University exams for most people were over and done meaning we could set off on our road trip to Italy! Dave and I packed up the car and set off, catching the ferry and making our way through France, briefly stopping at a slalom campsite for the night (locating the unimpressed and disgruntled owners so we could pay at 8pm) before deciding to get on with the journey rather than waiting for the course to turn on the next morning.
We eventually arrived in Val Sesia, to pouring rain at 2am, pitched our tent (again campsite owner unimpressed, but this time we didn’t wake them up, just told them in the morning… can’t win!) and woke up several times during the night due to having pitched in a lake…
After hanging our sleeping bags up to dry the next morning we decided it was time to go paddling!
Due to all the rain the Sesia was huge! We decided to ‘start off easy’ and put on the Middle Sesia, I swam ~100m downstream, and ran the rest of the river down the bank whilst Dave went boat chasing. Whilst my boat was retrieved, my paddles were lost, so not an ideal start to the trip! Luckily I had brought spares, and we decided we’d paddle the Lower Sesia (even easier) tomorrow instead.
Dave’s friends Vince, James and Paddy had arrived by this point so we had a slightly more sensible group size. The Lower went mostly to plan with no swims, although a few hairy moments, with ginormous pour-overs and trees being narrowly avoided.
Luckily after this the levels started to drop off a bit, as I rather worried I wouldn’t be able to paddle very much due to everything being pretty scary!
The rest of the trip included the Val Sesia festival, in which I entered the Open boater-X, in which I came second (due to there being a grand total of two people…) and won myself a nice pair of red elbow pads and last year’s t-shirt.
We paddled the Upper (alpine sprint), Middle and Lower Sesia, the Gronda, the Lower Sermenza, and the Lower Mastallone. The boys also paddled the Sesia Gorge, the Sorba slides, the Egua and the Landwasser waterfall.
Although I paddled some of the hardest white water I have ever paddled in Italy, I spent a good deal of time feeling nervous and uncomfortable on the water, and lost a lot of confidence due to swimming a lot or deciding not run things. Overall, I’d like to return to Italy in a few years time when I feel like I would enjoy the whitewater there a little more, and find it slightly less intimidating. (Luckily I then headed over to the French Alps in Argentière to recover!)