There has been much claim to there being the best run for paddling I have ever paddled, and like so many occasions it’s nearly always the moment captured in time, shared with friends, when everything flows and clicks together. This past weekend in the Valle Soana, is a fabled run for myself, I love it, its a volume steep creek run. There is nothing big in the lower section, just fine large boulder boofin’ for kilometre after kilometre, the Soana is for sure one of my favourite runs in all the Alps. Last weekend, over the two days of paddling there, two very different tails can be told.
Saturday, Steve had brought together a local team of paddler’s Daniello I knew from a run of Strua di Grande the year before, the other’s not. We walked in, to find the run at a prefect medium, so down into the first boulder garden. The river had changed from two years ago when I last ran her, nice changes, as the run was full of fine boofin’ and great lines.
In the above drop, one of the crew missed the main ramp, flipped on the approach and head ruddered into the left channel. No roll successful, bailed and was left pushed on to the large rock that is a huge siphon, a minor left channel into the sieve and right line on to rocks and under the corner of the rock. Captain out of his boat, opted to not let go of his perceived expensive boat and swam with it over the rock and undercut line!!! The paddle was left be hide pinned across the ultra left line. The moral here is that “You can always buy a new boat, not a new life”
The rest of the trip went well, the small gorge at the end of the main section had changed, where no significant hole awaited us at the foot of the main drop. Around the corner to portage the barrage, and then favourite rapid of main, and thankfully this had changed too, to finally reveal a clean main centre line, yahoooo. Down the middle, ride the cushion and boof the corner into green clean water, a wonderment and what boofin’ is for. After all the fun, and asked if we could come back for another run tomorrow, as I loved it soooooo much.
Sunday, with a stronger team and slightly higher water, we headed into the gorge again. Leo a new member was the weaker link and after a few missed eddies and a popped deck at certainly the wrong spot, a swim into the first major consideration, he opted to walk out and meet us below the barrage for the lower easier half of the run. Everything was running great, we looked at a few more things, but all the same lines as the day before, a few larger holes, but nothing too serious for us.
One of our number dropped out earlier as the conditions we a little too high for him, and onwards we went. At the same drop as the day before, when we have an under cut swim, the more confident team aced it, with the exception of Lanzo, on his second attempt, he nailed approach and then stopped, waited to see what happens on the approach to the lip. He was pushed off line, down the far left line, boofed the pit, and under the corner of the undercut. After being pushed straight through, Lanzo head ruddered into the eddy, and failed his roll. The rescue team simply watched all this unfold, and as a result, it meant the boat and paddle washed out of the eddy on on its way down river. Running I packed up the camera en route to my boat, jumped in, and started to chance the boat. I found the paddle within 100m and got that to the side, and then after the boat. The rescue team were ahead, they need to look at another drop, straight down the middle, and onwards fast, no boat in sight.
By now it was BonBon and myself running everything on the fly, to arrive at the little gorge. At this level and chasing a boat, it was decided that we’ll portage. It’s a small fast and active eddy to make on the river right, with a difficult climb out, to make the portage. I made the eddy and took a minute or two to get out and up. Looking around I called BonBon down who was as I thought out of sight, no reply, I blow my whistle, nothing, then I notice the other member of the watch rescuers the Teach, he was portage a drop on the river left above the portage, and the he paddled down to myself. He had not seen BonBon. My heart sunk, as I knew that he had probably paddled the rapid, I had missed him whilst trying to get out, and there was no sign of him. I ran down the river right above the portage with my boat on my shoulder, looking at the rapids as I passed for any sign on BonBon and his gear. Nothing, the dread was beginning to overwhelm myself, as I launched to start to look into the various exit channels on the portage from down river on the river left. I looked back to the river and saw BonBon stood high on a rock down stream, without his gear in sight. We rallied, and I was very happy to see BonBon.
Straight after the little gorge is a barrage where about a third of the flow is taken out. The barrage is portaged on the left, straight after is a steep boulder garden where both boats and a paddle were awaiting our extraction skills. Once everything had been gathered, everyone united, we discovered Lanzo’s boat have been split on the barrage, and BonBon had seen too much adventure for a day. Lanzo jumped in BonBon’s boat and off we went again. The boulder garden rapid has cleaned up in recent floods, and the main line was open and ace, fire the centre and ride the pillow to boof of for maximum fun.
Below the first steep rapid, is a lot of read and run boulder garden fun, and a real fine run out of this excellent run.
At the take out, we rallied for beer and a sandwich Italian style, a prefect end to a day of high adventure on the Soana. Soon after, I left Canavese Alpi to hit France for another week of paddling, and to quote a friend “at the dirty end of the Alps“