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The River That Keeps On Giving

It’s 7.30 pm, you’ve made it only ¼ of the way down the river in the past 2.5 hours, and no one has done the river before. What do you do?

On a trip to Osterdalen a few weeks ago, a group of 6 of us set off to do the Hira river. We didn’t know a huge amount about it, other than it was 12km of class 3-4 creeking. I think there’s something pretty special about doing a river that no one knows and finding your own way down, it really adds to the adventure! After doing the 23km Middle Atna in 2.5 hours in the morning, we set off at 5 pm for a quick evening blast down the river.

Starting off as a narrow ditch on flat moorland at the top of the valley, the Hira gives no sign of the drops and slides hidden below. Your only hint is the steep gradient from the shuttle drive. After some winding sections with small, blind rapids, and a slight concern of trees in the river, we reached the first proper horizon line – an 8-foot boof with a shallow lead-in. My line was not the cleanest, with a shallow lead in making it difficult for me to get a good boof, but I made it down and set up to take photos of the rest of the group.

Matt launching off the first drop. Photo: Glen Martin

The Hira continued in this manner, with easier in-between rapids interspersed by drops and bigger rapids. 6 people was definitely a big group for the river especially with all the scouting required. We were moving slowly, with some added photo faff, and after a couple of hours I checked where we were on my phone. We had only made it about 2km down the 12km stretch of river! It was time to get moving…

One of the trickier rapids on the river: a manky entry drop into a boily eddy line which you had to power through to line up for this drop, before the river narrowed and pushed into the left wall. Photo: Glen Martin

On reaching a bridge that marked the quarter-way point, I voiced my concerns with the group. The only information we had to go on was a video that a few people had watched, which finished after the last drop we had paddled. So that meant the action was over, right? But that didn’t sit well with me – why would anyone paddle 9km flat water when there was an easy take out right there?

The “last drop” on the river, according to the video.

The choice had to be made – either we got out and walked 3km back to the cars at the put-in, or we carried on and accepted that we could be in for a pretty late night! Thankfully the lack of darkness in the Norwegian summer makes the choice to continue a lot less stressful, the decision we made, and on we went. 

The rest of the river was amazing. It was filled with drops and slides, clean boofs and mank, and long flat sections to regroup and make some distance. Just when you thought there couldn’t be anymore, you would round a corner to another horizon line. Although the river was probably the lower side of good, pretty much all of the rapids were good to go and we were rewarded by slide after slide and rapid after rapid of joy. I’d also prefer the river to bit a bit low and a bit high for the first time down, given the nature of the run and the small size of the eddies!

Scouting with the setting sun was a bit more challenging! At least it doesn’t actually get dark though. Photo: Glen Martin

Although the river was incredible, I have to say I was pretty happy to round the corner at 10.30 pm to see the takeout bridge. Exhausted and elated at the same time, we ran the shuttle, drove to camp, and enjoyed a well-earned beer! 

Osterdalen is an area not frequently visited by foreign kayakers because it is an early-season area, and the rivers are too low for most of the summer. However, it is a beautiful area filled with class 3-4 rivers which are perfect for aspiring creek boaters. It is very different from the “super-gnar” associated with Norway and I would highly recommend the area to any class 3/4 paddler.

Dream team! Kayaking is always better with friends.