This river is one of the main reasons I came back to Norway this summer. I ran just one of the rapids on it last year, an enormous slide named Megatron that Finn Burrows and Nick Horwood found and claimed the first descent on in 2010. Last year I was able to get just a small glimpse of the white water above the slide but it was enough to convince me that it was worth trying to link it all up.
We were blocked by ice bridges on an attempt earlier this spring and when we came back we found the river low and far from the ideal range to try and drop all of it. My crew (intelligently) backed out but I was too emotionally invested in it and on Wednesday, despite a lot of concern for my safety we hiked up the mountain once again to try and get the first complete descent on this river.
We hiked for around two hours in miserable conditions to get to the river. Two of my crew members Halvor Heggem and Rowan James had never seen the section before and seeing Rowan’s reaction was both priceless and unnerving – ‘For f*cks sake Bren’.
Somehow the river had come up just a little bit since the last scouting mission, whether from the recent thunderstorm or an act of kindness from the river gods, I don’t know. It did however confirm my belief that I am in-fact the jammiest† git in the world. That little bit of extra could make all the difference between a successful descent and erm, well, let’s not think about the alternative.
I put on the river at the very top just below the snow field and ran the first waterfall, I hit a submerged rock right at the lip and almost flipped – ‘Brilliant, off to a great f@*$ing start here’. I managed to stay upright and finish the drop upright. I brushed off the unease that this mistake had brought me and blasted down the entry rapids to the gorge and towards possibly the rowdiest slide on the section. This thing was huge and mean with really sharp rocks, savage reconnects and a wonderful undercut boulder in the landing zone waiting to eat me. I knew if I could get down this one I could link up all of the section and despite having to do some serious ninja-ing mid-air after hitting a kicker I was able to get down this slide without crashing.
The next part of the section involved two slides that pushed hard into some brutal undercuts and on the left and had really tight exits. I was really scared of the first undercut and pushed too hard right, got stopped in an eddy and had to spin around on the lip of the second half of it – ‘Oooo scary!’. The second slide went great and all of a sudden I was rolling into the infamous Megatron slide. I was smiling at this point, despite being the biggest slide on the section it is also the friendliest (by friendly, I mean it’s rocks are slightly less jagged and it wasn’t trying to break me quite as bad as the rest of the rapids) I had also ran it before and knew that I could get down it. The lower levels meant that the undercut on the left was fully exposed at the lip and had to force myself not to look at it and focus on the entry drop. The entry into Megatron is a fifteen footer that lands directly onto the rocky slide below, you have to set your angle perfectly so that you don’t reconnect too hard and risk breaking your back or ribs or even worse bounce on the landing and flip at the top of the slide.
Due to lower water levels the slide was not as padded out as last year and I had to fight really hard not to be kicked onto my head at several spots. The hole about two-thirds of the way down was much more powerful and I almost ran the last and most dangerous part of the slide on my head. Fortunately, I managed to save it before things went really bad. I skipped through the last hole of the slide and into the eddy, more stoked and relieved than I have ever been in my life. I was fully prepared to break myself in my attempt to run the whole of this section and to be able to kayak down into the lake and walk off the mountain with no injuries‡ and with my friends was simply priceless.
A huge thanks to my crew for supporting me throughout this descent even though they thought it was dumb / not possible. My sponsors for all of the awesome equipment and to Nick Horwood and Lee Royle for all of the navigational help!
See you on the water, Bren
† Jammy, means lucky in English. Proper lucky.
‡ Upon waking up the day after it feels like I may have been hit by a bus or been in several car crashes. Should be fine in a few days though!