Gave de Gavarnie (Gorge de Luz)
|Difficulty:||Class IV to IV+|
|Flows:||No gauge, ~500-2,000 cfs?|
|Gradient:||104 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Roadside upstream of Cheze|
|Take-out:||Roadside upstream of Pierrefitte-Nestalas|
|Shuttle:||5.8 km, 10 minutes one way|
|Season:||Spring from snowmelt and rain|
Pyrenees 2018 - Day 11 & 13:
The Gavarnie did not look high. Amazingly. For a major river, we anticipated that it may be high. Eric DeGuille confirmed that he had run the Gorge de Luz a few days prior and that it was fine. I had hoped to get this gorge as I saw a few pics of it prior to our trip and it looked classic.
The book had the put in a few km upstream, for some class III+ before the IV to IV+ within the gorge itself. We just had the one car this day, even though Reiner and Harry were both boating with us. So we decided to drive to the weir in the middle to scout the portage before putting on. What we found was that the weir was not portagable. We surmised that the portage might be at low water, down the weir itself. At our flow, that was a non-option. But, running the far left fish ramp of the weir was possible so we tried to get some cell service to ask Eric or to watch videos. We found a video, with higher water, and they ran the weir, the video was slow to load though so after seeing that we stopped watching and decided we were good to go. We decided to put-in there as the rapids upstream looked non-descript. I think we were all a little nervous though as none of us knew how high the river was, nor what the rapids in the gorges were like to know if we were going to end up above a walled in ledge that we wouldn’t know where to run. Luckily, the rapids ended up being very manageable. Only in the middle of second gorge did I feel that we ended up running a longer section straight away than we anticipated. After entering that rapid, we anticipated some eddies but none appeared. One ledge later we found small eddies above a rapid that looked big as the river split and dropped down into the heart of the second gorge. Luckily, it went totally fine and the nerves were unneeded. Downstream, the river quickly opens up but some fun class IV rapids continue.
This run is a classic. The rapids fun, the scenery next level. It is one of my favorite runs on the trip. So much so, we ran it again on our last day. That day the water was lower, and knowing the lines, it was much less stressful and just pure fun. We ended up leading a group of Frenchies down on that lap, which was a fun way to boat it. We also did put in a little higher that day with them all, and sure enough, it was just meh. The goods are all downstream of the weir for sure. Tight gorges that have no rapids in the tightest spots, but fun rapids littered throughout the run. Plus, nice water color, a nice turquoise blue from the snow melt up in the Cirque de Gavarnie.
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Next: Pyrenees 2018 - Day 12: Gave de Gavarnie (Classic)
- Warm-up (III to III+). As you round the bend to the left, the river picks up steam. Careful in here as there are a few holes to boof or dodge. This rapid continues directly up to the weir which has intake on the left. If there is a swimmer, get them to the short on the right.
- Weir (IV-). Apparently at lower flows you portage down the left side of the weir. For us though that wasn’t an option as the water was too high. So we ran the left side of the weir. The first day was nice and soft, the second day we found that the landing was only inches deep since the water was a good bit lower that day.
First Rapid (III+). Just below is the first rapid which went down the middle, just a few small features to work around. Downstream is some non-descript boogie that was class III- in nature leading to the First Gorge.
- First Gorge (III+). The lead in to the first gorge is a straight forward rapid that can be run anywhere. There was a nice waterfall dropping in from the left and then a pinch in the walls as the rapid ended. Within the Narrows there are no rapids, just nice scenery. The river then opens up and you get two rapids in this section.
- Open Boogie #1 (III). Boogie starts and is just read and run.
- Open Boogie #2 (IV). As you round the corner to the right there is a bigger and longer boogie rapid. There was a hole in the middle at the top that we boofed through and then began to work our way down the right. This then enters a narrowing section where the walls got closer together.
- Entrance to Gorge #2 (III+ to IV-). The lead in to the second gorge was a long rapid that overall was pretty mellow, but due to the tightening walls had some squirrely water. We started far left around a large rock in the middle before working our way down the middle. This then led to some goalpost rocks that we went middle through. We then caught an eddy on the left at the lip of the next rapid.
- Gorge #2 – A (IV-). The first rapid was a thread the needle starting center, between two holes and then cutting back left to get the tongue on the ramp which avoid the hole on the right at the bottom. Note that 50 feet downstream there is a bit of a pocket in the left wall. It isn’t super in play unless someone ends up running with left angle and continues it. 100 yards downstream is another large bolder creating an island, you can run to either side and then you will want to eddy out right to scout the next drop.
Gorge #2 – B (IV to IV+). Overall this section at the higher flows for sure felt to be IV+ due to the length of it, number of holes, and lack of recovery time. But lets break it apart move by move, starting with the first. Maybe the trickiest single move of the river, this is a ramp that has a sticky hole on the right and a small flake on the left. At high flow the flake was easy to hit and kicked you through in control. At the slightly lower flow it kicked harder and sent me into the air half flipping where I found another submerged rock to kick me again. It was all good, just trickier. This then leads to 100 yards of class IV boogie with a couple of holes to boof. And eventually leads directly to the lip of the next rapid.
Gorge #2 - C (IV-). It is seriously just part of the last rapid, but, from above it stands out as more blind and can’t be scouted at higher flows so I thought I would call it out. It is a ledge maybe 4 feet tall with a powerful hole. We all boofed straight through just fine. Immediately downstream is the next rapid which looks a bit ugly from above. One in our group caught the eddy on the left immediately below the last rapid and was able to hop out to scout. The rest of us were in very small eddies on the right. The river splits into two channels. The left was smaller and easier, two tiers both down the middle. The right was bigger but also clean. Where it appeared there might be big holes, was actually just ramps with waves holes that kicked you through a nice s-turning experience. The first day I went left and the second time I went right, after seeing the right was fine.
- Gorge #2 Narrows (I then II+). The runout of the previous rapid puts you into another super narrow section of walls. No rapids in here until after the river opens up a little and then it is just mellow stuff. And then the canyon walls peel back and you have some more typical boulder gardens.
- Exit Boogie #1 (III). The first is the most easy. It leads to an old arch bridge. Just run it down the middle.
Exit Boogie #2 (III+ to IV-). Downstream of the bridge is a long and more complicated rapid. The entrance is navigated around small rocks or holes. This leads to the exit which has a large rock forming a small pour over, ideally we went to the left of it though the pour over could be boofed too. I bet at lower flows it is easier.
Small Ledge (III). Just downstream is a small ledge that we ran far right with right momentum. The middle was stickier. The next rapid was just 100 yards downstream.
- Exit Boogie #3 (IV-). The final boogie rapid could be run a number of ways. We went down the left, threading between two rocks before cutting back right to avoid some shallow rocks below. Others ran down the center at the top to avoid the bottom rocks all together.
Boogie (II+). Below, the boogie gets mellow really fast and continues to take-out.
Take-out: From the D913 and D921 roundabout on the southern side of the city of Pierrefitte-Nestalas, take D921 to the lft and continue for 1.7 km to a wide gravel turn out. This is take-out. Other options exist too.
Put-in: Continue up the river on D921/D12. In 4.7 km you will cross the river, the powerhouse is directly below, you might scout that before dropping in. We put-in here on one lap as well. Or continue up another 1.1 km to a nice big roadside gravel lot to access the river as well for more fun class III.
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