Norway, is a name that resonates throughout the kayaking world as a full-on kayaking destination. Each summer, rivers like the Rauma, Teigdal and Brandseth entice paddlers from all over the world to experience their power and to test themselves on some of the hardest whitewater in the world. Like a lot of Kiwi paddlers, Ari and I try our best to avoid New Zealand winters by paddling in the Northern Hemisphere. This usually means an annual pilgrimage to the United States, allured by cheap gas, beer and general living. But 2015 was a little different.
Increasingly dismal snowpack along the western United States led to shorter and shorter paddling seasons, or no paddling season at all for some drainages. After riding out the PNW season and some simple life at the NF of the Payette, we found ourselves with two options. Option one was try to salvage a BC season, but with an equally dismal snowpack and fire issues it paled in comparison to option two, Norway, which just happened to have record snowpack in several areas. Tickets turned out to be reasonable and thanks to some ‘accommodation karma’ some Voss locals put us up and showed us the ropes in Norway.
The format of the trip was simple; we had our own vehicle, local beta and 28 days to charge. And charge we did! Initially we based around Voss during Veko Extreme Week, paddling classics like the Myrkdalselva, Brandseth, Teigdal and lacing up for the local hucks such as Exo, Money Drop, Tysselva and Lake to Lake. This coupled with our ‘social obligations’, we were stoked everyone came through unscathed.
After Veko, and once flows had gone Richter around Voss, it was time to look elsewhere for rivers. It just so happened that fellow Kokatat ambassador Anton Immler was on the same program, so everyone linked up for what would be a high-water tour. But before things got too high, everyone headed to Telemark to check out a potential first descent that Anton had his eye on. Talk about low hanging fruit, the Hildelselvi was a classic drive-in class IV - V section and with a little walking you add on some epic high-alpine slides. After this and a few other rivers in Telemark the crew moved up to Sjoa where we would begin to feel the effects of the record snow pack. Everything was rowdy high.
After a few days of scouting swollen Norwegian rivers and paddling easier sections, the ‘high-water-itis’ finally got to us and we got a little loose, paddling the bottom Tora slide at a ridiculous level. Myself and Anton sent the beast, both having good lines and both almost swimming in a sleeper hole in the paddle out. And this would set the tone for Anton’s next project, the Gaula.
Initially thought to be a first descent but later discovered to have been paddled 12 years earlier at much lower flows, this river was true class V. As Anton puts it, “class V rivers are those that once you finish paddling you do not want to go back”. All roadside, all easily scoutable and massive pools between each of the drops/rapids. A perfect place to round off a trip and throw caution into the wind. Needless to say, things definitely got out of control. Everything was paddled by at least one person. I pressure-folded my boat in half after melting the center of a 40 footer with 100 cumec going over it and Ari bagged the first descent of Fossfossen (waterfall of waterfalls) but flipped on the entrance and was lucky to come away unscathed. It was definitely a final day blowout and a fitting end to our tour.
Norway definitely lived up to it’s reputation and then some. Although classics like the Rauma and the Raundalselva remained elusive due to high flow, we had a great tour and definitely developed a taste for Scandinavia. And who knows, maybe there will be another tour in 2016.
Class V rivers are those that once you finish paddling you do not want to go back.