Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sjoa River - Norway

Michelle Basso blunts on the Jorgen wave, Sjoa River - Norway Posted by Picasa

-Report by Michelle Basso

58 hours of partying in New York, various train, plane and subway rides and we arrived unslept in Sjoa (shoo-a), Norway. We now had a couple of weeks to enjoy Norwegian hospitality and get in as much paddling as we could. The last leg of the train followed the mighty Otta river and judging from the water nearly lapping against the train tracks in some spots, we knew this trip was not going to be deprived of the quality h2o Norway is famous for.

A great place to stay is at Sjoa Adventure, a fantastic kayak camp located at the Riksanlegget slalom center and operated by Aussie Brent along with Ed Cornfield, Kate Donnelly and Pete Astles from the UK. Here it's easy to party long into darkless night with paddlers from various parts of the world right next to the river. Riksanlegget camp also marks the take-out and put-in for two of the more popular runs on the Sjoa.

Sjoa/Riksanlegget Kayak Camp Posted by Picasa

Play Run – This is the section most often commercially rafted on the Sjoa river and contains the most play. This was our bread and butter run while we were at the Sjoa. The take-out was 20 feet from our campsite and it was easy to blast down it over a few hours. The play run is a class III section full of waves and holes waiting to be surfed. My favourite level was when it was high, but the best play features came in at medium-low flows.

The Jorgen wave is the best-known play feature on the run and Mark and I were lucky enough to be there while it came in. It is easy to park at the Heidal Kajakksenter and walk down a path to the wave, so we spent many evenings playboating. Amazingly the sun set only for a few hours (dusk from about 12 to 2 am) so it was great to spend extra long hours on the river.

Jorgen Wave on the Sjoa River Posted by Picasa

Amot Gorge – Many evenings after Mark thought he had finished kayaking, somebody would come down to the campsite and ask “Do you want to run down the Amot?” If you knew Mark you know that he would never turn down some good paddling so off he went for his third session of the day. Again the put-in to this class IV+ section was right at our campsite shore with the take out only 3 km downstream. Amot starts off through the slalom course before heading into a beautiful and commiting gorge. At high water this was a burly slalom course full of Swiss slalom paddlers training in the huge waves.

Pete Astles leading the way through the Amot Gorge Posted by Picasa

The Amot Gorge consists mostly of squirrelly water with large waves and holes to negotiate through. At high water the eddy lines and boils cause more difficulty than the actual run. After 15 minutes of non-stop action you reach the take out just above the confluence of the Otta river with a smile on your face, heart pounding, glad to have made it through right-side up.

Asengjuvet Canyon is located about 35km upstream from the Amot Gorge section and is another beautiful big water class III-IV canyon consisting of big waves and a few holes to avoid. We ran this 10 km section a few times enjoying it most at high water (the water level dropped about a meter during our time in Norway) as the waves were bigger and the rocks had more water covering them.

Posted by Picasa

Swimming was to be avoided on this section as the water was moving fast and there are a few S bends with undercuts. The hike out of the heart of the canyon is difficult if not impossible. We found out the hard way as a member of our group dropped into the biggest hole on the section and ejected from his boat. Luckily the boat and paddle were recovered about a kilometre down. To reunite with his boat our Finnish friend had to swim through some large class IV rapids and scale some cliffs. In the end everyone was okay and it was just another adventure on the river.

The Sjoa valley and the river which winds through it is a great place to start or base yourself from while paddling in Norway. There are 5 or more raft companies throughout the valley, a full scale kayak shop, small grocery stores and quality pub along the play run that gets busy on the weekends. From Oslo international airport (Gardermoen) you can either take a bus or train directly (3.5hrs) to the town of Otta which is only a 15 minute trip by car to the Sjoa.