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First Alps Trip - Austria, July 1997

Once upon a time there were some really sharp, well-travelled, experienced, fearless kayakers in Austria. It's difficult to emphasise how sharp and fearless these folks were. 'Inspect', 'Safety Cover' and 'Portage' were all swear-words in their parlance. Tagging along in their wake was a Newcomer to the Alps, who kept confusing them by displaying 'Fear', attempting to 'Break Out' between falls and making 'Mistakes'. The Newcomer, incredibly, against all reason, was still alive by the end of the week and lives to tell the tale.

Here follow some vague notes about a high water trip to Austria in 1997...

Sat

....Sanna (very high and BIG, after a week of rain). A brilliant grade 4 'play' river right by the Landeck camp sites. At this level, not such a sensible warm-up??

Sun

...Inn from Landeck to Haiming...much more like a warm-up, big volume grade 1-3

...Lower Otz into Inn. Quite fast grade 4 with scary weir to avoid halfway down. Paddled three yards before backlooping.

Mon

...Trisanna, low water, scenic grade 3. Two steep and hard grade 4 bits to look out for though

...Sanna, saner level than before

Tue

...Inn in Switz. Brail gorge, then Giarsun Gorge, then Ardez (epic). All awesome grade 4 paddles, usefully, they were progressively harder on this day, although the last two were definitely at 'tonking' levels. Many thanks to Chris Wheeler, a complete stranger at the time, who defied sanity by managing to chase and rescue my boat through grade 4/ 5 water after I had a fall and dropped it during a portage.

Wed

...S-chanf gorge, Swiss Inn. Low water, grade 2-3, just don't do it! It has loads of horrible looking sumps and caves which would be lethal at a medium high level for an unaware group.

...Giarsun gorge again, but completely different. A lower level meant a much mellower pool-drop trip.

...Schuls gorge, Inn. Quite enjoyable grade 3/4 'play' trip. A good 'tester' to see if you are up to the harder Inn gorges (so why did we do it last??)

Thur

...Upper Otz. Very high, and as scary as I ever want paddling to get. The first time ever I've wanted to get off a river. I would have told my companions this if I'd managed to catch up with them

...Lower Otz. Very high but actually quite a mellow experience after the above trip.

Fri

...Lower Otz. Trip aborted after a paddler on his first Otz outing spent several hundred yards upside-down from put-in and pretty well nearly drowned. Nasty. I actually wish I'd taken up the offer to join the 'sharp' paddlers on a trip to the suicidal 'Finstermonster' gorge.

...Sanna. Wind-down playing session from mornings' stresses.

Sat

... Inn Shoot. Grade 5 bit of the Inn. Quote of the day, whilst putting deck on..."Wasn't the water blue when we inspected?". Yes, they'd opened the dam and we didn't notice...with amusing consequences. The entry fall into this 500 yard section was the biggest water I'd paddled, I got my Prijon Fly airborne just skirting a stopper! As I approached the second big bit, I found that all my 'marker' rocks had strangely vanished (wonder why??) and blundered into the mother of all holes. I backlooped and had the peculiar experience of watching myself travelling rapidly backwards on end against the gorge walls. Thankfully I was then 'flushed' downstream. The other two didn't even get their hair wet...

....Landeck gorge, a nice bouncy grade 3/4 bit of the Inn back into Landeck.

Quite a week, all in all. The paddling was superb quality, but generally far harder than I'd counted on! I was forced to reconsider my definition of 'grade 4' somewhat. I think highish water levels had a lot to do with this, though. The only problem with the area that we found was that the more intermediate paddlers at our campsite, paddling grade 3-4 water, pretty well ran out of things to paddle in the Landeck area after a few days. I don't know if this is usually the case.

Mark Rainsley (written July 1998)

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