Day 15 – Olo Canyon

Day 14 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 16

Day 15 – Football Field(137.7) to Ledges(152.1)
River Miles: 14.4
Hiking Miles: 0
April 1, 2013

Bacon! Day 15 of our chasm-marvelous journey began with bacon and oatmeal. According to some of the most adventurous Grand Canyon explorers, this length of the River is home to some of the finest places that the Grand Canyon has to offer. Words like Olo, Matkat, Kanab, and 150 Mile conjure wistful thoughts and near-mythical fantasies to those of us that tend to stay in the neighborhood of the Canyon’s more established trails.

Bo Beck

The channel remained deep and dramatic, even though the Inner Gorge was behind us. We were now cradled below the bright and more colorful walls of limestone. At times I would imagine the leagues upon leagues of open Esplanade country that were out of reach above us. In this area of the Grand Canyon, the Esplanade is a relatively flat, wide expanse that’s similar to the Tonto Plateau, but covered instead in a red rock that resembles the slickrock countries of Utah. It’s magnificent, and it’s way “up there.”

We passed the mouth of Kanab Creek early in the day, on river-right.

Today’s first off-river adventure would be to explore the wonderful Muav-layered slot of Olo Canyon. Olo is a difficult place to access, no matter how you approach it. From the rim of the Grand Canyon it requires an expedition-level of planning and execution that includes off-road driving, backpacking, canyoneering, and packrafting (Tom Martin lays it all out in Grand Canyoneering, of course).

Once on board a skilled and prepared river trip (Voila!) it’s, well… okay, it’s still pretty hard to see it. Why? See the photo below:

…because you need at least one or two people that are willing to free-climb this wall. Fortunately we had Dave Nally and Bo Beck in the house. I may be mistaken, but I think Olo is Dave Nally’s favorite slot in all of the Grand Canyon. He’s pictured here on the climb. From the top of the climb, it’s necessary to traverse a ledge (Off to the left side of the image) and drop into the canyon.

Dave and Bo were followed by Chris Forsyth and team McCumber as protected climbers tied in on ropes, seemingly just for fun. Chris is pictured here on top. Jeremy is presumably preparing to anchor Shannon (In red) from above.

The rest of us watched and waited for the climbers to prepare our easier ticket into Olo Canyon.

The remaining gang was literally hauled up into the canyon by the raw muscle of the climbers! One by one Josh(pictured), Nic, Dorothy, Brooke, Steph, and Doug were lifted in a quite humorous sequence as they were simultaneously soaked in the falling runoff of the creek. Each person’s lift culminated in a graceful slither up the top pourover.

The McCumbers shot this rocking video of the Olo Canyon adventure.

Again, when it came to the harness related activities of the trip, Jackie and I stayed behind on this. I must admit that waiting on shore while the others explored Olo was another lower point of the trip for me. It just killed me to be simply hanging out while most of the others were up there seizing the day. It’s not every day that Dave Nally and Bo Beck are there to haul me up into Olo Canyon. With the skill of the crew on this trip, all I would have needed was a harness (And maybe a carabineer and descender) to experience these otherwise inaccessible places. This all was nobody’s fault but mine, so oh well.

It wasn’t long before the others started to rappel out of Olo, and soon we were back on the mighty River again.

Bo Beck again, in all his picturesque-ness… or is that Ernest Hemingway? Hmm.

Another gem of the Grand Canyon awaited us not far beyond Olo – Matkatamiba Canyon, more simply known as Matkat (Try saying Matkatamiba five times fast). Even more so than Olo, Matkat is revered as a gloriously narrow and sublime Muav fissure. It’s equally difficult to access from up on the rim, but from the River it’s supposedly a basic walk up the canyon.

The only trick about Matkat is that’s it’s a difficult pull-in for the boats, compounded by a small space to tie in to shore. When we came upon the pull-in, we discovered that another group had parked their rafts there and left no space for us! We had no choice but pass Matkat, and leave it for “another day.” 🙁

The day’s remaining scenery was elegant and gorgeous.

The River soon brought us back to earth after getting lost among all of this scenery. Upset Rapid was waiting for us at the mouth of 150-Mile canyon. Rated as a six, it was still the most challenging rapid we’d seen in the last 24 hours… after all, it’s called “Upset.”

We always ran the rapids as a full group in a tight sequence for safety reasons, but here it was decided that we would split up into two parties of 3 or 4 boats to run Upset. Our raft was in the second group, which afforded me the rare opportunity (And ultimately only opportunity of the trip) to get some action photos of a rapid from shore!

So here I may have gone a little overboard (Punny!) in posting a lot of similar images, but I think they’re all quite exciting and worth a look.

We all subsequently ran Upset without incident, and it was a great way to get our blood pumping today!

Dave Nally boat in action, passengers Dorothy Kyees and Mike Burkley

Captain Josh Case and passenger Amy Case

No worries folks – Amy is still on board!

Finally here’s the Chris Forsyth raft, with passengers Steve Nelson and high-siding pro Nic Bewsy.

We made camp for the night at a neat spot called “Ledges.” Rather than a typically sandy beach, this camp offered broad, flat areas of tiered limestone rock for the night’s Canyon home. Jackie and I had some fun climbing and exploring up to the higher ledges above our camp.

Today was April 1st, so for April Fools Stephanie thought it would be a good joke to mirror Chris Forsyth’s actions and appearance, and see how long it would take for him to notice. The rest of us were in on the joke, and had some fun with it until he caught on.


Steve-O takes in a contemplative moment.

The cook team of Dave, Dorothy, and Mike served up a dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. Dessert was a warm, fresh chocolate cake from within the magical cauldron of a Dutch Oven.

The skies finally let loose this evening with a rare rain shower – the first of the trip! It started long after the dishes were done, so the light moisture didn’t really affect our camp activities.

April Fools! Of course it didn’t rain today, silly.

Can’t get enough of rafting the Grand Canyon?
Check out this excellent collection of Boatman Stories!

Day 14 ——————————— River Journal ——————————— Day 16


  1. Doug Nering says:

    It didn’t rain today but the sand sure bleu chicken cordon.

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