23 Apr Epic Waterfall Repelling Experience in Hocking Hills, Ohio
Winter waterfall repelling, past massive icicles that are taller than a person, in Hocking Hills State Forest in Hocking Hills, Ohio takes the activity to a whole new level. I’ve repelled down a lot of rock cliffs in my travels, and while I always find the experience thrilling, this was especially majestic thanks in part to the icicles. They stick sturdily to rock cliffs in big bunches and with a sunny day melting some of the ice, you’ll occasionally hear the sound of an icicle crashing to the ground, which is a powerful and slightly unnerving sound to hear echoing through the canyon.
We started the day by meeting our guides with Hocking Hills Adventure Trek at the Big Springs Rock Climbing and Rappelling area. What I really loved about this company was that many of the guides also have a background as naturalists, providing a lot of info along the way about things like the glacial activity in the area that formed bottleneck canyons and deep ravines.
The day began with a short walk to the first repel. One of our guides spotted a sassafras root sticking up in the ground and after digging it out and peeling off the first layer passed it around for us to smell the root beer scent. It’s just a fraction of the species we see in the Eastern Deciduous Forest, which is the second most diverse biome in the world behind the rainforest. There are 250 species of trees in this region including sycamore, cherry, ash and hemlock.
The first repel is 25-feet, which is not too high to get scared, and a great starter descent. Beforehand, our guides go over all the safety features, teach us how to lower ourselves and break before securing our harnesses with carabineers to the anchored ropes set up beforehand. A guide is also set up at the top to help you get hooked in and another is at the bottom with an extra break should you need it.
After learning the ropes, we worked our way up to a 55-foot drop that also has an outcropped feature where we learned to push ourselves around. The most intimidating part is dropping into the route but once my feet were pushed against the wall and I was sitting back, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around and appreciated seeing a kind of setting that was new to me. The honeycomb formations on the sides of the sandstone walls were especially breathtaking.
After our second descent, it was time to head to Big Springs, a 109-foot drop that is the big Monty of them all. After an intimidating start and sheer drop off, I began to walk my feet down the uneven terrain on the side of the rock. I noticed I was gripping the rope so tightly my arms started to tire and then loosened when I focused on the landscapes and subsequently relaxed. I turned my head to the left, then the right, to see massive icicles gripping the sides of rocks. The coolest thing about this rappel (of course aside from the insane scenery) is that your feet aren’t on the wall at all times. At the halfway mark, your feet can no longer touch the wall to mimic a helicopter style rappel. Once at the bottom, it’s time to look up and holler up to the next person that they are in for some incredibly stunning sights on the way down. All in all it was a great way to spend a winter day in Ohio.