What can you say, with such a large snow pack across the Alps, it was either going to be a slow burner with a long runoff season or mega flood. When in Valsesia we got a great two months of excellent water conditions, and in the French Alps we got 10 days of a bank full torrent. The water was so high in France that the Prefecture of the Haute-Alpes Department closed all rivers to kayaking. This is an interesting precedent, and I will be gauging my future visits to the Ecrin based on the predicted conditions.
High water Gryonde, bank full and closed for paddlers by the local government office
Often when you get a strong Winter like the last, Spring takes a while to have an impact, and often the mountains create their own micro climate, which means days of rain. This was the case in Valsesia for the latter part of May into June. However towards the end of May, heavy rains arrived and washed the normally dry ford away in Campertogno, leaving the very nice people there without road access for a few days.
After a few days of looking at the flood waters in France, I headed to Lanzo near Torino. Flowing into Lanzo are a number of lower altitude rivers, all of which are wide boulder garden runs. Our local expert Stefano de Lanzo, showed us the way. The runs of Stura di Viu, Stura di Lanzo and Stura del Grande are great alternatives when all else flowing from the higher mountains are in flood. After the weekend, I went back to a very wet Valsesia, I joined up with Leeds Uni’s finest Nick Horwood and Tim Trew. We hit the classics with good levels, it was more like Norway than the normally low volume steep creeking. On the way back to France, we headed to a high level Soana in the Gran Paradiso. The Soana is a real favourite of mine, its more a river than a steep creek, with numerous steep boulder rapids. On the Soana there are lots of great moves to be had, so a great days paddling with the Leeds crew, plus English Rose Emily Walls. In the image is Emily boofin’ her rocker mid river on the Soana.
Once the Haute-Alpes Department opened up for paddling, we headed to the Durance Gorge and Middle Guil for some high level sport. The Durance gorge is not so hot at high levels, most is washed out, the main drops a little shity and the runout of the portage far to dirty. Alas the Middle Guil cleans up with more water, and several runs we had. Strangely in spite of their being numerous paddlers around, these classic sections were very paddler free!! In the following images check out Paul Robertson on his days off from Palm’s marketing department, firing it up on Trois Chutes in high water.
Check out the large Chamois, an alpine deer we saw on the banks of the Guil at the staircase rapid.
With all the rain, and the rivers closed, a few of us have been taking to the hills with our Mountain bikes. The area around the Ecrin has a host of trails, so every evening of late, we have been getting up lift and flying down the single tracks. Here’s Dave Carroll making like the wind near Briancon, France.
In between the rain in the Alps, I went to Finland for see my lady. It was recently her 30th, and here she is enjoying wine in Tallinn just before the Ballet.