looking at Ojai through the Rose Valley

The bulk of the canyons and hiking we have done around here is in the San Gabriel mountains and the San Bernardino mountains. 2 weeks ago Susan was looking through the Southern Califonia Canyoneering guide and found us an adventure in a slightly different place. The Rose Valley falls are located in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura county near Ojai. I believe this valley is part of the Topatopa Mountain Range, although I’m not certain. Anyhow, now that I’ve linked almost every word in the first paragraph to wikipedia we can continue.

The main goal of this canyon is the upper falls, which at around 250 feet are the longest rappel which we have attempted. This is supposedly the highest waterfall in the Los Padres NF, and after coming down it I certainly believe it. To reach the drop in point for the canyon requires a strenuous 3 mile hike up a very steep fire road. Then you have to bushwack for a quarter of a mile until the canyon clears out and you can actually get moving. The hike down the canyon is beautiful, with moss covered rocks and chortling cascades. The geology of this range is very different from our usual haunts, being limestone, so the shape of the canyon and the falls was fairly unique to us.

On the way down I slipped while walking on along a fallen tree trunk, and damaged my camera, but fortunately it was still usable, if not as easily as before. The lens wouldn’t autofocus anymore, so I had to manually focus, and the flash was torn off completely, exposing live wires which I had to avoid or I got a bit of a shock. This made taking pictures a little more problematic, but I did what I could. After a few hours of hard hiking we reached the top of the big drop …..


You really had to be there, and I’m afraid the pictures and video don’t do it justice, but it was as though the world vanished from under our feet and opened up into a scary vista, This was certainly unnerving, and the fact that none of us had done a drop quite this high before didn’t help. We examined the anchor meticulously, a little worried that it was only a tree, and added our own webbing to the older webbing which was already there. After a bit of hemming and hawing and mucking about I finally anchored in, took a deep breath, and headed over the edge.

wow (once again)

Since the drop was longer then our usual ropes (which are around 200 feet) we had to use my 300 foot ropes along with Dennis 220 foot rope as a pull cord. we tied the rope together and then set the block about 35 feet along the 300 foot rope, giving us, theoretically at least, 15 feet extra on the rappel side of the rope and 5 extra on the pull side. Fore those of you who don’t understand the mechanics of how we rappel down and retrieve the rope, we set an anchor which we leave at the top which is usually 1 inch webbing anchored somehow with a rap ring (a welded ring of thick metal) or a quicklink ( a metal oval with a releasable side) which we thread the rope through. We usually put a block of some kind on the rope on one side of the metal ring and rappel down the other. The block can be a knot, or a carabiner knotted onto the rope or other things, but we usually use a releasable block such as a figure eight block. A figure eight is a rappel device, and it can be attached to the rope in such a way that it will be an unmoveable block, but if the rappeler needs to be lowered for some reason the block can be released, the rappeler lowered and the block relocked off. Anyhow that confusing description was just to describe how we were set up when I dropped off the edge of this towering cliff. Instead of tossing the rappel line off the edge, which could lead to it getting tangled in a tree or something I had it attached to my harness in a rope bag, which was feeding out as I rappelled down. Intellectually I knew I had plenty of rope, but irrationally I was worried about not having enough rope to get to the bottom … it was just such a  long way down. Even if I ran out, the anchor could be released and they could lower me from the top, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. We each have a whistle with us which we can use to signal the people at the top if we need to for just sucha n eventuality. Anyhow, I rappeled down, and down and down and … you get the idea. It took a while. I stopped a few time on the descent to look around at the waterfall to me left, the view behind me, and the gaping chasm still below me. eventually I reached the first of a few ledges toward the bottom which would have allowed me to get off rappel if I needed to even though it wasn’t all the way down and I breathed a sigh of relief. Soon thereafter I reached the end of the rappel, and man was I revved up. That’s a lot of adrenaline released into your system on a rappel that long, and it felt great to finish it up. I whistled to the top that I was down and got out my camera to take pictures of Dennis and Susan as they came down. At the bottom of the falls was gorgeous karst garden. Sculpted limestone and multicoloured mosses and ferns, and the waterfall itself. It was a very peaceful place, despite the thundering of the falls, which we had to ourselves, so we took a little time to look around when we were all down, before we descended to the second and final rappel.

The second rappel was much shorter, around 100 feet, and came with a built in audience. This waterfall is an easy 1/2 mile hike from the Rose Valley Campground, and people were even able to get to the top of the falls here by scrambling around the sides. Anyhow, we had a nice public descent down this fall, and got a nice round of applause as we recovered our rope, packed up, and headed downt he easiest part of our hike back to the cars.

This was another fun adventure, and very different in character from most of the others we do, so well worth the slightly longer then usual drive. Once again I have made a video to go along with the pictures, but I have some ideas for future videos to improve them a bit. This one is much like the others we’ve done recently, so maybe not so exciting, but please take a look at it anyway. Without further ado:

Rose Valley Falls


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