Friday, September 02, 2011

Susna - Norway

An instant classic waiting in the Nord. Upper Susna - Northern Norway

Susna is becoming the household name for anyone that has traveled up to Northern Norway on a summer kayaking mission. Although the location is only in the middle of the country according to the map, this vast area surrounding Hattfjelldal is still a distant drive north from the last major Norwegian city of Trondheim.

Homebase on the beach after another stellar day

Besides a handful of Finnish and Norwegian paddlers who consider Hattfjelldal to be common local knowledge, this new Norwegian hotspot for kayaking is at least a 7 hour drive up from the more recognized paddling playground of Sjoa.

Mariann Sæther gives the A-ok on the Upper Susna's rowdy super slide.

Hiding in a remote valley stretching under summer's midnight sun, the Susna is first called the Tiplingelva as it drains from remote scandic lakes in Børgefjell National Park. The Susna quickly picks up momentum within the valley of Susnadalen as it expands into one of the major river systems of the North.

Dusj-boof falls usually makes everyone's day a bit better

Any whitewater enthusiast might at first find the Susna character deceiving. The view from the window of the car is often flat and boring along the winding road south from Hattfjelldal. But secluded among the nordic forest, the classic Upper Susna and lower Susna canyon offer a range of paddling difficulties and commitment depending on the season. They are however usually at manageable flows at different times from each other .

Mariann and the go-go bus in search for the perfect put-in.

Let the photos speak for themselves. Putting on the Upper Susna should be an easy decision of amazing pool-drop whitewater most paddlers are seeking during their summer adventures.

Michelle Basso gets one of the many drops the Upper Susna

All rapids can be scouted or portaged effortlessly, but count on staying in your boat most of the time through a long section of beautiful views, slides, a sweet waterfall and the 'always-lurking-around-the-corner' Norwegian super-combo option at the end.

Karl Engen in the rapid above the waterfall.

The lefty stroke boofing dreams are made of

Susna's lower gorge is certainly just that. It's a canyon full of surprises and paddling challenges suited to much lower flows compared to what the Upper Susna section can handle. In July our team dropped into the top half of the canyon with too much water and were quickly met with marginal lines, gnarly holes, hairy-ferries and sweaty portages amongst the horseflies. Much of this section was previously unrun until Ron Fischer, Mariann Sæther and Benji Hjort made a complete descent a month later. Ron took some great pictures on the way down that made it onto his website.

After Hattfjelldal, the Susna's name changes once again to the Vefsna and so too does the river's size. The Vefsna now becomes a high volume river with multiple sections split between canyons that drop deeper into the valley and away from the road. It's down in here that many discoveries are still awaiting those who want to explore later into the season when water levels usually drop off. Perhaps even a multiday trip down the entire river as the Vefsna heads west and eventually north again off giant Laksforsen waterfall and on into the fjord at Mosjøen.

Mariann Sæther makes a big move in the 1st Vefsna gorge below Hattfjelldal.

So as the roads clear up from the caravan crowds, so does another summer fading fast up in the land of the midnight sun. Hattfjelldal and the Susna valley will always be right where they belong inside this amazing country; waiting for the next paddlers willing to spend an extra day driving in their car. See you up in the Nord.

Check out Mikael Lantto's recent video tour of Finland playboating, the Upper Susna, and an incredible descent of the Graddisselva mega-slide. Nordic kayaking at it's best.

Nordic Kayaking from Mikael Lantto on Vimeo.

View Upper Susna (IV-V) in a larger map

Monday, August 15, 2011

Svartisen-Saltfjellet - Northern Norway

Michelle Basso dwarfed beneath the Svartisen Glacier. Stormglomvatnet - Northern Norway

Stretching up from the rugged fjords of the Norwegian coast and on into the high mountain tundra near the Swedish border, Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park is a captivating location found in the heart Norway’s Nordland region.

Nice views, lazy roads, long days - It's the Nord.

It's an expansive natural wonder embedded within the polar circle and was once again part of the Norwegian summer road trip.

Oh yeah we did some whitewater paddling ...anyone take a picture?

The area encompasses lush forested valleys and endless rivers that emerge from Svartisen, northern Scandinavia’s largest ice field. Unfortunately this is one of Norge's least accessible areas meaning many good things are going to remain hidden unless kayaks are packed in some long distances.

Karl Engen gives his approval for the helicopter near Junkerdalen

Stormdalselva at full rage

Hiking into the upper Stormdalselva past the 200 foot Bredekfossen is a fine example of impressive stretches whitewater that have very rarely seen any paddler.

Bredekfossen hike in.

On the west side of the Park a road high above Glomfjord took us to a remote location with exceptionally different paddling potential. At the road’s end, an ominous dam wall appears looming above as if hiding something. As you climb the dam walls for a view the emerald waters of a massive arctic reservoir reveal itself along with massive glaciers lining shoreline.

Norwegian engineers in the 1980’s created Storglomvatnet reservoir with renewable energy in mind. Two constructed dam walls that span narrow gulleys connect one entire valley and fill up with water melting from the Svartisen icefield.

Upon completion nearly 20 years ago, a long lasting hydropower source was created.Today the glacier tongues dropping down to the water’s edge continually feed this high mountain lake while tunnels and gravity send the water to the power plants in the fjords below.

This impressive unnatural water source was immortalized recently as it graced the cover of Kayak Session magazine and Rush Sturges' new whitewater film 'Frontier'. Another paddling epic found by Rush and his crew is lying on the far shore. Hiking a low pass on the other side of Stormglomvatnet will get you to the Glomåga River headwaters; multiday wilderness paddling with lake access and the best views around!

Our paddle wasn't across the lake for the Glomåga this time, yet a sunny day in the sea kayaks could not last long enough. Deep sounds resonating from the intimidating sculpted ice environment came often, keeping our eyes fixed on massive towers of ice. An awesome encounter with one of nature’s greatest spectacles set amid the landscape of Northern Norway.