River Name: Lower Styx
River Level: 1.17m
Number of Participants: 5
The Styx trip started pretty early. The Styx has a bit of a walk-in and we wanted to allow time for that (we had no idea just how much of a walk-in we’d have, but we’ll get to that later). The sun was just yawning and thinking about peeking over the horizon when we arrived and got geared up.
The Styx is really quite close to Hobart so it was only just over an hour of driving before we got to the turn-off and had a fun drive up a pretty overgrown old forestry trail. Janina and I both collected a few branches on and under our cars, with Tom finding an entire small tea tree that had been uprooted and inserted into my car. Thanks to Tom and James for being quick to jump out of the cars to clear logs and branches off the road – next Styx trip should probably bring a chainsaw.
After about 15 minutes we got to a point where the road was so overgrown we could go no further in Janina’s hatchback and my low slung sedan. Most SUV’s living in Hobart’s posh suburbs would have given up long before (for fear of scratches – Janina cleaned a lot of the mud off her car with helpful trees). We emptied the gear out of the cars and while Janina and I did the car shuffle James, Tom and Andrew started moving the gear to the river edge.
Janina and I returned from car shuffle to find gear still at the parking spot. We carried it to the end of the road (clearing the track away some time would be a good idea – brush cutter) and could not find the start of the actual walking track at all. Ten minutes of trying to find the start of the trail later we heard a shout from James – rescue! Then the actual work began. The track was very overgrown, I’m honestly pretty sure James was just following some instinct because I couldn’t see a trail at all through the scrub. Very pretty scenery but a slightly more open walking track would have made getting the rafts to the water a heck of a lot easier (some loppers?).
Skipping over some other stories of a search for ditched gear and a few scratches and falls we did eventually manage to get to the water just below Volvo Falls, which looked tame… until you walked closer and saw what the water actually does through there. Rough, narrow and very technical – not for this trip. The river below though was absolutely perfect. The rapids were fun, pushed my skills to the limit, but the river in those sections is pretty safe with few strainers and no serious consequences. The water was seriously cold, so much chocolate was required to keep us fuelled up.
James warned us before setting off about one large rapid that would push you hard to river right, but you actually needed to stay in the middle of the flow to go through smoothly. He also told us about another rapid that looked scarier and more technical from the top than it actually was, just avoid the big rocks on that one and we’ll be fine.
The first few rapids were quite … interesting, Janina and I were learning to R2 on a river we’d not paddled before, but after 15 minutes (maybe 30) we did manage to start going in a specific direction instead of seeing a rock and spinning rapidly in place. I experienced my first proper wrap (and my second, oops) with the raft being seriously submerged… thankfully I gave it a heave and it budged a few mm, so with many many more heaves it eventually flipped off the rock. Then we came across our first serious rapid for the day. We totally nailed it and were very pleased. The second serious rapid approached, I watched James take the first half, park in an eddy to river right, then punch out and run the second half, so I called to Janina that we’d do the same.
Serious readers may remember something about a rapid that had something to do with “river right” and “don’t”. Well a fat lot of good you all were weren’t you! So yes we got rather stuck and I haven’t stopped hearing yet about how Janina remembered but thought maybe I knew what I was doing. It took us long enough to get out that James had parked his raft and started walking up the bank to come help us pull it over the rocks when suddenly we lined up with the flow (somehow) and went down the drop.
There were many technical flows after that with some stuff-ups but mostly victories. Six kilometres down the river we pulled off for another chocolate top-up (thanks Tom for bringing so much!) and try and get the blood flowing to the extremities again.
The last third of the run was mostly broken up with three weirs. First one was nasty to the left and barely flowing to the right so it required a quick portage and gave me my second swim for the day (that I honestly wasn’t pleased with, shall we say and I expressed this opinion to the weir rather loudly). The next two weirs were ramp-style (they should all be ramp style) and were easily runnable and very fun. It felt like only a few minutes later (it may actually have only been a few minutes later) that we saw the get-out point approaching, which was welcome. We were all feeling a bit cold (maybe not James in his drysuit) and tired and we were ready to hop out.
The car shuffle and gear stowage was quick with everyone wanting to hop into the cars with blasting heaters as quickly as they could and the drive back to the sheds was uneventful, with me getting warm feet around the time we passed Huonville (with the heater set to “broil”).
Thanks to everyone for a fantastic run. I had an amazing time, it was a great way to de-stress halfway through exams (and I think two of you appreciated the break from marking too!). An amazing river that we don’t get to run very often, which makes it that extra bit special.