Date: 24 Jul 1997
 From: Andreev Nikita 

A story about the trip
down to the Ragusha River 26.04.97 - 4.05.97

     Dear  friends,  hopefully  modern  technology will develop
fast and we'll have an opportunity  to  find  more  information
about  good  hiking  and rafting not only in old reports but on
World Wide Web also.

     We've wrote the report in English in order to be sure that
you will not have any problem with encoding. You  can  get  any
additional  info  from Nikita Andreev at +7 812 3266509 or from
Mikhail Melnikov at +7 812 5289117. Our e-mail  is
ats21@infopro.spb.su

     Attempting  to give support to kayakers looking for
interesting Spring trips we present you:


REPORT ABOUT THE TRIP DOWN THE RAGUSHA RIVER 26.04.97 - 4.05.97

St. Petersburg                                  20-June-97
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    General information

Ragusha river is located in the south-east of St. Petersburg Region, about 300 km from St. Petersburg. You need 10 - 11 days including one day to get to the river and one day to get out of there. We did it in 9 days (7 of them were active). Seasonning - it is interesting if you catch a high water level otherwise you may have difficulties in the canyon. (It's very possible to get in trouble there at a high water level also but it's just what you are looking for!). We estimated the 5-km canyon as a IV-V cat. River. Mainly - due to a number of hazardous trees' trunks in the fast stream. The situation was aggravated by the lack of edges that make mooring rather problematic even for an experienced kayaker. Other parts of Ragusha do not represent any problem or danger. Generally speaking the river is rather amazing. Most convenient way of transportation for a small group (we were 6) - mini-van or another kind of motorvehicule but please keep in mind that you will need a tractor for the last 15 - 20 km if you are to start from the lake. The tractor can be hired easily in Dregly village. If you are going to use your own car you probably can leave it for a week in Boksitogorsk. If you are still interested in more details you can read our own story in the attached file c:/ragusha/ragusha.txt

    Start

We hired a mini-van Ford Transit in St. Petersburg. It costed us approx. $300,00 for the round trip. The bus dropped us at Dregly village on 26.03.97 and picked us up from the road near the Ragusha's confluence into the Vologeba river in the morning of 4.06.97. Dregly village is located on the way from Boksitogorsk to Nebolchy. Last 20 km it was a pretty dirty road. It was impossible to get to Lake Nikulinskoye from this village by any transport except for the tractor or helicopter. We chose the first one due to availability and reasonable cost (USD 10). A guy who drove the "Belarus" tractor picked us up about 3 a.m. (!) 27.06.97. and we've rushed up to the lake through the Snow Land that was lighted up by cool and bright moonlight. It was a real fun to keep your body and a number of kayaks, bags and rucksacks on the frozen steel-upholstered platform that was hauled by the tractor. Night temperature was about minus five and our kayaks and the platform were covered by hoar-frost. We were dropped 5 km before the lake and after a short sleep we started our 5-km work towards the issue of Ragusha. Polyethylene kayaks were leaded by rope as a sledge. The lake was covered with ice and we crossed it by foot. Frankly speaking this weather situation made us a little bit nervous. Fortunately the issue of the river was clear from ice, the weather was beautiful and next morning we slipped down into the river in our boats and started to paddle along the winding corridor. I consider this river as a very good spring drill. It's upper part (app. 40 km) runs through the beautiful wild forest. For all that there were not so many fallen trees that can block your way completely. We had several opportunities to jump down from the dams created by beavers and it delighted us up to certain extent. Even this part of the trip ensured us that polyethylene kayaks have a lot of advantages even on small calm rivers. For instance it was no problem to cross a wooden trunk that was coming out of the water for 20 cm using HTP kayak. And it was rather problematic to do it in a collapsible one. I'm not talking about damages that may occur with collapsible boat after such exercises! Besides this it's rather convenient to sit down in your boat on the bank and than slip down into the water. In most cases it's possible only for HTP kayaks. It's no doubt that the most interesting place for kayakers is the 5- km canyon after the road to Rudnaya Gorka crosses the river. In several km before the bridge the river becomes wide and fast and please be careful after you have passed the bridge! The banks come closer to each other and the canyon begins immediately. The first rapid is on the first (right) band. Here we stayed overnight. After reconnaissance of the next two rapids has been made, the two participants decided to carry their boats over to the end of canyon (it means to the confluence of Ragusha and Vologeba) next day. It was right decision - it's downright - but no one thought at that moment that we would meet them tomorrow evening only! Our trouble was that we absolutely underestimated this canyon. We have never expected real 4 - 5 cat. water in St. Petersburg region. It was a flood, there were quite a few edges along these 4-5 km, a lot of unexpected fallen trees and rather fast current. There were three rapids where the reconnaissance has been required to find the best way on the water (in fact I remember one or two significant holes only). In all other parts of the canyon the reconnaissance has been strictly required to find a way between (or over) the fallen trees. We are not going to give a detailed description of the rapids because the picture is quite dependent on the water level. In Summer there is no water at all - just a plain and firm ground (in Summer the water in the canyon goes under the ground. It's amazing!). Due to the lack of edges in many cases we were forced to arrange emergency mooring for the kayaks(!!). Usually one or two participants took a position at the place where the mooring was planned and they were caching kayaks there. As I've told previously we underestimated the canyon and we had been still there by 9 p.m. I remind you that two of our friends have been waiting for us at the confluence of Ragusha and Vologeba, i.e. about 2 km ahead. We started for the new piece of the canyon trying to reach the confluence and at that moment it happened just what it should happen - Irina turned over, left her boat and I saw her pass me. She screamed when swimming in the stream. Michael explained her briefly and vigorously that it's a time to let the boat swim down on it's own! In twenty seconds after this well-timed explanation Irina has reached the bank and her kayak reached a tree blockage at one island just in the middle of the stream. Just at that time Kolja turned over also but the difference was that he came across another blockage together with his boat. Kolja is a strong man and that blockage does not exist any more. Me and Michael we tried to release Iranus kayak from the blockage but we could do nothing with it. The time was about 10 p.m. and we tired the kayak to the blockage just to secure that it would stay there in the morning. It was about 10:30 p.m. when the depleted group was in one place on the bank. It's worth mentioning that our pots, one tent and some of our dry suits were in that kayak at the middle of the river. Just to complete the picture: our two friends Vanja and Natalja had been waiting for us and they did know nothing about what happened. Neither did we about our friends. We placed one tent on a steep slope and fixed a big wooden trunk across this slope in order to prevent ourselves from rolling down into the river. Fortunately no sleeping bags were in the flooded kayak. Morning! It rained cats and dogs! Michael told his brilliant sentence when slipping in a moist clay: "High skills and technology do not perform in a dung". We've told Iran to go to our friends because she did not have a kayak any more and she could not be a help for us to get her kayak out of the blockage. She reached our friends by 6 p.m. only but we would learn it much later. Fortunately it took two hours only to release the kayak from the blockage successfully. Kolja Kapranov (he rafted successfully down the Chulyshman river previous Summer!) told that he did not have any intention to continue paddling. Frankly speaking we did not either. More than that we have now 4 kayaks for 3 persons. So we started our long way up the slope to get out the canyon . We reached the forest road in 500 meters from the canyon but it took about one hour because of the steep slope and a very dense forest on a top of the canyon. We worked 3 times up and down to carry all our staff including boats to the road. Finally we met all together including Vanja and Natalja on this road in the evening. It was really pleasant meeting! Next morning we were surprised that our mini-van came right in time and we were back in St. Petersburg about 5 p.m. Basing on our experience we can recommend this river at the pick of the water. We strongly recommend to reserve at least 2 full days for the canyon. It may be rather enjoyable for an experienced group if you are not in a hurry. We wish you a good trip and a good season!!

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