Stand Up Paddle Board across the Caledonian Canal
Towards the end of the summer, one of our team riders and friends took on the challenge of Stand Up Paddle Boarding the Loch's of Scotland that make up the Caledonian canal. We asked her a few question about her journey, which sounds amazing.
"I have currently just woken up in my tent somewhere off from Loch Ness. I'm on a paddle boarding expedition where we are paddling the the length of the Caledonian canal, from Fort William to Inverness.
We are scouting out a potential route for Gold D of E students, as my husband runs expeditions through Apex Expeditions. I thought I would come and have a play.
Packing wise my stuff is carried in a dry bag on my board each day. My paddle gear ranges from bikini/shorts or legging to tri suit as the weather changes within minutes. In one morning you will have felt like you have paddled through all the seasons! For camp I have clothes that are warm and easy to pack, like my exoROBE and EOS sweater, which is my total fave. I also have shorts, trainers and a midge net for the lovely ticks and midges that come to play if there is no breeze or we are camping up in long grass.
Our route is entirely based on the water. We stop off to play a bit or for rests, or if the wind is too strong. Even though we are on Lochs, we have to paddle through proper waves when the wind is up. It's exactly like being on the sea.
The whole paddle will take us 5 days. Today is our last day which we are all sad about. We are on the last push, but I wish it took a bit longer.
All of us are on the Gladiator tour boards (12'6). Brilliant boards that carry kit with no drage and cut trough water and waves with ease. Very easy to manoeuvre.
It has been so good, with so many best bits. I highly recommend you try it When the water is like glass - setting off in a mist where it feels like you are paddling through mangroves. The dramatic scenery of sheer cliffs and vast mountains. Totally looks like you are in Jurrassic World. For me being in camp in the evening is the best. We all swim, we make fire, we drink gin and we eat SO much great food. We chat, we get into bed sooo tired we can't move. It's the best feeling in the world. Also part way along Loch Ness we found a massive waterfall, completely hidden. We only pulled up to do a change as the wind was coming in and it was getting cold. There was no option. We'd all had the same thought. Everyone was in it, jumping swimming, it was the favourite moment which we will all remember, I am sure.
The worst bit is also one of the best. The mental and physical endurance you need. When the wind is against you, it's pelting with rain and in the face. You need to be able to just keep paddling... HARD. Usually 1km takes us on average 12 - 14 minutes. On the first day it took 37! You have to dig deep and know you've just got to do it. However you know you will so accomplished when you get to that camp fire later.
Having said that, the worst bit that is just annoying that it makes you angry is probably the midges. Luckily we only had them on one morning. Or, for me personally it will be my first night at home in bed. I get grumpy when an adventure ends.
My advice if you want to do an expedition. Plan well, and for all eventualities. Everything can change in a moment. You do need to have the right kit and knowledge of what to do. It's not a case of hopping on your board. You need to know about wind, weather, pacing, group ability, planning of rest and camp spots as it's not actually as simple as you might think. Also you have to think about cold water shock. Yesterday we could have had heat stroke as we were all so exposed, but then one of us could get hyperthermia if we were wet. My exoROBE has been perfect to keep me warm and it is much lighter than other robes which is great for the expedition. If you don't know how to do an expedition or it is your first time, I really recommend you get a expedition company to take you.
Food wise, we were eating everything. Breakfast is porridge, croissants, granola, fruit, full cooked etc. Lunch - wraps, pies, fresh fruit, pasta, lentils. Dinners are pizza, pasta, salmon, more pasta, fajitas. Then loads of snack bars and chocolate bars for energy and calories.
We have wild camped all the time. I LOVE wild camping. Jeremy my husband who owns Apex Expeditions is our support vehicle, so he will sort getting camp sorted at various locations while we paddle. Or we meet him and shuttle our stuff to locations across the water. Wild camping is the best, have I said that? We have camped with views of Loch Ness, Ben Nevis and other beautiful views with no one else around. Support vehicle is absolutely essential if something goes wrong, and also to supply us with Gin and Tonic!!.
So far we have paddled 112K, because of wind and crossing Lochs we have added in so much distance to the original 96K we were meant to be doing.
If you are thinking of an expedition whether a day trip, or longer just do it. So much fun!