"Poorly Planned... Badly Executed"

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Swim Like A Fish

This is in the middle of the longest tunnel in the world. There are three rooms like this that look more like a rave hall than a main road. I assume that it is to keep people awake and alert.

One river I was disappointed not to paddle last year while in Norway was the Sogndalselvi, particularly notable for three back to back waterfalls with no place to get out in between them. My buddies Mefford and Amos had also failed to paddle the river despite living only an hour and a half drive from it. Our mission to it last year only revealed water to low to paddle but we did get to scout the three waterfalls and dream of what could be.

Amos running the first waterfall which had a burly leadin

This year was to be different. While hanging out in Voss I received a call from Mefford - “Our trips for today have been cancelled so we’re heading for the Sogndal, you want to come?” And with that I was off on a two hour drive which nearly spent more time underground than it did above. I think the tunnel breakdown goes something like this - 2km tunnel, 11km tunnel, 5km tunnel, 24km tunnel, 6km tunnel, and ferry into a 3km tunnel (tunnels under 1km excluded because hey it's Norway). That's over 50km on tunnels on a 120km drive!! At the end of the 3km tunnel (after the ferry) I picked up a couple of Belgium girls hitchhiking. They had taken the ferry and then walked the entire length of the tunnel not realising how long it was.

Mefford discovering the challengs of the entrance and inventing a new style of boofing - the tail first plug!! You will have to ask him how it is done, I only took the photos.

Arriving in the small town of Sogndal I soon found Mefford and Amos. We had a quick reunion, set shuttle and were off to paddle both upper and lower sections of the Sogndal at the timely hour of 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Good thing it doesn’t get dark in Norway in the summer.

For once it's me not behind the camera. After Mefford swam on the first waterfall he become camera man (Photo by: Mefford Williams)

About the time we went kayaking is about the time things went astray for me. A kilometre into the upper section I got a right proper thrashing and swam like a fish. Amos jumped out for a quick scout in which he saw a big hole in middle of the river with 'good to go' line down the left... not so! I paddled the drop first to find the “go to go on the left” line ran into a wall of water kicking hard into the hole. Form the low angle slide I was on I had no chance of getting a boof so instead took my beating like a man and a good wee beating it was. I would like to claim that I was in there for over a minute because it sure felt longer but it was probably closer to 30-45 seconds. Long enough for Amos to place a throw rope perfectly on my shoulder signalling that it was to time to make hasty retreat.

Amos running the second waterfall (Photo by: Mefford Williams)

Swimming was not to be as easy as I anticipated though. To enable me to hold onto the throw rope with two hands tried to put my knee through my spray skirt but without any success... that little bugger was determined to keep my in my kayak! This left me holding onto a line trying to pull me of the river while me boat held me stead fast in the hole. Only thing for it - let go with one hand and pull my spray skirt off by its tag... easier said than done. Finally out my kayak and still holding onto the rope I things were surely looking up... until the rope went slack!! Amos had been pulled into the river just before I got out of my boat so I was on my own again. Luckily he had already pulled me over to the left side of the river and my swim to the sure was easy. I then got to watch my boat, with my camera inside, float past in the middle of the current where I had no chance of grabbing it.

Amos on his way to the bottom of the third and final waterfall (Photo by: Mefford Williams)

My boat made it a long way down the river before pinning about a km before the takeout of the upper. Having got all my gear back I wasn’t too worried about walking half the upper run and got straight back in the saddle. It didn’t take us long to get to the three waterfalls which makes the Sogndalselvi such a classic run. Amos and Mefford paddled the first waterfall while I took photos. Amos got stalled in the bottom but came out fine. After seeing this Mefford though he would head further right... a lot further right in the end and although he had a good line on the falls he got stuffed under an undercut just after the drop and had no choice but to swim like a fish (at least fish are good swimmers). Fortunately I was in a good position to get him a throw bag and help pull him out before the second falls. Not wanting to leave Amos the run the next two falls by himself I ponyed up and stuck the line to meet Amos waiting a small eddy just above the second drop. Which he insisted I paddle first but hey he been sitting waiting in his boat for nearly 30min so I was happy to do so.

Weeee... (Photo by: Mefford Williams)

The next two falls were all good and we found Meffod’s boat just downstream of the final falls so all were back on the water together for the rest of the run. The rest of the run saw only good lines and no dramas. While the paddling was not executed as well as we hoped it certainly was enjoyed by all.

Mefford reflects on the day that was