Noguera Pallaressa (Upper)
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Flows:||~800 cfs / 22 cumecs (38 cumecs on the downstream gauge, but there are dams so there isn’t a correlation that I know of) (see “riverapp” application)|
|Gradient:||138 fpm average|
|Put-in:||First bridge above Alós d'Isil|
|Take-out:||Access at the top of the lake in Borén|
|Shuttle:||9.3 km (20 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Spring from snowmelt and rain|
|Featured in A Wet State #137|
Pyrenees 2018 - Day 4 Morning:
Current Freestyle World Champion Quim Fontane was from the area, and as such Reiner and I had both reached out to him for beta before and during the trip. And in addition to being a badass boater, he is also super helpful. On this day, he told us that the Upper run of the local river was at a perfect level, and the run he would do that day if he hadn’t recently moved away. So the plan was made. I watched some videos to know what we were getting into. All the gopro video made it look pretty chill. It was also all brown in those videos. Arriving at take out, Harry and I relaxed as we found what appeared to be much lower water, and it wasn’t brown. We thought we were good to go. On the drive up, we scouted a few obvious sections before arriving at a narrow gorge which we scouted at length due to its pace and the fact it ended in a large ledge hole. Still though, the rapids looked chill. But we also started to think it was higher than we thought at take-out.
Upon getting dressed, we all slid in the river. The class II wave trains suddenly were found to be class III+ and my concern began to grow. I would say it peaked as I dropped through the middle of the first gorge and found large features that were totally unexpected. Luckily, this first gorge is the hardest section. After that, the rapids turn into continuous class IV. Things begin to ramp up to IV+ as you approach the second class V passage. And then again it gets easier. Careful for the weir in town that you will want to run far right… and the powerhouse weir not long after that you will once again want to run far right. Then, just near the end, there are two small mini gorges that aren’t deep, but at the high flow caused the water to bounce from wall to wall. We definitely had some exciting moments in there, but in the end the rapids weren’t worse than class IV. Thankfully.
Thankfully, the only excitement of the day happened 100 yards above take-out. Reiner pointed to a mid rapid boof which I mucked up and dropped into a brief side surf. I was very happy that the only excitement was at the low stress conclusion of the day. Swims higher up could be very long and dangerous affairs at this flow. Supposedly at normal lower flows, the run is much more chill class IV. I can imagine! At our camp, in the reception office, there was a pic of the first gorge and dang it does look quite a bit mellower!
We had 38 cumecs on the gauge, which is downriver of a few dams so it actually doesn’t correlate. But it is the only data point I have. It was fun, I bet the second lap would have been much lower stress knowing what was around each corner.
That afternoon, after getting our car, on the way back to camp we decided to do the section that is called the classic section of the same river. A rafting run where class III and IV boaters cut their teeth….
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Next: Pyrenees 2018 - Day 4 Afternoon: Noguera Pallaresa (Llavorsi to Sort )
- Boogie (III to IV). The boogie starts immediately and literally does not subside until the lake at take-out. As soon as we put on we realized the water was pushier and higher than it looked even just from 10 feet up on the bridge. It was all read and run though.
- Gorge (IV+ to V). At high flow this section of the river was serious, not for class IV boaters. We collected in an eddy just before the lead in. We reviewed the lines that we had scouted thoroughly on the drive up. And then peeled out. The entrance we hit on the far right through the first few holes. Then worked left for the second part which was a double drop into a hole formed by a cushion off the right wall. Then the walls narrow and you have a few ramping wave features that were fine before we were able to eddy out on the right just above the exit. The exit was a ledge hole with some mean power. We ran it far left boofing into the green water eddy below on the left. Just hit it straight. The gorge lasts for 0.3 km.
Boogie (IV). The boogie in this section is sorta continuous class III with some IV crescendos. It was stressful not knowing for sure if there was going to be a huge hole somewhere.
- Alós d'Isil (IV to IV+). As you come through this small town the rapids begin to pick up to be continuous IV. It is a signal that you should watch for an eddy on the left before the next big rapid, which you probably also saw from the road up.
- Le Crepe (V). This is the last of the “big rapids.” Scout on the left. The rapid is a big curler into a big hole with a busy run out downstream. We looked at it, with the high water the curler was strong and the hole stronger. That with the high consequences of a swim, we opted to walk it on the left and slid back in for the runout. Downstream rapids again begin to get easier rather than like the harder boogie immediately upstream of this drop.
Boogie. Lots of boogie in here... some of the bigger boogie too.
- Weir #1 (III+). The first weir is seen from the road on the drive up and is located in the small town of Isil. We ran far right and it was fine.
- Weir #2 (IV). The second weir is at a church or something. The river constricts and forms a uniform bad hole. Down the far right though was a nice line to avoid the hole. It was thin though. Harry thought he had seen something from the road while driving up so we stopped 200 meters upstream and he scouted it on river right and returned with the beta for the line on the right.
- S-Turn (IV). You will cross under a bridge and then you will find that the river gets steeper. I actually remember a few good standout rapids above it at the high flow too. Diane got herself stuck in an eddy up there. Anwyays, below the bridge we saw a blind corner with strong whitewater so we scrambled for eddies and Harry and Reiner managed to get their bodies onto the shore for a quick scout. The line ended up being easy. Middle driving right as the river s-turned right, and then stay off the right wall as it s-turned back left.
- Mini Gorge (IV-). One last little gorge wasn’t tough, but Diane and I both found a seem as the river bounced off the left wall that flipped us. Around the corner the river opened up and it was mellow boogie to take-out.
Take-out: In the town of Borén, cross the bridge to river right, turn right, and take the last right turn in town (it is a village) which has nice access to the water.
Put-in: Head back up river (not crossing the river the way you came), and continue up river for 9.3 km to the parking area just before the bridge over the river. We put-in on the upstream river left side of the bridge.
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