The Pyrenees offer some of the most iconic classic sections in Europe and spring is the best time to make the most of them. Join the EWWS for a week of great paddling and even better cuisine, exploring the great mountain range separating the Iberian Peninsula from continental Europe from east to west.
Our adventure will start in Catalonia, on the banks of the Noguera Pallaresa River. This valley has been, historically, buzzing with whitewater culture and is the beating heart of the whitewater community in the Pyrenees. The Noguera Pallaresa offers endless km of bouncy wave trains on its classic lower stretches and alpine continuous whitewater on its upper sections. We might also visit the Garona river, on the northern slopes of the range, flowing towards the Atlantic, a beautiful river with fun short gorges.
As we start moving west, the next valley we'll find is that of the Esera River. Esera is another river deeply rooted in the paddling culture of the Pyrenees. It's "Pyramid" section is justly famous and anther of the great classics, with massive conglomerate boulders constricting the river in a dry Mediterranean surrounding.
Even more to the west, in central Aragon, lies the undisputed pearl of the Pyrenees; the Ara River. You'd be able to recognise the turquoise waters of the Ara in any picture and the quality of the whitewater in the valley matches the beauty of the color of its water.
Finally, we will visit the Rio Gallego, the last of the major classics of the Pyrenees. The Gallego has unmatched scenery and it's famous "Embudo" rapid will give you the chills.
FLY IN/OUT & PICK UPS – Book your flight to Barcelona Airport (BCN) where we will pick you up with the EWWS van. You should look at flights the landing the 7th of June before 4:00PM. We will need to drive about 3h from the airport to our first destination; Sort.
DROP OFF – We will drop you off at Barcelona Airport (BCN) on the 14th of June. Aim to book your flight back home departing after 3:00PM. Please let us know if such option is not available to organise an alternative solution.
GAME PLAN - This is just to give you an idea of what we're planning to do. Be sure we will most likely not stick to this plan as we'll need to adapt to water levels and the level of skill of the group.
Day 1 - Pick up from the Airport and shuttle to our first base camp in Sort. It's a bit of a long drive but quite scenic route. We'll reach Sort late in the evening, but we might still have time to go for a drink in town.
Day 2 - Noguera "Classic". We will kick things up with the classic of all classics in the Pyrenees. This is the perfect test ground for us to assess your skills. The Noguera is one of the bigger rivers and it can get quite bouncy during the snowmelt. Yet, the whitewater is really friendly with big wave trains, no must make moves and only a couple bigger holes to dodge.
If you still have some energy in you we can paddle the scenic Collegats Gorge in the afternoon, an easier, but stunning piece of whitewater further down the valley, hiding a few magic spots.
Day 3 - Depending on how the previous day went we can either head to Upper Noguera (IV-IV+) or Garona III (IV-). These are very different in character, one of them packing some of the most continuous whitewater in the area, whilst the second one is a mellow run with a few highlights in the form of beautiful short gorges.
Day 4 - The group will start moving west to paddle the Esera. A few different sections are possible depending on the skill of the group. The Pyramides section is the highlight of the Valley and surely deserves a visit. In the evening we will have dinner in the beautiful plaza of Ainsa and visit the medieval fortress with amazing views to Monte Perdido.
Day 5 - Once you see the color of the water of the Ara River you will understand what is all the fuss about. It's just stunning! The Ara offers the most complete range of sections to be found and is completely free flowing, one of the last such rivers in the Pyrenees. From full on class V, to mellow II-III runs, there's paddling for all tastes here. Provably the Bujaruelo IV-V, Torla-Broto III-IV and Quartos de Fiscal Sections III (IV) deserve a special mention.
Day 6 - Wildcard day. Did you enjoy Ara and want to stay for an extra day? Maybe the famous tributary to Ara, the Forcos river is running? You are ready for a rest day and want to check out the National Park of Ordesa - Monte Perdido...
Day 7 - Final day on the river, and it is another gem! The Gallego is very different style of river and has a wide variety of styles of rapids. It starts with a couple gorges with some fair but pushy rapids, then further down it becomes a bit of a boulder labyrinth to finish off with some nice bouncy wave trains.
Day 8 - One last cafe con leche to prepare for the drive back to Barcelona. Until next time Pyrenees!
TRIP FEE - 1295,00€
· All transport from the pick up point at Barcelona Airport to drop off point at Barcelona Airport.
· Accommodation in cabins or airbnb-style accommodations (budgeted at 30-35€/night).
*It is possible to decrease the fee of the trip by 30€ per night if you come with your own transport and sort your own accommodation.
· Breakfast included in the form of self-service local, high quality products; cheese, honey, jamón, natural orange juice, bread & antipasti or going to the local bar.
· World class river guiding led by Quim Fontané & Agata Sobieraj.
· Complimentary EWWS Long Sleeve Thermal.
YOU WILL ASLO NEED
· Flights, in case you need to fly in or out at the beginning and end of the camp.
· Lunchs & Dinners; we will be eating in local bars & restaurants.
· Your own kayaking gear. If you don't have a creekboat the EWWS has a complete fleet of recent models for rent. Boats can be rent at a 25€/day fee.
· A suitable travel insurance.
· Entry to any paid tourist attractions or complimentary activities.
PYRENEES SOUND INTERESTING. AM I READY FOR THE CHALLENGE?
The Pyrenees offer endless opportunities from class II to class VI, so be sure we will find a river the suits your level of skills. Moreover, our coaches are dedicated to you 24/7, meaning that if levels of participants are very different, we will have no problem to run as many sections as deemed necessary to please everyone's appetite for action.
Really though, you will enjoy this trip most if you are solid at least on class III and have a decent roll - or are half-way there 🙂 FYI, Quim is a master at his craft, and can easily rescue you using the "HAND OF GOD" technique. You only need to stay calm, count to five "hippopotamus" and in 95% of the times you'll find yourself upright again - magic!
If this is your first time with the EWWS you'll likely be asked to provide footage of your paddling abilities so our team of coaches can assess whether this is an appropriate trip for you.
WHAT BOAT & GEAR SHOULD I BE BRINGING WITH ME?
A creekboat or a half-slice would be our weapon of choice for the Pyrenees.
Most of the classics are rather big and bouncy, but if you plan to ask us to guide you on some of the upper sections, you might want to bring a pair of elbow pads.
The water is cold as you will be paddling the Pyrenees during the snowmelt, a drysuit, jacket+drypants combo or long john wetsuit are strongly advised. Grippy shoes are also a must have.
HOW DOES THE ACCOMMODATION LOOK LIKE?
We will mostly stay in cabins in Campsites near the river or in airbnbs. The standard we like to provide is "cosy" without being luxury nor basic, this tends to be a nice compromise for everyone. If you look for a higher or more basic standard, we can deduct 30€/day from the fee so you can upgrade or downgrade your accommodation.
I DON’T HAVE A CREEKBOAT 🙁 WHAT NOW?
Not to worry, we can rent you a boat – We have a few Rexys, Zions, Black Jacks Tuteas and Queen of Hearts you can choose from. Let us know your body weight and dimensions and we will bring the one that will suit you the most. Rent starts at 25€/day.
WHAT'S THE MAIN LANGUAGE OF COMMUNICATION?
We will use english as the vehicular language of the trip, however Quim also speaks catalan, spanish and french whilst Agata speaks polish and catalan.
HOW DO I BOOK MY KAYAK ONTO MY FLIGHT?
It is generally easy to book your freestyle boat onto most airline companies. However, some companies have length limitations that would exclude most creekboats. It is important to read the sport baggage policies of the companies you are considering to fly with before booking your ticket. Here is a quick breakdown of the fares of various popular airlines:
Ryanair - 35€ for the regular Sports Equipment, 55€ for a Large Sports Item. It is possible to check in up to 2 Large Sport Items per person per flight. The maximum weight allowed is 20kg, but you might be allowed to fly paying an additional fee of 11€/kg up to 32kg. In general quite a friendly company for both freestyle and creekboats.
EasyJet - The fee is 55€ and only one item per passenger is allowed. You can check in your kayak without problems as kayaks are amongst the items that are allowed on the airline's sports baggage policy. Up to 32kgs. Friendly for both freestyle and creekboats.
Eurowings - Up to 32kg allowed, it has a cost of 50€. Generally a friendly company for both freestyle and creekboats.
Norwegian Airlines - Max dimensions stated on website are 250cmx79cmx112cm. This is more than enough for any freestyle boat and borderline for most modern creekboats. Likely that they would not care about 20cm extra as width and height of the kayaks are much less than their max allowance. 32kg max. weight allowance makes it a good company to chuck your kayaking gear inside your kayak :).
Cost is very reasonable at 30GBP (if booked online) or 50GBP directly at the counter.
Vueling - Kayaks are not on the allowed item list, but surfboards are. You will most likely not have any problems convincing the employees your kayak is actually a paddleboard. The weight limit is 32kg and the maximum length 270cm, which is good for all freestyle boats and many creekboats. The cost is 45€.
Lufthansa - Kayaks are not on the allowed item list, but surfboards are. You will most likely not have any problems convincing the employees your kayak is actually a paddleboard. The maximum length allowed is 3,15m and the maximum weight is 32kg so this is a creekboat-friendly company. The cost is quite elevated, at 70 - 150€ depending if it's a domestic flight or an international flight.
Aer Lingus - Kayaks are not on the allowed item list, but surfboards are. You will most likely not have any problems convincing the employees your kayak is actually a paddleboard. The maximum weight allowed is 23kg and maximum length is 240cm, so freestyle boats are a go, but it is not a friendly company for creekboats. The cost is 40€.
Wizz Air - Kayaks are not on the allowed item list, but surfboards are. You will most likely not have any problems convincing the employees your kayak is actually a paddleboard. A slightly odd company as the price depends on the season and it's higher during the summer months and lower during the winter. Not the most kayak friendly company so better to be avoided if you travel with your boat.
We highly recommend that you book your sports equipment in advance to avoid higher fees in the airport check in, or even worse, finding out that the flight is full and not being allowed to bring your kayak with you on board.
Also, packing your kayak nicely in a bag or using a "sock" for surfboards will maximise the chances that everything goes smoothly and that you don't have any problems.