Sunday, 20 August 2017

Canoe tripping through Gränslandet.

In July I was lucky enough to have my folks and friends come visit me here in Eastern Norway for a few weeks of outdoor adventuring. Seeing as they had driven all the way out from the UK with a trailer loaded with open canoes, we thought it would be a good idea to get out on some water somewhere.

Previously I had come to Norway with pals from university, armed with small creek boats and a questionable desire to paddle steep whitewater and float off big waterfalls. Therefore I was a bit unsure of where might be suitable for some nice open canoe tripping. However, following some digging through our combined collection of maps and accumulated Scandanavian National Parks leaflets, we found a wee flyer titled 'Med Kano i Rogen - Långfjellet - Femundsmarka', which had been given to us from friends who had been out open boating in Sweden some years ago. The first thing we saw was a whole network of lakes and streams amongst forest and mountains... perfect!

Harder to see, however, was how to get in there. We could see roads to the Southern and Northern shores of Lake Femund, but also a track in from Tännäs to Kärinsjövallen in Sweden. By linking up a dozen or so lakes with rivers and portages, an East to West through-trip looked pretty good to go. Distance looked like it would take about five days, so we packed up a weeks worth of food, went shopping for some new fishing lures, and headed up the road to put on.

Here are a few photos: I'll let you work out the route... ;-)

Med Kano i Rogen - Långfjellet - Femundsmarka

All the best canoe trips begin with a portage... right?

So many places I want to live.
Out into the water..
Hipster heaven? Yes, that is two aero-presses.
Meeting the residents.
Chop, chop, chop.
Old pine and the suitably toxic coloured Letharia vulpina / Wolf's Lichen - once used to lace reindeer carcasses to poison wolves and foxes..
Collecting treasures from around the campsite. Can you identify what they are?
Down by the fireside.
Saturday Night Out.
Paddling through a field of Mare's Tails.
More pretty lakes...
... and cabins I want to stay in.
Hats at lunch.
Leaving the woods and suddenly feeling small and exposed out on the wide waters and under the big skies of Lake Rogan.
Captain Pugwash and his first mate.
"Harry Potter Rock"
Another nice camp spot.
Time for a coffee?
Attempting to catch some breakfast..
I think we found the sweet-spot: amongst the old pines and big boulders on the shores of Rogan
It would have been nice if he caught some trout for lunch...
Old timer McKeown: paddles from lake to lake in search of the next campfire to hang around, telling stories to anyone willing to keep his mug topped up with whisky...
Sundowners down by the river.
Dave skipping a portage.
Picking up the pace into the Røa River.
Shall we carry round this one?
Just a wee bit of rain.
Looking west to red skies above the Røa
Approaching the big, windy waters of the Femund!
A warm cup of tea outside the 'ferry terminal' on Lake Femund - waiting for a ride.
Hitching a lift aboard the Femund II to the road end at Synnervika. Beats paddling in the wind and rain - sells waffles too!

Ben :-)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Thuli Bheri

The Thuli Bheri is often talked about as the best grade 4 multiday in the world and so I eagerly agreed to join Dom, Jamie, Jake, Steph, Mark and Bob to see if it lived up to such a prestigious title. After arriving in Nepal and exploring Thamel, Mark and I headed for the Bhote Kosi for a warm up. A little swim half way down the river did not provide the ideal warm up I was hoping for but with no time for anything else I found myself travelling back to Kathmandu to meet the rest of the team. We took over the Buhhda Garden hotel restaurant to prepare and once our flight was confirmed I rather nervously boarded the bus to Nepalganj and then our private plane to Juphail.

Unloading kayaks in Juphail. Photo: Steph Higgins
The flight was breathtaking and gave us our first slight of the river while highlighting just how remote we were. Landing in Juphail we were greeted by our porters and told surprisingly there were no need for permits to get to Tarakot. We decided to walk a day up the river to make the most of being in such an amazing part of the world. This turned out to be a mistake. After a long day walking we found no rapids of interest and the only thing accomplished was some blistered feet and a confirmation the river was low, which at least for me was a relief. We set up camp and prepared for the next day when we would start our descent.

Walking towards Tarakot following the porters. Photo: Steph Higgins
After a short relaxed paddle back down to Juphail, the pace quickly picked up and from then on the river relentlessly loss gradient with pretty much everything runnable but nothing below grade 4. The days past in a blur along with the rapids as there was no way of telling where one ended and the next began. 

One of the many rapids leading to the Golden Canyon. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
I hadn't paddled much in the build up to the trip, so getting back in a boat, let alone one that was loaded with kit, made the first couple of days very daunting. I was happy to just survive down the rapids through the golden canyon and down to Tribeni. As the river grew in volume, I grew in confidence, but every horizon line was met with nervousness which was mentally exhausting and I was more than relieved to reach the bank safely at the end of each day.

Camping in the Golden Canyon. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
Camping at Awulgurta. Photo: Steph Higgins
Each night we camped on the river banks with spectacular views of the Himalayas and slept under stars. Surrounded by mountains and listening to the river we cooked rice, lentils and jerky on an open fire, which after a hard days kayaking was surprisingly tasty. Along with noodles and dal bhat from the local villages kept me well fed as we travelled downstream. Walking through the villages also allowed me to experience a more relaxed side of Nepal, even though there were hundreds of children watching everything we did, including bathroom breaks.

Jamie enjoying a rapid. Photo: Steph Higgins

Setting safety. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
Slowly I got into the swing of things just in time for what was described as the hardest section of the trip. After portaging around Awulgurta, I followed Jamie and Dom, boofing, punching and charging my way down what seemed like a never ending rapid for the next 20km. It was with great relief when the river eventually eased and a little way along we finally paddled into Ramnaghat and got the local bus back to Nepalganj and then onto Kathmandu, something which I think I am still recovering from.

Steph boofing. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
The Thuli Bheri lived up to its reputation as an amazing multiday in an even more amazing location. As for being the best of its grade in the world, I will have to do some more before I can make that conclusion.


Thanks for Bob Ashcroft for organising the trip and Jamie and Steph for the photos

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Kopili - A Dream of a River - Meghalaya Part 2

To me the Kopili really seemed to be the river of dreams. It has a perfect combination of whitewater that is big, challenging and serious with great moves coupled with large pools between most of the rapids, minimal easy portages and plenty of good places to scout. The water is warm and crystal clear and, although fairly remote, walking out is almost always an option. The scenery is great, if not quite a stunning as the Kynshi, and the white water rarely drops below grade 4. 

Kadox - Photo: Rowan James

Mike Bell - Photo: Rowan James
My first run of the Kopili came a few days after Will and I took of the Khri. As we had been warned, Shillong, the town we used as a base, eats days. However the days we lost were some of the most enjoyable I had. In the spirit of a trip that was vibrant and varied as well as random, I spent most of the day letting Joe sort out our logistics whilst chilling out at the Laloo household and enjoying the company of the many interesting people who visited. The logistics were challenging to say the least. Our ambitious plan was to go to the NH7 Weekender Festival to see the Wailers play (I did warn you it was random) and then to immediately drive the 8 hours overnight to the Kopili put in. 
Beth Hulme on the Double Drop - Photo: Rowan James
Kadox on Pink Slippers
Will Chick taking off!
So by the time 5pm came around I piled into a jeep with none of the people I was going to the Kopili with, none of my gear and no phone. What I did have was rum, great company in the form of Joe, Beth, Gus and Banjop. Just in case it all went wrong I had a note with the phone numbers of anyone Joe thought might help me get back to the right place on one side and instructions on where to return me to on the other, just in case! What followed was one of the best nights I have ever had and one of the worst mornings. Although Rowan certainly felt worse. 

Kadox deep in Pink Slippers
Some how the plan worked and we arrived at the put in just after sunrise. Having driven through the night the drivers seemed a bit miffed when we promptly fell asleep for several hours before finally rousing Rowan and gently cajoling him on to the river.

After a short flat section we dropped into the first rapid, wake up call. Somehow the river starts with a real big volume feel and we spent most of the first day scouting and running big wave trains and boofing big holes. There were a good few surfs being had for sure! Sometime in the mid afternoon our hangovers got the better of us and we decided to call it a day. Initially I couldn't understand why Kadox was so insistent that we sleep on a sandy beech however it soon became apparent that in true No Pasa Nada style he had brought a hammock and not a roll mat so the prospect of sleeping on rocks was not an appealing one.  

Rowan James
Day 2 saw the style of the river change almost constantly. As the river channelized we experienced huge boulder gardens, bedrock drops, creek lines and as if conscious of the few styles it had thus far missed out the final two rapids are a perfect 20ft waterfall and a big slide. There is even a big crowd to amaze at the water fall! 
Kadox gives the Kopili the thumbs up!
A busy day at the waterfall - Photo: Rowan James
After the Kopili we headed back to town to regroup for a mass decent of the Kynshi. However I loved the Kopili so much I had to come back and I ended my trip with four consecutive day laps. The fastest time we clocked was four and a half hours. Not bad for 27km of quality river.


Thanks to Rowan James for his photos!

P.S. Here is the video from the All India Kayak expedition which includes the first decent: