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Packraft Adventure Challenge, Salza, 2018

Packrafting down the Salza river

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!

European Packrafting Meet-up at the Salza
Green waters and blue skies accompanied our way down the Salza river.

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!

Packrafting Safety course certified by Rescue3
Swimming through a rapid during the Rescue3 Whitewater Rescue course
Eric in the Alpacka Caribou packrafting down Salza river
First time packrafting, not a bad start!

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 ūüėČ

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‚ā¨ 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

 

During the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure Challenge

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:

Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Vertical Rescue training during the Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced course.
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Practicing how to cross shallow waters during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro course.
Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Getting your knots right during the Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Boat on a highline during the Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced
Boat on a highline during the Rescue3 WRTA Whitewater Rescue Technician Advanced course.
Night training during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Night training during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Night search & rescue scenario during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Night search & rescue scenario during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro course.
Night search & rescue scenario during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Night search & rescue scenario during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro course.
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Great weather for swimming training during the Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro course.
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Rescue scenario of an injured paddler during Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro course.
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro
Rescue3 WRT-PRO Whitewater Rescue Technician Pro

 

More photos of the Packraft Adventure Challenge Meet-up:

During the Packraft Adventure Challenge European Packrafring Meet-up
Happy first time packrafter!
During the Packraft Adventure Challenge European Packrafring Meet-up
Lunch break on the river bank
During the Packraft Adventure Challenge European Packrafring Meet-up
Packing, ready, go!

During the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure Challenge at the SalzaAlpacka Caribou During the Packraft Adventure Challenge European Packrafring Meet-upAlpacka Gnu During the Packraft Adventure Challenge European Packrafring MeetupDuring the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure Challenge

During the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure Challenge
Crystal clear Salza water

During the European Packrafting Meetup Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure ChallengeDuring the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure Challenge at the SalzaDuring the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure Challenge at the Salza

During the European Packrafting Meet-up Packraft Adventure Challenge

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Packrafting Oulanka National Park, Finland

Alpacka Forager packraft testing

I had long been curious about Finnish culture with its rich outdoor history.

I had heard rumors of a beautiful country with some amazing and very large wilderness areas to explore. Finland is one of the largest countries in Europe and also the most sparsely populated. Living in Austria I was starting to miss the backcountry that I loved so much when we were in New Zealand and was looking forward to getting back to some wild places and exploring more remote rivers again.

Backcountry packrafting river
There is something special, almost intangible about being in a remote and wild location.

I was lucky enough to have some dates coincide and was able to spend two weeks paddling in Finland.

The first week was with good friend Mark Hirst of Lapin Koskikoulu.

Mark has decades of experience as an expedition kayaker and raft guide, he is also an IRF instructor and is the Rescue 3 instructor and the Rescue 3 training provider for Finland. He runs some of the best WRT (Whitewater Rescue Technician) courses available so it was a pleasure to be able to work with him again, no matter how many WRT courses I do, I always learn more.

Mark was running his courses out of Base Camp Oulanka, and he had told me the place was pretty awesome, wild and remote, and that we would be paddling some class 2/3 rivers so I was eager to check the place out.

Basecamp Oulanka National Park
Basecamp Oulanka

In short I was blown away by how awesome Base Camp Oulanka and the Oulanka national park is for packrafting.

It is literally packrafting paradise.

Packrafting Finland several Alpacka packrafts on the river

Situated just below the Arctic circle, and sharing a border with Russia the national park covers some 270km2 of wilderness area. It is composed of birch and pine forests with many lakes and rivers and varying whitewater sections.

Sunset at shore after packrafting adventures

The trail network and system of free Lavvus (bivy huts) and fireplaces make it easy to access the more remote parts of the park by foot or packraft. Base Camp provides the ideal starting point or base for packrafting missions.

Next up was the Finnish Packrafting Meetup.

This was organized by Caj and Jari and was set up in two parts. The first part was two days of whitewater safety training run by Jari. It is really good to see the emphasis on river safety that Packrafting Meet Ups are providing and the awareness of the need for whitewater rescue training they are promoting. Also the format safety training first and then paddling together works really well.

Paddling Finlands river in the Alpacka Forager

The second part of the meet up brought us back to Oulanka National Park, and another visit to Base Camp. Every now and then in our journey through life we stumble upon truly special places, Base Camp is one of those places. All in all it was a great trip, and I am really looking forward to to the next trip.

Alpacka Gnarwhal packraft in action
Gnarwhal in action

Finland, and the Oulanka National Park provide an awesome opportunity for wilderness packrafting trips within Europe.

Base Camp Oulanka has Alpacka packrafts available for demo and rental and they have a team of experienced and professional guides who are currently exploring the potential of the area and designing some packraft courses and expeditions for 2019. This will make is is even easier for people to be able to explore this truly unique and beautiful wilderness area.

Feel free to get in touch with them for local knowledge or guided trips!

Happy grin after paddling the Alpacka Forager
Happy grin after paddling the Forager

Some more impressions from the trip below:

Packrafting FinlandCaj paddling the Alpacka Forager raftAlpacka Gnarwhal packraft in river rapidFinnish packrafting meet-upWilderness gourmet cuisinePackrafting Meetup FinlandPackrafting Meetup FinlandPackrafting Meetup FinlandPackrafting Meetup FinlandFinnish packrafting roundupAlpacka Forager packraft