July 31, 2014

Norway 2014

Low water in California made the decision to head back to Norway pretty easy. After a whirl wind tour of the Danish highland's we opted for the more scenic and leisurely option of sailing to Oslo from Copenhagen. Well worth the extra kroner. 

High water greeted us as we turned off E6 and up the Sjoa valley. Evidence of the bumper winter was everywhere. Plenty of snow sitting high on the hills about the Sjoa Valley. Jackpot!

Through some good fortune and advanced planning, we managed to acquire better accommodation for the season. It’s an interesting notion when running water; toilet, shower and a kitchen seem like luxuries. TIL.

 Due to the high water, I spent my first week running the regular section of the Sjoa. An Antarctic season and late dry summer meant I hadn’t paddled much since the end of last season in Norway so there was a little rust in the system.

Hamish Tills lines squares up in the second slide

Another benefit in returning to the valley for a second season, stepping back into a solid team of kayakers. Paddling with people I know and trust makes exploring and running harder white water much easier and more enjoyable.

An early onset of valley fever sent a few of us slightly further afield to the Stor Ula River. Good flows and sunshine greeted us as we made the short walk to put-in. It was a welcome change to the relatively low flows we had the previous season. 

Drive right so you don't go left. Simple when it works.

The end of the rainbow is...

Multiple laps, photo’s and Tyron had us whittle the afternoon. We were joined by semi-local’s such as ourselves, Hamish and Dipesh. A few more laps saw us head down stream and the bottom water falls.
High water (higher than we were happy with) and a distinct lack of courage meant that none of the team plucked up the pair needed to run triple combo. 

Where is Will Hartman when you need him?

Next up: Voss road trip and extreme week.

April 11, 2014


Antarctica. Two and a half months, 14 voyages, 154 excursions and one minor sea sickness episode later (don't eat curried chicken if you're feeling below par)....

A season spent south.

Some of the largest birds on the planet escort us as we sail south to begin our season

Appearances can be a little deceiving.
Gale force wind's make life hard for the snow shoeing team 
Christmas Day at work. Nice!
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

We can hear it but we can't see it.
The kayak team try to track down an elusive Minke Whale

Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Mega fauna having a mega meal.
A young humpback whale lunge feeds on balls of krill 

The mighty Ocean Nova picks it's way through ice floes in Penola Straight. 
A cold day at work. -6 is a little rough on the hands.
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev
Same same but different. KAVU day in the Penola Straight

Perpetual motion. Chinstrap penguins make the most of the short Antarctic summer
Game face.
Moving sea ice near the Weddell sea makes for a dynamic environment.
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Can't find a good anchorage? No worries, Captain Petersen parks the Ocean Nova in the ice. 

Early morning traffic at Baily Head, Deception Island

Continental Antarctica. Portal Point
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Warp speed in the OCN (10knots) as we make our way through the Lemaire Channel. 

Adelie penguins cruise the edge of the pack ice

All hands on ice. The team off to visit a VIP visitor
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

An extremely rare siting of a Ross Seal in Lallemand Fjord. Jackpot!

Krill, breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

GoPro 3 + kite = a new perspective on Antarctica
Flat out!
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Guided wanderings. Penguin tracks left in the ice
A local Minke checking to see that the kayaks are stowed correctly
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Summer is on it's way. Penola sea ice breaking up

Perhaps my favourite bird species in the south. Light Mantled
Sootie Albatros. Awesome!
Just like the A Team only colder... and no Mr T.
Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

Sun Dog at 65 South

Additional images supplied by Ruslan Eliseev

November 29, 2013

Norway - a beginners guide

Recently I managed to break my seasonal routine somewhat and headed to Scandinavia for my first Norwegian paddling season. What followed were three months of fantastic adventures on and off the water.

Here are a few observations after three months with the Viking nations:
Paddling in New Zealand (or California for that matter) you become accustomed to paddling steeper, low volume kayak runs with plenty of objective danger. Things like sieves (natures versions of a colander/ paster strainer), trees, inescapable gorges and the occasional West Coast/ American redneck. Norway is pretty much the same… except the rivers all have 10 times the flow. 

The paddling is pushy, intimidating and literally in your face. The water is everywhere. As a result, I only saw half of the paddling I actually did. This rest of the time was spent under water or recovering from water being injected behind my eyeballs. Strange, but true. 

Fun boof with a bad history.  Ridderspringet section of the Sjoa. 

Racing for glory on the Brandseth. Ekstremsport Veko, Voss

When things were going well...

And then the wheels fell off... About to be surfed in the bottom hole. Bugger!

Jamie Sutton almost had time to take this shot even though he was in my heat. That fast!

Norwegian rivers are full on.

Case and point, the Lower Rauma River. I had heard plenty of tales of the run and my staunch countrymen (The Suttons, Brendan et al) and they assured me it was the one run I absolutely had to do.

Fast forward to my first run and a very healthy 55 cumecs (a lot of CFS).
On inspection, everything went. The lines were good, the run out was good. It was just super burley.

Perhaps my peak moment was sitting in the eddy above the ferry glide that lead into rapid number three (can you guess which rapid it is?). Between me, and my line on river left lay a freight train of water leading exactly where I didn’t want to go. Brendan and Heavy Sevy were already waiting at the bottom having just paddled down. I hadn’t seen either of them paddle the lead in because I one of the more intimidating rapids I’ve paddled in a long time.

Number three on the Lower Rauma. Big ferry glide, run left and then hold on for the ride

Brendan Bayly laying down a smooth finish on the Big Slide, Lower Rauma.

Aside from your regular kayaking gear you’ll need to pack additional fleece/ thermals. Not just one or two extra items, but every item you’ve owned, ever.  Reason being, it’s either wet or cold or probably both at the same time. I say this even after a very mild summer in the Sjoa River area.

Coming from New Zealand I’m accustomed to rain, being wet and all other things associated with it. Norway is next level. Our season began with two weeks non-stop rain. This is fine if you live in a house and have all the modern conveniences such as driers, porches or even a clothesline or any shelter to speak of. Not in Norway. We had a very traditional hut with traditional features such as no water, no toilet, no kitchen (two hot plates don’t count) and nowhere to dry your wet paddling kit.  Very quickly I worked my way through all my dry kit, damp kit and then growing mould kit because it was just wet enough all the time.

A few more observations:
You’ll need to either get a mortgage or to be heir to some oil fortune
You won’t need a beer fridge for two reasons. First, you won’t be able to afford to buy beer. My season record for 1 beer was $72 NOK or $NZ14. Needless to say a Norwegian hangover is full of physical (normal) and financial regret. Secondly, if you can actually afford beer, you just leave it outside.
Norwegian petrol is the most expensive in the world.
That being said, it takes a long time to use the gas you have. The speed limit is 80km/hr for pretty much the entire country. This means that you’re fuel economy goes through the roof. The downside being, you travel around the country at a glacial pace.

Skull vs Skål

An important distinction to make is as follows
Skål (cheers, clink glasses, sip your beer) and skull (cheers, clink glasses and see you at the bottom). Josh Neilson recalled me his first encounter with this. After finishing paddling for the day, their Norwegian acquaintance offered the kiwis a beer (a grand gesture considering the cost of a beer) and ‘skolled’ the group. At which point Mr Neilson did what all non Norwegian beers drinkers would do. He finished his beer on the spot much to the dismay of the Norwegian boater.

Kayakers are more responsible.

Go to any Norwegian bar on Friday or Saturday and the kayakers will be the least drunk. Norwegians are the ultimate binge drinkers. They won’t touch a drop of alcohol during the week. Come the weekend they make up for lost time. Never had I seen so many people barley able to stand up in one place. Maggot drunk!
If Chuck Norris was Norwegian he would still send a J in every text message. This can be said of all the Scandinavian countries. There seems to be a morbid fear that someone will misunderstand the implied tone of the message.

Things you won’t need in Norway

Sunscreen. Even if it’s sunny you’ll be covered in every fleece/ thermal item you own to ward of the arctic chill.
A paddlock for your bike. Norwegians are perhaps the most law abiding country on earth. Want to use a bike for your shuttle. Just leave it on the side of the road. No worries.
Police. See above. In almost three months in Sjoa Valley I saw two police cars.
Currency converter on your phone/ipod. It’s best you don’t work out what you’re actually spending.
A centre line on the road. It would seem there is some interpretation rule known only by local drivers. Left, right, it doesn’t matter. Just swerve out of the way at the last minute.

Things that will help your trip

Your Balls or Tits depending on your gender. If you’re going to make the most of the paddling on offer then it’s going to be staunch.

Combining guide book information. There are some sweet guides out but it worked best when combining info from the German guide and the ultra information intensive …… PDF guide.

Local knowledge on the ground. A perfect example of this is the German guide recommends 8-16 cumecs on the Lower Rauma. Whereas it’s actual optimal (and safer) flow is closer 50 cumecs.

A Stat Oil Service Station cup. For $200NOK you get free coffee, hot chocolate, or what ever for an entire year. Perhaps the only bargin in Norway. That and the hotdogs

Free food. Yep, some super markets will give you any food that is out of date. It sounds ghetto but is actually just awesome. I doubt I’ll meet a kayaker who’ll turn down a $20 steak because it expired yesterday.

August 28, 2013

California 2013

Fantasy Falls

In the interests of mixing things up (following a hot Dane to Norway) my Cali season was nothing more than a flying visit.

I only had a week free to get my annual fix in the high Sierra’s. An average winter left a minimal snow pack. With little snow comes little water and typically a short paddling season.

I was fortunate enough to time the ever-famous South Silver and teamed up with some of the Kiwi-Cali contingent and scored a few hot laps in the sun.

Its been 10 years since I first ran the South Silver and the stoke was still as strong.

Having limited boating leading into the Northern Hemisphere summer my hearth rate was sufficiently high dropping into the crux rapid, Sky Scrapper.

The view from the top. Skyscraper 

'Fuck you hole' just above Plastic Surgery
A subtle change for the season was being with out my camera. It would seem a few years of abuse had taken its toll so my 7D spent its season in a repair shop in Sacramento. Not to worry, with a new GoPro 3 in hand I was only a screen shot away from a few river moments in time.

With a few additional laps California’s Salmon River we sat down to plan our trip into Fantasy Falls. After the usual preparation and speculation on flows, shuttle, gear etc our plan we set. Josh Neilson was in touch with teams who had just taken off. Wake early, drive to takeout and drop a vehicle. Drive to put in and get going. A less than ideal weather forecast had us to-ing and fro-ing for a while but optimism won out and it was decided. A low water Fanatsy Falls.