Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

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Croft
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Location: Valais, Switzerland

Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by Croft »

The Upper-Rhone above lake Geneva/Leman is a little-paddled region which has become more interesting in recent years thanks to global warming (increased glacier melt). There are some great rivers and creeks to explore and this makes a great transition region if you are moving from the French Alps over to E. Switzerland/Austria. Or, if you have run out of water in Val Sesia or Ticino, you are only a 2-3 h drive away. Given that these are mainly glacier-fed rivers, they often work later and after the others areas have dried-up. The Upper-Rhone works best in really hot weather but, even in high summer, a cold spell can very quickly bring down levels. Here are some of the WW options starting at the top of the Rhone valley (basically East to West).

Map showing kayaking itineraries listed below
Image

1. Rhone - glacier to Oberwald - some short stretches are runnable - the rest is too extreme for most.
2. Goneri (joins Rhone Oberwald): short steep serious creeky, 'very' low water run.
3. Rhone - Oberwald to Reckingen: II/III (May-Oct) largely canalised not so interesting.
4. Rhone - Blitzingen to Muehlebach (footbridge): III/IV (20 m3/s Jun-Jul). Very nice Alpine run.
5. Rhone - Muehlebach (footbridge) to Feisch (barrage): V+ (X) (6 m3/s - early morning or late season).
6. Rhone - Ernen (bridge) to Grengiols (Rhone gorge): IV+ (V) several portages possible (10-15 m3/s - Jun-Sep) - starts off bouldery with wood hazards then becomes clean bedrock.
(!!! options 5/6 are VERY committing gorges and water level can change abruptly owing to hydro releases)
7. Rhone - Grengiols to Morel: IV+ (15-25 m3/s - May-Jul) - heavy WW rapids with undercut boulders and debris.
8. Rhone - Morel to (above) Naters: III-III+ (25-100 m3/s - May-Jul) - good bouncy Alpine warm-up run.
9. Vispa - Stalden to (weir above) Visp: III (15-50 m3/s - May-Oct) - good bouncy Alpine warm-up run - see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/e/2351.htm
10. Lonza - Eisten to Ferden (reservoir): IV (V) (5-15 m3/s - Jun-Oct) - classic high Alpine creek run on direct glacier fed-river - therefore rises and falls v. quickly during day so pick your moment - see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/e/2269.htm. Start higher upstream if you want to.
11. Rhone - Leuk to Sierre (metal arch road bridge east of town): III-IV (180-350 m3/s - May-Aug) - very big water power run in natural channel. At end of run is Sierre playspot. Levels: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/d//2011.htm. First rapid is sometimes messy - can start below.
12. 3 Drances: see previous posting: http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... p?p=300354
13. Rhone - Evionnaz (barrage) to Lavey: IV (50-200 m3/s - Jun-Aug). Cracking big WW section but level varies considerably during day/season. Gets very nasty/swirly in v. high water (250 m3/s upwards).
14. Avancon - Bex (salt mines) to confluence Rhone: III (with 2 2 m+ weirs - very boofable) (5-10 m3/s - Jun-Aug) .
15. Vieze - (bridge about 1 km upstream of) Val d'Illiez to Troistorrents (Pont de Pas): IV/V (6-15 m3/s - May-Jul or with rainfall). The best creek run in Valais - with the right water. Put-in about 200 m above bridge in gorge lh bank. Dont put-in at Champery - nasty gorge with syphons.

The 'ideal' discharges given in brackets - over the top limit all these rivers can get nasty. Water is generally cold because of glacier origin. I have paddled (or walked) all of the above and am happy to advise. Other (un-named) stretches on the Rhone are flat (I-II) and only of interest for touring.

Other very creeky rivers which are occasionally run (only in optimal conditions - rare) are: Binna, Mattervispa (above Stalden), Borgne (below les Hauderes), Grande Eau (above Aigle). These runs are very changable year on year and need complete scouting.

Swiss river levels see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/e/index.htm
Last edited by Croft on Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:04 am, edited 12 times in total.
Ian Beecroft - old-timer amateur boater

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RichA
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Re: Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by RichA »

Excellent information, I'll take it with me this summer. Thanks :-)

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c.blyth
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Location: Plymouth

Re: Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by c.blyth »

When i went on a school trip at christmas to Germany i asked the exchange student/dude about the river whenr we were on a river trip on a ferry thing.
He said about rafting etc up there and saidd he had done it! Even on the flat bit where ferry's go i witnessed some sweet holes where they had built harbour walls and some stong eddylines!!! :O

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Croft
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Location: Valais, Switzerland

Re: Some pictures - Upper-Rhone catchment

Post by Croft »

In the Rhone gorge (itin. 6):
Image

Exit Rhone gorge (itin. 6):
Image

Lonza (near put-in, still running late-October) (itin. 10):
Image

Drance (3 km above Martigny) (itin. 12):
Image

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Chris W
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Re: Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by Chris W »

Croft, thanks. That's got to be one of the most useful posts that we've had on here recently- an entire regional guide in the one post! If anyone ever gets the desire to do the same thing for the Upper Rhine, feel free. Combined with Ticino/ Tessin, that's a lot of options within range of the Sesia.

Chris.
Chris Wheeler

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Croft
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Re: And the Upper-Rhine?

Post by Croft »

Chris - the best info about the Upper-Rhine can be had from the guys at Kanuschule Versam: http://kanuschule.ch/. They are top paddlers and top guys and know the Upper-Rhine region better than anybody.

They have an info pack/river guide to the Upper-Rhine catchment and associated creeks (in German only) and the link to it is: http://kanuschule.ch/service/Revier_KM.pdf.
Ian Beecroft - old-timer amateur boater

brunolb
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Re: Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by brunolb »

Thanks Croft, very useful overview! I would be tempted to add the Upper Aare (Guttannen-Innertkirchen) to the overview. It is very close to the Upper Rhone (a quick hop over the Grimselpass) and offers some of the best grade IV you will find in the area (alpine grade IV in first half and very nice gorge in second half + a few more difficult rapids). Best conditions during hot summer days in the afternoon (most of the water is diverted far upstream).

See you,

Bruno

PS: A good grade IV run in the Vorderrhein area that is not really done justice in the Versam guide is the Upper Glenner and there is more to explore in that valley...

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Croft
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Re: Anyone for the Upper-Rhone?

Post by Croft »

Thanks Bruno - I'll give that stretch on the upper Aare a go - what is optimal period - June/July?. Re Upper-Rhine and Upper-Aare catchments, would rather leave it to the locals/working guides for those basins - they have the year-round knowledge.
Ian Beecroft - old-timer amateur boater

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Croft
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Joined: Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:54 am
Location: Valais, Switzerland

Re: Changes to links for river levels - corrected below

Post by Croft »

1. Rhone - glacier to Oberwald - some short stretches are runnable - the rest is too extreme for most.
2. Goneri (joins Rhone Oberwald): short steep serious creeky, 'very' low water run.
3. Rhone - Oberwald to Reckingen: II/III (May-Oct) largely canalised not so interesting.
4. Rhone - Blitzingen to Muehlebach (footbridge): III/IV (20 m3/s Jun-Jul). Very nice Alpine run.
5. Rhone - Muehlebach (footbridge) to Feisch (barrage): V+ (X) (6 m3/s - early morning or late season).
6. Rhone - Ernen (bridge) to Grengiols (Rhone gorge): IV+ (V) several portages possible (10-15 m3/s - Jun-Sep) - starts off bouldery with wood hazards then becomes clean bedrock.
(!!! options 5/6 are VERY committing gorges and water level can change abruptly owing to hydro releases)
7. Rhone - Grengiols to Morel: IV+ (15-25 m3/s - May-Jul) - heavy WW rapids with undercut boulders and debris.
8. Rhone - Morel to (above) Naters: III-III+ (25-100 m3/s - May-Jul) - good bouncy Alpine warm-up run.
9. Vispa - Stalden to (weir above) Visp: III (15-50 m3/s - May-Oct) - good bouncy Alpine warm-up run - see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/en/2351.html
10. Lonza - Eisten to Ferden (reservoir): IV (V) (5-15 m3/s - Jun-Oct) - classic high Alpine creek run on direct glacier fed-river - therefore rises and falls v. quickly during day so pick your moment - see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/en/2269.html. Start higher upstream if you want to.
11. Rhone - Leuk to Sierre (metal arch road bridge east of town): III-IV (180-350 m3/s - May-Aug) - very big water power run in natural channel. At end of run is Sierre playspot. Levels: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/en/2011.html. First rapid is sometimes messy - can start below.
12. 3 Drances: see previous posting: http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... p?p=300354
13. Rhone - Evionnaz (barrage) to Lavey: IV (50-200 m3/s - Jun-Aug). Cracking big WW section but level varies considerably during day/season. Gets very nasty/swirly in v. high water (250 m3/s upwards).
14. Avancon - Bex (salt mines) to confluence Rhone: III (with 2 2 m+ weirs - very boofable) (5-10 m3/s - Jun-Aug) .
15. Vieze - (bridge about 1 km upstream of) Val d'Illiez to Troistorrents (Pont de Pas): IV/V (6-15 m3/s - May-Jul or with rainfall). The best creek run in Valais - with the right water. Put-in about 200 m above bridge in gorge lh bank. Dont put-in at Champery - nasty gorge with syphons.

The 'ideal' discharges given in brackets - over the top limit all these rivers can get nasty. Water is generally cold because of glacier origin. I have paddled (or walked) all of the above and am happy to advise. Other (un-named) stretches on the Rhone are flat (I-II) and only of interest for touring.

Other very creeky rivers which are occasionally run (only in optimal conditions - rare) are: Binna, Mattervispa (above Stalden), Borgne (below les Hauderes), Grande Eau (above Aigle). These runs are very changable year on year and need complete scouting.

Swiss river levels see: http://www.hydrodaten.admin.ch/en/index.html
Ian Beecroft - old-timer amateur boater

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