Thursday, April 13, 2017

Smith Rock

For spring break this year Teresa and I decided to visit somewhere neither of us had been before. We packed up the car, and drove north to Bend, Oregon. 

We didn't really do a lot of planning for the trip, I bought the Smith Rock climbing guide book, and threw some gear in the car. I figured Teresa would be sick of camping for a week, so I booked a cottage on a farm for a few days to mix the trip up. I probably should have paid closer attention to the weather before heading out.

Smith Rock - Our climbing destination for the week
 Just as we were heading out, there was a major storm that blew into California, so we delayed our departure by a day,leaving Saturday afternoon.

We then drove to Mt. Shasta and camped on the north side of the mountain at a bivy site I had spied from trip there last year. It was COLD, only about 15F. After a chilly night we got back on the road.

We entered Oregon, and the traffic subsided as we traveled down Highway 97. 

 Oregon is known as a fairly open-minded and left-leaning state, but some roadside signs were a stark reminder of the dark, bubbling hatred that seams to permeate this country. I was honestly very saddened by the sight, how many people feel this way? Certainly enough to propel Trump into the White House. Its a bit scary, and things like this that really make me miss home.

Hatred, bigotry and the force that propelled a authoritarian clown to power
We rolled into Smith Rock State Park Sunday afternoon, and what a gong show! Cars and people everywhere. I think all of Portland must come to the park on the weekends. After driving around for a while we found some parking and headed into the canyon.

It really is a remarkable place, and I can see why its so popular. A rock climbers paradise, rock walls everywhere, all a very short walk on manicured trails. 

ready to climb
We had a great first afternoon, we found a crag and banged out about 8 sport climbs.  I was feeling pretty good, onsighting up to 5.10b. This was to be the high point for my ego - turns out that first crag we were on was not typical of most of the climbing in the park.

We found a campground, set up camp and enjoyed some famous Oregon microbrew.


Penny - enjoying a chilly morning at camp

Monday was had fantastic weather. It was warm and sunny, and with the weekend over, the park was far less busy. We spent the day going from crag to crag, sampling different climbing areas. My ego took a bruising - the climbing was fairly difficult, very technical, often with generously spaced bolts, and exposed committing moves. We did get on some very good 5.8 and 5.9 climbs, but my dream of onsighting a bunch of 5.10s was put on hold. We had a great day, again climbing about 8 routes. 

Sunshine at Smith Rock

Teresa, ready to climb in the sun

Ultra-techy climbing

After and enjoyable day, we headed back to camp for some diner and a hike in the hills with pooch. A truly awesome day!

Smith Rock in the Sun ~
 Tuesday, the weather turned. It was a cold, windy, cloudy morning. We headed into the park and started with a hike to warm up. We then hopped on a couple of tricky climbs, a 5.9 and a 5.10b, both of which had committing technical moves. And then the rain started to come down.... So we packed it in for the day, and headed to our rental house. Good timing!

Penny says - Its cold and wet, and I'm sleepy.

Ready for some hard climbing
 The rental cottage was really nice - out on a farm north of Bend, with a couple of friendly pooches. Perfect for some relaxation!

Best of all -- fresh eggs from the farm -- sooooo yummy!

Climbing trip or vacation? Who can tell?

 Wednesday was a "rest day" Teresa graded lab reports, and I headed back to Smith Rock for some hiking. I went up the misery ridge trail, which summits the highest point in the group, and then traverses around the rock formations. 

I got to check out the "Monkey Face", if I were to ever come back, that is where I would want to climb. Looks spectacular!

Views from the top

Monkey Face - Classic

Our last day, Thursday was supposed to be rainy, but it ended up being sunny and warm, at least until the late afternoon.....

We had another great day in the park. I got a bit of my mojo back, and onsighted several 5.10s. We even had a crag to ourselves for a while!

We started on the Pheonix buttress, which was very nice rock. Much better than some of the larger main formations.

psyched for more climbing!
I found this brush - so I tried scrubbing a hold. Just like a boulderer
We wandered over to some other crags, Teresa onsighted a nice exposed and sustained 5.9 (way to go!) and I used my stick clip heavily on some other sand-bagged (or maybe I'm just weak?) 5.10s on the Red Wall. Over all a great day. The storm clouds were rolling in, so we packed it in and called it a day in the later afternoon.

Teresa, crushing it, as per usual.

Me - being a wiener -as per usual. Stick clip usage. Have I become a sport climber?
Just as we arrived at the rental house, the snow and hail started coming down. Good timing!

We head back to Fresno tomorrow. I am hoping to squeeze in a trip to Yosemite or Danland before going back to work, but we'll see, I need to find a partner to head out with...

Overall it was a great, and relaxing trip. In a lot of ways better than I was expecting given the forecast. Here are some final thoughts on the climbing at Smith Rock --

1) We didn't do any multi-pitch because of the dog. If I were to come back, I would want to climb several interesting multi-pitch routes. They look wildly exposed and high quality!

2) Even mid-week, without big crowds, every climb that was about 5.10b/c and under had people on it most of the day. I would not want to visit this place on a weekend, unless I was a solid 5.11+ climber (see point 3). There were some walls that we could not ever get on because there were people on them, literally all day. Even when it started raining....

3) The sport climbing in the mid 5.10 and under range is somewhat limiting. This place would be MUCH better if I were onsighting about 5.11+. 

4) The bolting is weird. Often the first bolt is like 20 feet off the deck. A stick clip is actually handy. 

5) The routes can be exciting. The ethic seems to be to bolt just below the crux sequence, so a lot of the time you are pulling committing crux moves above your pro. Its very exciting, and is probably why the climbing seems somewhat hard. Its not dangerous, just "exhilarating"

6) I found that the route required very delicate foot work -- Sort of like vertical slab climbing...?

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