Party: Felix Ossig-Bonanno, Noah Bangle
I’d read about this canyon before even arriving in Canada and was stoked to finally be heading off to visit it.
I hadn’t been able to find much information. The best description I could find was from one of the guiding companies:
Ogre Canyon is a water-based canyon with numerous waterfall rappels which offers those seeking adventure the perfect opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. A short approach hike of approximately 30 minutes (100m elevation gain) will lead you through spectacular scenery to the rim of the canyon, which is tucked into a small sliver of land between the first range of the Rockies and Brule Lake. Once you descend inside, you will make your way down approximately 8 rappels with the highest descent being around 25 meters. The highlight of the day is the infamous ‘Turbowash’. About half way down this impressive drop, a waterfall feeds in from above, providing the ultimate rush.
After looking at maps, I’d pretty much figured out how the trip would work and recruited Noah to join me on the adventure. Being early season we wanted at least two people in our team to deal with any high water complications. We also brought extra rope as one of the ice climbing pages mentioned a 50m climb.
Our first attempt to get to the canyon fell a little short. Just after passing the park gates, Bruce (Noah’s 4runner) stalled and couldn’t be coaxed to start. We checked a few things trying to figure out what was wrong. Noah had changed the oil and spark plugs that morning so we figured it was something to do with the ignition system — especially when I noticed that 2 and 3 leads were the wrong way around — but try as we might we couldn’t crack it and ended up hitching a ride back to Jasper.
We researched the problem a little more and with Chase joining us took my car to have another crack. I checked the EFI fuse and found it was blown. Replacing it with another, it blew as soon as we turned the engine over. We replaced it with a higher amperage fuse and we were back in business. or so we thought.
As soon as the car was turned around the car stalled again. In the end we called AMA to get the car towed. Once back we quickly found the problem: the O2 sensor had rusted off Noah’s truck and the wires had melted on the exhaust creating a short.
It was too late for the canyon now, but we would try again the following day.
This time Bruce didn’t let us down!
We were soon entering Rock Lake, Soloman Creek Wildland Provincial Park, and saw the horses everyone seems to see along the road in. Thanks (we think) to some work being done to the rail line, the road had just had some work done to it, so I think I’d have even got my mini-van along it.
Rejigging our packs, we were soon on our way following the ridge-line up to the canyon.
Along the ridge we found one of the caves (unfortunately not the other). It was a tight downclimb to the bottom with short passage continuing in both directions.
Soon we were above the canyon and could reassess the volume of water in the canyon. I was surprised to find that most of the water was from a side creek dropping into the canyon rather than actual flow from the valley catchment. This meant that we’d be fine for all the upper part of the canyon and have some wet rappels for the last and deepest constriction.
The trail then paralleled the canyon, with a couple of anchors set up along the way (possibly to allow tour groups to drop in early).
Soon the trail dropped into the canyon. We jumped the last little bit landing on a bank of snow in the canyon bottom. There was still canyon upstream, so dumping our packs we explored.
After a narrow constriction, the canyon opened up and became much wider. I pushed on upstream for about a kilometre or so without an end to the canyon in sight. I hadn’t heard from Noah for a while so turned back, party because it felt like you’d have to do an overnight trip if you wanted to explore really far back. It looked like there might even be potential to find other canyons!
It turned out Noah’s feet were giving him trouble (bone spurs from skiing). I knew the pain well.
Back at our packs, I put on my wetsuit and booties. I was a little worried with Noah’s ‘dry top’ — it looked more like a spray jacket to me and I didn’t think it’d hold up once we were in the last section of the canyon.
We had half a dozen pitches to negotiate before we reached the side stream entering the canyon.
Being sprayed by the waterfall, it was hard to judge the next pitch, getting cold I tried to hurry, thinking through different options in my head (who should go first? what if the rope isn’t long enough?).
I joined a couple of ropes together and rapped single strand down, taking the pull end as I went.
Unfortunately the ropes had gotten a little tangled on a chock stone and my hands became numb as I untangled them.
Abseiling a little further I hugged the right wall to escape the battering water, but was soon pulled back into the flow. I swung and could tell I was going to hit the other wall quite hard, I tried turning to cushion the impact with my pack but still hit the back of my pelvis quite hard.
Groping blindly in the water, I managed to find the pull end and pulled it out from where it had caught. This incident made me realise how important rapping-out-of-the-bag is when doing high water canyoning.
Without the rope complications, Noah had a much better pitch allowing me to capture my favourite photo of the trip.
We had another wet pitch almost immediately afterwards. I threw the rap end down making sure it hit the ground and then went for it. Just before entering the torrent I gave Noah a few pointers on body position so he wouldn’t get inverted in the flow. It ended up being a fun pitch once you swung below the chockstone and abseiled pretty much behind the waterfall.
Playing Charades with Noah, I eventually conveyed with him that he needed to re-throw the pull end as it hadn’t quite made it all the way down.
Here is a video of Noah going down the waterfall which gives a better understanding of how much water there was.
I think we were both happy to be down as were quite cold, but thankfully we were pretty much out now. My hands were numb, but still responsive.
There were a couple of fun slides at the end of the canyon. In one of the pools I found a hat which we carried back to the car park. The next day, Noah found that it belonged to the guy who had fallen into the canyon a couple of weeks ago.