SnowFest 2010

… was tops.

Sue and I got a bit older. The rest of us collected hangover, bruises, fresh tracks, bunnies and smiles on the slopes.

Some random photos (stolen from facebook) from the trip. Big thankyous to Sue for all the organising. You can organise my Birthday celebrations every year.

White Christmas

A trip planned based on the theory that I can’t possibly be with my family at Christmas, so I am going to encourage everyone else to skip out on theirs as well. Skipping out on family turned out to be less popular than I expected, the only locals to make the trip were JimBob & Andy Ince.  Joined by the orphans for the year, myself, Ed, Dan, Sharon (Aus), Thai (Alaska) all going to visit Chris (exiled in France for a Season).

The tone for the trip was very much set on the first night, we laid out or luggage to discover we had more bottles of spirits than we had people. Obviously to get through all this we would need to be drinking all day… Christmas presents were given early and by day two everyone was packing a hipflask filled with their spirit of choice. Which helped to build up courage above the black runs, and also reduced the price of our nights out. One round can last all night when you can load up with every trip to the bathroom.

Christmas eve I am told was good… somewhere along the line we invented “Irish Russians”. A bit like a White Russian, only replace the milk with Baileys… then for some reason everything gets a little hazy.

Christmas gifts continued, and on Christmas morn we were all packing Santa Suits provided by Dan. So by mid afternoon Seven “Sober” Santas dragged themselves to the top of the mountain. In order to slide back down.

Thats about it, Video was created by Thai. Much thanks to everyone who came along and made it my best Christmas since landing in the Northern Hemisphere (Same time next year?).

Stay Classy…

Slovenia

After paddling a few rivers en-route we arrived at Camping Kovač near Bovec where Sue, Di & Higgo, who had flown out & hired a car, had already settled.  As usual, team “Phil’s Girls” (Phil, Cath, Penny, Sara) arrived before team “Suave Silver Van” (Moik, Clur, Helen, Alison, Dinny).  It was the middle of the night so Higgo came to find us & we put our tents up on a nice secluded plateau they’d found which, as we discovered the next morning, had a great view of the turquoise Soča!  It was also well positioned, in Vodenca, at the confluence of the Soča with the Koritnica, a tributary.  All the campsites in the area are supposed to be very good & ours was no exception with each plot having its own fire pit, BBQ & sheltered drying rail with plenty of hangers & space for all our wet kit.  There was even a nice al fresco shower!

Photo by Sue

Eager to paddle, we headed to the tourist information in Bovec to buy river permits – only 7.50 for a week & the money goes towards maintaining the car parks, information boards & footpaths at the river access points.  There are fines for paddling without permits or for paddling in restricted areas.  The police seemed fairly vigilant on such things, perhaps as there is so little crime for them to tackle, & as well as having permits checked Sue, Di & Higgo got stopped for a seatbelt check. (It’s illegal to drive without lights on too.)

We were given river maps at the tourist office but we relied more on the useful info we’d found on ukrgb, which included gradings & descriptions.

We paddled the Soča in four sections, one each day, & had a day without paddling too.  Our week went something like this…

Monday

Vodenca to Srpenica – starting at the campsite this section was a relaxing warm up being mostly grade 2.  With nothing too intimidating, we could enjoy the wave trains, surf some waves & try some rock splats/spins.

Tuesday

Uppermost get-on to Vodenca – with more grade 3, & some 4, this section was quite varied & had plenty to keep us entertained.  There was a technical section near the top with big boulders creating pool drops with plenty of obvious eddies.  It then flattened out for a while before the river flushed through a narrow chateau-Q-style gorge for about 200 metres.   

After paddling Cath, Penny & I decided to walk up to the Boka waterfall, a 100m fall from a massive spring in the mountainside.  However, after walking up a steep gravelly path until it was nearly dark & still not even seeing the waterfall (which is clearly visible from the road!), we decided we’d better head back for tea.  Next time we’ll take the path from the left of the bridge where you get a good view of the waterfall the whole way instead of the one that leads to above the source (“Izvir” in Slovenian), arghh! 

Wednesday

Koritnica – a major tributary, mostly grade 3(?), that joins the Soča at our campsite, this river starts with a very narrow (but flat water) gorge before the rapids really begin. The river was narrower than the Soča, with less boulders & less eddies. 

Srpenica to Trnovo – the volume of water in this section (grade 3/4) seemed quite a lot more than the earlier sections but while it was more powerful, & there were rafts to watch out for, the size of the river meant lines were fairly wide with plenty of room to dodge stoppers & boulders.  The section ended with a slalom course – lots of pool drops & stoppers amongst big boulders in quite pushy water (grade 4), which would lead into the notorious siphon canyon if you missed the get-out.

In Trnovo, near the get-out, is a very good paddling shop called Alpin Action, which is definitely worth a look.  We saw two other paddling shops in the area, La Ola in Bovec & Prijon in Cezsoca, but Alpin Action had a much bigger range.

Thursday

We started by scouting siphon canyon – sure enough, there were plenty of scary siphons so after lunch near the memorial reef at the end, everyone decided against paddling.

Team Suave Silver Van set off for the war museum so we headed into Bovec to consider our options over ice cream (with red bull flavour coming out top) & coffee.  We decided to enquire about canyoning: 

Phil: “where do they go canyoning?”

Tourist info: shows Phil on map telling him “it’s really good”

Phil: “Oh good because we’re going now on our own, we don’t want to pay & go with a guide”

Tourist info: “No no, it is very dangerous”

So off we went to the Susec Gorge, where we bought canyoning permits & set off up a little track.  The first few waterfalls were very tall & possibly for abseiling down if you had the right kit, but a bit further up was about fifteen falls perfect for sliding down or jumping off.  The first slide forced each of us straight under an undercut but some of the others were ideal for trying headfirst or in twos & threes.  Fantastic!!!

Photo by Penny

After the excitement of canyoning we took our last opportunity to visit the source of the Soča, a karst spring gushing from a bright turquoise subterranean lake through a crack in the mountainside & falling to the riverbed – well worth a visit!  The “Soča Trail” follows the river for 20km to the source, with many sights along it.  It was getting late so we drove as high up as possible & only had to walk the last 15 minutes up to the source along a picturesque trail including little wooden bridges crossing the river full of giant boulders, rapids & waterfalls ending with a via ferrata-like approach to the source at the top (could be tricky on a busy day).

Friday

Lower, after siphon canyon to Kobarid – there was a long walk in for this section down a steep forest footpath for about 500 metres.  It started off much the same as the ”..to Trnovo” section & stayed fun & interesting for several km before flattening out to grade 1/2 for a few km before the get out.

The Soča is the perfect place to improve your paddling because of the clarity of the water & all it’s features & the ease of inspecting from footpaths running alongside many of the rapids.  There are also harder sections that we didn’t paddle including “Siphon Canyon” & the Ucja.  There was lots of walking, cycling & sightseeing to be enjoyed too all in a very unspoilt area.  We did most/all of the shuttles on bikes, either along the road or on the mountain bike trail running alongside the Soča.  But if you only had one vehicle & no bikes, I think the rafting companies will help with shuttles for a small cost.

Thanks for a great week everyone!

La crevaison

Photo: Pete F.

C'etait un épaulard formidable!

Three men in a boat, Durance.

Le Webcam

This post is to remind you to sign up for the Alps trip! Go see Martin. 

The Durance, at Argentiere, very close to where we camp, can be seen here:

Webcam 

More webcams of Alps rivers here.

Alps DVD Review

Favourite Bond-meets-kayaking bit: Sean Connary dialogue, something like: “Come on in, the water’s lovely,” (in a good, husky voice). Water! See? Come on into the water. Like for kayaks! Do you see what he did there?

Other favourite Bond-meets-kayaking bit: The opening sequence, with 007’s blood running down the screen. Inspired! Sacrificing Timothy Dalton to get the red stuff out was a bit messy, but definitely worth it.

Over-and-over-again-bit: Lloyd doing a cartwheel, and then inadvertantly doing 8 more. I want this as my screensaver.

Best Raftguidlish-to-French translation: Can’t be done. Good to see Vincent in the video, brilliant bloke.

Chateau Q: This DVD is the “Bond” edition, but it could just as well be the “Q” edition, given the amount of Q footage in there. Also, we defy Mr Bond to actually do Chateau Queyras all the ways shown in this video: The right way up, the wrong way up, in a boat, in a raft, not in a boat or a raft (sadly we have to imagine this last variation, nice storytelling Dom, apologies to M. Potts and M. Crawley).

Dave has had a fair few goes at making these things, and they are better and better each year. And thats not just because he has to buy better and better equipment every time it gets nicked 😦 He’s building up layers of experience of what makes a good shot. Yes, OK, its SWIMMAGE which makes a good shot, but also there are lots of other factors, the light, the angle, the composition, the mood … 

The whole video is all very marvellous!! A happy chill-out film, with good tune-age on the vids and the stills, and perfect for watching while nursing a hangover. Hangover? Moi?

If you’ve not got yours yet, then hurry up and send your beer, cos he’s nearly finished the next one (Norway.)

Think of a letter

Step 1. Send one beer.

pouringpouringpouringpouringpouringDear Dave, here is your beer

Step 2. Recieve one DVD.

 By return of post - that was quick!

Step 3. Watch the DVD. Simple!

DVDs of “Alps 007 the Bond Edition” are available now, from an australian near you.