Friday, May 16, 2008

Osola - Switzerland

Time to stay left on the Osola - Switzerland

Having to throw the kayak on the shoulder and spend an hour or more hiking to access the creeking goods is quite unheard of in the road developed backcountry of Switzerland. Yet for the Osola, hiking is defnitley worth the price of admission when the road stops and the bedrock slides appear up the valley.

Toro Rogenmoser heading into battle.

The Osola is a major tributary to the legendary Verzasca River in the heart of Switzerland’s Tessin region. Over the years the Osola has lured the likes of many big names in padding to its slides and has sent almost everyone home with either big grins, big swims, battered boats or aching bodies.

Julian Stocker in transition on the Osola.

After being to both, one could almost compare the action-packed low volume Osola to Montana’s Big Timber Creek. The hike is beautiful, the volume wee-bity and the gradient more than average. Still this is the Alps, and if the surrounding peaks, wildflowers and ancient homesteads presenting themselves don’t convince you that you're in Euro-paradise, then following quality Swiss kayakers down high alpine runs for 2 weeks certainly will.

Lucas Wielatt finds the auto-launch.

Severin Haberling - Swiss Alp home turf.

Finding the Osola is none harder than driving up along Val Verzasca, crossing over to the river right side of the valley and hitting the small town of Brione. If the main Verzasca is flowing above 20-25 cms then the Osola should go. Even if the creek under the road bridge appears to be a scrape of only a few cms, it won't necessarily be a sign of the paddleable levels found on the narrow bedrock slides well upstream.

Michelle Basso having a go on another flume.

From Brione a very narrow road winds along river left for about 4 kms until it ends at a most probable takeout for the Osola in splendid Swiss postcard fashion. Continuing up the same side of the valley on foot past the goats and rock fencing will reveal some of the steepness the Osola booms, including a gonzo slide with a partial landing zone.

Lukas Wielatt getting a good view.

Please mind the cave below on the right.

Even if this drop isn't to be found in your daily bag of tricks, the Osola hides many more surprises upstream. Although the trail gets quite steep in a few areas, it's worth the trudge until you're well past crossing the footbridge taking you to the opposite side of the creek.

Julian Stocker losing altitude near the put-in.

Although most of the rivers in the Swiss Tessin make up a classic zone in the whitewater realm, the Osola is a standout for those looking to get a big dose of fresh air and altitude adrenaline while going up and certainly falling down the valley. A big thanks to Olaf Obsommer for the tales of woe and to Toro Rogenmoser for quality snaps and the temporary full-face loan.

View Osola (IV-V) in a larger map