2011 Packrafting in the Alps

Places Austria. Rivers Salza & Gail
Time & length April, 7 days
Partners solo trip
Looking at my upcoming time in Alaska I wanted to improve my packrafting skills a bit. Therefore I rafted on two nice rivers in the Alps which wasn’t as hard as expected due to the relatively low water levels. This also includes some hiking with my friend Eva.
I love my packraft like no other piece of gear. In summer 2010 I had already done some easy rafting on the Nenana River in Alaska but I wanted to go a step further and learn more about working my boat down a stream. Alaska has some wild and crazy rivers, that’s for sure. And I wanted to be as well prepared as possible which is why I contacted Uwe Felix from Wildalpen, a town in the Austrian Alps. Uwe has done lots of whitewater rafting and sea kayaking in his life, now he works as a professional rafting instructor and he guided me for two days on the Salza River.

The weather was good in early April. Unfortunately we hadn’t had much snow in the past winter so the water levels weren’t as high as they usually are in spring. We paddled some rapids classified as level II and III, which doesn’t bother my little packraft at all. After Uwe returned to another group of rafters I felt confident enough to now paddle this river alone. Some people criticized me for that: they say you should never go rafting alone, it’s way too dangerous. Well, I never act rashly on my outdoor activities but yes, I have to take some risks. What would be left here if I would always hedge my bets?

After rafting this river twice I went on to the Gail River in Carinthia, Southern Austria. The upper Gail is one of the Alps last wild rivers and indeed it flows through a scenic narrow gorge, so rafting there is pretty nice. I did this twice as well without any major problems – in fact I wished it would have been a little more challenging since I really wanted to push my limits before flying over to Alaska. But still, I had a lot of fun and learned many things. I learned how to safely navigate through rapids and different channels, how to avoid undercuttings and to paddle without too much effort: accurately and efficiently. I tried a few things and got more experienced.

Before I returned back home I did some hiking together with my friend Eva. Together we pitched our tents up in the mountains on the Austrian-Italian border and had a nice barbeque under the stars of an April night.