Fiume Sermenza (Middle)
|Stretch:||From Piaggiogna to Boccioleto|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Distance:||1.25 miles (3 hours first time)|
|Flows:||~500 to 1,000 cfs|
|Gradient:||213 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Small dirt road near Piaggiogna|
|Take-out:||Parking area in Boccioleto|
|Shuttle:||1.5 miles (5 minutes)|
|Season:||Spring from rain/snowmelt|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #89|
Piemonte / Ticino 2014: Day 1
It is daunting to start typing when I have 16 new write-ups to do all from one trip. But now that I have finished the videos for the trip, there isn’t a whole lot I can do to procrastinate any longer. Sigh…
Ok, so this trip came about after I had seen some pictures of both the Verzasca and the Ribo some 7 or 8 years ago. I became intrigued and developed the desire to go. In 2012 I tried to organize friends to go but the group fell through, instead I ended up going to Japan that year and met Yoshi Takahashi, who would in a weird twist of fates would participate on the trip this go around. Also on the trip were Diane Gaydos, David Maurier, Emme King, Kevin Smith, and for a brief period of time, Laura Farrell. Once there, we met up with some friends of mine from Austria, Reiner and Harry Glanz, their cousin Lorenz, and their future cousin in law Jürgen. To add to it, a Canadian who helped David and Laura with their boats, Evan Parent joined for a week. Additionally, our German friend Thomas Dimke whom we met in Japan also joined us for a week, along with his friend Sebastian Betz. To say the least… it was a big group. Some days found us with 13 folks at put-in. Of course we tried to split into smaller groups, but inevitably groups would catch up at scouts/portages/carnage. But how often do you get to boat with friends from 6 different countries day in and day out?
So, we flew from San Fransisco to New York, had a 11 hour layover where Diane and Emme went into the city and I stayed at the airport to sleep having been to the city before. Emme then had a direct from New York to Milan (MXP) while Diane and I had to connect to Rome. With our plane leaving 20 minutes late, I was sure that we were going to get hosed with our 50 minute connection time in which we had to go through customs. Imagine our surprise when as we exit the plane there is an Alitalia representative there waiting for us telling us to follow her as we take off running in the airport, go around customs, and are ushered onto the plane just in time. Great service!
Once we landed, we headed to Carcare near Genoa for a family gathering of mine. Over 50 distant cousins came out to visit. My mom and dad also happened to be in Europe at this time, which was nice because my mom’s Italian is fluent… and mine is far less so. Anyways, after a night of feasting we stayed at a cousins flat on the Riviera in Pietra Ligure. The next morning we awoke early and drove to the Val Sesia to meet the team.
Meeting at a coffee shop in Balmuccia, it was obvious that the Sermenza would be the plan for the day as Balmuccia is the small town where the Sermenza joins the Sesia. After coffee we all drive up to put in. After unloading our boats it dawns on us that we are missing the Austrians but before too long Reiner comes down and tells us that there is an additional few kilometers upstream that we could run that is supposed to be good, and perhaps a little harder. Some new Swiss friends of ours relate to us that someone died on this section less than two weeks prior. We put it to a vote and decide to head upriver, perhaps not a great choice on 5 hours of sleep in the prior 48 hours and for a group that was almost entirely in new boats. No warm up here!
The run starts off almost immediately with steep boulder gardens in a tight canyon. There is a lot of scouting, and for many several portages right of the bat. After 5 rapids or so, the canyon opens up and you think it will likely start to get easier. Only, in that open section there are just as steep, and less clean rapids. Easy to scout and walk if so desired. It was near this point, two in the group decided it wasn’t their cup of tea and easily walked up to the road to head down to the lower section. Below the open section, it quickly tightens back up. You are welcomed by one massive rapid that is also very consequential. We walked it on the right with a weird seal launch. Below, several power rapids lead to a large pour over that only two in our group stepped up for. Even with great lines they both still got stopped pretty hard. No thanks! Below the river eases up down to the large ledge that marks the lower run.
I think this run would be great once you know it. With our recent travels though, the exertion of the scouting and non-mandatory portaging took its toll and I think everyone walked away with a worse opinion of this run than it deserved. The scenery in the canyons was really nice. The rapids were sievy, but the moves were unique and fun. I thought that the flow we had was pretty ideal for the section. It looked low at put-in but once you entered the canyons the rapids constricted and became powerful. I do not remember anytime in the hard sections thinking… “I wish we had more water.”
After paddling this section we continued down through the Lower Sermenza. After the run, the Austrians headed over for a Grondo and Sorba lap. At the time I was too tired to join. In hindsight though I wish I had gone as we did not go back to those rivers as they reported them to be low. But their video of it still looked like a lot of fun! Oh well, something to return for!
- Skate Boof (IV). So this rapid ended up not bad… but first rapid in new boats and being horribly jet lagged we decided to pass. Also there was a large sive 2 foot away form the line… we didn’t know that would be a theme. The line was down the left onto the rock, slide and boof off.
Down the Right (IV to IV+). This one had a ramp lead in to a right turn and a boof over a hole. There was also a sieve at the bottom on the right.
Portage (V+). Perhaps someone could sell it and make it look great… but the left looked horrible amongst rocks and the right looked promising but upon further inspection 2/3rds of the water went under the rock. Portage left.
Boofs (IV+ to V-). This was one of the best ones on the run. The entry was a little junky, I have seen it at even lower flows and people pin. We ran down the left leading to a river wide boof in the middle. At our flows we exited far left. At lower flows that completely sieves out and you want to get right.
More Boofs (IV+). One boogie rapid leads to another fun rapid with a great boof right above a shelf rock. Be careful as the left side is sieved out. Go up and over the shelf and slide off the back.
- Opens Up (IV+). The river distinctly opens up and falls over a rocky cascade. Our group ran the left and boofed the middle. At low flows this is a pile of rock. Scout and portage if you want left.
Ledge (IV). A sweet boof standing about 6 feet tall. Run down the middle. At higher flow you may want to set safety here.
House Rapid (V). The rapid did not look great, a tricky lead in to a large hole immediately in front of a sieved out boulder pile. Half the group ran it and styled it, the other half portaged with a little effort on the right.
- Garden of the Gods (V to V+). One small hole leads to the largest rapid of the run. This thing was huge. We scouted from the middle island. It was big and dangerous with one huge undercut and sieves downstream. It gets run at lower flow though. We portaged and launched in on the right of the bottom island. And quickly got out to scout again.
Garden Exit (IV+ to V-). This rapid was also big with several moves to make. Scout on the right/ Enter in the middle and drive to the center where the river makes a sharp turn to the right, hit the cushion and make the turn. Straighten up for the exit hole after the river zigs back.
Bigger Balls Than I (IV+ to V). So how do you make one boof a class V? By seeing two great lines with marginal results… it is a big hole at this flow. At lower flow it looks much much mellower. Just boof the far left. We scouted from the island and portaged on the right by passing boats off the island.
Some boogies begins and continues to take-out.
Directions: Use the GPS locations to get yourself to put-in and take-out… below is just the extra little info you may need
Put-in is at 45°49'48.0"N 8°05'39.8"E. A kilometer or so up from Bioclioleto you will see a small road drop off to the right, follow this for 100 yards down to the water. If you get to Piaggiogna you went a little too far.
Take-out is at 45°49'46.3"N 8°06'51.3"E. As you enter Biocioleto look for a left turn on a paved road that drops quickly down to a packing area. This is take-out.
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