Saturday, June 04, 2005


The crew, enjoying pristine class V canyon.

I first scouted the Ohanapecosh at a low September flow, hiking the moss covered rock above the polished bedrock and boulders of the steep drops just upstream of the secret campground. It looked tough, and I wondered what might lie upstream. I've wondered every time I've made the drive on 123, a drive I'll take any time I can find an excuse.

Finally the time had come. David Chatham, Mike Hoover, Steve Munk, Mike Novak, Scott Waidelich, and Chris Wilson formed the group for my first run on this spectacular creek. Thanks to Chris Wilson, who graciously showed us the lines and led an all-around excellent trip.

At the putin, the usual collection of family campers watched us seal launch and paddle slowly into the canyon below the campround. A quick scout of the first horizon line showed a clean drop on the left, sliding across a bedrock flake into the pool below. This upper section contained one class II drop with a riverwide log at the bottom, and several shallow class II-III boulder gardens.

Video: Putin to Secret Campground (5 minutes; 30MB)

Putin beta, courtesy of the Park Service. Clear water means it's boat-scoutable, right?

David and Fish scout the first horizon line.

The first drop.

Chris Wilson shows the way.

Steve drops in on the Ohanapecosh.

Typical of the upper rapids. David and Fish free a pinned boat.

At the first big riverwide logjam, we pulled into an eddy on the right and got out to portage the first major drop. The pin factor bothered the IKs less than the narrow slot on the left, and a tricky entrace hydraulic.

The first big drop, typically portaged on the right.

Below the portage, an excellent double-drop boulder garden got the action started with a bang. Below this rapid, the boulder gardens come quickly, and in ever-different configurations.

Below the recommended portage, Fish and Steve show off synchronized kayaking.

David boofs the ledge Fish is running above.

Steve picks a line through a typical boulder garden.

Mike Hoover watches Mike Novak clean a drop.

Mike Novak enjoys the action.

David practices his brace.

"Paddle! PADDLE!!"

Steve in a clean drop.

Fish boofs above the chute on the right.

Below this pourover, the river pools on the left before being forced right into a chute against the right canyon wall. The drop seemed to mark a short section of narrow canyon, perhaps the tightest canyon on the Ohanapecosh.

Fish runs the headwall chute, one of the most distinctive drops in the upper section.

Fish soaks up the canyon scenary.

In the narrow canyon below the headwall drop there is one distinctive drop formed by a massive log wedged across the river. The resulting pourover can be run left-moving-right.

One of several drops on the Ohanapecosh formed by wood.

Chris Wilson runs the log drop.

Steve in the lush canyons of the Ohanapecosh.

The next significant drop is a great slide along river left, with a beautiful bedrock shelf forming the left bank. The slide marks your arrival at Secret Campground.

Video: Secret Campground section (7 minutes; 35MB)

Fish drops the slide.

The author in the slide.

The next drop is a boulder jumble we ran far left into an eddy, then moving back center, then left again into a large eddy.

Novak emulates David in the boulder jumble.

After a nice boof move on the right, the river drops through a tricky slot where most of the flow is backed up by a boulder fence. Several of us portaged this drop, but Steve, David, and Fish opted to run.

Steve lines up for his move.

David powers through a tricky hydraulic.

After a short section of shallow class II, the rapids quickly start up again.

Fish below a narrow, steep drop near Secret Campground.

Steve runs a fun ledge. The slide on the left is also good to go.

Fish strides the same drop.

After this clean ledge, you'll be leaving the secret campground. The rapids keep going, with the next drop being a tricky rail slide along a log. Run it right.

Steve cleans the log drop.

Below here, many fun class IV boulder gardens keep the pace moving.

David takes a break in a lovely part of the canyon.

The next major drop is a long three-tiered drop. The first drop is a rock-filled diagonal ledge with a tricky, narrow slot waiting just below. After this drop, the river pools briefly before dropping away again, this time with a fun pourover on the left and a great IV runout.

Fish cleans the entry ledge.

Novak gets ready to drop in as Chris watches from the scouting rock.

Steve hits the boof over the pourover.

Below this drop there are many fun boulder gardens and slots to keep you busy. After a half-hour, you'll see Summit Creek coming in from the left. This marks a class IV drop that leads into a riverwide ledge with an ugly pocket on the left. Run it off the flake 10 feet off the right bank. I like the flake to his right.

Video: Below Secret Campground (5 minutes; 24MB)

Fish boofs the ledge below Summit Creek.

This ledge means it's now time for Elbow Room. After a drop run along the right wall, work left into the eddy at the upstream end of a bedrock bench.

The lead-in to Elbow Room.

The table rock that forms the heinous sieve in Elbow Room.

The portage trail.

After the ordeal is over and you are below Elbow Room, you'll find a fun shallow angle bedrock slide. The next drop is the meaty lead-in to the big falls. Scout on the right.

The waterfall and leadin drop.

Now, everyone seems to have a story about somebody getting worked in that entry hole. Well, I didn't get worked, but it did eat me alive, dumping me for failing to stay far enough right. My boat dropped the falls upside down and I swam the left side of the drop. It was actually pretty friendly, I balled up, went deep, pushed off the bottom, and popped up on the other side of the boil. This is not recommended technique, however.

The author, too far left on the entrance drop.

The author, getting his swim on.

Fish shows a better line.

Below the falls, one major drop remains. This is signature the drop on the Ohane, featured so often in trip reports and guidebooks. After a tricky left or center entrance, a huge boulder forces you right, against the canyon wall. Just below, a nasty sieved-out mess suggests a strong move back left over a steep drop with a big hole. The bedrock wall is amazing here, and it's fun to look up at the wall and see exactly where all the rock in the riverbed came from.

David in the final big drop; Chris filming.

To wrap up a carnage filled day, David wraps a boat.

Below this drop, there are a few fun class III-IV boulder gardens. One has an obvious line against the right wall -- beware of wood in that channel. It will move with high water, but I think it's with us for the summer.

When you see the rope swing, then the Clear Fork Cowlitz, you've made it to La Wis Wis.