Cauldron Snout waterfall [HQ]
In early September George Thompson and I headed over, on mountain bikes, to the upper reaches of the Tees, to have a look at the formidable Cauldron Snout waterfall. Until then I hadn’t understood what all the hype was about. I’d heard about the crazy pe...ople who’d kayaked the fall and had broken bones, shed blood and probably the worst bit ruined their kayaking kit. That afternoon after spending a few hours sitting in the sun looking at the falls, I thought “There is a line; not for me, but there is a line….” A week or so later I was back at Cauldron Snout and decided that if I was going to kayak it I had to do it properly with full crew and the very best and hardest kit I could get my hands on. The big problem would be water levels. I needed the falls to be pretty low or I would take off from the first fall and end up flying though the air and landing, using my face as a brake. For the next few weeks I kept an eye on weather patterns and regularly headed up the river to have a look at it in different condition and levels. Once I had the levels sorted out I contacted a few friends who I have complete trust in. After all they might have to jump into a grade 5+ waterfall with confidence to pull me out. I picked the team of George Thompson, Matt Elis, Barry Howell and Crag Henderson as my main backup and safety team and after that I had with had a team helping to carry the two full vans of kit and setting up video cameras. The day came far too quickly. I was going to paddle the waterfall on the Sunday but on the Tuesday I called it off due to water levels. As the week went on things started to change again and by Thursday the conditions were just about perfect and with the right kit, people, kayaker, weather forecast and water levels it was on again. Sunday. I’d had a few weeks of people telling me that if I did Cauldron snout I would die or at best break bones and smash my kit up overall. You can imagine I’d been very happy to get such positive comments from my friends. By Sunday I started to think “Maybe you guys are right I could actually balls this up and have a trip out in a helicopter and spend the next week drinking pea soup through a straw. But I was confident that I had planned everything like a special force mission right down to what colour kayak would be best on photos and video!!!!! Once all the kit was at the base camp at the top of the falls we has a pretty intense briefing on the plan and the “What ifs?” Then the teams headed for their positions. We had a two and three man teams at the bottom of each of the five main sections and each team had a “live bait” first aid kit and full white water safety gear. All team members are very experienced white water paddlers with a great number running trips all over the world so that, at least, did made me feel a little more confident (well a little). With all the cameras set up it was time to get on and man up. I really wanted to do all the worrying before getting on the river so once in the thick of it I could focus on the task in hand. I gave the thumbs up and set off. I only got two metres and I was stuck on a rock I thought “Ace! I really could do without this.” I got off the rock and paddled the first drop; to be honest I did find it ok at this stage, so as I hit the first pool Gorge was the ready with the safety kit, but we didn’t need it. The next drop as described in the guide book, “It is harder than it looks.” I headed off the ledge and into the slot and then I disappeared for a second or two, but again not any great problem. I actually really enjoyed the first two drops as I was could put my paddle in and use it. The next drop was good too although by now I was starting to think about the last drop, Because I’d taken my mind off the task I landed the next drop and got a bit of a kicking but I got it nailed and I had Barry on hand to grab me if there were any big problems. I can remember Barry saying “Just stay there for bit while I head down the bottom.” I stayed there all of ten seconds and said “If I stay here any longer I’ll start to think about where I am and what I’m doing. I’m off!” In my head I know I needed to be to the left or I could end up in a helicopter heading to Durham University Hospital to get my body parts put back together if I got it wrong. So left it was, but with Matt at the bottom I was happy that I knew that if the worst happened then Matt was without a doubt going to sort me out and keep me from drowning. I didn’t really want to take the line as far left as I did but either way I got to the bottom with not even a scratch and with only normal everyday scratches on my Jackson Villon kayak. It was a great feeling to be at the bottom. I’m not sure if that was due to successfully kayaking from top to bottom of Caldron Snout or doing it without any problems. Without a doubt I couldn’t have attempted it without such a good back up crew who worked there asses off to keep me safe and without the amazing kit provided by SQUARE ROCK. The kit held its own all the way through the falls and through all the preparation days leading up to the descent down Cauldron Snout. All in all it was an amazing day, but if you are thinking of kayaking Caldron Snout be very aware there is a big chance of doing proper damage to yourself and others who may have tpo try to get you out of the river.
Don’t stop kayaking when you get old You get old when you Stop Kayaking.
(Jackson Kayaks 2008)