Discovering Valhalla: Oregon's Hidden Gorge

Capturing Valhalla: OPB's Toughest Shoot

By Karrie Carnes (OPB)
Jan. 31, 2016 6 a.m.

In the summer of 2015, OPB’s Oregon Field Guide and a team of highly skilled canyoneers embarked on a journey to explore Valhalla — an uncharted gorge hidden in the Oregon wilderness.


The expedition was a dream come true for crewmembers who have spent their lives working in and exploring the outdoors. It would prove to be the most challenging project in Oregon Field Guide’s 27-year history.

The production crew had seen only the beginning of the gorge and end of the slot canyon. The terrain and its challenges in between were a mystery to be uncovered. Planning for such a remote and uncharted mission was not a task to be taken lightly.

Related content: What Is A Slot Canyon? 

After months of rigorous preparation and scouting trips, five hand-selected outdoor professionals packed in hundreds of pounds of gear and camera equipment and disappeared into the Valhalla gorge. The Top-Side Crew was made up of Oregon Field Guide staff and volunteers.

For three days in the heart of the gorge, the Canyon Crew slogged through rushing rivers and frigid pools, over log jams and cascades, and rigged highly technical rappels down major waterfalls. They emerged safely from their journey with awe-inspiring footage and an unforgettable story.

Mike Williams, the safety and rigging lead, dangles below one of the canyon's many waterfalls.

Mike Williams, the safety and rigging lead, dangles below one of the canyon's many waterfalls.

Uncage The Soul / OPB

Related content: The Only Known Expedition Through The Slot Canyon 

What does it take to pull off the adventure of a lifetime? A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the numbers speak for themselves:

It takes 10 months of planning and two scouting trips.

Eight members on the Top-Side Crew, 11 volunteers and five highly trained canyoneers who used 700 feet of climbing rope and dozens of carabiners to descend 600 feet into an uncharted gorge.

They traversed countless logjams and saw 23 small waterfalls.

They rappelled nine major waterfalls, including a 40-footer and an incredible nearly 100-foot waterfall.

They accomplished all of this while carrying three days worth of gear in packs weighing 45–80 pounds, enduring water temperatures near the 40s and more slugs than they could count.

But it was all worth it to be the first to explore Valhalla.