|Stretch:||Cavaglio San Donnino to Traffiume|
|Difficulty:||Class IV+ (committed canyon, no option for a swim at the crux)|
|Flows:||~150-450 cfs (it was super boney at put-in, if it feels padded… don’t go on)|
|Gradient:||164 fpm average|
|Put-in:||At the bridge over the river just upriver of Cavaglio San Donnino|
|Take-out:||Bridge on a small paved spur down to the town of Traddiume|
|Shuttle:||4 miles (10 minutes).|
|Season:||Spring from rain/snowmelt|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #91 and starting at 3:39 in Nathan Barbier's video|
Piemonte / Ticino 2014: Day 12
If a 2.6 mile long walled in gorge, with sections so narrow your boat can’t turn around is your thing… then this river is for you. The run needs to be low due to the crux of the run deep in the walled in gorge. There are two rapids, both of which can cause problems at higher flow… and both of which would be extremely difficult (read impossible) to set safety on from above. Once one person probes then things change a bit. But I have seen video of groups who have had to scale up the wall when hit by the first of these two drops at higher water.
The flow early on should feel low. I mean… low low. That means you will not have too much stress downriver. I thought we had ELF flow but I have seen video of folks running it much lower. And really only video of it higher and they climbed out. But from our conversations with our German friends Thomas and Klaus, I know that we still had pretty low water for this run.
Most of the run is class III to IV with a few junky rapids spread in between. As the walls get closer the rapids get bigger but thankfully turn into bedrock. A few standout class IV rapids lead to the crux which is a slide on the left with a fan over a hole, the exit just downstream is a ledge which bends left to right, forcing you to fade off the left. There is a spot for safety just below on the left. Just downstream is another walled in rapid that goes down the middle at the bottom. You are then in a completely walled out and only 5 foot wide section of river that goes on for a hunred yards before opening into a pool and the first real spot for recovery if something occurred upstream. Below you quickly get to a large two part portage that takes you essentially to the end of the run.
I know that the prior paragraph doesn’t sound all that appealing… but serious, the walled in gorge sections are amazing… so tight… a small crack in the earth. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Gollum lived down there. I am just saying, unless you only want adrenaline… this run is worth its time. Truly a unique run in a unique canyon.
Also, although this run is in Italy… it is for all intents and purposes part of the Ticino whitewater region. So plan accordingly.
Warning: In 2016 there was a fatality in the final rapid of the run. Apparently the river changed, necessitating a rope be lowered in prior to entering the canyon to portage the final siphon. This group did not know of the change, and were forced to run the sieve. As there are many places in this canyon where rock or wood could spell disaster, I highly recommend reaching out to locals to find the current state of the canyon before entering. Article about the accident (German)
- So the first 1.2 miles to the bridge well overhead have some decent rapids, but nothing that stuck out in my mind. You should hope it feels a little low… or very low, otherwise the downriver gorges will get scary!
- It starts getting tight. There are a few small ledges to run.
Then the river gets tight and nasty for a straight away, there are clean lines that we boat scouted… but by “clean” I mean runnable… not rock free.
- Crux 1 (IV+). The first crux rapid has forced people to scale the walls out to get out. A slide on the left which humps into a hole then quickly leads to a folding ledge with a sticky hole. You want to drive left and fade your boof off. There is no way to set safety for it until one person is below, they can use a ledge on the left to get out and set the safety.
Crux 2 (IV+). Also unportageable and unscoutable… and this one also has limited eddy at the lip. We entered left which was a little bangy and then the river slides down to the left and into the wall, try to slide with some right angle. Below the canyon tightens to 4 or 5 feet wide.
Then there is a little boogie...
- Potential Portage (IV+). There is a potential portage just after where the river opens up again a bit. With more water it is runnable but at the low flows you dropped straight into/on rock. The 2nd tier we still ran and was a great boof off the right side of the shore.
- Portage (U). A portage comes next, hope out on the left and portage. It is a long one. You portage the first part easily on the shore, get back in the boat and push yourself 10 feet to the other side of the eddy (same left shore) and get back out. The 2nd part involves shimming through a crack and getting back in your boat, team work helps here. You then push off and go around the corner and quickly eddy out left again to portage the next tier easily on the left. Once you put back in you have one small ledge to boof and flat water to take-out. Kind of anti-climactic way to end the run… but so be it. Update 2016 See my warning at the top about the change to the portage.
Directions: Use the GPS locations to get yourself to put-in and take-out… below is just the extra little info you may need
Take-out: From Cannobio on Lago Maggiore, head up the canyon. Take-out is the road that is just after Campeggio Riviera. The road drops down to the northern most tip of the city which I believe is actually called Traffiume. Park in the parking area just before the bridge over the river.
Put-in, continue up the road until you cross the river. Parking is limited here so plan accordingly. There is a trail on the far side of the river.
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