The Wellerbrücke rapids are one of the most difficult white water sections in the world – called the Eiger North Wall of kayaking. The adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship take place on a 200 m course. The competitors have to master a gradient of 10%. The difficulties are between class V (extremely difficult) and class VI (only runnable under ideal circumstances) according to the international standard from class I to class VI.
THE QUALIFICATION COURSE
Start: The eddy river right around 8 m above the 3 m exit drop of the Wellerbruecke "The Champions' Killer"
Finish: Put in for the Slalom Course (near the steps)
Difficulty: "The Champions' Killer" class IV, rest of the course class III
Length: around 270m
THE FINAL COURSE
1) "SEAL LAUNCH", 6m gradient
2) "MANDATORY LINE", 3m gradient, entry cataract to the core section
3) "TNT RAPID", 5m gradient, core section with a S turn
4) "CHAMPIONS KILLER -1", the hole above the real Champions Killer
5) "CHAMPIONS KILLER", 3m exit drop
River Oetz/ Wellerbrücke section – The Eiger North Wall of kayaking
There are a couple of white water rivers in the Alps which are known from its myth. Their mere names let kayakers shiver in reverence. So it’s quite natural that at least 90% of all kayakers have already heard of the Wellerbrücke section of the River Oetz. Many of them have had the opportunity to take a look at it. But only a few kayakers have ever put in their kayaks at the bridge of Habichen, below the infamous Ach falls.
A long, long time ago, a huge mountain slide blocked the Oetz valley forming a lake. When this lake overflowed it lead to a series of cataracts, the so-called Ach falls. In former times, these falls were only traffic obstacles on the way to the upper valley. But with rising tourism they became sights. A hiking trail and a bridge-walk, the so-called Wellerbrücke, were built. Then, at some stage, the first white water kayakers came to have a closer look at the Wellerbrücke section. Since its first descent in 1976 the Wellerbrücke saw numerous runs at all kinds of water levels. And despite a lot of changes due to floods it has remained one of the outstanding challenges in alpine kayaking.
At the beginning, the river flows quite calmly along but after the first corner the heat is on: suddenly, the gradient rises enormously. The following section seems to be a wild stairway with one drop after the other between one and three metres. At the end of this part you should turn right into a side line. Otherwise you bomb right into the core rapid.
Put in: road bridge Habichen
Take out: entrance lower Oetz
Difficulties: WW V-VI
Text: Nils Kagel, www.soulboater.com