Across The Alps By Bike And Boat

German paddlers go back to the sport's roots by pedalling across the Alps in search of whitewater.
© Jens Klatt
By Tarquin Cooper

A team of German kayakers sets off this week in a bid to complete their Bike2Boat journey, cycling across the Alps from Cannes, France to Venice, Italy, stopping to paddle Europe's best whitewater.

Olaf Obsommer, 43, Jens Klatt, 32 and Philip Baues, 30, took to their bikes on Sunday after a 10 day break to attend to admin, wives, girlfriends and to sit out the bad weather.

So far they're 858km into a 2,500km journey but conditions have not been kind. A high level of snow up high meant there has not been enough water in the rivers. Then came the floods that left parts of Europe underwater.

“Mother nature has had different plans to ours,” Jens Klatt tells us when we catch up.

On the first week, the team encountered snow and blocked roads.
On the first week, the team encountered snow © Jens Klatt

“On the first day it was cold and rainy and we had one of those, 'oh my goodness, what are we doing here?' moments,” he says.

Riding bikes and pulling trailers that weigh around 50kg, it can sometimes take all day just to cover 50km — or sometimes far less. A week in, they faced a road closure in France at the col de Cayolle.

Faced with a two-day detour if they turned around, the guys carried on, turning their kayaks into sledges, pulling their loads with their bikes strapped on top across the snow, like polar explorers. It took them the whole day just to cover 6km and 500m of height.

“Luckily there was a hut with a winter room,” says Jens.

Paddling the down San Giovanni in Piemonte, Italy.
Paddling the San Giovanni, Piemonte, Italy © Jens Klatt

In the first week they got no kayaking in at all. The second week the rivers were high but they were so stoked they went anyway on the river Guil at Chateau Queyras, but avoided the big drops.

But they finally got their paddling fix in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Verzasca, which flows into Lake Maggiore.

“After a week of rain, the sun came out. That was a highlight,” says Jens. “It's like a disneyland for kayakers.”

Big smiles for the camera on the river Var, Gorges des Daluis, France
Big smiles for the camera on the river Var © Jens Klatt

For the guys, who are all big players in the paddling scene, the trip is less about setting records or doing something new but more about getting back to paddling's roots, exploring classic rivers leaving no carbon footprint.

“It's about seeing the Alps from a different point of view. There are still so many wild areas,” says Jens.

Ahead lies approximately 1,500km of road and hopefully some better whitewater. Jens says he's stoked to set off again.
“I can't wait to get back in the saddle!” he tells us.

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