Piteälven – The Creeking Delta


From the camp we had made on the Gaustaälven we drove up alongside the river further upstream and had a look at the impressive waterfall there called the Gaustafallet. This beast has been run before but I doubt at high levels like this. The water was very, very high and the usually class V rapids on this section were really juicing. Tuomas said we would return here after the Euro Cup and hopefully the level would have dropped. Looking at the large amounts of snow in the area I remained doubtful of any dropping water levels.

From there Tuomas, Jussi and I took a long, long drive deeper into Sweden until sometime during the evening we arrived at the mighty Piteälven (Pite River). The camp site was a few hundred metres below the final large slide of the creeking delta and just upstream of the Paltvalsen (Palt wave) where the freestyle competition would be held. Between the two extremes is a very broad section of river that looks like a placid lake but is actually moving along all the time. It is a fantastic site for camping spot and a great spot to unwind and just chill out. This section is known as the Trollforsarna, or ‘Troll Rapids’.


The last drop on the Gaustaälven (lower section - there is a middle and upper section too!) and the view from our camp site.


The clean and clear water of the Gaustaälven taken from our camp site.


The Gaustafallet.


The Gaustafallet.


Jussi in a small shelter at the Gaustafallet.


The put-in (on the right) of the upper section of the Gaustaälven.


Easy section between the maelstrom on the Upper Gaustaälven. No climbing out on river right...


One of the first rapids that would be the scene of some good carnage later on in the trip. DON'T miss that article. The Gaustaälven is an awesome river in Sweden and one not to be missed for those skilled enough.


We drove past the Kultsjöån again and checked out another short section. This is upstream of the bridge.


Kultsjöån again. Downstream of the bridge.


A roadside map of the area.


I met up with the whole Finnish crowd and was pleasantly surprised at their friendliness towards me from the word go. They are simple people that I think would call a spade a spade. You know exactly where you stand and I really like that. There is no doubt that the Finnish camp had the most atmosphere during the festival and the tent sauna was a real winner!!! More on that later… I was pleased that I was with Tuomas and knew that it would an interesting experience to be camping with a bunch of Finns and learning more about the way they see life and their thinking. Given the choice to change the trip, I wouldn’t have changed that I went with Tuomas for anything in the world. A truly awesome guy on and off of the water, very constant and even tempered, just like the other Finns I met and interacted with. It was very relaxing to be there and I needed to chill out and stop worrying about my paddling for a while.


It was Tuesday the 3rd of July and we had already spent eleven nights out on the road. For the next few days we would park off here and just take it very easy. Well, I would anyway. With my shoulder nicely injured and some shocking paddling from me, I would be taking a bit of time off here. The Sjoa went a little bit better so when Tuomas, Jussi and Mikael (Mikael Lantto) said they were going off to paddle the creeking delta that same afternoon, I thought, what the hell. Let’s see how it goes. The damage has been done and even more damage will just mean more recovery, hopefully.


We got a lift up to the put-in and starting walking through the ‘bush’. The mozzies came out in full force again. In this area they were there in huge numbers, again, and very intent on feeding on us. The narrow footpath through the flat terrain was easy going and after a few short minutes we got to the put-in. The far side of the river was more than one hundred metres away although it looked very peaceful and slow moving. The river here is very broad and divides into a number of channels. The far right channel is only for the very brave and consists of serious class V+ and VI rapids. It is not run very often at all. We paddled the standard, middle route.


There were one or two small rapids and then the first proper one. We climbed out to scout, mainly for my benefit, as I was the only one who had never run this section before. It looked interesting with a big rock in the middle with a hole in front of it. Not the place to want to end up in. Mikael went first, following by Jussi. Jussi made a small mistake and ended up in front of the rock for a brief moment and then rolled up to enter the bottom hole sideways. It worked him for a short while but he emerged easily and smiling. Nothing seems to bother Jussi. I went next and made my line cleanly. Phew, the first drop was done and I was feeling a little bit more confident. The pain killers I had been munching seemed to be helping quite a bit. I got some photos of Tuomas as he also made it easily and on we went.


Jussi making a rare mistake but coming out smiling, like usual.


Adrian making it easily in the green Solo and trying out my new helmet for the first time. Luckily no need to fully test it... Photos by Tuomas Vaarala.


Tuomas also styling the first one and about the punch the bottom hole in this last shot.


There is a small drop with a very sticky hole immediately below that and we all made it cleanly. Then there are a number of smaller drops that twist and turn with some holes every now and then and then we arrived at one of the largest rapids. There are two options to enter this rapid and we took the left. Two small holes on the lead in, some swift moving water and then you either ride up and left with the rooster tail or punch it and go straight. Miku went first again and hit a rock hard, right at the end, on the left. Jussi decided it would be better to go over the rooster tail/diagonal thing and went straight. I walked back up to my boat and took a line similar to his. No problems what so ever and I felt quite satisfied with my run.


Mikael easily running this tricky rapid and finishing it off on the left.


Jussi deciding it would be wiser to finish it off on the right.


Downstream from here is the so called ‘auto-boof’ which is easy to run and good fun. They said we’d run the auto part of it the next day so without scouting we ran it on the right, in the meat and it went down without any problems. More rapids follow and from here is where they ran the boater cross event - a really poor choice for the event, in my opinion, but more on that in the next article. After the very short and easy boater cross stretch is a drop with a sticky hole and an undercut rock on the right, some fast flowing water and then another hole. We all made this section cleanly, everyone having perfect lines, again. From here on it’s pretty simple to the last slide.


The final slide came up and there is the right and left option. We ran right as it is a little easier and the others would run left after the team boater cross a little later, more on that in another article. I watched Jussi and Mikael run the slide. It looked easy, but fast and a good ride! Tuomas went in front of me and then I watched him for a little while and then peeled out and headed down. The slide was very good fun and I managed to get a little air off of one rock. A fairly simple slide, but heaps of fun and it makes great footage. If you went upside down the fun would end very quickly, there is no doubt about that. Do not attempt if you are a total beginner. The chances of hurting yourself are reasonably great if you mess up.


Jussi styling the last slide. What a fun ride.


Mikael also on the final slide just before Tuomas and I also had awesome runs down there. Good times...


I took a slow paddle down to the play wave at around 23:00.


Halfway to the Palt Wave at around 23:00.


The final obstacle is the big hole just above the foot bridge. We all made this one cleanly and it was a fitting end to a great section. Many people take the chicken run on the left but that defeats the point! In total the section is about 2 to 3 kilometres in length. My shoulder was feeling a little painful again but it had been well worth it, I thought. The four of us paddled down to the camp site and by then it must have been after nine at ‘night’ already. It had been a very long day of driving again and the paddle had sapped some more energy.


The Paltvalsen and a couple of guys training for the freestyle event.


Jussi getting rid of more energy in a borrowed boat.


Probably just before midnight and still the guys were surfing. Time meant nothing on this trip.


Our camp site at the darkest time of the day and everyone tucked away. It had been a very long but good day indeed!


A good meal and some rest was exactly what were needed. But before doing that I paddled down in my Solo to check out the play wave with Tuomas and Jussi, their enthusiasm for the event quite obvious. I settled in for the night and made myself comfortable in my new surroundings. Tomorrow would be another day. I wondered what would be in store for us as I listened to the incessant chattering of the other guys at the camp site. With my non-existent knowledge of Suomi I could only pick up the odd cuss word and a smile would cross my lips as the others would roar with laughter to whatever the story was saying. I felt at home even though I was clearly the odd one out. Sleep came easily.  





Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Piteälven - creeking delta (Sweden – boater cross event)