|Stretch:||Bobojach to Gries|
|Flows:||75-85 cms. Check “The River App”|
|Gradient:||396 fpm for the half mile of rapids|
|Put-in:||Bridge in Bobojach|
|Take-out:||Bridge in Gries|
|Shuttle:||~4 km (10 minutes one-way)|
|Season:||Fall as snowmelt ends|
|Featured in A Wet State #115 and in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
Austria & More 2016: Day 6 Morning
The night before, as we drove in from Slovenia, we headed up the Isel to check flows, scout for wood, and sleep close by. We ended up sleeping at the confluence of the Isel and the Taurenbach, a river we would run later in the trip.
This run normally doesn’t run until late fall, as summer is a distant memory and the glacial snow melt drops out. In fact, when Harry used a pic from the falls in Darin’s photo competition last year I inquired and he said “no freaking way, it will have several thousand cfs when you are here.” However, due to the low snow pack and very cold temperatures for the months leading up to our trip, the river was still low, yet to rise to its summer levels. So, the day before we departed from Tennessee Harry sends Jim and I note stating we might want to bring climbing harnesses with us because this run just may be in for us.
With fear of the warm day that was to follow, we opted for an earlier rather than later approach to ensure we were through the canyon before whatever same day snow melt hit. The concern with high water in this canyon being that if it is above 82 cms or so, you cannot get out to scout the entrance to the mandatory drop. No matter what the flow you can’t scout the drop itself, but the lead in is a little junky and very worthwhile to look at too. The no scout statement is also a little false… you can scout, but that is from the road prior to putting on, and from about a mile away. At least you can judge the flow and if the drop is clear of wood, but not a whole lot else.
The other adventure aspect of this run is that there are two rappels. One is occasionally done as a throw and go. The second that is a non-option. We rappelled on our throw bags… which is a iffy thing to do, but we were assured by climber friends that if we wetted the ropes first we would be ok for the short rappels. The first rappel is a non-runnable drop. The second could be runnable if it were clear of wood. For us, we just set out intent on rappelling both. For me, this is going to be one of the more memorable parts of the trip. I have a slight fear of heights. I have learned to control it while in my kayak. But leaning back into a harness on ropes and belaying myself is something else. With some great moral support by Reiner, he helped me get into the system and talked me through what to do. Before I knew it I was at the bottom of both, happy and relieved to now be at the top of an unportagable unscoutable 35-ish footer. How often is that your sense of relief?
Overall, the run has a handful of nice rapids, but is actually very short. Don’t plan on this taking your entire day as once you put on you will make quick time through the handful of rapids. Be careful in the rapid directly below the second rappel as the outflow goes directly over the mandatory drop. It would suck really bad to lose your kayak here. The afternoon after we ran this, we met up with Reiner’s wife in Lienz and got some coffee and gelato before doing a short section in town with both of them on the Drau.
For reference we had 74 cms when we put on, 76 cms when we took off. I have heard over 80 is when you can no longer get out to scout the lead in to the mandatory. I have also been told the run is fun at 85 cms but is more serious as eddies and pools are less existent. Also, bring 40m worth of rope for the rappels as 30m is not enough. Also, if you have throw ropes that are in good condition that you plan on using for the rappel, make sure you wet the rope prior to rappeling as static lines need the water to help dissipate the heat.
Also, just so you know, there is a class IV continuous section upstream when the water is much higher. Just downstream there is a boulder garden class IV to V section when the water is ~15 cms higher.
Thanks to Harald and Reiner Glanz and Jim Janney for sharing photos and for making the trip possible!
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- Lead-in to Entry Falls (IV). After put-in, just a little bit of boogie which hopefully feels low leads to a slight right bend and the lead-in to the entry falls. You can run the first part down the middle and then eddy out on the right to scout the Entry Falls. Do not enter the lower part of the lead-in as it is continuous to the lip from there.
- Entry Falls (IV+ to V-). The final part of the lead in has a few little slides before you enter the Falls itself. The falls is only 8-10 feet tall, but had a large curler kicking you to the right and to the wall which sticks out into the flow. You want to drive center and boof.
Ledge (IV to IV+). At low flow the ledge was nothing, at higher flow I could see this being a bigger hole and the location would suck to swim with what is just downstream. As it were, you enter and run an s-turning drop any number of locations and then drive left of center to delay boof the hole.
Mandatory (IV+ to V-). So, hopefully on the drive you tried to scout this one to ensure it is clear of wood. This is a must run rapid if you want to do the rappels and the Unscoutable downstream, and the bottom half of this rapid cannot be seen prior to dropping in. We entered in the right channel and went over a drop and drove into an eddy on the right. Reiner went left in the first part, but there are weird hydraulics there it doesn’t set you up great if you want to get right in the bottom half. The bottom half at our flow was ok to boof the left side of the midriver rock. As flows come up, I think this turns into a pocket hole against the wall, thus you make it to the micro channel on the right to avoid that move.
Boogie (III). Downstream was a brief section of boogie that then led to a very obvious horizon. Eddy out right to rappel.
- Rappel #1 (U). Some people choose to throw and go. The pool moves to the next portage quickly, so do this with care. Also note that the rock you jump from is undercut. We decided to down climb to the right and then rappel from a tree over there.
Rappel #2 (V+ to U). There is a line, but it was full of wood our day… but it has never been run, so the line is theoretical. We climbed to the right of the falls just 20 feet and rappelled off a tree down to the shore above the Lead-in drop. 40m of rope is required.
- Lead-in (V). This is a bit rocky, but occasionally cleaner. Most of us boofed into the right channel and then drove out into the middle. We all flipped off the left wall. Reiner then decided to drive straight through the middle of the mank at the top and cleared through with a clean line. There is high potential for breaching in that line though. This rapid changes year to year. It is possible to scout it, and it also would be possible to portage it with team work on the right.
Unscoutable Must-run (V to V+). So, hopefully you have less than 80 cms and are able to stop yourself in the shallow water just as you enter to then get out and store your boats in the pothole on the right and scout the entry. If not, you are running it all blind. The entry is worth looking at as there are rocks in back places that want to flip you. Enter far right and then as you punch the hole at the lip, drive far left… just note, you can over achieve too far left. But far right is rocky. Best to be just a boat width off the left wall to center. If you are center you will hit a kicker than will send you flying.
- Exit Falls (V). This is a super shallow abuser of a drop that we opted to walk on the left from the lip. The line is down the center channel boofing 8 feet into inches of water and banging your way out. The main flow goes far right into an overhanging caldron of a drop that can be run but should have safety set for sure. It looks dubious at best.
Boogie (II to III). Some nice boogie with some nice scenery goes the rest of the way to take-out.
Take-out: From the town of Matrei in Ostirol, head up the Isel on Virgener Landestraße. Follow it for 6.7 km to the town of Virgen where you will drop down on Neidermauer and follow this down for 2.2 km to the bridge over the water. This is take-out
Put-in: Continue across the bridge and head up the road following the river up the canyon. Follow this up into the town of Welzelach. As you pass the houses and the road flattens, look for a smaller dirt road on the right. First, stop here and take a look at the Unscoutable Must-run, this is the only way to get a look at it. Then, take the dirt road. It is small and within the canyon. You can try to get a few glimpses into the must run section by walking out to the edge. Follow this up to the meadow just before the bridge which then crosses into Bobojach. The bridge is put-in.
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