IDAHO - Salmon River
NEPAL 2003


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Andy "I don't do swimming" Roo
TV Rob
T-Wallah Jim
Charlie 'the Kid'
Ranter Barclay
Adrian "ginger powers" Healy
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July 30th - August 8th 1999
Austria; Switzerland; Italy and Germany (via France, Belguim and Luxemburg)
River Guide at the bottom of this report.
car.jpg (14658 bytes) With the collective linguistic ability of a playschool group, first stop for the VW team (Adrian, Helen and Jim) was a LP German Phrase book. Handy if you: 1. Wanted a shag 2. Resoundingly didn’t want a shag, but just about bugger all use for anything else. Team Toyota (Roo, Charlie and some Welsh random with a penchant for vest tops . . . VEST TOPS!*?!) were late but just as we were starting to cut it fine, they hoved into view.
Tight but we would definitely make the train . . . 120 cans of duty free beer later we were waiting for the next train. Charlie had turned up with a random whose capacity for beer would surprise even that hardiest of paddlers. He however did have a portable fridge in his car, and in my naivety, I applauded Rob’s foresight at the thought of chilled milk and cheese that wouldn’t resemble a fondu . . .a dream that would in fact never reach reality.

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A 14 hour slog bought us into Landeck and we camped up at Zam’s alongside 21 caravans, and a small kitten, whose youth bought the average age on the campsite down to about 87. A faff worthy of a minibus trip led to paddling being abandoned for the afternoon in place of . . . beer (a theme was definitely developing).
It was with trepidation that I found myself sitting on the banks of the Inn above Tosens. Scream  I’d spoken to Ali before setting off to Austria, and asked her which rivers to paddle out there. She concluded that Tosens had been a complete disaster with 3 of their group swimming out of the stopper on the first rapid forcing them to abandon the section. Armed with this information I proceeded to spend the 14 hours drive down to Landeck visualising a ever growing river wide stopper across Tosens which would not only devour me and my boat, but had probably already started to swallow the surrounding countryside. The river was low, and it was a relief to find the Tosens rapid was easily manageable. The rest of the Tosens section was no more than a pleasant bimble and a good warm up for the fast moving waters we were to encounter later in the week.
Lunch . . . and then the Sanna, another river which I spoken to Ali about and she’s said was one of the hardest she’s run in Austria. Fantastic, day one and already I was on ‘river epic’ and ‘the river of a certain swim’. The water was at a medium level and the get in is fairly daunting as you launch directly into the rapids which continue out of sight. I was nervous, but felt a wave of relief as Chippy " no fear ? . . . no brains" decided to bin his paddles and just go with the hand paddle thing. How hard could this river be? We bounced down to the first corner, and ran the drop without any problems, broke out and waited for the group to reform. . . . . and waited . . . and waited. Just as Adrian was thinking about going back upstream Jim glided into the eddy. Chippy had swum in the first stopper. Then Chippy hoved into view . . . swimming. Somebody pointed out that Jim could have actually fished him out of the river when he swam, and Jim replied that he had put Chippy back in his boat only minutes earlier. As he recirculated in the stopper on the bottom. Things were not looking so hot for our intrepid but ultimately somewhat stupid hand paddler. Chippy with in an unusual moment of lucidity decided to bin the river, and we finished what turned out to be a storming run in a breathtaking valley. An obligatory visit to the Beerkeller for supper, ended up with Steins of beer being consumed and Charlie enjoying Steak and Chips with a light shaking of toothpicks and soy sause!!

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Monday took us up the Inn again and this time to run the section above Landeck. The water had been turned on and things were looking most distinctly ‘bouncy’. Team Knarly went up to run the Inn Shoot which looked fairly vicious from the road. Interestingly enough Rob chose this section to exercise his right not to break out, odd choice but the section went fine and more easily terrified amongst us joined a very excited gaggle of lads to run down through the Landeck gorge. We decided to try our luck with the Rosanna after lunch, and drove up the valley, however the river was as dry as a Irish Pub on March the 18th, so was unanimously binned, and Tosens was run for a second time at a much higher level and I suddenly began to see the swim potential of the rapid.


Tuesday saw Charlie and Roo scheming an epic day, which considering that their rest day was to consist of running 3 of the Swiss gorges consecutively, was a worrying concept. As usual Tea - wallah Jim was banging on the tent door at 7am, to be followed shortly by Charlie’s enthusiasm. Charlie’s morning habit was as follows. 8am - Sleep like a log 8.02am - Awake and exit the tent within minutes of each other 8.03am – Sit in the car shouting "come on lets go paddling. . now. . . now". Charlie’s enthusiasm is commendable if somewhat misguided for 8am. With what seemed like a compromise we headed for the Oetz valley at about 10am. Binning the old and may I say obviously stale "warm up" idea - Roo, Charlie, Adrian, Jim and Martin launched into the Venter Ache. Within 11 yards Roo was practising his rolling techniques, within 100 yards Martin was practising his breast stroke, and it was 1-0 to the Venter Ache. The other four continued down. We went on down to the take out, we sat enjoying a coffee when Charlie arrived to ask us to go and pick up Jim who had had a close encounter with a tree, taken the subacqua root and only invited half his paddle! 2-0 to the Ventre Ache. Luckily the boys pulled it back at the last to finish 2-3 up on the river. And now for something a bit more exciting . . . . The Upper Oetz. I volunteered the ferry whilst Rob joined the Venter Ache Team for a quick jaunt. I dropped them off and drove to the get out, picked up my book and settled down for a good read. 27 seconds later the boys arrived! I guess it was flowing fairly rapidly!! Now for the final stretch of the day the Lower Oetz and this is where my flippancy ends. The Lower section was my section, but I’d made one fatal mistake. . . I’d read the guidebook and here are some choice quotes from the summary of the Lower Oetz:

"very fast, very heavy, very scary . . . not once does it drop below a class 3. Danger is with you from the very beginning of this run. The bridge stanchion . . . has been the site of at least 3 fatal pinnings . . . The weir is potentially deadly: " So with this delightful description clearly inprinted on my somewhat impressionable brain, I dithered and moaned about my capabilities to be on such a section. Despite Roo’s assurance I would be fine and Jim’s standard "big and bouncy straight down the middle" it took much persuasion to coax me onto the river. The Oetz however turned out to be a storming run, with one grade 4 and a big corner, Jim blubbed so I decided to take him down the chicken shoot to the right, and Adrian wasn’t really up to the pace either so followed us.

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Wed and mid week, surely time for a rest day. Roo and Charlie agreed, so with that in mind we set off to drive to Switzerland and run the Giarsun Gorge, the Ardez and the Schuls sections. Paddling with Charlie is like going on holiday with the duracell bunny on speed! The whole section of the Swiss Inn was low and the Giarsun gorge was running like a Scottish river, bony but still fun. Pat and I entered into a competition to see whole could do the worst paddling of the day, and provided a variety of crap lines worthy of any self respecting freshers group. Roo in his usual quest to run the river any way but straight forwardly, wave wheeled his way down the Inn. Roo is might be noted has a calming effect on any nervous paddler, just as you think the approaching rapid is surely almost unnavigateable, Roo will proceed to wave wheel, cartwheel, or stern dip his way down the rapid, so much so that you cannot help but be reassured of the trivialness of the water. This of course usually leads to the less able paddlers getting a jolly good wasting, but at least you start off calmed. Rob and I dropped out of the Ardez gorge, Rob because he is a vest wearing Girl Guide and me because of my total inability to direct a kayak. The others shot the gorge and we picked them up at the bottom to run Schuls, a fairly trivial bounce.
Thursday saw us packing up and leaving Austria, the plan was to head to Italy via the Splincter Muncher. This is basically a grade 3 bimble with 2 enormous grade 5 drops lurking in the middle. Adrian bowed out due to illness, and I nobly agreed to bypass the river which would ultimately, for me, consist of a grade 3 slog followed by two mammoth portages, Pat on the other hand thought this was a super way to spend the day and wandered off down stream (mind you after a fortnight in a car with Chippy I guess an amateur lobotomy would be a pleasant way to spend a day!). You can see the first of the Finstermuncher rapids from the road and even at 200 feet it looks like a fairly serious proposition. This was the section of rapids that Mike Jones came out to do the first descent of in the early 70’s in fibreglass 14 foot boats and when you look at the rapid you realise what an awesome achievement this actually was. Adrian and I bimbled up to Samnau the duty free town which is situated between the Swiss and Austrian borders. I practised my downhill driving techniques which included freewheeling to the corners and slamming on the brakes. I was surprised to find the wheels on fire as I stopped the car in a lay-by to check out a funny smell? German engineering! The rest of the day was spent toiling over to Italy to the Noce valley, which we were hoping to shoot the next day. Team Toyota found endless amusement recording a series of bizarre sound effects
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including what sounded like a moped running into a chicken coup! Found a campsite, paid for a pitch, used about 11 pitches and slept.
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The Upper Noce was to be our final day on a river for the trip and we awoke to brilliant sunshine, tea and Charlie’s inexhaustible enthusiasm. The ferry set off to drop a car at the get out . . . and returned an hour and 35 minutes later to a team of rather red, dehydrated paddlers. They had apparently lost the get out and failed to find the get in. ‘To lose one get out could be considered unfortunate, to lose two ??’ The Noce was low but it was easy to see the potential in the river which offered 25km of continuous rapids. You get on at the slalom site which drops fairly rapidly for about a mile and then it’s just continuous dropping water for 10km, the section finishes with one grade 4+ rapid, called Saw Mill Cataract. Unfortunately someone had left the guide book lying around and I had managed to sneak a look. surfch.jpg (13306 bytes)Sounded awful, but I wasn’t expected to run 4+. However when we got there the rapid was no more than a 4 and having obviously been infected with a dose of testosterone I decided to run it. The rapid has a fairly substantial drop on it and is divided into two sections. I really should have just walked!!! The line was centre left, so I set off backwards down the right, did a couple of 360’s on the way, dropped in and out a stopper and eventually washed up in the eddy at the bottom. Lovely . . . look cool and they’ll never know that was a cock up rather than a show off! Anyway the whole group ran the rapid, others preferring a more traditional paddling method, Pat obviously intrigued by my use of explicative paddling, took a similarly ungraceful route, and then proceeded to entertain with a swim on the grade 2 section above the get out. It seemed to be visiting day for the fuck up fairy as Chippy buggered up a weir as I’ve never seen a weir buggered up before, plowing directly into the only rock in a 40m radius; and breaching sideways onto it, swam the rest of the drop.

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I had only just finished sniggering at their collective idiocy, when the fuck up fairy made quick trip over to me, and within minutes I was swimming down a rapid of the smaller variety, (although the jury, I would like to say, is still out on whether it was a grade 2+ or it crept into the 3- category) Either way the Noce claimed a variety of bruised egos that day, but all concerned expressed a preference to bruised egos than bruised bodies! Team Knarly went on to paddle the Noce Gorge and we went to meet them at the get out. The VW had absolutely no problems finding a set of paddlers sitting aimlessly by the side of the road. The beama boys however had decided to freewheel down into a 300 foot gorge with the car and then looked surprised to find they couldn’t extract themselves. Obviously the only thing to do would be to rev the car to buggery until the clutch burnt out and they were stranded. An excellent idea, which they proceeded to execute with military precision. Adrian pulled them out, but the car was now property of Mr. Fucked and it limped into the nearest village, and awaited the AA. The 6 of us abandoned them, leaving a very weary looking Battersea physically, mentally and propritorially shattered. You can always judge a good kayak holiday by the amount of human debris at the end. A fantastic trip.

We started the long drive back to Calais, which we intended to break with a stop at Ausburg. We drove into the night and it was 2am before Andy found a crap filled lay-by next to one of the noisiest motorways in Europe for us to sleep in. A perfect spot with which to conclude our memories of idyllic Austria, thanks Andy. We circled Ausburg several times, having a careful look at most of the major and some of the minor residential areas, before finally randomly finding the slalom course. It was smaller than I had expected, and contained some knarly nightclub bouncer type of eddies. But all had a chance to show off, play in the stoppers, and ponder on the gender of several German paddlers.
grin.jpg (15675 bytes) We packed up the kit for the last time and headed north with a sense of sorrow. I knew I would feel quite lost trying to journey anywhere without the comforting view of the back of a red Toyota.

The trip had been excellent, the group dynamic had worked well, the boys could pick on the girl, everyone could exploit Charlie’s wonderfully trusting nature, right up to the point where he turned his watch forward an hour at Calais, (I do wonder if he did in fact turn up to work at 7am on Monday). Rob provided endless amusement with his horrible dress sense and Welsh origins. Without Jim and his early morning tea, who knows how much paddling would have been missed? Adrian provided the forethought to do things like buy food, and I personally am eternally grateful for his patient leading on the rivers. And Roo, well without Roo I doubt we would have the tonal delights of ‘the moped running into the chicken coup’. I was sorry to be going home, but I guess in a way, it’s the very fact that such a trip is finite, which makes it so memorable and enchanting.

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SECTION Distance
in KM
Our Alps


Tosens 9 4 3- (3+)
Sanna 7 4 3+ (4)
Inn Shoot 2 5 4+


Fließ - Landeck 6 4 3+
Tosens 9 4 3+ (4)
Venter Ache 6 4(4+) 4+


Upper Oetz 4 4+ 4
Lower Oetz 12 4(4+) 4-
Giarsun Gorge 11 4 3+/4-


Ardez Gorge 4 4(4+) 4
Schuls 6 3(4) 3


FinsterMunster 9 3(5+) 3(5)
Upper Noce 10 4(4+) 4-


Lower Noce 15 4 4-
Noce Gorge 3.5 5 4 (5-)