I’ve been fortunate to live within close reach of the South Wales classics for many years and we really do have some fantastic rivers to test ourselves on. One river in particular has been growing in popularity, the Mellte. It has it all – slides, waterfalls and technical rapids. It can be a real proving ground and great for testing your skills (but there are plenty of consequences and there have been a number of injuries and hike outs on this section).
Drive up out of Pontneddfechan until you find a big layby on your right, don’t leave valuables on show. Hike down the trail until you hear waterfalls and put on just below Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, a large two stage waterfall, which has been run in the past but that’s going to hurt!
Seal launching in above Wake Up Drop you’re heading off a sweet three metre auto boof straight into a technical rapid, depending on levels, it’s an intimidating warm up rapid. Then it’s not far downstream to Sgwd y Pannwr, the iconic, super fun eight metre drop. In higher flows the right line opens up and you can take it in one hit, or choose the more common ‘double drop’ line down the left.
Lots of fun slides and rapids brings you to the gorge section, the crux of which is Slot and Drop. The name really says it all, there is a slot, and then a bony three metre drop. The entrance pour-over can get funky in higher flows, so set safety and don’t miss your boof! A short pool then leads into the slot which is actually easier in higher flows, and slightly manky in lower flows. A solid boof stroke will take you off the bony drop which goes a lot smoother than it looks, but beware, in higher flows the hole at the bottom gets bigger, and bigger. This has been the site of some epic beatings with a number of risks, scout and set safety as needed.
Downstream a man made three metre vertical weir stands between you and a fun mile of funky class 3. I start to portage the weir around .85 on the gauge. It’s shallow, hard to cover with safety and if you get stuck in it, you’re not coming out of your own steam. It’s a must make boof, if you’re not sure, portage on river right. Then it’s easy water down to the take-out in Pontneddfechan on river left and go for another lap.
Every rapid is portageable and there is always new wood in the river, so scout, set safety and take your time. This river has been the site of a few epics (and I can’t help but think it’s because people are stepping up a level too quickly). It’s quite remote and gorged in so hiking out isn’t easy especially with an injury, if you can’t hike out it’s pretty much an automatic ride in a helicopter to get out of there. You must have a solid boof, there have been broken ankles, and big beatings for missed boofs. It’s by no means the hardest river and it’s fantastic for learning to creek boat (it’s taught me a lot). Don’t underestimate it because it looked easy on YouTube, make sure you’re ready, drop in with a good bunch of friends, and have a sick time on one of the best rivers in the UK!