Saalach (Lofer Gorge)
|Difficulty:||Class V- to V|
|Flows:||20 cms to 65 cms. Check “The River App”|
|Gradient:||71 fpm average (103 fpm in the hard section)|
|Put-in:||Lofer Str. Bridge|
|Take-out:||Au Str. Bridge|
|Shuttle:||3.8 km (5 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Runs all year|
|Featured in A Wet State #113 and in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
Austria & More 2016: Day 3:
Waking up in the morning the plan was to do an illegal run. The run is just over the German border and is known for is steep bed rock style. It is equally as known for handing out 500 Euro fines since technically it is illegal to kayak, and a portage requires you to go through private property, and the owner of that property usually isn’t friendly. A few friends have managed to talk their way out of it, others however have not been so luck. It was a not issue for us however as the flow was too low despite the evening of rain and the foot more water in the Saalach where we were camping. With that, we moved our afternoon run up to the morning and put on the Saalach.
The Saalach is a classic run for the region. The Lofer Gorge is similar in character to the Soca cataracts I would say, but the water less vibrant. The scenery is apparently also very nice here, however we had clouds and rain so we did not see any of it. The photos on the information kiosk at take out though showed just what we were missing, along with just how high this river can get. There is a trail with wooden bridges that runs up and down the river, however after the last monster flow they have not repaired it so using it is less simple and requires some ventures off the train to bridge ravines. Also, be careful even when a bridge is good, they are quite slick as I found out slipping while carrying my boat which then dropped on my leg which gave me a Charlie horse which lasted for several days.
The run itself is short, the first rapid is by far the crux. It is a 4 part drop, scout well in advance as it picks up steam in a hurry and there are plenty of places you don’t want to be in the rapid. We actually walked the first hole in it as it was massive. It is dropped into a pool maybe we would have had takers, but as it was it quickly headed downstream to a tall sticky ledge that you wanted to be in control of before exiting through two easier though sievy parts of the rapid.. Below the first big rapid, the river eases up however was still powerful at our flow and still had some danger to be congnizant of. The last big rapid should be avoided on the right. The left side ramps down into a sieve, the rock is spray painted with a warning. We went down a far right channel boofing over a meaty slot hole. After that, you have a short mellow paddle out to take-out.
After our one lap, we went shopping for food and beer, and then began our drive over to the Soca in Slovenia. Harry left to go get his wife and kids, who normally join us on these kayaking trips. But since the weather started so cold and rainy, they opted to delay a few days. He would meet us at the Soca that night. As for Jim, Reiner and I. Reiner suggested driving to Soca via the scenic route, up and over the Großglockner which is the highest peak in Austria. It was quite the spectacular view, we left the pass and then went up to the glacier on the other side which was also nice. It added probably 3 to 4 hours to our drive, but it was worth it. Plus in Austria, passengers can drink while driving… actually, even the driver can and the limit is 0.05. So we managed to keep ourselves entertained for the drive.
Driving to Slovenia you briefly pass through Italy from where we were. Along the river was super steep river that apparently goes with proper flows, but for us it was very low so we didn’t look twice at it. Entering Slovenia near Cave del Predil, you are immediately greeted with some more, but very different spectacular scenery. Maybe 10 minutes after the border you will come to an old fort on the left. It is worth stopping here for 5 minutes… not for the fort (WWI which was cool, sure) but for the Koritnica which passes under the road. It seems just like a crack in the mountain but sure enough, at the base of it is a river wedged between walls standing hundreds of feet tall and only inches apart at times. The river is unrunnable through these gorges, but it is impressive to look down into for sure. Continuing we ate dinner in a small town along the Soca before arriving at the Lazar camp (Cataracts take-out) just before dark. Harry had beat us by just a half hour or so.
Oh, and for the record we had ~60 cms which is on the high side for sure.
Thanks to Harald and Reiner Glanz as well as Jim Janney for sharing photos and for making the trip possible!
Last: Austria & More 2016: Day 2 Afternoon - Lammer (Lammeröfen)
Next: Austria & More 2016: Day 3 Morning - Soca (Graveyard)
- Slalom Section (III). As you pass a large tributary on the left, the river bends back to the left and the class III starts. This is a great section to warm up on. Lots of eddies to catch to work out any kinks in your muscles.
- Under the Bridge (III to III+). As the river bends to the right you will cross under a foot bridge which has a large rock island as the center pier. We went down the right. It picks up below here. We ran one more rapid down the left as I recall before eddying out and doing a long scout of the big rapid on the left. Don’t get over aggressive with your boat scouting as the class III leads directly into the first hole of the Big Rapid which is stout as crap.
- Big Rapid (V). Scout on the left. The first tier is a macking hole that we all opted to portage. If it went into a pool that would be one thing, instead it was right above the second tier of a 4 tier sievy rapid. Most of our group put-in above the second tier where they either boofed the ride side of the ledge or the left side of the ledge. This led quickly to the third tier which was a ramp into a hole. The best line was down the far right of this using the shoulder curler to get up over the hole. Do not go left on this one. This led to a small but powerful hole that people ran all over the place. The final tier as several sieves in play. It is best to enter from the far left and carry momentum to the far right. The left at the top has a sieve. The rapid then bends to the left, the bottom right which forces the bend is also a sieve. Some eddied out directly in front of it and ferried in front of it. You then have a few hundred yards of class III rapids.
- Left Channel (IV to IV+). It is an obviously bigger and more constricted rapid. We started from an eddy on the right and ferried to the far far left. The middle line did go but you want to be far right to hit the line over a really large hole. The far far left channel was a nice fade boof of the left wall. Below, begin working all the way to river right in the class III- section below this rapid.
- Sieve Rapid (IV). An obvious constriction marks this rapid. The left wall if you look downstream of the initial rocks has a red warning spray painted to mark that there is a sieve over there. Instead, we went down the right and found a little slot boof down the right of center.
Boogie (III then I). Downstream the river quickly gets easier and fades to flat water as you approach the bridge and take-out.
Take-out: Find your way to the town of Lofer. Just north of town 2 km on B178 is Au Str. This road quickly drops down to the river and is the take-out. It is between the villages of Maurach and Au.
Put-in: Climb back out to B178 (Maurach / Loferer Str.) and turn left, go 600 m and then turn right onto B311 to Lofer. Follow this into town following the river for 2.8 km. At the roundabout go left and then take the left turn at Lofer Str. And cross the river. Just past the bridge on the right is a turnout that you can access the river at.
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