Thursday, June 04, 2009

Jordalselva - Norway

Tyler Bradt - another satisfied customer on the Jordalselva - Norway

Although the taps around Voss turned on over a month ago, the emergence from winter can take a while this far north in the hemisphere. A sleepy hometown feel remains prevalent while locals climb into drysuits and get first pick on the lines flowing once again throughout the valley.

But now the page has turned to June, and the summer pilgrimage of VW transporter vans are once again on the move. In the weeks leading up to extremsportveko Voss will change into a paddling destination with few rivals. Foreign license plates, loaded roof racks and happy kayakers will soon be located under the endless Norwegian sun.

Tyler Curtis knows the feeling

First on the scene from across the Atlantic in an early season surprise were huck bosses Ian Garcia and Tyler Bradt. The week was eventful with the two of them dropping among others a big 1st D waterfall descent up in Eksingadalen and finding the rest of the classics at perfect flow. Raundal, Urdland, Stranda, Myrkdal, Brandseth, and if you really can endure the extra 15 minutes of driving, time to hit the Jordalselva.

Local flight technician Dag Sandvik

The Jordal (your-dal) valley is hidden between the mammoth walls cutting down to Gudvangen and a branch of the Sognefjord. Only a few more kilometers past the Brandseth, you'll know you're heading the right way when you begin the dark ascent up the road through a steep tunnel system before emerging into mountain paradise.

Two sections are available up on the Jordalselva. From way up out of the lake, the popular guidebook section offers mostly friendly drops in between easier rapids down to the waterfall and takeout shortly after. Option two means putting in at the bridge above the classic Jordal waterfall and paddling down to the next bridge just above the entrance to the road tunnel. This short hard stretch will put a lot more on your plate with a mix of extreme gradient, gorge drops and even more airtime.

Mariann Sæther still brings it

The notable rapids are easy to find. After the Jordalselva 30', the river mellows for a couple of kilometers before turning into a 600m inferno of powerful drops. Some of this can be too much to handle depending on the flow and perhaps who the cast of characters are. On this day the boys named Tyler had a go at the last few moves before taking the exit ramp into a greasy hole.

T-Bradt comes in hot.

Immediately after the slide is the technical challenge of the day. A three channel waterfall with only the left line runnable and a must make right to left drive to make it there. Consequences are severe on this rapid so scout and plan accordingly.

TC - second waterfall on the section....go left!

Nearing the takeout, one more big slide remains that likes to put you very close to the left wall. On this day it took a couple of us for a roll and also removed some plastic and skin from important places. In the end a few knicks and scrapes couldn't keep the all star friends and weather from making the day a perfect 10. The going is definitely good and we hope to see everybody back in the land of plenty soon. It's going to be another spectacular summer in Norway.

View Jordalselva (IV-V+) in a larger map

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bygdelva - Norway

Benjamin Hjort drops in on the local fishin spot. Bygdelva - Norway

Norway's golden triangle road trip brings you through Hellesylt, where the Langdelselva and Bygdelva meet each other in Norway's spectacular branch of the Storfjord. Flemming Schmidt and Benjamin Hjort called this area home for a few seasons and shared many whitewater discoveries. On one side of town the Landelselva drops into the fjord as a massive cataract full of lines that few are ready to attempt. At the opposite end of the bay the Bygdelva doesn`t look quite as menacing. All that changes significantly as you head a few kilometers up the valley.

On a return to the Sunnylvfjord drainages last summer things started and ended with some interesting drama off the river. Local fishermen who claimed to have ownership to one of the classic final drops on the Bygdelva tried a few moves at preventing us from putting on. A decision to go ahead and give it a go despite the tensions downstream ended being a good move.

Action just below the put in.

The guidebook description of the Bygdelva mainly describes a short upper section coming directly out of the lake. Here things get going quickly with three nice rapids followed by another two challenging drops all within the first 400m. Two big moves at the end of this section can be scouted on either shore.

Benji H. working the second of the two last drops before the dam.

This first stretch along the road ends abruptly with a diversion dam pulling a rather large percentage of flow from the creek. Depending on water levels this may or may not be an issue. Good things await those wishing to continue into a tight gorge beginning just downstream and low flows are needed.

Scott Feindel coming out from the gorge section.

Walking along a blueberry infested river left, you can peer into the depths of the entire canyon section. It should look manageable without so much of the original water amount, however technical moves and a few hole bombs are still required inside a place with no portage options.

A sweet slide just before the water comes back from the dam.

After the mini gorge, the going remains very good. The water comes back from the pipes, and after another distinct horizon line, the last of the gradient heads down to sea-level. These final big slides with the water returned to normal flows can be checked from the road and certainly make for a perfect ending to another amazing Norwegian creek run.

Norway has a rich history in fishing traditions and regulations governing local sport fishing also mean that locals pay huge for this opportunity. The Bygdelva is certainly not a private river in Norway, but remembering that fishing is popular on many whitewater runs and showing respect for their sport is always important.

View Bygdelva - (IV+ - V) in a larger map