ALPS 2024! News: international

Posted On 10th Jun 2024
Posted By Kayak
Author Richard Moran
Location Styria, Austria

Dear Reader, welcome to a short story of an Epic Trip of a lifetime. When the following words get put together: Adrenaline, Awesome people, Bad Haircuts, Tent life, Fast water, Sticky holes, Huge Waves, Smiling faces mixed with Fear and Excitement, it can only mean one thing, The ULKC is back in the Alps for some awesome kayaking and shenanigans. #ULKCAlps2024 

This year the club travelled on a maiden voyage to the Beautiful Styria Region of Austria with a basecamp in the picturesque mountain town of Wildaplen directly beside the Slalom section of the Crystal clear Salza white water river. 18 awesome people joined the trip led by our captain Isobel with an equal gender ratio, a milestone for the club on an annual trip like this. Our trips officer Lily and committee did such a great job organising everything that even a missed ferry only caused a blip and a few comedic punishments were issued later in the trip by the mob to balance the scales. More on that later.

When we arrived to Wildalpen, this was our home for the next 10 days, we pitched our tents the first evening surrounded by some beautiful mountains, the sound of the Salza river in the background only meters from us and the occasional shouts of UP, UP, UP. There happened to be a kayaking competition on the Salza the first few days and this was the phrase of encouragement locals used on repeat! We settled in for 8 days of kayaking to come with one rest day in between. 

The morning of Day one paddling we met our 3 professions instructors from FlowFree adventure company. Lowri (8 times world Freestyle Champion), Alex (Team Pyranha member) and Adam a season pro on the Salza from Poland with an obsession for Birds. We organised into 3 teams of 6 and we would keep these teams for the first 4 days of kayaking. I was on Team two with Lowri, Isobel, Chloe, Heather, Aysha and Calvin who joined us for days 2 to 4.

For day one we stayed on the Slalom section which had a few very interesting features. The entry rapid has a very nice rowdy play wave that is quite “Sticky”. After kayaking through it we approached from below, at first ferry gliding below before getting closer to its grasp where it would hold you and you would be surfing or capsizing or just about escaping! On one pass from right to left I thought I had made it through only for the wave to catch me from behind, pull me back in and send my bow skywards, I capsized and rolled back up but it got my respect! For the rest of the Slalom section we did some cool training with Lowri, catching eddies through waves and at the end of the Slalom is the biggest feature, a relatively small but powerful drop with very nice eddie catching possibilities. 

Each evening we had a rotating cooking group who got to show off their culinary skills for hungry paddlers. Nearly everything served up was great except for one meal that made Eve cry. Possibly another first for a ULKC trip. #Shlop. For the next 3 days kayaking, a factor that was coming more into play was a high level of rain and the Salza jumping to a very nice Medium level. Each day we paddled a bit further down the valley on the Salza and the thing that stood out to me was the sheer number of large bouncy wave trains rolling one after the other. After 5 previous Alps trips I can’t remember there being so many continuous rapids at that high water level compared to other Alps trips I have been on, which was frickin awesome! Along the way we stopped at one of the many surf waves to see who dares to try paddle in and catch the hold point. Over the days everyone was getting more confident and there was definitely some girl power showing with Heather, Chloe and Isobel taking turns to try surf on some of the bigger rapids.

Over the first half of the trip, our Food Gazebo nearly got blown away, we pranked our instructor Alex by hiding his kayak in a tree, we learned a cool Ninja warm up game that Isobel won in a dramatic Captain Vs Ex Captain finale with Aysha, We spectated the whitewater competition final (Bonus cheers for capsizing), made use of the Salza for mid-session rope rescue practice #RopeExpertCalvin, and had a nice Pizza evening at a local restaurant, I happened to miss the memo on that one that it doubled as a fancy clothes occasion!   

After our rest day our Instructors held a safety day for us on the Slalom section for day 5, time to get very wet. This involved both offensive and defensive swimming through rapids, practice of optimal boat rescues and various rope throwing techniques for roping in swimmers! Was great for everyone to have such excellent instructors in Lowri, Alex and Adam share their knowledge on this front.

Day 6 was an especially interesting day in Austria, we started by visiting a maybe 6 meter waterfall to potentially kayak off of this but on close inspection the entry line was not clean so this got abandoned. We then set off to the Enns river. Unlike the Salza this was a harder section with very strong rapids, needing a bomb proof roll and zero doubt in your mind. 7 members of the group took on this section led by our 3 instructors while the rest of us took a time out for a few hours. We spectated the first part which has what can be described in kayaking terms as a huge munchy hole. Everyone cleared this obstacle without much issue, some did it upside down but only momentarily.

For the afternoon we returned to basecamp to take on our next challenge, the 70 steps of a tributary river called Hinterwildalpenback that fed into the Salza just above the Slalom section. The 70 steps (Drops) ranged from .2 of a meter up to 3 meters in height. I was in a group with Lowri and Aaron for my go at this. At the time I thought the biggest drop was about 1 meter so I was pretty surprised when Lowri completely disappeared in front of me on a few of the drops! All good, somehow if felt like boofing was built into each step or just maybe everything was just going great. Either way it was an awesome section to paddle and something I have never encountered before in paddling with ULKC since 2012. 

Evening times had upgraded also thanks to our Senior Scout Leader Jill who is an expert in starting bonfires, we had a stone circle already setup next to our camping area, wood was plentiful and with the arrival of marshmallows and various musical playlists the warmth from the evening fire really felt like you were on an adventure in a mysterious new location surrounded by a lot of excellent human beings with a shared need for action and the outdoors. 

For the final two days of the trip we changed up the groups a bit. Adam was leading our group the final two days and his style was Dance moves warmup, encouraging leadership on the river and fine tuning eddie catching and other skills. The Salza had dropped down a bit and presented more defined lines with more rocks exposed in the river. Was a great learning experience for me and a different unique experience than previous trip to the alps.

On the final day in late afternoon after we finished the main river trip the majority of the group got back on the Slalom section to take turns surfing on the first rowdy play wave. Each Surf was met by a cheer by our kayaking buddies and there was some awesome displays of side surfing, spinning, rolling on that wave by the group, where was I, sitting on the bank filming and getting just as much fun watching. A trip is only as good as its people and the people on this trip where especially awesome:

To finish proceedings on the Trip we had Kangaroo Court, A chance to air any grievances to the court for ironic punishments, notable court sentences included Odran mandatory Tomahawk display and general mob rule that everyone is guilty and should do a funny punishment . I did one myself, also a first for me on an Alps trip. I have been on some really life changing Alps trips in the past, 5 of them but number 6 has been my favourite to date. It was a privilege to be invited on this trip with an awesome Club and great bunch of paddlers. Cheers for sticking around to read my story. Peace. Richie

ULKC Alps Class of 2024: 

Isobel, Thomas, Lily, Aaron, Chloe, Orlagh, Odran, Feargal, Paul, Heather, Calvin, Eve, Podge, Oisin Laura, Jill, Richie, Lowri, Alex, Adam.

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