It was last year, when Robert Machacek and Daniel Egger took a quick look after some heavy rain showers, and were surprised to find a runnable looking gorge and drop (however they were not prepared and the water was a bit too low). Since then, the thought of the highest yet to be run waterfall in a kayak in Austria was set in our mind. Every now and then after rainshowers we took a look - always finding a too low looking drop.
After some really heavy rainshowers this year (flood in all the country), I knew there had to be water in there. On Sunday I tried to take a look, and found the biggest stout I have ever seen in Austria. The water was still too high though, so I organzied a group of people to take a look at the next day. Also Mirja, a professional photographer, knew of our attempt and was happy to be on board.
|scouting the day before|
At the first look our impressions were mixed. It looked runnable, but the sheer power of the water and drop itself made everyone in the round quiet. Also a look from the other side revealled a scary looking wall on river right, and a big pillow that pushed behind the curtain. We left Bernie, who did not intend to run the drop, as safety on the river left, and walked up the little trail to take a look at the waterfall from the top. I know the trails and the put-ins very well, because I was in there as a canyoning guide very often already. Looking at it from 10 meters above was just overwhelming. All of us saw a line and knew where we wanted to be, if we deceided to run the drop. The entry was just 10 meters before the lip and around a blind corner, which made the whole thing pretty tricky ...
My brother Chris deceided to stay at the bottom to do safety in his kayak and to be able to keep an eye on that right wall. Matt and I returned to our boats at the bottom and started to carry up our boats. Both of us were still unsure, so we took another 20 minutes of scouting and discussing. We both had the same line in mind, and started sitting down to talk about whether this was a good idea or not. We talked about the risk and the worst case scenarios. A lot of stuff went through my head. At the end, I knew that Matt would not go first anyway, since I was the Austrian and he Welsh, and he would not "steal" this First Descent from me. I was not sure if I liked this thought or not. In the end, I felt pretty good, had good conditions and good safety. If there was a time to run, it was now. I put in and waited for the others to get in position. I visualized my moves and my line another time, and then eddied out. People asked me what you think in that moment, knowing 10 meters around the corner is an 80 feet waterfall and you can´t stop anymore. But at that time you have to be commited and concentrated, from here on you just do it - no more thinking.
|trying to catch the curler, all shots from Matt Wales|
|holy shit :) - trying to geht the nose down|
I tried to throw my weight forward as quickly as possible, but had no chance at all. The nose came up even more and it felt like the wind would push against me. In these few seconds I thought about breaking my back and preparing myself for a fucking hard impact. I let myself fall to the side and could avoid landing on the boat. I let go of my paddle in the last seconds and landed sideways in the water. I got sucked out of my boat immediately and popped out. I felt some pain in my back and ribs, and thought of the worst. I swam to the rocks very carefully and calmed down to see what was wrong. As I could stand up, I knew my back couldnt be broken. However my ribs felt strange, and I knew something was not really OK.
|the shot from Mirja shows the full scale of the drop|