flight, plight and Delight

Yeah, yeah undating a blog appears to be somewhat time consuming compared to my Twitter account. Still there is somewhat more substance that can be conveyed on here.

Ok since Greece in April, Satu and I went back to Trnovo in Slovenia, for a week on the Soča, cruising this classic river in the Dagger Axiom, the prefect slalom styled modern river runner. It’s quite a different paddling style from the Dagger Nomad, my normal weapon of choice. In the Axiom, you must not at all edge too hard, but keep the boat flat or near flat, when tracking or turning. This has got me thinking about, modern paddling technique, and after some time in the French Alps with an aspiring intermediate group, it’s quite obvious that paddler’s from the UK and Ireland are taught to edge too much at any transition, and thus the boat catches the current to easily and often tips the paddler over! All that is needed is enough edge to stop the paddler getting caught out by opposing currents, in fact, the ability to plan over these opposing currents is the preferred outcome, if you wish to turn, edge slightly so you plan and turn at the same time. Hard edging is for very sharp turns and being able to get the paddle vertical for flaring drops and boofs.

Jakub on the Lower Sermenza

By May, I headed to Valsesia, the slice of prefect that is the Italian Alps, smooth granite, steep runs and wonderful food. I had a week of fun before the work started, a great 2 weeks of work and then the all new Valsesia River Festival. What is amazing, is that as the years pass by, it just gets better, I am not sure why but it does, that prefect window of Spring there in Campertogno, just seams to be so right, it’s not just the paddling, that is ace, not just the setting, although few places revive it, not only the food and wine, after all it’s Italy, home to great food and wine, but the way the days are when you are in Valsesia, paddling in the Spring runoff, truly amazing. Check the image below, nothing but a moment of perfection and the thing is, everyday is like that….

Middle Sesia

Last Winter I sold all my HDV and SD Video cameras and set up, and went HD DSLR, plus GoPro. I got a Canon 60D with a L Series 17-40mm lens, and the shots are quite amazing. I can frame OK, and simply leave it an a programme mode, as I know like of the manual settings, still amazing none the less. This summer I plan to start shoting video with the beast, and the POV unit, although the geekiness of the helmet mount is so TeleTubby, I have not brought myself to do it yet! Am off to northern Norway in August, so I expect my time will come…..

Spyros in the air off the kicker on the Sorba slides
Beppe Boof Capo

After the work came the Valsesia River Festival, Gene17’s attempt to bring the format of the famed Sjoa of Norway to Italy, and on the whole it was very successful. We had paddlers come from all over Europe for the festival, a real mix of different paddlers from a far. The clinics run by the Gene17 staff of Jakub and Spyros, who were join by Matze and Jobst went down well. We tried to run all the races in a single day, this was a tall ask, still the Egua FreeRide was great fun, and so to the Sweet Rumble. The locally contested Sesia Alpin Sprint, went well, yet not enough Italiano’s present. Must try harder next year, and we have a plan for just Sunday for the Alpin Sprint, Individuals in the morning and the Team event after lunch. We’ll try and make this a stand alone event for 2012. Check some of the highlights of the event…..
Hammer time on the Egua
Egua Sprint
Alpin Sprint
Sweet Rumble Valsesia 2011

No sooner had I arrived it felt it was time to go, the French Alps for 10 days were my next destination. A BCU 5 Star Assessment, and then guiding for a week, plus mountain biking every evening to enjoy the best of the Durance Valley, ie the biking trails. Friends, an Irish expat couple, live near the bottom of the Fournel valley, and a prefect place to stage up lift from.  An excellent single track ride, through high alpine meadows, and then down through the trees to the main valley floor, a very nice ride.
Slot and drop on the Durance Gorge
Bouchet, alpine run away fun

Even after some good runs, the Lower Guisane, Durance Gorge in strong water and the Guil, I can say that I am never a big fan of this destination for quality kayaking. yes I am spoilt, I get to go to prefect boulder garden white water, bedrock slides and clean drops, so when its sharp and dirty as it is in the French Alps, its hard to get excited about it all, especially when working in that environment. I have had several debates about this matter, especially with local French paddlers, as it’s certainly a harder location to work at Class IV and beyond, that is perhaps why most of the work offered in the French Alps is Class II/III or later on in the season at higher grades. Working in the French Alps on Class IV and higher, is tough, swimmers, boats and paddles run away from you, containment is a real challenge and keeping every thing safe all the time, near impossible. You can go one to one, with a tighter ratio, and have a better chance, yet swimming in fast very shallow and cold rivers is nothing by hard, dawn hard and a risky business.

So when the time slipped away, and it was time to leave, I am always happy to know the next spot is going to be cleaner and sweeter than what I left be hide. En route to Slovenia, was the Stura de Grande near Lanzo, Italy, just 2 hours from Briançon in France, but miles and miles better paddling.

Steve on the Strua de Grande

A week in Slovenia, that included a day in the UK, for the first meeting of the new BCU WW Technical Group, which may help myself shape the next generation of WW qualifications and standards, I hope so. I turned it around in Slovenia, and sadly left that prefect spot for another, 2 days away and a drive North to Norway, and the start of the Summer.

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