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May
20

Italy 2007

Val Sesia

With precious little in the way of snow in the Alps this winter and a text from tthe Ted I master saying all the snow had long gone we set off to Italy wondering what we were going to paddle, surely it couldn't be lower than last year! 

Thankfully some rain early in the week saw good levels in most of the rivers and all higher than we had run last year, over the week we ran the Egua, Sermenzina, Middle and Lower Sermenza, Sesia Gorge, Sorba Slides and the Upper Sesia. 

With paddling in the region permitted between 10am and 6pm there is plenty to keep you entertained, all the fishermen we encountered smiled and waved as we floated by in various states of calmness depending upon the section we were paddling

The get in and first drop on the Sermenzina, some warm up ! falling of a 12ft drop

Quite how the Sermenzina escaped us last year is a bit of a mystery, lying in the same valley as the Egua it isn't actually marked on the excellent Mappa del fiume Sesia. Here is a mix of mictures from our two runs.

We paddled the river twice in very different conditions.  Early in the week with the rain pouring down demonstrated just how much a river can change in a short space of time.  Sliding down the first drop in low water  we started navigating our way downstream, portaging a tree within the first 200m, with the rain continuing the river lost its turquoise blue colour and we made slow progress, with Ted inspecting and relaying information we portaged another tree and the river became less of a slide and noticbly pushier.

 

By the time most of us we were portaging the gnarliest drop on the river that Dom ran the river was heading for flood conditions, the drops were spaced out and we all got our lines with two of us portaging the Trumpet Falls. 

Trumpet falls the second time round

     more entertainment than Alton Towers  

       

Quite how Mike managed to get his boat into this position is a mystery to us all, we came over on a variety of lines, all of which were well out of shape, good skills

The drop immediatley after is one that deserves some respect with the river turning right immediatley on landing a 12 foot must make boof coming off your right blade, the water pushes to the opposite wall and recirculates in that I don't want to be there kind of way.

 

Next we portage another section as we know it is undecut from Ted's previous foray down the river, the undercut is now under several feet of water. 

Lyndon paddling the undercut later in the week when levels had dropped

Getting back on we duck beneath cables slung across the river and the river steepens, I miss a brace, go over, the boat hitting a rock whilst I am upside down with enough force to snap the backrest ratchett of the Jefe, I roll and make it to the bank, on the side I quickly bodge a repair.  The river is now muddy brown disappearing off below a bridge, given the circumstances a couple of us call it a day and jump off the water, three continue and we meet them very soon as the get out was just around the corner.

Driller, "New rivers compared to last time were the Sermenzina (like the Egua but steeper, yes folks steeper) and we ran it in both high a normal levels.  Probably one of the most enjoyable and challenging days out in a boat I've ever had with some difficult inspections, big drops, waterfalls and some 100% MUST make boofs"

Last drop on the Sermenzina

After changing we head back to the campsite looking down at the Upper Sermenza far below we see that the usually dry river bed is a torrent of white water, the Dam at Carcoforo must be releasing its waters as the lake above rises from the input of the Egua and the Sermenzina.

The rain stops during the night and the next day we are greeted by blue skies and increased water levels, the Upper Sesia has plenty of water in it and provides the days entertainment, originally we had planned to lunch at the get out as it is conveniently the Campertogno campsite but as can happen on Italien rivers, short sections take a long time to paddle, we arrive and head straight into the bar for a beer.

 

Lower Semenza

These pictures are taken with the water just on the guage at Balmuccia, Becks nailed her line on the last rapid before the gorge, after this the walls close in and your into the last 300m of river, immediatley below the road, it is a good idea to have a look on the way up to get an idea of what' in there, although gorge is not that deep, smooth rocks worn by years of flow means no climbing / portaging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle Sermenza

With more water than last year the Middle Sermenza is pretty intense, some lines were easier with more flow but most were way harder with some must avoid holes and stoppers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last drop on the Middle Sermenza is a narrow chute on the far river left, steep as and with no chance of a boof in the tight channel the hole at its base was huge and nasty, we portaged, Doom logged some air time with this seal launch, it is way way higher than it looks!

 

 

Stevie broke his godam Pyranha cheese again, nothing a few minutes with a fire lighter and a swiss army knife couldn't cure.

Sesia Gorge

This first rapid on the Gorge section had a little added spice this year, higher flows and a overhead logging zip line that transported logs from high up the mountain to the valley floor, as the logs neared the end of their journey the safety cable from the winch dropped straight into the middle of the rapid, so Lyndon and Mike timed their runs! 

 

Sorba Slides

 

Italy – how to do it; There's not too much information around about alot of the rivers in Italy, research on UK Rivers Guide book will provide you with some information and river notes, with descriptions like insanley steep creek don't expect a full rapid by rapid guide as found in the guidebooks.  To be fair rivers like the Egua and Sermenzina don't need river notes, they are steep and require inspection and its down to the individual to decide what they want fall off, paddling is a bit of a loose description for some sections. 

The Spring 06 issue of the Desperate Measures Plughole magazine provides some excellent notes, combine this with the Mappa del fiume Sesia from tourist information in Scopella when you arrive and you are pretty much sorted.  The sections of rivers are very close together so you won't be driving miles when deciding on what to run, we probably did under 200 miles in the week we were there, throw in some camping for about 60 Euro, tolls and fuel and you are sorted. Enjoy.