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The Land of the Midnight Sun
Hi this is all about our trip to Norway. The crew on this trip were Ada (plus van), Fish, Nigel (Stig) Hampton and myself. We took a ferry to Gothenburg, were we met Stig and then drove up through Sweden, into Norway, eventually ending up in Sjoa (near Lillehammer). As an attempt to keep this page short, I'm going to do a river guide and then make a few comments at the end, I could write pages of rubbish if did full descriptions of our paddles. Okay, to try to give you an idea of paddling in Norway - imagine a big river, no bigger then that, drop the water temperature to very cold, make the water more pure then a bottle of Buxton, and add 24 hours a day sun-light, now add more rocks and make the river steeper, now you've got it. For people with no imagination, try this, go to a gym, get on a rowing machine, start rowing at a reasonable speed, get two friends to spray you with hoses and a third to occasionally throw a bucket of water over you, now you got it.
Now, in no particular order, the rivers:-
We spent five days paddling the Sjoa, the first two and the last three, so we hit it in differing water conditions, starting from the top:-
- a, Riddersprangt to Brurusti bridge. We followed the guide books advice and portaged a long way (1 km +) to this section avoiding two waterfalls. We would advise actually getting in at Riddersprangt and paddling the river, only portaging the two falls but reccy the section first, especially watch for the second waterfall as it's after an S bend and is difficult to spot, the approach looks okay and you could end up in an awful 'last break out' which is over hung by cliffs, the second fall is approx. 1/4 of a mile after the first. Below the second fall is an excellent gorge with spots of 4+ and some excellent play spots. All too quickly the gorge finishes and the remainder of the paddle is mainly grade 3 dog water with the occasional bit of 4. Getting in below the falls the paddle is approx. 6 km.
- b. Brurusti to Heidal. 200m into this paddle there is a set of three difficult drops ( the book grades them at V/VI) which the others paddled while I volunteered to take photos, each individual drop did not look too bad but close together I didn't fancy the risk of getting in trouble they're for the brave paddlers (or psychopathic) only, after 1 km of dogwater is a set of falls called the Nedre Trassafoss which everyone had to portage, another place to make sure you know the get out point. This portage was followed by 4 or 5 km of III/IV with some decent waves and play spots before arriving at Leirflatten and the entrance to the grand gorge, if you're not into long paddles (15 km) try missing the first section (despite the good spots) and just paddling the gorge down to Heidal. We paddled this bit twice, both times having an enjoyable paddle, (the first time starting at Leirflatten), with some excellent play spots and all of us demonstrating some class posing, but some longish stretches of dogwater especially at the gorge exit. Watch out for low flying rafts and don't forget that in the gorge it's shady and can get cold pretty damn quickly.
- c. Harlaug to Amot. (Do as we did and miss out the dogwater between Heidal and Harlaug!). This section includes three gorges all of which were good fun, separated by dogwater with the odd play spot, and the international slalom course (nice place to stay). The first gorge is the Faukstad, sections of grade IV, mainly grade III and not particularly memorable we only paddled this bit once. The next gorge, leading into the slalom site is the lower Sjoa gorge, short and very exciting, especially at the higher water level, this gorge consists of drops around an S bend and some incredibly large waves. The slalom sight is relatively easy with some nice play spots and great toilets with HOT WATER (guess why we stayed nearby!). After a short section of flat water you come to the Amot gorge, on the first bend is a drop which needs inspecting, we shot it on the left (paddlers view), nice manoeuvre to get the breakout on the left too!. Round the corner the Amot bridge comes into view which makes a nice get out point (on the left before the bridge), under the bridge is a good drop which needs inspecting, we ran it left of centre in low water, 100 yards after this is the Amot gorge proper, a chain of drops, each one looking fairly mean again needing inspection (the book grades them as V/VI), after inspection I portaged and got back in to complete the last section of the gorge with the others down to the confluence with the Lagen at Sjoa town. A very nice paddle indeed approx. 10 miles.
The Lagen (upperish)
- Okay I'll get it over with I swam on this one and cheers to Stig for rescuing me, the others for getting my boat, and then the combined team effort to rescue my paddles from a grade six (conducted from the bank from the bottom of a big cliff which we descended after walking a mile down some railway lines). Onto the paddling bit. Hovringen to E6 Bridge (for those who don't know the E6 is a road). This paddle starts at grade II and gradually increases until the set above the road bridge get a V in big water purely for continuity. An amazingly quick river watch out for a river wide stopper four miles into the paddle and the bloody huge hole in the last section above the bridge (even Stig put in a roll - guess where I swam), also of interest is the cliff face next to the bridge which I climbed in wet suit boots because there was no way I was staying in the water after my swim. Half a mile below the bridge is an extremely mean grade VI which is where we caught up with my paddles).
- a. The Graura Gorge, okay we didn't paddle this bit because the water level was too high but from what we could see from the road it looked pretty smart, if anyone paddles it before I do tell me about it!! (or even better send me the video!)
- b. Vollein Skol (Oppdal) to Olbu (sometimes spelt Aalbu). The guys in the raft shop said this bit was best between 2 and 2.75 on the gauge, we paddled it once at 2 and once at 2.5, (the second time was because the water level in the Graura hadn't dropped after 3 days and this is an excellent section. What can I say, a classic grade IV with some wicked waves ( mega quick on the second paddle), a nice fall halfway through the paddle (a little larger then Llangollen town falls with a harder exit) take a look at the photos!.
- Myra bridge to Confluence with the Driva. Every time I think of this river a big grin appears on my face, wow mind blowing, 6 km of non stop grade V boulder with oodles of very fast water, simply the best river I have ever paddled, amazing, thank god I survived!. There is a hydrometer at Myra which was at 2.375 when we paddled the river, (the guide book says the river is best in high water which is 2.2 to 2.9 on the meter), next to the meter is one of the hardest sections of the river so inspection is a good idea. It's also worth driving the extra mile or so to the top of the river to see the falls at Jenstadt they're picturesque plus monster size.
- I didn't paddle this one (I was suffering from lobs (Lack Of Bottle Syndrome) after my swim)but the boy's described it as 11 km of dogwater (not a gem as the book said), I think I came out best by taking the photos.
- Another one that I didn't paddle, it had the best photo opportunities of the whole trip, starting at a 3m waterfall there was 8 km of grade V with the odd slower section in between, next trip I'll paddle this one and someone else can man the camera. Watch out for undercuts in the gorge sections and a big hole in one section of gorge.
- Just about within driving range of Sjoa we decided to go and paddle this 'diamond' which involves lots of 'quick technical paddling'. Upon arrival, after having driven for miles across desolate hill tops, we saw the start of the Setninga were it exits a small lake at the head of the valley, it was tiny, 'ah!' we thought a tributary joins it above where we get on and paddle, so we drove on, the road climbs away from the river so after a short while we figured we were approximately were the mean little gorge should be so we set off from the road after descending three hundred feet through dense undergrowth we found the river, thank god we hadn't taken the boats off the van, you could have doubled the volume of water by emptying a flask in the river. The intrepid explorers (Fish and I) battled back up through the dense plant life and found Ada and Stig already halfway through a cup of coffee after having decided to leave the descent to us. After we had drunk the coffee we turned round, drove back to Sjoa and paddled the slalom course section the second time, happy we were not.
Okay so now onto a few points of general gibberish,
- I came pretty close to changing my name to 'no shame' due to the number of spots in the book where it said 'no shame to portage here', I was generally out with the AQII on the shoulder finding out how easy moose tracks are to follow along river banks.
- We conducted an extensive survey of ice creams and sticky cakes, led in our research by Stig, conclusion: Norwegians like exceedingly good cakes.
- There is very little night life in Norway after asking several times 9 out of 10 Norwegians said they spend their evenings going out and making little Norwegians.
- You gotta hang around in Norway until a moose walks into your campsite. (ok so it was an Elk, but elk doesn't sound as good)
- Our thanks to Kevin for lending us his 1945 army issue push bike, which gave all the Norwegians a good laugh each time the shuttle bunny (sorry I mean Ada) went past.
- Norwegian roads can be a good laugh, especially watch out for four wheel drive chevy vans doing seventy on small gravel tracks.
- Dark places in Norway, in order of appearance, a. My hole (the hole that I swam out of on the Lagen), b. The railway tunnel we had to leg it through on the way to collect my paddles from the clutches of the Lagen recirculating breakout, and c. three different toilets at remote spots over the holiday (p.s remote can mean just about anywhere in Norway).
Seriously though thanks to Ada for the organisation and the van, to Stig for his wise choice of sticky buns and rescuing me on the Lagen, and to Fish for eating outside the van during his yoghurt scooby snack session :).
Sorry - this photo is not a link
Fish - on roof
Ada - on THE bike
Me - standing