Gåsvasselva - A Northern Norwegian Creek

After a night of luxury sleeping on a double bunk bed (at the top) it was time to get up and get moving. All nine of us would be paddling that day. My throat was strangely a little sore but otherwise I felt alright. I had rested up for quite a few days and had given yesterdays paddle a skip. The day ought to be good.


We drove further north under Tuomas’ navigation skills until we got to the put-in. Allow me to try and set the scene. It was coldish and overcast yet the water that flowed next to the road looked clear and inviting. We could only catch a glimpse of it at the take-out and again at the put-in. What lay between was a mystery to us. Tuomas and some of his mates had run this section once before but the rest of us looked forward to something new.


A short climb down a steep and rocky embankment and we were at river level. The water was fairly cold and I’d guess the temperature at around five degrees Celsius. The rivers in Scandinavia are very clear but this river seemed exceptionally clear. The river bottom appeared so close to ones hull but a jab down with the paddle revealed that it was far deeper than what it looked.


The first rapid went down without a hitch. It was a short slide ending with a shelf type drop if memory serves me correctly. From there on it was almost just a blur of great water and good times. The section is about five kilometres long and boasts fantastic class III and IV rapids. There are very small pools between the action and the majority of the run is continuous.


Adrian (left) running a small ledge type drop with Samuli (right) looking on. Photo by Juho Vaarala.


Somewhere along the line a rapid with a few largish boulders ended with a small but sticky hole at the end. Everyone went through fine but Satu had the misfortune of getting stuck. She held on for a long time trying to get out but could not. Eventually she bailed and made it to shore smiling and none the worse for wear.


More rapids followed and I remember scouting one rapid briefly. The scout wasn’t too successful and all we could see was that it looked alright. So someone, I think Samuli, went first and probed it. Without further ado we bombed down and everyone survived.


Many more rapids followed and it was a real pleasure to be paddling that day. Steep walls kept us company on your journey through this canyon type gorge. The river was super clear and some of the rocks below us where as white as the bones of some long dead animal. Like white ghosts these sheets of rocks would pass beneath our meagre vessels as we commandeered them through the maw. Ok, ok enough pirate talk.


Eventually we came to the big slide that Tuomas had told us about and there was no doubt that this was a good one. I eyed it out very carefully and we all discussed the variety of lines until we came to the realisation that the line left of centre was the best. The photos do it no justice and I’m not even sure if I brought my camera with that day. I could have but chances are good that it was raining from time to time. Usually my memory is razor sharp when it comes to running rivers but this day seems to evade me even now. There are not many photos of this river... Next time!


Tuomas Vaarala on the big slide. Photo by Juho Vaarala.


Adrian on the same slide and right one line! The slide looks a lot smaller from this angle... Photo by Juho Vaarala.


It doesn’t really matter because everyone made it down ok with some dodgy lines and eventually I decided I would run it. My line was spot on for a change and I felt mighty relieved to have made it intact to the bottom. It seemed so easy but then again certain rapids are not that difficult to run. You line up at the top and then just control the boat as it bounces on down. A good, fast run either way.


From the slide onwards there were a couple more fun rapids and then it flattened out for the last few hundred metres as we made our way to the take-out. The water was just a swift moving lake almost and the river bottom clearly visible. The thought of whipping out a fly rod preyed strongly on my mind as I climbed out of the boat and made my way to the car. It has been a short but very sweet river. You won’t find this river in any guide book but if you’re in Northern Norway make a plan to come and paddle it.


It was time to say good bye to some of my new found friends as they parted and went south to better weather and a good time on the Sjoa. Samuli, Aapo, Satu and Jussi parted company and drove off into the sunset. Ok, so it wasn’t actually a sunset as it never set and the clouds wouldn’t allow you to even guess what time of day it was anyway. Yup, that’s the only nit on being this far north - bad weather.


The view from our camp.


Our camp with the tent sauna clearly visible. Note the chimney just sticking out at the back.


The perfect sleeping place for my baby.


The view back onto the camp.


Everyone enjoying the warmth of the fire.


Sami cutting wood for the sauna.


Again we climbed into the cars and Tuomas and I in his car, Juho and Mikael in Juho’s and Sami, Mirkka and of course their dog Nalle, in theirs. We drove even further north to Trofors and then east to Hattfjelldal. Then just a little further on we arrived at the Unkervatnet. A spectacular and peaceful lake with a river, the Unkerelva, running out of it right where we camped. I couldn’t have asked for a better camping spot.

Sami erected his tent sauna and we fired it up. By midnight it was ready and we enjoyed a steaming hot sauna in the middle of nowhere. At about 00:30 I climbed out and went for a lekker naked swim in the freezing cold lake. Armed with a wee bit of body wash (yes, this is not the most environmentally friendly thing to do) I had a brief wash down as did Juho. It was the best ‘bath’ I had ever had and one I will remember for the rest of my days. The dim light of the midnight sun and breathless air made for a lake that held the reflection of the sky on its mirror like surface. With not a sound to be heard expect for the stones under my bare feet, I walked back to the camp to get dressed and get ready for bed. I really think I should have been born many years ago so that I could roam the earth naked and enjoy the peace and solitude of the silence that these days is so hard to find. Oh well, too bad for clothes and the fact that silence is actually hard to come by these days.


Sami tending to the tent sauna! YEAH!!!!


Nalle, the Alaskan Malamute.


A midnight snack that Sami had caught!


After midnight and time to nod off to dream land, or was I there already?


At 01:30 I drifted off to bed in the tent that I was sharing with Mikael. Sleep came quickly and deeply. It had been a good day that had ended off perfectly. Another day in Norway




     H20 PADDLES


Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Krutåga, Northern Norway