Fiume Verzasca (Lower)
|Stretch:||Lucifer’s Slide to the first dam|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Gradient:||137 fpm average|
|Put-in:||At Lucifer’s Slide… or below the waterfall. In Aquino|
|Take-out:||A few hundred yards above the dam, trail to turnout on the road|
|Shuttle:||2 miles (5 minutes)|
|Season:||Spring from rain/snowmelt|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #92|
Piemonte / Ticino 2014: Day 7 (evening), 9 (evening), and 10 (evening
Simply put, one of the best runs I have done so far in any country. The only downsides are the short length and the proximity to civilization. But, the scenery of that civilization juxtaposed with the scenery of the valley is actually quite nice. Especially being from the states where you don’t get villages that are 500 years old or more, and churches overlooking the canyons, nor roman bridges spanning the waters below. The part of this run that is the special is the quality of the rapids, the character of the rapids, and the downright crystal clear appearance of the water, all pinched between granite canyon walls. From the moment you seal launch in below the waterfall, there is one rapid after the other formed by granite with an occasional boulder to avoid. The holes that form are big enough to keep you honest, but not so big to instil a deep fear. Just the big, splashy, challenging white water that is oh so hard to come by for any real length on a river.
Some of the A-gamers will take a look at the waterfall at put in. this consequential falls gets run with regularity but walked far more often. If run, set safety on the caves. Below is the famous “Snail” rapid that has been seen in countless photos. Further downstream you get to a popular sun bathing spot where you run a 20 foot tall rapid with boofs and slides to negotiate. Further downstream as the river gets between a set of tight walls, some big boulder gardens appear before another quick potential portage. Downstream, more rapids await full of boofs, multi move boulder gardens, and slides to take you all the way to take-out. I literally cannot describe how nice this run is. Our first time down, with scouting and video it took over 4 hours. Each of the subsequent laps were under 25 minutes but left smiles on our faces for the remainder of the evening. If you are going to Italy or Switzerland… this one has to be on your list, it was one of the three rivers that inspired me to plan my whole trip in the first place, and man it did not disappoint.
Also check out the Glanz brothers' (Harry and Reiner) blog for more outstanding pics from this trip
These rapids all have names, however I don’t know any of them cept Lucifer’s and the Snail.
- Lucifer’s Slide (V). This rapid is harder than the middle so it is not often run as part of that, and since most portage the waterfall, those doing just the lower put in below the falls, resulting in less frequent runs of this rapid. We ran it our first day and didn’t have great success. Some of us drove left and slide down the ridge of rock into the fold below… resulting in window shades for all but two of us. The last in our group drove hard right and went around the fold… definitely the cleaner and safer line. I hit my head super hard, lost my gopro and nearly broke both hands while window-shading in the fold.
Waterfall (V+). I honestly didn’t look at the drop. It gets run, there is a cave… be careful.
- The Snail (IV). A nice warm up just below the put-in seal launch. This drop is famous for its unique nature, bedrock twisting fold coming off the left wall. So fun. There is a small hole in the exit too just an FYI.
Junky (IV). Just below is one quick junky rapid that you want to start right and stay far right in the main (center) channel. Some of the water melts off to the left and into an overhanging rock.
Sieve (IV). Some will portage this sieve, but we found a nice line directly over the sieve. On the left side of the river, enter and boof right of center on the ledge, landing pointing 90 degrees to the right. At higher flow you can go in the right channel around the sieve and smear a rock in the middle around a pin rock. You then enter a mellow gorge for more than a quarter mile with some fun smaller boofs.
- Island (IV+ to V). Go left when the river splits just below the roman bridge. The rapid starts down a hundred yards. The first part can be run anywhere, but eddy out left just below. We ran the rapid in a small channel on the left, boofing 90 degrees to the right. Below either we moved back out into the main current or used a small channel moving back left to the small pool below.
Video has shots
Slide (V-). Immediately below the island drop is a slide that looks big but dang it is fun! There are lots of lines to choose from... The first day the group ran down the right side of the slide. The trips after we ran down the left which dropped you through one small hole in the middle, and another good size hole just above a large hole. They all flushed though so it was just good old fun. The right side slid down around all the holes. You can also exit far left if you want.
Video has shots
Some boogie leads to the next set.
- Rock Slide (IV+). When the island splits again, scout on the right or just work down the left side of the river. The crux is really easy from that side as you just go from flat water and go through a slot and you are on top of the rock that forms the slide into the boof below… plus this gives you right angle which lands you away from the bad undercut below on the left. There is also a line entering on the right of the island and driving to the center to get on the rock… this exposes you to the nasty right side if you were to mess up though.
Just Below (IV+). Just below is a fun rapid that we ran starting down the left and working back hard right in the middle. A few ended up getting pushed left so they stayed left the whole way, it was fine but rockier.
- Portage (V+). Just below that is a portage on the right… for most. The rapid is run occasionally, it is a ramp to a kicker with all sorts of hazards, not the least of which is the chance of ending up in a hungry pocked on the left. Portage up to the canyon rim (30 feet) and then back down.
Slide Boogie (IV to IV+). After one small ledge that is run anywhere, you get to a cool slide rapid. Start right and drive left across the top, avoiding the hole in the middle. Then turn back right to avoid the hole on the left… but not so far right that you find the hole on the right at the bottom. Scout left.
- Big Drop (V). This rapid is long! It starts with some boogie that you can eddy hope down and scout on the right. Once at the lip of the main drop, you want to boof the far right side of the ledge, then drive back left. However be aware that the left wall is undercut and can cause problems… so give it room. At the bottom you want to be driving hard left to get a bit of a boof in a weird pinch ledge. Plenty of our runs missed the boof and we would plug and spin and brush rocks. Still really fun though. Super fun actually.
- Double Drop (IV+). So just two boofs, but make sure you hit them. Especially the second one! Scout and set safety on the right. The first boof is far right with a left stroke, the second is far left with a right stroke.
Exit Drop (IV+ to V-). Three tiers, the first is a slide with a pocket on the left… it is worth setting safety for it. Run right and hit the kicker to clear the hole. The second and third tiers are down the middle. Apparently this rapid used to be worse and have a sieve at the bottom on the right. Take out just below.
Directions: Use the GPS locations to get yourself to put-in and take-out… below is just the extra little info you may need
Take-out: It will be easier to just go to the top, then turn around and find the small creek with turns outs on either side of the road. The turn outs are obvious… and it is at a little creek under the road. There is a trail up just at the end of the guard rail.
Put-in: As you drive up the valley, you will pass the town of Lavertezzo which is river side right in the meat of the lower section of the river. Continue just a short ways upstream to the large gravel parking lot. This is put-in. Head out the top of the parking area to run Lucifer’s or find the trail just out the bottom of the lot to put in below the waterfall. Make sure you pay to park…
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