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Italy 2006

Val Sesia 2006 

Having paddled in the Alps on a number of occasions the group is well versed in the French and Austrian rivers, no one however had ventured over the border to Italy, we had heard and read the reports and some of the group saw a short video put together by Jay from his trip there last year. With this in mind and armed with information gleaned from we headed for the Val Sesia region.  

Information whilst sketchy compared to the rest of the Alps is becoming more available with a short section in the South Alps guidebook, various articles and posts on UK Rivers and the timely issue of the plughole magazine available through With information from all these sources combined with the excellent Mappa del fiume Sesia available from tourist information we had ample material on which to base our decisions. 

Getting there 

Everyone's personal choice here whether it be oversea or under it, we tend to use the Dover Calais crossing due to the frequency of the ferries, it's usually no problem turning up earlier or later than booked and with crossings every hour or so it can take the stress out of sitting in traffic jams wondering if you'll make the port in time. 

We booked our ferry earlier in the year at a cost of £100, split four ways, cheap cheap, although Norfolk line were offering trips in June on their Dover Dunkirk crossing for £38 which is a bargain in any language, limited by the number of daily crossings, as ever you pays your money and takes your choice.

With some car insurance lobbed on top we have to thank Shepherds Building Contractors and Network Rail for providing our sponsored vehicles, the omnipresent it seems, Ford Focus Estate.


We drove down through France via Arras, Reims, Troyes, Dijon, Dole, Chamonix, through the Mount Blanc tunnel down the Aosta valley It took us 23 hours with some delay time at Dover and was about 960 miles door to door, about 700 of which was from Calais, we used the toll roads costing 160 Euro return and 62.40 for the M Blanc tunnel. 

Places to stay 

We looked no further than the excellent campsite rub by Alberto at Campertogno, , situated on the banks of the Sesia and a bargain at 7 Euro a night for a tent, there is an excellent restaurant on site with serving up traditional Italian food, Pizza's weigh in about 7/8 Euro, add some wine and beer, well ok plenty of wine and beer and you can expect to pay around 20 Euro. Don't dwell in the shower though; costing a euro a time they can be quiet brief with the hot water running out before you may have wanted.

Look out for signs like this marking get in's

The Rivers 

Looking up the Gronda

Some of the river descriptions can be sketchy but with the Gronda described in one write up as a ridiculously steep low volume creek and the Egua as insanely steep, the nature of both of these needs no further description, whilst the Gronda was too low we paddled a low Egua on two occasions and spent most of our time on the bank inspecting everything, that is the nature of rivers such as these for the first paddle.

Sesia Gorge

Lyndon in the crux of the move on the rapid above the roman bridge



Getting in at the Roman Bridge which can be seen from the road and exit at the raft centre river left just after the gorge finishes, there is a recommended portage for mere mortals, although we spoke to some guys who had run it no problems. 

First drop below the Roman Bridge

Dropping into the Gorge

Inspecting the right, but portage left


Situated only a short drive from the campsite the slides are park n huck boating, running next to the road in Rassa, this section is just downstream from the confluence of the Upper Sorba and the Gronda.

Claire on the first slide

Between the Sorba slides 

The slides

Entry line last slide


Lower Sermenza

Getting in Bioccioleto and running down to a beach get out river right as you leave the gorge and pass under the narrow road bridge, a great quick run down finishing in a gorge the entrance of which is marked by the longest rapid on the section just after a sharp right bend immediately under the road above the gorge is classic pool drop which gets pushy at higher levels

There is a metal gauge under the bridge at the get out, which was not even registering whilst we were there.

Claire on the first drop

We inspected the first drop and ran the left line but later in the week we ran off the right with no problems at this level.

Driller lines up his last stroke off the first drop

Stevie mid boof

We were initially wary of this drop as the rock on the left as you land is undercut, we sent Lyndon down to inspect from below an it's all good.

Claire on line

Tickle digs deep n boofs

Middle Sermenza

Finishing at the get in for the Lower this would make for a great days paddle, although we never linked the sections together, its way more intense than the lower section and once again we inspected everything, taking 4 hours on our first run, low levels meant we avoided some of the potential trouble spots.

PK exiting the longest rapid, slightly misty picture initially worried me as I thought I had damp in the camera, thankfully only the lens was misted up and 5 minutes in the sun sorted it out

Lew boofing out of the longest rapid

S Bends undercut



X Pres missed the entry move and very nearly took the role before the rapid drops down the right, momentarily caught in a pushy eddy he edged his way out to finish the rapid the right way round

X Pres


The last drop on the middle section


A 2K run that lies high up the valley above Rimasco, it took us 4 hours on our first run down, we inspected everything even at these low levels, the entry slide n drop is nowhere near as intimidating as it first appear and provides an opportunity to throw hammer's at will. From here the river drops steeply in a series of ledges and chutes to the other notable drop, being demonstrated by X Pres and Driller. For most of its path it follows the road down the valley.

Lyndon rotates

Driller throws his first ever hammer

Whipping that back round

X Pres, in the box

Driller looking kind of stylish

A couple more drops below here is an undercut rock river right, even at low levels it’s a place to be avoided

Lyndon nearing the end of the run

Stevie moments before impact, he is about to be kicked into the air and right, suffering a glancing blow to his side he lands at the bottom winded and definitely bashed up.

Driller dropping the last slide before the get out on river right, at these levels there was no stopper at the bottom of this slide but we heard of people getting some down time at higher levels.

As can be seen from the pictures levels where low the week we were there, we went the first week of May, mainly dictated by the bank holiday reducing the number of days holiday needed, levels where expected to get higher whilst we where there but failed to materialise, Its a more difficult window to judge than France or Austria as the steeper sections loose their water quicker.

Having said all that if levels had been humping then we would have been looking for easier sections to run; some of the gorges would be heinous with high levels in them.

Loads of people spent drive time in search of water hopping over the different valleys and even different countries with Switzerland being top of the choices although Nice Guy Tony ended up driving to Corsica to find no water and headed straight back again.

We paddled, Saturday, Sesia Gorge,Sunday, Sorba / Lower Sermenza, Monday, Egua, Tuesday, Middle Sermenza, Wednesday, Middle Sermenza, Thursday, Egua, Friday, Lower Sermenza / Sesia Gorge, Saturday, Lower Sermenza

A top paddling trip even with the low water conditions, worth another visit, perhaps later in May

there should be some more pictures to follow…………….

Arriving home Sunday to have this done to both hands on the Monday

 PKs pictures

Middle Sermenza, Lew