So this year I was lucky enough to travel out to Val Sesia, Italy, to get some river boating done and tick off some more rivers! The plan was to drive out there on the 10th May and return home in the early hours of the morning on the 19th. Well that was the plan anyway…
Before going I hadn’t actually been out on a river since my trip to Scotland before Christmas, due to injuring my shoulder, so I hadn’t really had any practise before hand. My shoulder still isn’t 100% but I’d been doing exercise’ prior to going out to try get it to the best I could, I just made sure that I’d just low brace or just go over on my right hand side rather than putting in any sort of big high brace which would more than likely do some more damage.
It was a group of 8 of us going out there so we took 2 vehicles, Alex Read and I were lucky enough to be in the van, along with Corinne Brown and Paul French which had lots of space for the long journey.
So Alex travelled up from Cornwall to my house in Stratford upon Avon a couple of days before to make sure we had everything we needed. Corrine picked us up on the Saturday, loaded the kit and boat and the journey began, first stop, pick up Paul, then to the Euro Tunnel, then the big old drive to Italy! Lucky enough for me, I’m not old enough to get insured on the van so I could just chill and sleep in the back.
Middles Sesia GIV
Water Level 85
Campsite to Quare
Once we arrived, we got all our stuff sorted out, had a little rest, and then decided to go for a nice warm up paddle before the others got there. From the road, the river look really low and I was in 2 minds about even getting on the water. Good job I did get on the water as there water more water than what there looked like! Was a nice little warm up paddle on the middle Sesia getting in at the Campsite.
Above Campsite to Scopello
Water level at 85 on the gauge
As the other arrived late on Sunday night, we did another, longer, warm up paddle for them, the same section as before, we just went a bit further along.
Sorba Slides & Alpine Sprint
Water level was lowish
After hearing about the Sorba slides, it sounded like something I really wanted to do!
There basically a set of 3 slides/drops. The first one is a nice big slide with 2 lines, either slide down the right, or try and nail the boof line on the left, which turns out to be harder than it looked! The next on was a nice small little drop which you could take anywhere but far left was best as it went straight into the eddy. The last drop probably looked the hardest, but was actually really easy. It was just a slide which kicked up in the middle then went off slightly to the right. Just slide off far right at the top with a low brace ready if needed and then you’re at the bottom. Simple but super fun!
When we got there we had a look at the Gronda, but that was too low, which was unfortunate as I’d heard it was a really nice section to paddle.
Anyway we got on the water and ran them a few times, with splitting up to take photos of each other etc.
Arron, one of the other guys we were boating with, said about the boof line at the top on river left, made it sound easy, so I gave it ago, thought I’d got the line, but was just slightly to far right and ended up sliding down sideways into the hole at the bottom! All good fun!
The Alpine Sprint was another really fun section, apparently people race it in good water in about 15 minutes so I hear, took us about 3 or 4 hours, with having a group of 8 and having to get out and scout sections etc. but it was really good fun, eddy hoping the way down, not knowing what’s around the next boulder.
Like most of the stuff we paddled, would preferred more water, but still great fun.
Low Water again
got out before Cylinder drop
Egua was just full of drop and run technical rapid which definitely got the adrenaline going!
The get in was at the very first drop, which I’d seen photos of before and thought it looked awesome!
It had a little rocky lead in which wasn’t too much of a problem, then the narrowed off to the right, the sloping down into a fast slide which dropped off at the end.
The slop down made it hard to keep the position you wanted as it suddenly speeds up and makes you want to lean back, so the first time I (as well as others) didn’t get it how I wanted to, as I went deep at the bottom, but I ran it again and managed to nail it, which felt so much better.
We then had some lunch and got on to paddle the rest of the river, which was full off really fun drops and rapids to get the adrenaline going! Definitely up there with the best rivers I’ve paddled, as it was just so much fun and steep.
Sat at the top of the rapids you couldn’t see the bottom or even where you really had to go until you were there. Luckily we got out and scouted most of them so knew where we had to go.
And the gorge section
water level at 63 on the gauge
Before the gorge section this was a nice simple grade 3 to paddle down. Near the end someone came up with the Idea of a Boater X. So we all sat in a pool in a row, with the aim to paddle as fast as possible to the end, ramming and pushing each other out the water to try and get into the lead. I Knew Alex would enjoy this as he was paddling his Jackson Karma which is known for being very fast! And yes, he won, with James 2nd and me in 3rd.
We then went on to look at the entrance rapid to the gorge section, which I didn’t think looked too hard. It was just the fact that it was reasonably long and you really don’t want to get it wrong and end up swimming into the gorge and maybe loosing you paddle and being stuck in the gorge.
As once you’re in, you’re in till the end! Which made it that bit more exciting and really got your heart beating especially as I had no idea what would be round the corner.
I loved this section as the thought of being stuck in it, not being able to walk out if it got to hard or you swam and lost your boat/paddle, you’d still have to make your way to the end.
It had some most make lines and boofs with some big tow backs that you really wanted to nail the lines on, then it finished with a section of holes and wave which then opened up to a beautiful view with the sun shining under the bridge and mountains on the other side.
Getting in above little Canada
53 on the gauge
We weren’t too sure on where to get on for this, as the original plan turned out to be a no go, as there was a big meaty hole which kept surging up with another smaller hole with a big tow back just after. So you’d want to get the line right and catch it when the holes at its smallest point, which would be impossible to judge. So after a lot of looking at it, we decided to go and look at getting in on the section further down above what they call ‘little Canada’.
We looked at the rapid from high up on the rocks, it was hard to judge the size of it as we weren’t level with the river, so not having ran this before, and not being able to really see the main hole which was underneath the rocks we were on, I thought it was just a small simple rapid. When in my boat and running it, it was a bit different. Holes appeared which I couldn’t see from where we were before and the hole at the bottom was bigger than what it looked! So what I and some others thought would be a nice ‘bimble’ down was actually a fun big and bouncy rapid with holes you didn’t really want to get stuck in. This was much like the rest of the river, some nice waves and holes to go through/over with some nice rock boofs to find along the way.
Mollia to Quare
53 on the gauge
This day turned out to be rather ‘interesting’ as we had a few rescues to make.
We go in at a section with a small drop which leads into a larger slide/drop which all looked reasonably easy. Turned out the 2nd drop was meatier than it looked with it slowing a few people and giver other some side surfing fun. This wasn’t so fun for 2 of the paddlers, as once out of their boats, it didn’t really want to let them or their boats out still! Luckily enough we had a cameras on and people around to help and get the out sharpish. Once all recovered and happy we paddled on, which lead into the sections we’d ran before. Which was even lower so a lot more rocks to dodge so you really wanted to be looking ahead to check what’s coming up.
The original plan to get home was to get up super early on Sunday and start driving, but we changed plans and decided to have a rest after paddling then leave that night after food.
We packed the van up, went out for a meal where Alex and I opted for the massive mixed grill, which was really good, then we said our goodbyes to the other who were leaving early in the morning, and off we went.
This is when it took a turn for the worst…
After the Sat Nav decided not to take us down any motorways, we eventually made it to Switzerland, where we decided to have a quick break and it was then Alex’s turn to drive.
He didn’t get far.
A few hundred yards after leaving the services we heard a horrible knocking noise then the engine management light came on. We pulled into the hard shoulder, smoke everywhere. We popped the bonnet and couldn’t see anything leaks or anything. Thankfully it was covered by Mercedes, so on the phone we got to get help. This was at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I was in shorts and flipflops, so a little chilly. We ended up sat over the other side of the wall in a group shelter till around 6am when someone finally came, but he didn’t talk English which wasn’t helpful. After several phone calls we got a recovery truck to take the van to the closest garage and then to a hotel, along with a hire van.
Turns out Brunnen, Switzerland, is a very expensive area!
Super cars were all over the place, and everything cost so much. To make it better, I only had Euros, and everything there was Swiss francs.
We had no idea when the van was going to be fixed and ready to drive back, so Alex and Paul and I decided to book flights to get home for work. Paul left early in the morning to catch his flight. Whereas me and Alex didn’t need to leave till later, so we checked in on the van on the way to the airport, and it turns out it was fixed, once we’d paid and booked out flights.
So Corrine took us to the airport where we had to flight from Zurich to Dusseldorf, and then to Birmingham airport where my parents were awaiting to pick us up and get us home, well, me home, Alex then decided to carry on and drive all the way to Cornwall.
Italy is definitely a place I will come back to, maybe next year, just hope for a bit more water next time, make things that big more challenging and get more rivers to run.
Loved the way my Wavesport Recon 83 handled it all, punching through and over the holes and turning quickly into the must make eddies to make sure I’m in it, the only down side is its bloody heavy!
See you on the water,
Photos by Alex Read, Corinne Brown, Paul French, Michael Fox & Pete Bridgeford