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Nordic Kayaking

Introduction:
Kultsjöån above Stalon is a great creeking run with some nice drops. The overall character of river is similar to the Creeking Delta in Piteälv. Rapids often have multiple channels in open landscape, but there are also some tighter passages.

There flow of the river is regulated by a dam upstream. Both of the times we’ve been there the waterlevels have been optimal and about the same. It is a possibility that the waterlevels stay quite constant thruout the season, but I’m not sure.

Special Hazards:
There are some sharp rocks.

Directions:
Drive 4,5km from Stalon to west towards Klimpfjell. There is a lay-by on the left which is the take-out. The put-in is about 10km further upstream where the river turns to lake.

Description:
The run starts with a Delta-style rapid with few different lines to choose. There are steeper drops and slides depending on which channel you choose. Pretty interesting. I can imagine this rapid being a great venue for a boaterX competition. On the river right you can find  a small waterfall.


Adrian Tregoning on the small waterfall river right.


Mikael Lantto on the same.

After a bit of flat water you will come up to a 3m high waterfall which followed by a rapid after a short pool. The main line down the waterfall is on the river right, but is been scraped down from the left as well with an impressive face plant!


Juho running the main line of the 3m waterfall.


Sami on the shallow channel on the river left.

After some varied boogie water is quite a rocky passage with some pin potential. Boof to the main current from the left and go over the ledge from the left side. It’s not a good idea to capsize in this drop as the rocks are sharp and plentiful.


Juho being careful on the rocky passage.

Next one is a hectic rapid with a troublesome stopper towards the end. It’s quite easy to get out of the stopper, but if you slip there are some sharp rocks waiting to hurt you.


Miku entering the hectic rapid.


Adrian Tregoning showing a good line well cleatr of the final hole.


Tuomas getting caught in the hole.


Sami after being flipped in the hole. Yes, it’s shallow and there is sharp rocks…

After a while you come to drop in a mini canyon. Adrian called it mini-Kalagala, because it looks a bit similar than it’s bigger brother at the White Nile. It’s an asymmetric drop where a dynamic approach is needed to ride the curler wave. And most likely you will flip at the bottom.


Tight passage in mini canyon. Sweet curler -move!

Then you will come to a waterfall with an interesting lead-in. There are several options for a line, but running the main current all the way to the left looks like a bad idea. At high water the boiling eddy under the waterfall might become an issue. After the waterfall the river follows a mini-canyon and an intensive slide/drop -combo follows shortly. Worth a portage. Take a look or carry around from the right bank.


Adrian running the middle line.


Miku online on the left line.

This is followed by a quite a big and nice which is completed with a bit of a hole in the middle before second tier which is a small slide. Parallel to the slide there is another channel on left with a steeper drop.


Author entering the awesome slide.


In the thick of it. The hole is visible in front of me. On a later trip with Adrian I probed this slide I managed to side surf the hole and eventually had to swim out of.


Miku on the second tier of the slide.

There’s some random but sweet rapids left until you reach the take-out.


One of the rapids before the take-out.

Kultsjöån 15.7.2006 from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

Day 2 section of the Nile starts with a bang. Called as the big three or 666 there is three parallel channels, each of them being a major rapid. Starting from river left there is Kalagala falls, Hypoxia in the middle and Itanda on the river right. Kalagala is a big volume pourover with a tongue on the right. Straight forward line, but missing the line might hold some severe consequences.


Author running the Kalagala falls.


The ferry just below Hypoxia.


This is what I think of running the Hypoxia…

Hypoxia is a very large hole and running it is not every one’s flavor. People do run it thought. Itanda on the other hand is a huge big volume rapid with a several big hole, but with a line that (hopefully) avoids most of them. The trick of running the Itanda is that if you want to run it from top to bottom you can’t scout it because you have to commit to the line earlier abowe. On our trip we didn’t had that many change to run it and when there was I just wasn’t feeling for it. It’s a big rapid after all. My brother, Juho, on the other hand did a sweet descent of the rapid on our last day on the river when we decided to soak it in last time and paddle the whole run from Bujagali falls down to Hairy Lemon.


Juho in the bottom part of Itanda.


Somewhere abowe Nile Special on our last day on the river.

Especially after loosing the Ugly Sisters channel to the dam construction the best play on the river is on the day 2 section. On Hair of the Dog rapid there can either the mutts nutts on low water or the main hair of the dog wave at high water. On Kula Shaker there is a big rolling wave that is just smooth and nice to surf. Everyone knows the Nile Special, but on the same rapid there is also a low water option that is the Club Wave. Downstream of the Nile Special there is Malalu which is supposed be really nice, but needs high water. We never made it there.


Juho surfing the Nile Special.


Author surfing during the Nile Freestyle Festival 2007.


The Club Wave.

The day 2 section and the play spots are most easily accessible from the Hairy Lemon camp site. It’s an island on the Nile and very peaceful and relaxed play to stay. For different rates you can stay in your own tent, dormitory or a private banda. Three meals are always included in the rates as you cannot bring food to the island. Some people find the food a little bit too basic and repetitive, but I had no problems with it.


Our tents at the Hairy Lemon.


Bidding farewell to Hairy Lemon bar at our last night on the River in true fashion.

I’ve been seriously lazy about updating this blog which has lead to a considerable backlog. Trips been made and it’s time for a media dump accompanied with some words for stories. I’ll start with a trip to White Nile, Uganda bit over a year ago.

Click here for video of the trip


SN Brussels gives you an extra 15km baggage allowance for kayak if you book thru KTN.

I had been thinking of going to the White Nile for roughly two years before finally making it. First I was asked by a friend and fellow paddler to join him in 2005, but at that time I couldn’t do it because of work. But since then I had a constant effort to sort things out in order to make the trip. The ongoing dam project at Silverback and the continuous thread of loosing the upper section of the river gave some urgency to get there ASAP. The latest status on the dam is that no further changes to the river itself are until April 2010. Other sources thought say that the Silverback section can be lost at anytime. In any case, if you already haven’t been there - make your best effort to get there as soon as possible.


Eden Rock is the place to be!

After a long haul we landed on the Entebbe airport, near Kampala the capital of Uganda. After getting a visa and some faffing about the boats with the airport personnel we’re greeted by Aaron, a taxi driver wearing Kayak The Nile t-shirt. Jamie Simpson runs the KTN and is a top bloke and super helpful at everything you might need when going to the White Nile. Soon enough we were immersed by the warmth and moist of the African night, strapping our boats to the roof of the car and packing our luggage in a Toyota Corolla. 90% of the cars you’ll see in Uganda are Toyotas: Sedan as a taxi, Hiace as a matatu or land rovers. It’s a funny feeling to land on a foreing continent over 5000km away from home in the middle of the night and start a 2,5h drive thru the darkness, fields and forests on a bumpy road. We arrived safe and sound to the Eden Rock. We pitched our tents in the dark and quickly fell asleep after a long travel.


Juho soaking in the White Nile.

We woke up as sun got above the trees surrounding the campsite making our tent unbearable hot and wandered to the main building of the camp for a breakfast. After the breakfast we wanted to get on the river so we went to the NRE campsite. We found out that a guy named Reuben was about to get on the river and agreed to meet him in a while on the other side of the river,  above the Back Channels. The mighty Nile river has drawn a bunch of people on it’s bank from all over the world who can be considered as locals and they are all friendly, helpful and a lot of fun.


Author running the Blade Runner.

We were a bit nervous as the first rapid for us to run on the Nile would be a back channel that are considered harder than the commercially rafted main channels. There are four back channels to Bujagali Falls: Blade Runner, Escape Hatch, Widowmaker and Brickyard. We ran the Blade Runner which is the easiest and most straightforward of the back channel - The Widowmaker being the hardest. The Blade Runner has several lines to take, but the steep drop is normally lined on the left of center, down the obvious seam skirting and/or melting couple of holes on the way. Awesome!

Down the river we surfed a rapid called 50-50 rapid a bit and continued our way down Surfcity. There’s also a small rapid in between the 50-50 and the Surfcity, all easy and straightforward with some play features and fun to throw downriver moves. Silverback got our heart rate up again. Reuben explained how the rapid was just a wave train, but by far the biggest on the river and is more than likely to flip you over. The ongoing dam project has dammed the Ugly Sister channel which used to draw big amount of water above the Surfcity. As the channel is now blocked more water goes down the Silverback channel making it a very sporty affair. What makes the Silverback so much fun is that you never know whats going to happen. No matter how good paddler you are or no matter how good day you are having you can end up with a head dry run or counting the fish all the way down… or anything in between.

The Silverback run ends up in an eddy on the river right just below the Silverback. From there you hike up shortly uphill from the river to meet boda drivers who you hired earlier when putting in at the NRE. The Silverback run is short and sweet and you can run it lap after lap. It’s the best and most accessible river running section on the river and will be lost completely on when the new dam is finished.


Local kids playing at the Silverback takeout.

From the NRE put-in you can run either Ribcage or Hump as a lead in to Bujagali Falls. Ribcage is the easiest and used for commercial rafting. The Hump became my favorite as it’s a classic river running move to tuck yourself into a huge lateral wave and hold on to your paddle. The Bujagali Falls have two commonly ran lines - one on the left and one on the right. The left line involves following a green tongue over a ledge into a zone of funny water that tends to flip people. Quick roll is essential as if you end up drifting towards the center you might find the only shallow spot in the Buj. Sami ended up there once upside down, broke his paddle and cut his hand. The right hand line starts from the right with a left ferry angle to either skirt or plug the surface hole at the bottom. Both of the lines are classics and heaps of fun.


The Ribcage on the left and the Hump on the right.


Juho (and the bottom of my boat :( ) in the Hump.


Dropping to the left line of the Bujagali Falls.


Juho lining up for the river right line at Buj.

After the Silverback run take-out there is some small rapids before a lengthy bit of flat water that ends up at Overtime / Dead Dutchman. The Overtime is the easier channel on river right and depending on the water level is run by commercial rafts. At high water the line is quite challenging in a kayak as well. You’ll eddy out on the river left to line up for a hard ferry to to the right to skirt some holes in the left side and drop over a final ledge. Parallel channel Dead Dutchman is one of the biggest and hardest channels on the river. A good challenge for those who are up to it and know where to go - we didn’t had a second look :)


Dropping over the final ledge of the Overtime.

Bugoga Falls / Superhole is again after a bit of flatwater floating. Some good play here on this rapid. The day 1 section of the White Nile comes complete with Itanda falls. Parallel channel to the Itanda are Kalagala falls and Hypoxia and together they form a spectacular setting of whitewater, but more of that later.

During our stay at the day 1 section we camped at the Eden Rock camp site next to the NRE camp. Eden Rock is not as a hectic place than the NRE where the going gets quite wild in the NRE bar most of nights. The food at Eden Rock is good and affordable, but they are not very effective at mass cooking so book in time if there’s more people around. You can also eat on the street outside the camp at Green Light or Africa’s Mamas. Book in advance for both of the places or they might not have food for you. The Green Light restaurant is run by Davies and hes a very cool guy. Many a great paddling day came complete eating and hanging out at his place with a bottle of Nile or Club at hand.


Uganda 2007 - The White Nile from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for the second update from the White Nile: Nile River Freestyle festival, Hairy Lemon and more…

Here’s the second part of the Scandinavia road trip 2007 update. From the Trollforsarna White Water Festival we decided to head to Gaustaälven. There was still fair amount of snow banks higher up at the put in which guaranteed a healthy flow (considered a bit over the optimal by the locals) of ice cold water. Combined with the cold overcast weather and the 15km stretch of class 4 and 5 white water it proved to be a rough day on the river and fair enough we weren’t able to get off without carnage (two swims).

The next day we paddled the Gåsvasselva which is a really nice class 4 run with a one fairly big slide as a cherry on top. We bid farewell to Aapo, Jussi, Samuli and Satu who went south to Sjoa while we kept going to north. Our next river was Krutåga which has plenty of drops, but the most memorable are a double drop, triple drop and an un-runnable monster of a slide of which Mikael was giving a serious thought of running it, but decided not to. Crazy guy.

The next day we had a look at the tourist attraction of Laksforsen. Laksforsen is a major rapid which ends up in a 8m near-vertical drop. The water level was too high to consider running the main line, but Mikael decided to put-in from an eddy above the last drop and run the line on the left side. The run went smoothly thought the landing looked a bit rough as Mikael was bounced back up in the air on impact which resulted nothing but a sore neck for few days.

We had plans to paddle few more river further up in the north around Mo I Rana, but it started raining heavily which caused the rivers to flood. Everything was off the scale so we decided to start driving in the rain to home marveling the epic run-off.

Remember to check the Adrian’s blog for detailed updates of the trip!

Anyways, here’s the video. Paddlers: Samuli Suokko, Jussi Tanskanen, Satu Vänskä-Westgarth, Aapo Halonen, Juho Vaarala, Adrian Tregoning, Sami Pyhäjärvi, Mikael Lantto and Tuomas Vaarala (me).


Scandinavia 2007 pt. 2 from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

To download the full 81mb high resolution version right-click and “save”.

It was a time for the annual road trip to Sweden and Norway. This time I was joined with Adrian Tregoning from South Africa. Adrian is doing pretty good job with detailed articles about the trip so I won’t go into details here. Read the Adrian’s account of the trip from here.

The plan was to drive thru Sweden to southern Norway, back up to northern sweden for the Trollforsarna White Water Challenge, and then end the trip with a short tour to the Nordland of Norway. Paddling rivers and meeting people along the way. And that pretty much how it went down.

Here’s the first part of the video of the trip. The first part of the update covers our trip down to Norway and then back to Sweden. Paddlers: Adrian Tregoning, Colin Furmston, Jussi Tanskanen, Leon Bedford, Mikael Lantto and me. Thanks guys!


Scandinavia 2007 pt. 1 from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

To download the full 61mb high resolution version right-click and “save”.

This spring turned out to be a big water event. The Torne river peaked at about 3100 cumecs (109 500 CFS) which is just third time in the last 50 years its been this high. The previous years were 1968 and 2005. The abundance of water created some sweet waves. The Åretsvågen and Kattilakoski Megawave actually doesn’t require extreme water levels but are in every spring and sometimes even later in the summer after heavy rainfall in the large drainage area. The Finnvågen on the other hand is at best when the volume of the river is reaching 3000 cumecs and works only at high water years.


Waves in northern Sweden from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

To download the full 29mb high resolution version right-click and “save”.

When the rivers have finally broke free from the ice cover and the snow pack up north is releasing it’s magic the primary location for many local freestyle paddlers is the Kattilakoski. Kattilakoski has a wide variety of different play spots at different water levels - at some levels you can easily count 7 different good play spots in the rapid. I have yet to seen any single rapid that has a better variety of different playspots. Not only the quantity, but the quality of the playspots is very good. Especially the upper wave and the horseshoe hole offer a really good air when going off.

The whole rapid is about 2km long and the playspots are located at the start and at the end of the rapid. There is, however, a ledge on the river left about half way down the rapid that forms a wicked looping hole at medium levels and a huge wave at very high levels. The upper part consist of a two channels which are divided by an island. The horseshoe hole and the secondary wave behind it are in the smaller river right channel and the super fast upper wave forms in the main channel.

Miku looping the horseshoe hole
Miku looping the horsehoe hole.

The 2nd wave just behinf the horseshoe stopper
The secondary wave just behind the horseshoe hole.

The upper wave
The upper wave.

Juho blunting the upper wave.
Juho blunting the upper wave.

The lower part consists of a wide variety of different holes and waves. There is a 20m wide sausage shaped hole, a smaller hole and the lower waves. Again the lower part of the rapid is divided into two channels and there are waves forming on both of the channels which are called the lower waves.

McNasty on the lower wave.
McNasty on the lower wave.

Miku clean blunt on the lower wave
Miku clean blunt on the lower wave.


Multiday trip to Sarek wilderness area 2006 from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

To download the full 75mb high resolution version right-click and “save”.

Thanks for checking in!

I guess the purpose of this blog is to return the favor. I am big fan of all sorts of whitewater blogs, river betas and trip reports. Hopefully you will find this blog, if not useful, but atleast somewhat entertaining. Northern Scandinavia is mostly unknown territory when it comes to whitewater paddling. For us it’s been a playground for us for so many years and hopefully you will find the content of this blog interesting.