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The Devil's Slide

As some of you will know each spring I try to spend as much time paddling in Val Sesia (Italy) as I can. This is because there is a great variety of rivers available and pretty reliable water levels, as well as a very kayaker-friendly campsite at Campertogno and usually a great crown of paddlers around for most of May. There are also some other great areas not too far from Val Sesia, such as Valle d’Aosta and Valle Verzasca (Ticino). With the right river levels you will not be disappointed!

Val Sesia had very typical Spring weather this year, which is basically a mixture of hot sunny days and relentless heavy rain storms! There was a large mixture of water levels throughout May, meaning there was always a good variety of paddling to be done.

One particular day, whilst heading back to camp after a day of work we decided to check water levels on the Sorba River. This was two days before my birthday and that day I received the best early birthday present- primo Devil’s Slide levels!

I had been interested in the Devil’s Slide, also known as the Sawmill Cataract, for a couple of years. In this time I have been awaiting ideal water levels and developing my skill level, as it is a challenging and serious section of whitewater. 

We had a strong crew, as well as a solid safety team. Myself, Pete Woods, Jake Holland and Aleix Salvat Cuevas scouted the rapid from river level, then ran one by one. 

Despite it’s name, it is much more than just a slide. The crux moves include a boof into freefall, followed by a fast exit of the cauldron hole, ideally on river right away from the caved out wall, then a couple of crucial paddle strokes to avoid the large undercut on river right. All whilst traveling incredibly fast!

All of us had great lines and got to the bottom pool safely. Big thanks to all the boys for doing a great job with safety and filming. 

Next on the cards is my adventure to Russia at the end of June. Here we plan on paddling remote multi-day rivers of challenging whitewater, with long hike-ins and difficult portaging. The next few weeks will consist of lots of training in preparation for which will be my hardest trip yet. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Follow Sal’s adventures on Instagram: Sal.montgomery, and Facebook


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