Norway is a whitewater paradise but there is still some days a need to go somewhere else, escape home, go exotic, have a mini break, cross the border. On such days I drive to Sweden. The swedish roads cruises through endless forests and lakes. The swedish people are a reward of learning norwegian as you can totally understand each others if willing to and appreciate the sound of this language so close yet not the same. Another big thing is the pic-nic that is part of the trip and can be as advanced as actually taking the gasburner in your kayak to make a proper lunch on a scenic isolated beach in a canyon of some mysterious river.
And, yes, it is not perfect as anything real. The dark side of swedish trip are the mosquitos in the summer, while in the autumn the unpleasant surprise comes more from the Cold when you leave Trondheim seaside on a sunny lovely day light hearted and meet a wall of ice and snow when you cross the border and record minus temperatures at nights.
There are 3 very special places in Sweden that deserve attention from whitewater daydreamers.
North Sweden has the terrible Gaustaelva, located in Stekenjokk in Klimpfjäll. It is only 10 km from the norwegian border. This fairytale landscape is pictured in the swedish classic 1984 movie “Ronja Röverdatter”. One day, someone stole eggs of a local magnificent bird. As a reaction, the authority closed the access to protect nature. That yet didn’t discourage the intrepid kayakers to secretly put in the river, a team of local kayakers who knew the river well. The flow was tremendously high, wich was a threat until boats got lost and paddles broken… The disgraced crew had to humbly walk out of the river. The local sheriff didn’t put more blame on them as they appeared miserable on the forbidden road, and let them go safe back home. The river has virtually everything : low canyons, waterfalls, steep and continuous rapids, intimidating and playful ones. The water is deeply blue and the entire scenery chockingly beautiful when you take a second to breathe and look around. I went first there in summer time july 2014, Simen this fantastic local kayaker was going and offered to join, I coudln’t miss such a chance. Erik was there too, he had been driving 15 hours straigth, he told me he had been dreaming of running it his all life, it was one of his reasons to get serious about kayaking. Erik is a very fine navigator who trained slalom for 10 years and consistently choose difficult lines and makes them look easy. Fredrik was there too, I learned from him the river his nationally acknowledged as the very best in the country, not to say, in the universe. We happily and more or less successfully read and runned it all following a fired up Simen who was so damn stocked to lead us down those marvellous grade 4 rapids. I did though wondered, especially when I entered the edge of a blind drop and saw cartwheeling friend at the bottom if this was class 4 at all. But we somehow, grace must be given back to luck and good stars too, made it all down in one piece with fantastic feeling. We had the ambitious plans to run it all in 1 day, while it is normally done in 2, the all run is about 15+ km. This didn’t work, though the day has been so rich that we couldn’t really hope it had more. Simen informed us as we finally went off the river at sunset that the flow was probably higher than it ever was done, it explained everything !
I went there again in autumn time a year later. Before starting we were remembering good memories from the river. “It was the best day of my life, I was totally terrified, I have never been so scared” came up at some point. That day though was normal flow, snow was falling it felt like a christmas gift, and we could safely run the bigger rapids too with fine control. I went there again in summer 2018. The sun was shining, we were just 2 and took our time, scouting and enjoying the place. The same season I went again, and remembering lines we could smoothly get down on an exciting speed. It is the kind of places that each time you go triggers the same magic emotions than the first time without alterations.
Middle Sweden, for the region of Jämtland or the east “suburb” of Trondheim includes Enan, forest creeks and waterfalls. Enan has big scenic impressive rapids, including a real cool 5+ m high waterfall. The water though powerful is technically not too demanding and steepness are nicely separated by calm water. Enan has been runned from 0 to 6 on the painted scale below the Enafors bridge which is take out, a nice medium flow is 2. If Enan is the classic many more rivers runs through the woods. Any enthusiastic adventurers can give a shout to the local community of Åre and go for some exciting and long forest walks, Västerån is probably the top-shelf run of the kind, a rollercoaster of high speed slides where it is all good to go though all real woaho isn’t it too scary-like. Majestuous waterfalls of Jämtland are another reasons to make the trip. There is the not-yet-runned Tännforsen who offers a fascinating view for any humane being, be it a kayaker or not. The water quantity dropping is massive, and the 40 m high drop all setup is one of those natural miracle you cannot forget. There is a constant rainbow flying over the drop downstream side. As any waterfalls, you can observe the moisture that the drop creates all around and sense how much life is created in this natural life special surroundings. The other major waterfall near Are is Ristafallet that is scenic from both sides of the island, river left being a castle of rocks and river right a perfect Niagara-like waterfall. It has been once runned left, a precise and demanding line is mandatory. But mostly it has been runned river right, many more times than the impressive look of this 13 meter freefall and challenging entrance let imagine.
South Sweden is the kingdom of style and slalom, where Falu kanoklubb has pushed the sport forward in Scandinavia and sended for the first time a Swedish to the Olympics in 2016, Isak Öhrström. There is a slalom section on Dala Floda arranged by an old mill, the rapids are 2-3 and both technically interesting and scenic. There are 2 slalom sections in Falun. The first and historical one is easier rapids on the local river, grade 2. The second slalom section in Falun is the new artificial whitewater park who opened in 2018, first of his kind and Scandinavia developped by Falu kanoklubb vision and comittment. Rapids are powered by a pump and the course offer demanding fast water that keeps the expert challenged. The park was sponsored by crow funding and has the vision of being sustainable by welcoming both sportsmen and a large public for a first time experience of how addictive is whitewater.
Thank you so much – or as we say in Sweden “Tack så mycket” for reading those lines and may you have the chance who knows to visit beautiful Sweden !