I was deep in the internet kayaking siphon during one of the lockdowns – using Google to translate funny Russian symbols into semi-readable sentences about obscure rivers in Norway. I forget the exact source but I stumbled upon a short write-up about the Orkla river which compared it to Norwegian classics such as the Upper Rauma and Susna. I instantly put it on my ‘hit list’ (don’t worry it’s considerably less Goodfellas than it sounds, it’s just a list of rivers I want to hit up).
I did some research, struggling to understand how I had never heard of the Orkla until I found out the river has been dammed and rarely has water. Then in a stroke of luck, on a David Sadomka motivated road trip to Oppdal, we found ourselves at the river with prime water levels. It’s funny how life works but I love when it works out in this way. Bombing down a beautiful Norwegian pool drop gorge with my friends on one of the rare sunny days of this Norwegian season.
We dropped into a tributary of the Orkla, the Inna. This short section into the Orkla started with a great triple combo, a few nice easy rapids and then a pretty big but very friendly last rapid into the Orkla. I didn’t get to see the rapid before I was in front of a big-looking ledge, I pulled as hard as I could off the lip, my eyes wide, looking for the surely terrible hole we were all about to drop into but nothing came. I landed and was immediately jetting out to the bottom of the rapid, a strange sound emanating from the bottom of the rapid.
‘Hahaha, you should see your face! I scouted it from the road yesterday, no problem.’David Sadomka, the biggest eight-year-old on the planet
The river soon walled up on us and we got to the first drop, a beautiful little boof. Catching an eddy afterwards on river left we found a great fifteen-footer that landed into a cauldron, fizzed against a rock wall and turned a corner into a pretty big hole.
I felt confident and dropped in and my line was about as good as I would have hoped for. Rob dropped in next and had a little bit of fuckerie in the transition between the two sets and a quick tumble in the hole before rolling up with a characteristic smile and shrug of the shoulders.
We arrived at the waterfall and found it to be around thirty-five foot and absolutely perfect. We even found a trail back to the top to hit laps on it. Encouraged heavily by a camera holding David Sadomka to send as many laps as we wanted on it.
The next rapid we came to was gnarly, we scouted for a while and there was a line but not a great one and the consequences were terrible if it didn’t go to plan. David had immediately portaged on river right which went pretty quick for him. Rob and I were on river left after scouting, Rob portaged low on the slick rocks for as long as possible before scrambling up to a small animal trail and back down to the river. I had elected to walk up a small tributary and thought I was onto a winner until I had one battle with a tree, slippery rocks and thirty kilos of kayak and camera gear. Here I should mention that once again the Palm Snake Sling’s versatility is unmatched, from friction knotting my kayak to a tree while I scramble over it, becoming a replacement backrest and anchor point all the way to lowering my camera bag down. The Snake Sling proves it’s worth time and time again for me.
Thirty minutes later I huffed, puffed and sweated my way back onto the water with my crew waiting for me. ‘Sorry team, I had a plan but my plan turned out to be sheet’. Soon after some flat water, some good rapids and some time in a beautiful gorge brought us to the end of the Orkla river’s rapids.
The Orkla river is a reminder of the strange and wonderful way things work sometimes and most importantly a reminder that we all need to work harder to protect the rivers of the world. www.saveourrivers.org