakes and springs of the Néouvielle National Park above Saint Lary Soulan resort, it’s emerald green water finally emptying into the Garonne around Montréjeau.

Here there’s An amazing 8km (five mile) descent possible by canoe, kayak or raft.  It takes only about 75 minutes to make it due to the fast flowing water.

The course is divided into two parts which makes it a great place for beginners to find their feet on the smoother upper river before things start to get a little frothier on the lower half as the river flows through the gorges of Cadéac and passes through the infamous ‘letterbox’ where you’ll find out if you’re going to get ‘posted’ or not.

Loisirs Aventures offer first timers as well as half day and full day experiences.  The company also offer weekend or full week multi-activity holidays with the option to try all the different activities. Course run up to 30th September.

Still More Options

Besides rafting and hydrospeed some operators offer inflatable kayaks, sometimes called a ‘hot dog’ among other floating devices you can tackle white water in or on. Tom Rafting run by Thomas Legeay in Cauterets in the French Pyrenees and with English-speaking guides is one such operator, also offering kayaking and raftying.

Children, usually teenage or above, as well as adults can also try canyoning – which involves following a narrow stream bed without any sort of boat and just jumping down waterfalls and in to pools as you scramble down its course.

There really is so much for the whole family to do in mountain streams and rivers this summer.  It’s time to get out there and get wet!


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