Upper Rauma and Lower Jori – High Levels in Norway

I woke up to the strange sounds of people talking and laughing very nearby the tent. The voices sounded unlike that of a Norwegian or Swede. A friend of Tuomas’, Jussi Tanskanen had arrived with two of his mates. They had driven up from Sjoa to join us for the day. Little did they know it would turn into a mini road trip.


Leon Bedford and Colin Furmston are two Tasmanian dudes who were both in Norway for the paddling season and out of the three, Colin was the only properly employed river guide. Leon and Jussi are freelance guides. In fact, Jussi is Finland’s first and only full on kayak bum. He is well known amongst his mates and loves his paddling more than anything else. Jussi has spent time working with Colin in Iceland as well as Australia and he has just come back from guiding for several months on the mighty White Nile in Uganda. Leon has only been paddling for about a year but paddles far better than most people that have been at it for more than five years! Colin and Jussi are world class paddlers and it was really good to have had the opportunity to paddle with guys this skilled. Both on an off the water, everybody was great. We couldn’t have had a better group.


The famous Norwegian trolls...


A shop in Dombås with a typical grass covered roof.


The plan for the day was to paddle the notorious Upper Rauma, a four to five kilometer section consisting of class IV and V rapids. Even though the rapids are not easy, the almost pool drop type nature makes it a little less intimidating and scary. Well, that’s what Tuomas told me anyway. On arrival to the river we were faced with very high water levels. The river was just a little more than bank full, running through the trees a little on the side. I took this as not a good thing. It would be interesting to say the least!


The first portage of the day.


One of the first big rapids has two different options as there is an island in the middle. We checked out the left option but it was way too wild and then ferried to the right to have a look there. It too looked very pushy and narrow and no one wanted to give it a go. Tuomas said he has seen videos of some of his mates running it at normal levels and it didn’t look too bad at all. I guessed then that portaging would be the order of the day.


The high water would make all the rapids far more challenging. In fact the high water would bring the usually challenging rapids into a whole new level. So right off the bat I’d like to mention that we cannot even consider ourselves to have run the Upper Rauma because of the amount of rapids we portaged. Looking back, we shouldn’t even have gotten onto the river. The guide book says if it looks bony at the take-out then it’s at a good level for your first run. It looked wild and full on when we left the car there! Well, we did it and ran the odd drop. At least we know what it’s all about for next time.


The next rapid looked juicing and Jussi and Colin went first. Tuomas went next but had a small hiccup and leant too hard into the first diagonal and went right over. He thought the diagonal would be far ‘harder’ and be able to take a brace but it was pretty soft and fluffy. Leon went next and I took some video of him with his camera. He got to the end smiling and he offered to take some stills of me. I nervously got into my boat and lined up. In the first photo you can see how worried I look! Haha. I charged the rapid and managed it quite easily but then right at the end the small hole there upset my balance and over I went. A quick roll and I was back on track. The rapid looked huge and wild but if you were on line it was pretty smooth and easy. I would have felt a little different if I had messed it up, no doubt about that.


Tuomas making a slight miscalculation on the diagonal.


Adrian looking bloody nervous! Photo by Leon Bedford.


Adrian managing nicely until just above the last small hole... Photos by Leon Bedford.


A few hundred meters downstream is a small bridge and a large keeper hole just beyond it. Tuomas and I got out to scout but Jussi and Colin just ran it, but on the far left. They had taken the chicken line. I wondered why. We were discussing sneaking the hole on far river right where there was a very narrow window. It looked quite possible. While we were having a look, Leon went next but didn’t go as left as the other two. He went left of the hole but it just sucked him straight in and a solid beating ensued. I had never seen anyone do front loops, back loops, felix’s, all the freestyle moves, but in a creek boat. It was awesome to watch and I clicked away with the camera while Tuomas started climbing down the bank with a throw bag. Eventually Leon started to flush and on a roll attempt he swallowed some water and then bailed immediately. Luckily there was a big pool after the rapid. I could sense a bootie beer coming on! He was in there for ages... After seeing what that hole could do we both opted for the same chicken line that Jussi and Colin had run. No point in tempting fate...


Jussi wisely taking the chicken line to avoid the nasty hole. (not shown in the photo)


Leon getting creamed in the hole he was initially trying to skirt. It looks small from high up...


Around the next bend was an awesome drop, roughly two and a half to three meters in height a moderately easy lead in. Too bad the hole at the base of the drop looked, well, how to put it, terminal? The hydraulic at the bottom was incredibly bad and you really would not want to go in there. Colin ran it first and styled the boof on the far right. Jussi went next and had the same awesome line; a solid boof stroke on the left, away from the hole and right into the eddy. They made it look easy but we weren’t fooled. A mistake here would punish you. No one else ran it.


Colin easily making the line.


Jussi also styling the same drop!


The water moved swiftly from this drop and towards and island. We chose right and the guys in front went first, without scouting. There was a parking lot on the right bank and it was crowded with curious tourists clutching onto their most prized possession, the digital camera. We all ran it without scouting and there were no problems. It was a feisty rapid, a real crowd pleaser and got my adrenalin pumping big time.


Next up was the Little Huka Falls, a usually fun rapid with a solid entry. Leon and I opted to portage on the right while the others had a look at the entry. It turned out to be looking very tricky and when we got to the main drop which resembles the Huka Falls in New Zealand, albeit a smaller version, we opted to portage it too. The hole formed at the bottom was incredibly aerated and it was pulling back from a far way. As a swimmer in there your chances would not be good. It would be quite possible to drown in something like that. Even with an awesome boof the chances of making it didn’t outweigh the risk involved. Too bad the water levels were so damn high. Needless to say there were no takers.


The entry to Little Huka Falls.


Little Huka Falls.


Tuomas, Colin and Leon having a look at the Little Huka. (from left)


Below the Little Huka we came to a serious section of rapids. The boys had heard that Marianne Saether and Tyler Curtis had run the chicken line on the far right at high levels. Say what? Well, that was enough for me and I opted to portage all of them and run a narrower channel on the left, after a really nasty hole. Some of the others ran the extreme left chicken line on the first one. Portaged the next one and ran some other rapids that I couldn’t clearly see on the far right channel. I was satisfied with my decision though and didn’t miss out on much action.


Another nasty, recirculating hole.


A sneaky but dodgy chicken line by Colin.


One of the last rapids.


An unknown paddler making his way down the final rapid.


The face of Jussi's says it all. Too much water!


The Upper Rauma section is a very short section and fairly typical of Norway. I would love to do it at normal levels and see what it’s all about. My personal recommendation is if it’s running very high and you’re not an extremely talented boater, don’t bother. Tuomas, Colin and Jussi are very good paddlers and even though Jussi has paddled rapids like Itanda on the Nile many times, even here, it was too much for the them.


With that done we paddled down to the take-out. Some people get off here already to avoid the long pool and boring rapids that follow but we carried on regardless. It wasn’t far in any case. Back at the cars Leon had a traditional bootie beer and we had a small bite to eat. They were talking about running another river and I thought what the hell, why not?


Leon enjoying his bootie beer!!!


Having at bite to eat at the take-out of the Upper Rauma.


The bridge at the take-out.


Very near to Dombås is the take-out for the Lower Jori and Tuomas and I had stopped here to have a look the day before. It was running very high and I checked on the gauge to see it running at 1.9m. The hole after the bridge was a real keeper and pushing up against a rock on the left causing more water to recirculated back. Not the kind of place you want to be. After the Upper Rauma we drove back towards Dombås and had a look again. Lower Jori it was!


The awesome roadside views going back towards the Jori.


Leon decided not to paddle and would be our shuttle driver. No one had done the section before except for Tuomas. He had an interesting story. Running it with a female friend she had had an early swim and subsequently they walked off. Hmmm, I was beginning to feel a little anxious about this one. A claimed 17 km of continuous class III and IV, with a volume of around 80 cumecs or so. Tuomas reckons the distance is far shorter but either way it’s a wild ride.


Let me explain the river to you. It’s actually very easy to describe. It starts off with a long flat pool from the put-in. You then start the first rapid. In total there are about four rapids with three small ‘pools’ of less than one hundred meters separating them. And that summarises the entire stretch! Get the picture?!


In my previous article I wrote that the Bua Canyon section dropped about 17.8 m/km and that the short Thrombosis Gorge section drops 12.5 m/km. Well the Lower Jori drops about 28.8 m/km. This is assuming that the section is less than the claimed 17 km, which it probably is. We completed the entire stretch by not scouting a single rapid and in just over an hour. It was the most intense section of river I have ever encountered. I have paddled rivers with far harder rapids but this was just constant maneuvering between holes, pourovers and the occasional rock. Never a break and demanding the utmost of concentration.


From the put-in bridge the river runs broad and fairly slowly. It is very deceptive and I enjoyed staring down at the river bottom below the hull of my boat as we lazily made our way down. It always looks far shallower than what it actually is. From the first rapid the river started dropping and never stopped until we finally climbed out. The guide book warns of a serious rapid, within the first kilometer, with a wide river wide hole in it and Tuomas also warned us about it. The level was high and in the old guide book it would have been considered too high, but not in the ‘new book’. I highly recommend you buy the book ‘Norway – The Whitewater Guide’ by Jens Klatt and Olaf Obsommer. I bought myself a copy later on in the trip and it is a very well presented book and an absolute must if you’re planning a trip there. Even if you never make it to Norway you will love the stories, river descriptions and the excellent photography.


The hole they talked about was probably one of the many large holes we had to skirt or punch and I really don’t remember it. There were just far too many. Because of the continuity of the river and the type of river bed there are no eddies to be found. On the easier class III type sections there are the some tiny eddies right next to the bank but trying to catch them you need to paddle away from the main flow of water and this can often take you away from the best line. Then, without warning the river would get steeper and all of sudden you had no choice but to go down. If you tried to make the bank you would probably be swept into what you’re trying to miss in the first place so it was far better to stay in the middle and go left or right from there. Your choice of line being governed by hazards and obstacles becoming apparent from the low viewing position of the boat. The bank would not have offered much help at this high level in any case. I remember going into a hole and emerging out the other side nice and vertical and throwing down a slap stroke, leaning forwards and starting to paddle hard forward. Jussi looked back and laughed as I had narrowly missed being eaten. Tuomas said I paddled it well that day and maybe I did but there were times when I wasn’t certain I would make my chosen line. Luckily the Solo I was paddling kept me on line and upright from start to finish.


A calm section of the Lower Jori leading into the biggest pool on the stretch.


The entire stretch down I was super worried that the river would get even steeper or we would be faced with a very gnarly rapid that we would have no choice but to boat scout as we bombed down. On every corner and above every horizon line the adrenalin surged through my body. It was a tense trip down and even Tuomas said it was an intense experience even though he had run far harder rivers. The continuity and speed of water, combined with the steep rapids made for a very nerve racking first time down. I would be far more relaxed in the knowledge that I can handle all of the rapids if I ran it again. But that run down was actually quite frightening. Swimming here would be a bad idea and foot entrapment or a flush drowning if you panicked would be likely. Not to mention a lost boat.


It’s funny how hazy my memory is about what happened but at one stage I almost went over going diagonally through a hole and I remember there being something bad in front of me where I wanted to remain upright and I braced fast and hard, aka emergency style, on my right. I felt my shoulder stretch and something crunched and immediately pain shot up my arm. Luckily I remained upright and carried on paddling away from whatever it was that I was trying to avoid. This happened around halfway down but I carried on until the take-out. That single moment changed the entire trip right there and then; a defining moment that would impact every aspect of the trip from there on.


When the take-out bridge came, it came as a relief almost. I was still shaking from the adrenalin and my shoulder hurt like hell. With great effort I made my way up from the river bank and got back to the car. It had been an exhilarating ride!


Th biggest pool on the stretch and the only time we got out to rest for two or three minutes. As usual, great scenery!


Back at home I am writing this story more than a month later. I eventually listened to my girlfriend and sought medical attention. The shoulder has been taped up for more than a week to prevent more movement and hence, more damage. It seems that I badly damaged most of, if not all of, the rotor cuff muscles in my shoulder. The tendons in the front of the deltoid have been overly stretched and damaged and where my clavicle joins my sternum is another problem. Lot’s of cracking noises and pain and discomfort. Let’s hope the painful massages, laser and ultrasonic treatment can put humpty dumpty back together again pretty soon!


The day had been long and full of excitement. We drove back to Dombås and made some food and climbed into the tent. I lay awake for a long time that night, just staring without seeing at the roof. Thoughts of how the injury would affect my paddling floated in and out of my mind. It turned out to be a long, long night and eventually it was time to wake up and make the best of the day that lay ahead. That was the only logical thing to do.






Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated. [I am sad to say that I only stopped once to take two photos on the Lower Jori. We just never stopped to make an effort and just bombed down. The nature of the river made taking any photos fairly difficult. Next time!]


Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Upper Driva (Norway)