Several years ago, when I first went to Norway, Nick Woodshaw the video guy at Palm back then, shared his knowledge of the classic rivers in the country with me and even gave me some of the possible descents he and his crew had picked out on Google Earth over the years. It’s thanks to Nick for sharing his knowledge that I was able to bag the first top to bottom descent of the Megatron.
This year, while forced to stay inside, I had done my own extensive Google Earth scouting. Continued travel restrictions kept me out of the country during the prime shredding season and many of the first descents I had hoped for now had low water. Fortunately, around the hilariously named ‘Dombass’ area, there were a few rivers still holding water. Checking my notes I found that all those years ago, Nick had given me another potential first descent. Labelled by a nineteen year old version of myself or Nick, as ‘huge slide thingy’ I knew I had to check it out.
Following the river up from the huge slide thingy on Google Earth I found more and more whitewater and at the top where the gradient started. A triple combo that looked like it might end with a big waterfall. So my crew and I packed up the kayaks and cameras and hiked to the very top of the river. Hiking with a kayak is either not too bad at all or leaves your lungs heaving, shoulder and legs screaming, and me considering throwing my kayak off a cliff. The hike up the Grona river was not too bad at all. We stopped several times to look down into the gorge and each time were happily surprised to find that everything looked good to go. Rowdy but good to go.
At the top of the river, I found my hopes of a clean big waterfall dashed. What I had read as whitewater in free fall actually turned out to be the pool of a narrow sticky ten-footer. The disappointment didn’t last for long though as there was a really cool combo to start the river and much stouter than it first looked, with undercuts, holes and caves throughout the sequence. The river after this has some beautiful small slides and drops all the way up to a right-hand turn, where all of a sudden it looks like the water is falling off the edge of the world.
I had seen this slide from up top, I knew that it was going to be crazy looking from river level but Holy Mother … this thing was wild. And after timidly shuffling along the wet slippery rocks next to it, I realised that it was possible, just about … sort of. After helping the rest of the team portage, Huw and Adrian and I were left at the top. Adrian decided to walk as well and took one for the team by filming from the middle and committing to doing the last sketchy part of the portage on his own. I went first and in the eddy up top it was the first time in a long time where I have felt genuinely scared about a line, normally I’m a little nervous on the big stuff but confident that I can do it. There were so many questions to this slide as I dropped in, wondering about the entry, the reconnects and possibly hitting the walls on either side. Thankfully it went perfectly, almost exactly as I had hoped and imagined, asides from in the moment captured by Halvor Heggem where I was in the air for considerably longer than I thought I would be …
Huw went next and had a slightly bumpier but still great line down it.
Deciding what to call it we were reminded that that one of the crew, who shall remain nameless, had matched on Tinder with a young lady named Helga the previous few days, we had been joking about it ever since and so the name ‘Helgafossen’ came about for the ‘huge slide thingy’. If that’s not a love story I don’t know what is …
Helgafossen however was not the original huge slide thingy, that thing lurked further downstream. I know that it had been successfully descended previously by a Russian kayaker before but I was scared of the reconnect, the hit it could give out and possibly getting hurt. So instead we did a long, gruelling portage around it where I contemplated just throwing my kayak off the cliff and hoping it landed somewhere useful at the bottom. One eternity later we were at the bottom of the original huge slide thingy and continuing down the river.
I always try to get a feel for the group morale and after the last portage and how long the day was becoming I knew that energy and stoke were running low …
‘Get ready for some aggressive read and run here boys, go where I go, unless it looks bad in which case go somewhere else’.
I bombed the consequent section as hard and as fast as I could read and running everything from my kayak with the crew following me close behind. After a brilliant slide to left boof the river became mankier and mankier until eventually we were at the confluence of a bigger river at our camp almost thirteen hours after we started.
Once again I am reminded of what an incredible place Norway is for kayaking and once again indebted to other kayakers sharing information with me. I’m stoked on how this river went how brilliant my crew are and keen to get back to Norway next year with more water and fewer travel restrictions – Bren
Photos by @halvorheggem