The Grand Canyon of the Verdon is unique in every way possible. It's dimensions, beauty and mystery will leave a lasting impression deep in your soul. A place so majestic and out of the ordinary that will leave you breathless. However, with its beauty come a myriad of dangers hidden around every corner. The sculptured limestone that gives the gorge its unique beauty is also its curse. Sieves, undercuts and syphons are counted by dozens and a guide that knows the gorge is advised even for experienced paddlers. Yet, the whitewater is not even that hard with only a handful of rapids that actually reach class IV. On top of that, our guide Quim knows the lines and secrets of the gorge well and will help you navigate safely down this geological maze.
At the put in of Couloir Samson, 25km of whitewater, 3 river-wide syphons, and two underground passages separate us from our destination. An Odyssey that deserves the category of expedition. An exclusive experience of the highest standard. A river trip unlike any other, that will remain in your memory forever.
FLY IN/OUT & PICK UPS
We can pick you up, provide transport and sort accommodation on demand. The closest airport to fly to is the airport of Marseille Provence, only 2h away from Verdon.
D-DAY -1 (21.09.2023)
The group will meet in a restaurant the evening before the descent. It will be a great time to get to know each other, share past experiences and prepare for the big day ahead whilst we savour a fine French dinner and wine. We will go over the expected schedule of the day, talk about all of the important markers that we will encounter; from our put in at Couloir Samson, the 25km of whitewater that follow, to the last 4km of paddling the artificial lake before finally reaching the take out. We will go over some descriptions and pictures of the key rapids and dangers as well as our strategy to safely navigate through them. We will also talk about river safety and communication as well as logistics. After dessert it will be time to get some quality rest before the big day.
If everything goes well, we take a lunch break and the time to take pictures, it takes about 6h-8h to complete
At 7:45AM we will meet at the take out near the Galetas Bridge. We will load our kayaks onto the EWWS van and drive for about 45minutes to the put in at Couloir Samson.
We must be changed and ready to start paddling at 9:00AM. The first km already gives you a good taste of the river as we navigate through the stunning Point Sublime. The first shots and slaloms around giant limestone boulders will help you to warm up, although your senses may well be fully awake and mesmerised with the grandiosity of the place.
After this first section in a box canyon the run eases for a few km down to class II and you will have plenty of time to admire the incredible rock formations and the scale of the gorge. The river remains relatively open and clear of obstacles as we reach the confluence of the Artuby, here the river turns sharply but still remains calm for a few more km.
Exactly 10km after the put in we will reach the metallic bridge called Passarelle d'Estellier, under which a rapid of the same name awaits, signalling the start of the harder whitewater. This rapid marks a point of no-return and is one of the few easy access or exit points. Past this point the whitewater gets significantly more serious and committing. We will likely use the beach before the bridge to have a break.
Once the river narrows down to the width of a boat, you will be sure to have reached the pool above the Styx, the first of the underground rapids. Not much further ahead lies the famous Imbut, an even darker, more committing, longer underground rapid that ends in a portage. We will have a lunch break around this stunning area to reenergise our bodies.
At this point we have reached the peak of Verdon awesomeness, the beauty is glorious and the isolation oppressing. A few more class IV rapids and 2 more river-wide syphons requiring mandatory portages remain ahead of us, we must maintain the concentration until we reach the lake.
Once in the lake, we will need to paddle another 5km dodging pedalos, sit on tops and SUPs all the way to the take out as we discuss the myriad of adventures of a day we will remember. After sorting shuttle, we can look at going to the restaurant to celebrate a safe passage of the Verdon Gorge.
TRIP FEE - 395,00€
· Expert guiding & safety to run the Verdon Gorge by Quim Fontané.
· Detailed briefing about the descent, safety measures and strategy the evening before the descent.
YOU WILL ALSO NEED
· Flights, in case you need to fly in or out. If necessary, we can arrange a pick up.
· Lunchs & Dinners.
· 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.
HOW HARD IS THE WHITEWATER IN THE GORGE?
Really, the whitewater is not that hard, with only a few class IV rapids and a lot of class II-III in between. The only thing is that because there are so many undercuts and syphons the exposure to these dangers is high. This is precisely why almost anyone having ran the gorge will actively encourage you to use a guide. In conclusion, the isolation of the gorge as well as its hazardous geology make this a committing and serious trip that requires solid steering technique to make the shots, stop at the right places or make the right ferries. A solid roll is also required.
WHAT BOAT & GEAR SHOULD I BE BRINGING WITH ME?
A creekboat or a half-slice would be our weapon of choice for the Verdon. You will also need gear of a good safety standard; a safety PFD, grippy shoes, whistle, river knife, throwline, cowtail...
You will also need a small drybag to bring your snacks and lunch as well as a bottle with water.
IT IS A BIT OF A PAIN TO FLY WITH THE CREEKBOAT. CAN I RENT?
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.
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.