Dulsie Falls, Upper Findhorn
It’s a beautiful, frost crisp morning.
The full sun has started to push itself into a cloudless blue sky, bathing the glen in a pastel wash of silver and gold. There is no wind, no noise.
The hour went forward last night. An uncivilised practise in my opinion, making the clock lie to nature. It says 8 ‘o’ clock, but no one told the geese, so they won’t take their honky flight into the fields near the house for another hour yet.
Despite still feeling deprived of a substantial amount of Sunday morning sleep, things feel good.
Today has got to be the day that Dulsie falls.
The development of my paddling skills has been painfully slow. I have wobbled, spun and swum my way, bit by bit, into a respectable intermediate grade. Sheer bloody minded-ness has prevented me from giving up and I have doggedly moved through basic skills to eventually catch some coaching awards.
But at every stage, there has been the bogie rapid. The one that defies every modification of the line you take. The one that nobody else ever has any trouble with. The one that trips, flicks, spins, turns or throws your boat upside down. The one that no matter what, no matter how many harder rapids you do easily - first time - repeatedly – it remains unconquered.
At first, it was Dragon’s Tail on the Ness. Then House Rock on the Findhorn. That little jinky step on the lower Blackwater. But sooner or later – usually later in my case – they all fall. Something unfathomable that you do, works. Something you think you have done plenty of times before, but probably haven’t. And once it works, it works every time. And the bogie moves on.
I have done Dulsie gorge 5 times now. I have swum in Dulsie gorge five times now. I have cleared Dulsie gorge twice, all the way through to the end, only to lose it near the eddy at the bottom as I begin to contemplate celebration. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory and a real sickener.
But today, everything is going to work. I know it.
Ron was late of course. Ron is always late. By about 5 minutes. Today, things were set for a personal best record of 1 hour 5 minutes. Paradoxically, to crofter Ron, British Summer Time (if fact the clock in general) is an unwelcome and restricting foreign concept. But friends help you through these things and he is with us, on the water, leading and first down to the bottom of the gorge. Torquil joins him, then Neil.
The top eddy has never been a problem and today was no exception. The ferry glide to the opposite eddy at top of the gorge goes sweetly.
I can see the first stopper well from here. A slight dip in the centre of the horizon line will lead me to the black V that shows the way through. Below that, a grey rock on river right will tell me where the opening to the run down the diagonal stopper lies. Along the side of a much bigger rock until the way runs out and there is no choice but to smash through and on to the cushion wave. Then into the big, boily eddy that catches the unwary, just when they thought it was all over. Then merciful release and sanctuary below the bridge.
So, here goes. The stopper is river wide, but it goes like it should, even if the V has been all but washed out. There’s the first rock. It appears and disappears more quickly than I was expecting. Pushy, but everything still under control Gromit. There’s the run down the big rock on the right and there’s the diagonal that has caught me so many times. But we’ve passed it before, so lets’ ignore it and focus on the way through at the end. Here’s a flattening in the stopper, here’s a little earlier than I’ve come off this line before. But I’ve watched the others do this and it’s worked. I try it and it does work. They were right. The cushion wave in front of me is unavoidable – I should’ve drawn left but I wasn’t quick enough. I’m going to brace into it then. Correct – it works too. I’m into the boil and its going well. But I’ve been here before and it’s all gone pear shaped. But not today. Not today. Today I’m digging in. Big strokes. Big deep strokes.
And I’m through! I am through.
I am through. I am through. I am through. Deep, deep joy.
Neil knows and yells something congratulatory as I go past. I appreciate that.
Tonight my log will modestly say “Ran Dulsie”.
Yeah. That will do.
I wonder where the next bogie will be?
Malcolm Wield ran Dulsie Gorge on the Upper Findhorn for the first time on 25th March 2007
Dulsie BridgeWritten by Malcolm Wield
Dulsie Falls, Upper Findhorn