Posting this on behalf of Mr Jack Dunne."Alps, May/June 2017, Jack Dunne
I won’t lie and say I’ve been mulling on it for the past year, but there has been a word document lying empty on my desktop for quite some time now. Here’s some of my thoughts/advice from reflecting on the Alps trip in 2017.Location
We went to the Soca river in Slovenia and then over to the Piedmont region in Italy where Val Sesia lies.
The Soca was a great grade 2-3 warm up section with some grade 4. The camp was beautiful, the rivers were emerald green and for many it offered the chance to loosen up the ol’ river rust. Luke Whelan spent the summer rafting and kayaking there so he is far better to ask for beta on the kayaking potential. Thumbs up from me though, great place to start an Alps trip and I’d return.
Piedmont region, some of the rivers talked about/ran are:
The upper Sesia/Alpine sprint
The middle Sesia
The lower/raft guide Sesia
The Egua (was dry)
And everyones favourite, Devils Slide.
Aran had the ‘White Water South Alps’ guidebook and that has some nice write ups regarding the rivers. Seemed to me that there was plenty to be done for all skill levels.
I’m not clued into predicting what rivers will run, but it appeared everyone is the area is at the mercy of the weather forecast, whether it will rain and the rate of the snow melt. For example, Aran had hoped to run the Egua, which managed to dry up mid 2nd week. But on the last day, the heavens opened, and rivers were stonkingly high.
So flexibility is the order of the day and having contingency plans based on good local info. We used local boaters in the camp to find out more. Piedmont is rather centrally located so you’re a day’s drive away from France and Switzerland if you suddenly the forecast becomes abysmal.
I think there’s an app that has water gauges for popular rivers in the area but you’ll look elsewhere for it.Group Size
We had 13 people on our trip, which is a reasonable size. Group sizing will likely determine the what type of trip is had. It would defeat the point of running a ‘club trip’ and having only a handful of paddlers but size makes trips cumbersome and far less efficient. As my old kayak instructor boss used to say ‘there’s far too much faff’.
We had initially planned to do a 2 rivers a day, a less challenging river followed by steeper stuff, for those looking to push on. You must be very efficient and slick to get on/off 2 rivers a day and sadly we were not. Have reasonable expectations and change based on how ye’re doing.Pre Alps-preparation
I think the meeting we did before departing are necessary. Be sure to find out peoples hopes and skills levels, capabilities before the trip. Your democratic right will be invoked at some point, and there may be some disappointment. There’s bound to be some compromises on your trip if there’s a broad range of skills.Teaching on the river
Some people are going for a relaxing paddling trip, others are there to progress their paddling and will rely on senior members to help/assist/coach. So be sure to have a conversation before going on group expectations.
Catering rivers to skill level
For future trips, maybe it could work that there would be 2 cars with boats on top, going to different rivers. Worth considering before the trip if you’ve a big skill gap.Time on the river
A big reason we only hit 1 river a day was because we were incredibly slow moving down. We weren’t too pushed about time on the river and it was quite leisurely.
If you want to do 2 rivers a day, you need to be precise and know what time you’re putting on, when you’re to be halfway down, getting off, packing up, how long it’ll take you to get to the next river and shuttled, and what time you’ll be off that river. You need to make sure everyone’s on the same page with this, because you’re only as fast as the slowest in your group. Just make sure nobodies floating comfortably at the back, stern squirting and splatting *cough cough*.
I’d say designate someone to be thinking about these times and reminding people ect.Cleaning/washing up/jobs
It’s worth remembering that while it’s a holiday, it’s a physical (dare I say working) holiday. If people slack, the burden then falls on more senior members, which (they tell me) can be infuriating. So assign clear cut responsibilities and make sure people stick to them.
Don’t be afraid to bring this up when it’s noticed, otherwise at the end of the trip it could lead to bitterness. Nip it in the bud, in a polite way.Food for the river
The only thing worse than being sore and tired on a river is being sore, tired and hungry. If you’re putting on a river for 3 hours, at least have a decent snack to top you up.
And if it’s 4 or more, consider taking lunch.Water for the river
I think the biggest detractor in the first week was how dehydrated we became on the river. Being splashed in the face with cool alpine water makes you forget your thirsty and that you need to drink. Everyone should have at least 2 litres at every put-on.Things to bring
Flash light, headtorch, chess set, waterproof pack of cards, kindle/book, battery pack (something with a good bit of juice like 10000mah), european socket adapter, foam roller and stretchy band (for the ol’ rehab), lunchbox (Con had a cool squashable one which I’m still on the lookout for), waterproof phone case (8 euro on amazon), a first aid kit with some plasters/antiseptic for cuts/grazes.Meetings at the end of the day
Another necessity, the whole trip is a learning experience for everyone so it’s important to admit things to improve and things to continue.Decathlon
Stop there and get all your camping equipment. Best value equipment in my opinion. I got my sleeping bag, tent, air mattress and carabiners there.Car rental
Another potential pitfall. Be sure to check the requirements. E.g. if the driver must be over 25 AND have a credit card in their name, how many years they needed to have their driving licence for ect.
Ring ahead to be 100%.Money
I think we estimated it would cost 600 and put in 800 altogether each, 200 for the aptly named ‘fuck up fund’. And fuck ups do happen and that 200 was spent.
I think be prepared to spend 1000 on a 2 week trip, as you’ll have travel insurance, camping gear and then a little spending money.Sickness
We were pretty run down by the end of it. Aran came down sick, as did Tiernan and Fergal, all needing to take days off. I myself took a day off at the Soca and chilled in a hammock. Had a marvellous time, I’d recommend it.
6 hours of kayaking a day is going to take its toll and you’ll feel rundown, so don’t shy away from giving yourself a break.
Use handwash when eating (or at the very least, when preparing food).A bag of protein….
Running the risk of sounding like a ‘bro’, my advice would be to buy a 1kg bag of protein powder (bulkpowders.ie), stuff in your kayak on the way over and have an extra 60grams of protein at the end of every day. The cooked food isn’t too substantive or nutritious so it’s an easy way to get your nutritious needs. Your body will thank you in the mornings.Muscle rehab and stretching
My shoulders were pretty wrecked by the end of the 2 weeks, and I think that really contributed to my injury on the last day. I reckon I’ve a small rotator cuff tear, and the point here is stretching my shoulders after the long day could have prevented it.
Get one of the stretchy bands that you see in the gym. They’re 2 euro on Aliexpress. Physio appointments (which I need) are 50. Boat choice
Eyebrows were raised, and questionable glances were exchanged when I said I was bringing an Axiom to the Alps, but I knew it would be a blast! Take a slicey boat, be sensible in your river choices (borrow a boat when necessary), and you’ll have a blast on the G2-4 stuff.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnqxCVMO8ac
Buy your camping gear in Decathlon when you’re there.
Bring a book, cards, board games, portable battery and anything else that’ll keep you occupied in the evenings.
Bring 2 litres of water minimun and snacks/lunch on the river too.
Bring a 1st aid kit and a phone pack.
Get a stretch band and in the mornings and evenings, use it.
Use handwash and take a day off if you need it.
If you’re planning on renting a car over there, have a credit card.
The meetings before the trip are essential to the success of the trip.
Be flexible with your location when there. Consider all options with the forecast."