When we were talking at the Soca packrafting meet-up in May, we loved the idea of having a second meet-up this year, and doing it journey style, making our way down a river, staying at different campgrounds and carrying our gear with us.
Back then, we weren’t really sure if it could be done logistically and if there was time to prepare it, but it just happened and worked out great!
We started on the Salza river at the Wildalpen campground, right in front of the slalom course and the wave (notorious for holding packrafts). On Friday, those who were interested, participated in the first ever 1 day Rescue 3 Europe WRTF course (Whitewater Rescue Technician Foundation). We had pushed hard for the creation of this course and Rescue 3 Europe agreed. It was created to give those new to whitewater, especially packrafters and SUPers, a foundation in whitewater knowledge and basic rescue skills.
Late afternoon and evening everybody else arrived and after some meet & greet we gathered around the fire and enjoyed some beers and packrafting talk. The group was smaller than at the Soca event, but still very international, with participants from 7 countries! For 3 paddlers, it would be the first time on whitewater, and what better way to get started than surrounded by other packrafters and after gaining confidence, swimming through a rapid during the rescue course on Friday!
Saturday started early, tents needed to be packed up and a long distance on the river awaited us. Mark Hirst, one of the most experienced Rescue 3 Europe instructors, and owner of Lapin Koskikoulu (Rescue 3 Europe training provider in Finland) joined us for the Rescue courses and gave a short presentation on river assessment skills.
At about 10am with the weather still overcast, we left camp and started making our way downstream. Some decided to run the big rapid to start with, but miraculously no raft got stuck although there were some close calls 😉
15km of pristine river, surrounded by nature and packrafting friends awaited us! By noon, the skies started clearing up and it turned into a picture perfect Indian summer day. The Salza offered a few rapids and plenty of eddies to play around. Flows had improved significantly with lots of rain the week before.
At around 4, we arrived at the Erzgraben take out and went to an idyllic Campground nearby. Dinner was organised at the restaurant next to the campground with typical Austrian Schnitzel on the menu!
Sunday morning we woke up to fog, camp breakfast and a presentation of Mark about expedition preparation and destination highlights for each month of the year. Certainly fuelled my thirst for adventure and packrafting travels!
Soon the sun broke through the autumn fog and with clear blue skies we made our way back on the river to tackle the canyon section of the Salza. Seon and Mark ran safety for the canyon section and everybody made it through in one piece!
We took out at Saggraben and enjoyed a well deserved lunch together. Afterwards a shuttle brought us all the way back to Wildalpen where we had left our cars. Time seemed to have flown past and a weekend packed with action had come to an end.
Looking forward to seeing new and old friends again at the Soca Meet-up next year in May!
A HUGE thanks to everyone who attended, together we managed to raise and donate 180€ to the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, for more info about how you can help save Europes last wild rivers click here: https://balkanrivers.net/en
Pre-register for the 2019 European Packrafting Meet-up at the Soca here: www.packraftingmeetupeurope.com
More information on Rescue 3 Europe certified Whitewater Rescue Training courses for packrafters here: www.packrafteurope.com/rescue-3/
More pics of the Rescue courses that took place before and after the Meet-up:
More photos of the Packraft Adventure Challenge Meet-up: