haute alpes, then soča to sjoa & Ula

It’s that time of year where is run from the dirty end of the alps across the Po Plain to the beautiful Julian Alps, unpack, repack, dinner in Nußdorf with Olli and 2000Km north to Sjoa and the Summer residence in Norway. It’s like driving uphill all the way, it take 2 days from Slovenia, and I managed to get through Book 7 of Harry Potter again, just getting ready for the forthcoming movie from November….. Driving across Germany over a weekend is best advised, as most of the trucks must be off the road, so in a heavy van it’s easy cruising. I have found a new ferry route with Finnlines from Travemünde in Germany to Malmö in Sweden 130€ with a high van loaded with boats and a cabin for one, the prefect 7 hours resting whilst sailing across the Baltic. Once in Sweden, head up the E6, and as soon as you pass Oslo, the traffic grinds to a near halt, and its 3 hours to drive 280Km. Oslo Municipality have introduced a new toll system that uses overhead camera’s and no explanation to non-natives, so you simply drive through, get informed by signs how much you need to pay, but given no place to pay, I’ll expect a letter in a years time with a big bill…..

Before I left France, I had a week of mountain biking, mainly in the Fournel Valley, from the high alpine meadows down to Argentière-la-Bessée on a good single track, the prefect evening entertainment, after a day on the river. I had some coaching work in France, one day was on a 5 Star Assessment, where the group were quite strong so we hit the Middle Guil, which at that level was more like the North Fork of the Payette than the French Alps. A fast run away alpine run, where the holes are narrow and deep, but easy to miss. The trick to this white water is to avoid running to the eddies, and just stay in the middle and move around to avoid the main features, its a simple tactic game. Here are a few shots of the fun.

Below Xbox on th Middle Guil
Colin Wong punching through

It’s always interesting what some people choose to paddle, in terms of the right boat for your size. For the years of playboat development, as boats got smaller, people tried to squeeze themselves into the smallest craft available, if only to crop the bow on flat water to start cartwheeling. This trend continued for a while and still some paddlers today believe that they should be in the smallest creek boat, as it’s easier to move around. Well if you paddle in a push me pull me style, that is reverse and forward sweeps to turn a boat, then go forward, it’s probably easier for you. This dated style is still common, and hence the need for some paddlers to have short and/or small boats. The modern dynamic style, is where the paddler continually pushes the boat forward and turns the boat with forward sweeps and stern rudders whilst maintaining their forward momentum. Hence the modern paddler can use a bigger and longer boat, as has been the more recent trend in boat choice. Plus paddler’s are spreading their wings to bigger volume and/or steeper river destinations, where a larger craft is required to cope with the terrain’s demands. So it always pains me when I see paddler’s in the wrong boat for their size or the wrong paddling style for their boat, both lead to difficult outcomes that are not productive to successful paddling. Below is a large gent who has missed the line over the curlier, and ends up melting the pit. The main reason for this miss is that even at 100Kg+ the paddler needs to push the boat forward, or perhaps the manufacturers need to make larger boats, as I see a lot of 100Kg+ paddlers around and they should not be subbing every feature.

Going under the curlier

In Slovenia, I managed get the MB Sprinter through it’s annual Government test, and also paddled the fabled Soča every day, trying to miss the afternoon monsoon, which appears to be normal in this odd Spring/Summer across the Alps. It has been a very late Spring, late melt, cold nights, late Spring flowers and dry rivers, then all change to a rush of Spring, high water and unstable weather systems. In the northern Alps, it appears to of rained for 8 weeks solid, which was not a bad thing for paddling, as there was not much snow from this Winter for river fun. I had some great salad from Sabina, home grown in Trnovo, where I watch some great football with the locals, as Slovenia battled it out with the USA at the World Cup. In a way I was happy not to be there for the England vs Slovenia game, although for England it was a single stay of excursion as Germany killed them dead today. Shame, as I watched a dog shitie game, where no one with three lions on their shirt played at all well, so poor was it, that there needs to be some serious changes, it was like watching a training game, played at slow speed, to pace or desire to win, a real shocker.

Now in Sjoa, at the Kayak Camp with Satu, runs of Åmot in the evening, morning sessions on the world class Jørgen’s Wave, and the occasional trip away for a run. Below are some shots of a day trip to the wonderful Ula. In the last shot is my wife in flight of the final drop in the Ula slides combo. It’s a great trip, little and middle drops, and with the recent rain we had, the levels from this Summer’s low flow season, as the Winter’s snow was not so bountiful, were prefect for us.

I’ll cruise here in Sjoa for a few weeks, write a number of articles for CKUK, paddle quite a bit, bike a lot at the Bike Park and enjoy my little holiday before the Sjoa Fest, and then 4 weeks work on trips for Gene17kayaking. G17K will run the Ula Extreme Race this year, which is another event for us after the highly successful Adventure Paddler’s Weekend in Devon every December. So as you can see lots to do this Summer.


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