Kokatat, Seal Skirts and I-Canoe have come together to provide gear for the Irish Team heading to the Europeans in Galicia, Spain this July.
Kokatat chipped in with green Gore-Tex Shorty Cags and Ronin PFDs while Seal Skirts put together a really nice custom deck based on their popular Shocker model.
Well last summer was some kind of record for summer creeking and it looks like this year might be more of the same (Well fingers crossed). For those that don't work weekends, last Sat/Sun served up some high water levels on all the popular runs around the country. Those of us who do work weekends had to make do with the left overs - see photos...
Mark Burton, I-Canoe Team Paddler's Mission for the Summer
Mark Burton, I-Canoe Team Paddler's Mission for the Summer
Norway by now is well known for it?s attractive women, expensive beer and awesome steep rivers. Well this summer it will also be the setting for what we believe to be a never before attempted challenge.
2 Norwegians, Martin Vollen and per Christian Pedersen and 2 Brits, Mark Burton and Ed Cornfield will be aiming to paddle one mile in one month. Over a combined total of 31 days during this summer the team will paddle 5280 feet between the four of us. As a drop can only be counted once this means we all have to paddle on average of 42.5 feet of different vertical white water per day.
As well as a hell of a lot of driving to make sure we paddle enough distance each day it also means a lot of amazing rivers, drops and unknown runs, which will make for an incredible expedition.
The whole trip is being documented so to stay updated you can follow us on our website below:
Fabulous Whitewater in a Mediteranean Island Paradise
Fabulous Whitewater in a Mediteranean Island Paradise
AFTER A PARTICULARLY DRY WINTER AND WITH THE "NORMAL" EUROPEAN SUMMER PADDLING SEASON STILL SOME WAY OFF, WHEN MICK REYNOLDS (HE'S NOT ENGLISH!) SUGGESTED AN EASTER TIME PADDLING TRIP TO CORSICA IT WASN'T HARD TO GET A CREW TOGETHER. HOWEVER, MISFORTUNE STRUCK EARLY WITH JON-BOY PULLING OUT DUE TO A SHOULDER INJURY (A COMMON PROBLEM THAT WOULD RESURFACE DURING THE TRIP). DAVE CRERAR STEPPED UP AND WAS SUBSTITUTED IN AT THE LAST MINUTE TO BRING THE TOTAL PADDLING GROUP TO SIX
AFTER ARRIVING INTO PISA LATE ON A FRIDAY NIGHT, WE GRABBED THE HIRE CARS, LOADED UP AND HIT THE ROAD FOR LIVORNO, FROM WHERE WE WOULD CATCH OUR FERRY THE NEXT DAY. TOP TRIP TIP: KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE, SCANTILY CLAD, ALL NIGHT, SERVICE STATION ATTENDANTS ON THE ROAD FROM PISA TO LIVORNO WHO WILL PUMP MORE THAN JUST YOUR FUEL!
AFTER ARRIVING INTO BASTIA AROUND LUNCHTIME OF THE FOLLOWING DAY, REYNOLDS, BEING THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE GROUP WITH TWO PREVIOUS TRIPS UNDER HIS BELT, ASSUMED LEADERSHIP OF THE GROUP AND PUT TOGETHER A NICE COUPLE OF DAYS OF WARMING UP BEFORE THE HARDER STUFF. WE HEADED STRAIGHT FOR THE SMALL VILLAGE OF PONTE LECIA WHICH WOULD BE OUR BASE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.
THE GOLO: GREAT VARIETY OF PADDLING RIGHT NEAR THE FERRY PORT IN BASTIA. DEFINITE MUST FOR A WARM UP RUN AND ONE OF THE FEW RIVERS IN CORSICA WITH A "BIG VOLUME" FEEL. LOTS TO DO FOR ALL ABILITIES AND POSSIBLY THE LEAST TECHNICAL RIVER WE RAN.
THE ASCO: THE CRYSTALIST, CLEARIST BLUE WATER I HAVE EVER PADDLED IN. WE PUT IN BELOW THE GRADE V/VI CONSTRICTION AND HAD A GREAT 6KM OF RELATIVELY EASY GOING BOULDER-GARDENING TO JUST ABOVE PONTE LECIA AND THE CONFLUENCE WITH THE GOLO.
WHILE THE HIGH CLIFFS BY THE BANKS OF THE ASCO GIVE IT A REMOTE GORGE FEELING, THE ROAD RUNS JUST OVERHEAD AND THERE ARE NUMEROUS PUBLIC ACCESS POINTS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. PHIL BOOFING INTO AN EDDY ON THE ASCO.
THE MIDDLE VECHIO: DEFINITELY THE MOST DEMANDING RIVER WE PADDLED ON THE TRIP. EXTENSIVE SCOUTING ESSENTIAL AND PRIOR KNOWLEDGE HIGHLY DESIRABLE DUE TO THE VAGUENESS OF THE GUIDEBOOK. NUMEROUS BOULDER GARDENS, (OR CHOKES AS NAVANMAN PUT IT) NARROW SLOTS AND UNDERCUTS. GOOD BOOFING AND ACCURATE RIVER READING VITAL WITH A COUPLE OF RELATIVELY EASY LOOKING SPOTS CATCHING OUT THE MOST EXPERIENCED AND WITH SOMETIMES CATASTROPHIC RESULTS. ROAD IS NOT TOO FAR AWAY BUT FAR ENOUGH TO MAKE EMERGENCY EGRESS UNDESIRABLE AND TIME CONSUMING. ON THE DAY WE RAN IT WE HAD LOW/MEDIUM WATER AND HAD BUDGETED 4 HOURS FOR THE 7KMS OF RIVER WHICH IN THE END TOOK 7 HOURS IN TOTAL - SO MUCH FOR AN INTENDED SPIN ON THE UPPER SECTION ON THE SAME DAY!!!
REST DAY IN BONEFACIO:
AFTER THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL THE VECHIO TOOK ON US WE DECIDED TO HEAD SOUTH AND CHECK OUT THE SEASIDE RESORT OF BONEFACIO ON THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE ISLAND. MORE ANCIENT FORTS PERCHED HIGH ON HILLS, NARROW WINDY STREETS AND A WELL EQUIPPED MARINA. IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING WITH PEOPLE NOT THERE FOR THE PADDLING THEN THIS IS DEFINITELY THE PLACE TO GO.
THE MIDDLE RIZZANESE: WHEN PEOPLE READ ABOUT CORSICA, IT'S THE MIDDLE RIZZANESE THAT USUALLY GRABS ALL THE ATTENTION AND RIGHTLY SO AS IT IS A CLASSIC (THOUGH NOT TYPICAL CORSICAN PADDLING AS I'D BEEN LEAD TO BELIEVE). WITH CREW NUMBERS DWINDLING (NAVANMAN OUT WITH A SORE SHOULDER HE HURT FROM SLEEPING ON IT THE WRONG WAY? AND KELLY WITH A DODGY TUMMY - NERVES?) WE WERE DOWN TO FOUR.
FROM THE PUT ON, PROGRESS IS SLOW DUE TO THE ENORMOUS GRADIENT, SHALLOW WATER AND LACK OF BOAT SCOUTABILITY - OH AND TAKING OUT CAMERAS EVERY TWO MINUTES...
AND THEN CAME THE 30 FOOTER...
POSSIBLY THE MOST HYPED DROP ON THE WHOLE ISLAND AND WITH GOOD REASON. 30ft VERTICAL DROP INTO A NARROW GORGE AND NOT THE CLEANEST DROP OR LANDING MOST PADDLERS WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE. FROM INSPECTING FROM THE LEFT BANK THE RIGHT HAND LINE IS OUT OF THE QUESTION AS YOU WOULD TUMBLE OVER ROCKS ON YOUR WAY DOWN AND HAVE A VERY SUDDEN LANDING. THE MIDDLE LOOKS GOOD, COMING OFF A FLAKE OF ROCK, BUT TO THE UNINFORMED STILL HAD THE POTENTIAL FOR VEERING OFF LINE DUE TO LACK OF WATER AND LANDING ON THE ROCKS TO THE RIGHT. THE LEFT LINE WAS ALSO SHALLOW AT THE TOP BUT FURTHER AWAY FROM THOSE NASTY ROCKS - OR SO WE THOUGHT...
CRERAR, UNAWARE THAT I HAD HIT BOTTOM FOLLOWED MY LINE, AND FROM THE BOTTOM LOOKED LIKE HE BARREL-ROLLED TOWARDS THE ROCKS ON THE RIGHT - THE VIDEO DOESN'T LOOK QUITE SO NASTY. ANYWAY HE DIDN'T HIT ANYTHING BUT HE DID BRUISE A MUSCLE?! (AS WE FOUND OUT LATER - SEE X-RAYS BELOW). PHIL BEING THE LAST TO RUN, LEARNED FROM OUR MISTAKES (AND THE SEASONED CZECH GUIDES RUNNING THE RIVER AT THE SAME TIME) AND CLEANED THE MIDDLE LINE. DUE TO THE BRUISED MUSCLE, CRERAR HAD TO BE EVACUATED FROM THIS POINT WITH THE AID OF REYNOLDS LEAVING PHIL AND MYSELF TO PADDLE OUT ON OUR OWN - NOT QUITE THE 2KM OF GRADE 3 WE'D BEEN LEAD TO BELIEVE BY THOSE SAME SEASONED CZECH GUIDES (CAN YOU SPOT A TREND HERE?)
NO TRIP TO CORSICA WOULD BE COMPLETE WITHOUT AN OLD X-RAY. FORTUNATELY IT WAS JUST A BRUISED MUSCLE!?!?
WHAT WAS LEARNED:
CHOCOLATE CHIP BRIOCHE IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
A MAN CAN LIVE ON A DIET OF CALZONE (SANS OEUF) FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK AND STILL KEEP HIS SANITY - WELL ALMOST
REYNOLDS, AT TWO DINNERS A NIGHT, DEFINITELY HAS WORMS (EITHER THAT OR HIS MISSUS HASN'T BEEN FEEDING HIM)
THE BACK SEAT OF A CAR WITH NAVANMAN AND REYNOLDS IS NO PLACE FOR A HUMAN BEING
WHEN SHARING A TENT WITH CRERAR, EXPECT TO HAVE TO FIGHT HIM AT SOME POINT DURING THE NIGHT
DON'T PADDLE BEFORE TEN IN THE MORNING UNLESS YOU LIKE CONFRONTATION WITH SHOTGUN WIELDING FISHERMEN
CARRY A MOBILE PHONE AT ALL TIMES
EXPECT THE WORST
WHAT WASN'T LEARNED:
BARBEQUING ON A NICE SANDY BEACH INSTEAD OF A DIRT ROAD SOMEWHERE IN THE CORSICAN HILLS
TUCK AND DUCK
DON'T WALK OVER A MOUNTAIN WHEN IT IS EASIER TO WALK AROUND IT!
AN ESTATE CAR IS STILL NOWHERE NEAR BIG ENOUGH FOR FOUR SMELLY PADDLERS.
A NICE COSY CHALET IN A CAMPSITE COSTS ROUGHLY THE SAME AS UNCOMFORTABLE TENTING ON HARD GROUND
GET ONE DETAILED MAP RATHER THAN 10 VAGUE ONES AND THEN MARK YOUR EMERGENCY ACCESS POINTS ON IT
Budget Boating in Sweden at the Beginning of May 2007
Budget Boating in Sweden at the Beginning of May 2007
SWEDISH SPRING CREEKING
Sweden is not top of the list of destinations for most paddlers travelling to Europe to get their summer fix. The lure of its close neighbour Norway and relative lack of information ensure that Sweden is still only for the paddler looking for the unknown. Indeed it wouldn?t be hard to clock up a first descent or two and not even know it!
Luckily for us we had arranged local paddler (David Levren who runs www.wildwaters.se) to act as guide but it was as much of an exploratory mission for him as it was for us. He recommended visiting during the first weekend of May - which is a public holiday when the Swedes celebrate the coming of the summer by lighting huge fires (ironically started by the local fire brigade with copious amounts of petrol) across the land as a May Day ritual. This was also the best time of year to catch the recent snow-melt and bag a couple of lesser known creeks that only run very early in the season.
Before going any further it is best to point out that the majority of Sweden?s rivers (and those that make for good white-water paddling) were used at the beginning of the Twentieth Century by the thriving logging industry to transport the logs from the forests in the remote mountains to the sawmills further downstream. While the loggers have moved to road and rail as the preferred forms of transport today, the remains of their engineering to efficiently ferry the large tree trunks downstream still remain. Many rivers have had canyons blasted out and lined with timber to form fast chutes to whisk the logs through what would otherwise be more technical white-water. Most of this timber, and the metal stakes that held it in place have since rotted/rusted away leaving rapids that are best portaged rather than risking getting impaled on an iron spike. Thankfully most of these rapids are easily spotted from upstream and given suitably foreboding names such as Helvetesfallet (Falls of Hell)!
While Sweden is most renowned for its big volume rivers, it does have an ample supply of lower volume runs to test even the most hardened creek boater. A week before we were due to fly out, I got a call from David to warn us that he expected levels to be lower than anticipated as they had an unusually dry Spring. We had originally been planning on bringing Mystics, more to avail of the extra ?luggage? space that a medium sized creeker offers but these were ditched in favour of the smaller, more versatile SCUDs which in hindsight was the perfect decision and now I?m totally hooked on the spud-boat revolution.
Having scored a ridiculously cheap Ryanair flight to Vasteras (about 1 hour north of Stockholm) we headed about 4 hours north to the town of Orsa in Dalarnas County and spent the first couple of days warming up on the Upper and Lower ?m?n and the Rot?lven.
The Lower ?m?n was the one river that we ran that was most affected by the logging industry. And while the majority of the paddling was easy and straightforward, the scouting and portaging made for a long trip. Luckily David had run it before (a couple of years ago) and vaguely remembered where to stop and have a look.
The Rot?lven was a really fun river with fairly large rapids spaced out by flat water in between. It also had the most straightforward shuttle where the forest track followed the river-bank (rather than meandering off for a couple of miles as they normally do). After a mile of an easy warm-up, the river suddenly narrowed and poured down a super fast 30ft slide into a plunge pool below. While at first it looked intimidating, it proved to be a big bouncy ride and essential to run back up for a second attempt. There were plenty more rapids on the rest of the river mostly punching waves and avoiding holes. Getting off the river at dusk as the air temperature began to freeze I started to regret not bringing any neoprene gloves!
From ?lvdalen we headed north to the ski resort of Idre. It is here that local legend Dennis Franz?n runs a rafting and outdoor sports company called Nord Aventyr (www.nordaventyr.com). It was clear that Dennis had yet to paddle this season as he was scampering round like a little hyperactive puppy trying to decide where would be the best spots to catch the spring melt. Dennis was very hospitable and would be worth hooking up with if you are looking for a guide for the area.
From here we let Dennis call the shots. First up was the local big volume raft run ? The Stor?n. We put on a couple of hundred metres higher up than normal just so we could marvel at a grade 6 rapid, where the entire river narrows considerably and pours through a tight, heavily undercut slot, and then portage round it. From then on it was read and run. All the rapids were spaced out with sections of flat in between and there were a couple of relief channels that allowed an easy bypass of some of the medium sized rapids if wanted. Most of the lines were easy ? usually riding over big standing waves and then punching through a big hole at the bottom. One such hole David unintentionally decided to have a surf in and he seemed to be managing ok until his paddles were ripped from his hands. He then stayed in his boat waiting for the longest assisted rescue I?ve ever seen. Unfortunately the rest of us were too far downstream to get to him in time to effect an in-boat rescue but we did manage to get him, his boat and his paddles into shore surprisingly quickly considering the speed of the water.
We continued on down to the last rapid by the take-out where the river poured down a steep shelf allowing a sneak line on the left or a ballsy run down the middle through a huge standing wave and avoiding an even bigger hole further to the right.
After lunch we packed up and headed for the hills for something a bit steeper and more technical. After first heading to the put on to Dennis? favourite local run (which proved to be a little on the low side) we popped over the border into Norway to an area of unknown rivers that form steep drops due to the nature of the bedrock. After a long drive and short hike on forest tracks we put on the Bergsj??a. The start was steep and continuous but we knew from Dennis? enthusiasm that there was more to come. We eddy hopped our way tentatively down before pulling out to inspect a series of 3 large drops of between 10 and 15ft each. We decided to split into teams of 2 and run the top half first, regroup in the middle and then run the bottom section where the take-out awaited us. Apart from a couple of combat rolls in the middle of the top section, everyone got down without any major trouble. The bottom section started with a straightforward vertical drop, short flat section and then the final drop below. The last drop had a spine of rock on either side that could be flared off and then a vertical drop in the centre with a deep recirculating hole at the bottom. The centre line still looked good to go so long as you got a good boof stroke and landed flat on top of the hole rather than punching under it. Pencil came charging down first in his SCUD, hit the lip, boofed, landed flat on the tail of the hole, put in a couple of strong strokes and caught the fast water underneath. Jon was up next and while he got a reasonable boof, he landed more central in the hole and couldn?t power his way out before getting the working of the trip! After surfing the hole all the way to the right, and looking as if he might just get out the side, he got dragged back to the left where he battled away for another 30 seconds before finally popping his deck and swimming free. Needless to say the rest of us made use of the flare rocks on the side after that!
After chilling out at Dennis?s place with a much deserved Pizza we started to plan for tomorrow. With levels in the hills on the Swedish side of the border still low we decided it would be a much better bet to head back to Norway for the day. After stopping off to see a totally suicidal drop that Dennis had run in his youth (in much lower water) we headed for the Drevja which proved to be a super big volume run full of boulder gardens and steep slides. Afterwards we hit the dirt roads to try and check out a few first descents before dark but with some of the forest tracks closed, this would have proved a long hike into the unknown. We decided to camp out in Norway on the banks of the Trysilelva and hit the big volume, Elvbrua play run in the morning.
In the afternoon we got a call from Tobias (photographer and river inspector extraordinaire) that the Fulub?gan River back in Sweden was good to go. The Fulub?gan is on the same mountain range as the Bergsj??a but drains the Swedish side of the mountain so we had an idea of what to expect. We also knew Dennis had run it before but apart from that we don?t think anyway else had ever set a kayak on the water. We were also lucky to have Tobias sprinting down the bank to take photos and warn us of the up and coming drops. The river proved to be nearly continuous steep drop after steep drop after steep drop and as tourists we couldn?t believe we were one of only two groups to ever run it. After carefully running all the drops successfully we got to the last one which was also the biggest ? a 40ft slide over a number of ledges and boulders. We also knew that this had never been run before ? ever (due to unsuitable water levels). After inspecting it from the top, middle, bottom and back up to the middle again we had all decided to portage due to the unpredictability of the ledges the water was tumbling over, when Pencil announced he was going to run it. We all paused for a moment to see if he was joking but he was absolutely serious. Rather than try and persuade him against it we all took up rescue and camera positions at the bottom. After what seemed an eternity, we saw the tips of his paddles approach the lip. He dropped down the centre, disappeared through a pillow wave and landed at lightning speed at the bottom with the biggest smile on his face. Jon, deciding not to be outdone, followed down as well and cleaned it. What a way to end the trip.
All told, Sweden has the most varied paddling I have ever seen ? everything from steep creeks to big volume; the friendliest, most relaxed people; and when you forget that all the stores close for the public holiday weekend ? remarkably cheap. Book your flights now.
We flew with Ryanair: Dublin to Stockholm Vasteras ? flight prices vary but you can take a kayak with all your kit packed inside for 22.50 Euro each way.
We had no need to hire a car as David from (www.wildwaters.se) provided transport. Petrol/Diesel is roughly in line with prices on mainland Europe ? approx 1.10 Euro per litre.
Eating out in cities can be expensive (esp. ?Irish Bars? but in rural areas it is very affordable ? approx 10 quid for a pizza and soft drink.
Beer is classed in 3 categories. Class 1 ? 1.5% alcohol (for the social drinkers, sold everywhere), Class 2 ? 3.5% alcohol (for those that haven?t made it to the liquor store on time, sold in supermarkets and petrol stations), Class 3 ? over 3.5% alcohol (for those that have planned properly and made it to a liquor store, only sold in liquor stores which are government owned and operated. Check opening times and locations as you wouldn?t want to be caught short).
Full dry wear and decent thermals are required early in the season. Neoprene gloves and skullcap are also desirable. Daytime temperatures can be relatively warm with strong sunshine but can still drop to freezing overnight.
Bliss-stick Kayaks, H2O Paddles, Kokatat Waterwear, Electric Water Decks and Salamander Throwropes for designing great gear and www.i-canoe.com for supplying it.
Hans and Anneka, David, Tobias and Dennis for their hospitality.
It's been a long time in the pipeline but it's finally here - the new I-CANOE website! There are still a couple of issues we need to iron out but hopefully this will be sorted by the end of the week. If you have any comments or suggestions, please forward them to: firstname.lastname@example.org