Canoe-Kayak Club

Higgs, antimatter, the Tour de France and white water

After it was founded in 2007 the CERN canoe and kayak club has been expanding activities in many different aspects of water sports. Now in 2011 the club offers a wide range of activities to our members, including beginners training on flat water, dragonboating, Canadian style canoe/camping, white water slalom and river-running, flat water endurance paddling and “Eskimo roll” training in swimming pool.

For the second year running the club organised a trip to the Haute-Alpes, renowned world wide for first class white water. Altogether 13 paddling enthusiasts travelled to L’Argentiere la Bessee, for a week of white water slalom, river running and other mountain sports. L’Argentiere, home to a world cup slalom course offers easy access the regions of Briancon, Guillestre and the Ubaye valley with their wide range of classic white water rivers.

With little water from the snowmelt (due to the mild winter) and a long spell without rain, rivers levels looked like being on the low side. So when rain hit the Alps during the first days of the trip, the team were happy to endure some soggy camping, excited about the prospects for some fun river-running ahead!

The multi-national kayaking team (with people from UK, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Canada, Netherlands and Czech Republic) set out to enjoy the classic river-runs of the Alps. A relaxed start on class II rivers gave beginners and first timers to the Alps a chance to gain confidence and get ready for the more challenging rivers to come. By the end of the trip the difficulties had been gradually increased up to class IV rapids. The rivers paddled includes the Durance, the Guil, the Ubaye and the Gyronde.

One day the Guil offered a special highlight. After arriving at the get-in point and organising the shuttle, just in time before the main road was closed for the Tour de France stage from Italy to the Col du Galibier, the river party set-out for a sporty paddle with some safety and rescue training. Coming close to Chateau Queyras we were greeted by a huge crowd waving from a bridge while waiting for the Tour de France racers to pass by. And with perfect synchronisation, just as we paddled under the bridge the race passed over it. The helicopter hovering overhead captured our kayaking group on camera, leading to the club’s first appearance on international TV!

Finally after a great week with paddling, via ferrata tours and hiking, everybody arrived back safely at CERN. Apart from the pleasure of outdoor activities it was also a nice to see the positive interest people show in physics, when chatting with members working at CERN. Discussing the quest for the Higgs boson or chasing antimatter while sitting around the campsite fire, or floating down a river is not exactly what one would expect!

by Canoe-Kayak Club