On July 10th, I boarded a plane bound for Glasgow, Scotland. Arriving early the next morning, I rented a car and drove up to visit my friends at Ace Adventures. Huh? There is another Ace Adventures you might ask… There sure is, and I found them in 2011 while researching the Scottish Whitewater Rafting scene. Since I work for ACE Adventures USA, I had to contact them. After some email introductions, I spent a week with Ace Adventures UK, paddling several rivers with their staff and having a great time. Ace Adventures UK is owned and operated by Jim Davis. Jim is from Tasmania, Australia, and has guided river expeditions around the world. Love brought him to Scotland, and he splits his year between the UK and his native Tasmania, guiding expeditions on the Franklin River, a remote wilderness Class V river flowing through a UNSECO World Heritage area.
Upon arrival at Ace UK, Jim and I caught up on river chat. He also informed me that he needed me to guide the next day. At first I thought he was joking, but he was serious. So on Saturday, July 12th I had a personal milestone in my river career, guiding my first whitewater rafting trip abroad. In a strange coincidence, the International Rafting Federation (IRF) had declared that this date was “World Rafting Day”. I had paddled the River Findhorn extensively on my previous trip, and felt confident that I could get a raft down it, but I have to admit I was a little nervous.
Our trip was a relatively small one, with four rafts and sixteen people. The Ace UK guides Lewis, Chris, and Nick were extremely helpful and went out of their way to make sure I knew what was coming up next. The River Findhorn was running a bit on the lower side, owing to a slight drought, unusual for the Scottish Highlands. The Findhorn is like a miniature Gauley River, and is a Class IV-V river when it is in “spate” or running high. Ace Adventures UK is the only Scottish rafting outfitter who runs the Findhorn daily. There is an upper section that is suitable for a milder ride, much like our Upper New River trips.
After the trip, Jim asked me if I wanted to work the next day. I readily agreed, and I ended up being the safety raft for a one boat trip. Joining me for this trip was a friend from the US, Allison, and she was game to go rafting again. With just the two of us in a small raft, some guide training was involved, and Allison took photographs of the guests while I provided safety for the other raft. Both of the trips went smoothly, there were no major crashes, and I did not have to pay any “guide fines” (aka buy beers).
Like the previous visit to Scotland, myself and the management of ACE WV provided gifts for the staff of Ace UK. Each of their guides received an ACE WV t-shirt courtesy of ACE Mountain Sports. I got each of their guides a cool and robust red “Solo” style cup with our logo on it. Jim got a special gift from ACE WV, a limited-edition shirt that only ACE WV managers received. For our last night with our Scottish friends, a barbeque was held at the Ace UK basecamp. We ended up playing Rugby, American Football, and a cultural exchange of party games. I’d like to thank Jim and the staff of Ace Adventures UK for being such good friends and hosts. Although our two companies are not officially related, we share a bond defined by the love of outdoor adventures, and the comradery of like-minded peoples. If any of our ACE WV guests are headed to Scotland, just remember the name Ace Adventures, and Jim & crew will show you a good time in the Scottish Highlands.
Written by: Kip Conklin