Posts Tagged ‘spring break’

Smith Rocks State Park is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring, brilliant, excellent, enjoyable, incredible, outstanding, stupendous, tremendous place to climb rocks. Having been restricted to indoor climbing for the past 6 months, it was prime time to get outside and cut my teeth on the mudpile-that-is-somehow-climbable that exists in the dearth of landscape that is central Oregon. Thanks to final exams finishing for me on Monday morning, my double-length spring break became a week-long trip to Terrebonne with quite a few adventures.

Smith Rocks in the Snow

I believe that the field of meteorology was created for the sole purpose of ruining any prospective climbing plans. 60% chance of rain/snow was scheduled for the day AFTER I was planning to finish my trip, but the predicted precipitation steadily creeped closer and closer. When I left Olympia on Tuesday morning, it was pouring down rain but my psych was still high. Pulling into the park around 11am, it was cold and chilly with a hint of snow in the air. The campsite was relatively empty, these central Oregonians are too spoiled with their consistently nice weather. In western Washington, we climb until thunder and lightning hits; there was nothing that could keep me from getting on the rock.

Nick and I haven’t climbed together for almost two years now, he was back in the Pacific Northwest for his spring break. We started out the day by heading into Cocaine Gully, where I had my ego handed to me in a paper bag, being spit off Vomit Launch – 5.11b with pumped forearms. I forgot how difficult rock climbing is. I didn’t send anything hard, the day was more exploratory in nature for me. Nick gave good burns on Churning in the Wake – 5.13a while I took a look at Heinous Cling – 5.12a and Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a, not getting on either.

Single pitch sport is super fun, but definitely isn’t all that Smith has to offer. Zebra to Zion – 5.10a, 4 pitches follows an amazing and exposed dihedral up from Morning Glory Wall, with splitter cracks and well-protected flakes all the way. I like to pretend I can plug gear, so cruising up the second .10a pitch definitely inflated my ego a bit after the exercise in humility that was the day before.

Zebra to Zion
Nick and I, top of pitch 2

Having made plans to rappel off the route after reaching the summit, we were a bit surprised to find two bolts with no rap-rings at the top. Oh well, I thought, we’ll just rap through the hangers instead, something that is frowned upon but isn’t life-endangering by any means. Reaching the lower anchors (top of pitch 3), I was struck with a moment of panic when we tried to pull the rope. It wouldn’t budge. Not even a single centimeter. Fourth class choss greeted us around the corner as an alternative path back up to the summit, but I was wary to tackle the free-solo over the exposed gully with crumbling holds. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and forayed into the mix of mud and boulders. Reaching the summit for the second time, I clipped in a leaver-biner to the anchor, and rapped back down to meet Nick again at the lower anchors. Trying to pull the rope for the second time, it was STILL STUCK. This time, both of us scrambled up the choss together, and prepared for the long hike down Misery Ridge. Having planned to rappel, I had no hiking shoes and did not want to ruin my 5.10 Anasazis. If anyone saw a tired looking climber walking barefoot down Misery Ridge, that was me.

Still trying to pretend to be a trad climber, I spent the next morning on Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a, a splitter crack renowned as once being “Smith’s most sought after test piece”. Pumped silly and scared out the bum-bum, I took my first medium-large leader fall on gear, which thankfully held. Black Diamond, your C4 cams now hold a special place in my heart.

Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a

Later in the day, I made a second-go send of Middle Aged Vandals – 5.11c; I was happy to finally find some success with my first “hard” climb of the trip. It really should have been a flash, I called for a take just before pulling to the finish jug. Typical Andrew wuss-out attempt, those who belay in the future have permission to make me take the leader fall.

Dom was the first person to take me out on a real climbing trip, it’s been great to seem him get continued success. With a quick burn just to suss-out the beta, he pulled through for a second-go send of The Quickening – 5.12c, his strongest send at Smith to date. I was afraid I had short roped him on the belay, only to learn that his screaming had been because he was so pumped he couldn’t even hold on to jugs. When I first started climbing, I remember very distinctly Dom telling me that he enjoys routes more than I do, because he doesn’t get pumped. Let it be known that I untied his knot for him.

The Quickening – 5.12c

Dom pulling into the first crux

I was psyched to find some success myself this trip, pulling together a send of Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a the day before I left. This was only the second .12a I have sent, it was really gratifying to know that I was able to maintain my fitness over a dearth of outdoor climbing during the winter. Giving it 3 days of effort, I sent on the 3rd go of the day (7th total), barely expecting to pull through the crimpy crux at the top. Apologies to whoever’s blood I may have curdled with my screams when falling off on earlier attempts.

Smith has a lot of really strong people, 5.14 climbers seem to be around every corner. Being a relatively new climber, I still get pretty star-struck when around those who pull two to three grades higher than I do. The cool thing about the locals here is that they’re all really down to earth, and treated me as a friend rather than as a gumby. Ryan Palo, the strong-boy who sent To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a just the month before, gave me beta on Cool Ranch Flavor, just as psyched for me to send as himself. Paige Claassen also came into town, although I didn’t build up the courage to ask for a picture, it was inspiring to watch her climb. I hope both of them send their respective projects soon.

To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a

I wish I didn’t have to leave Smith so soon. This little slice of heaven is my favorite climbing destination in the world, and I can’t wait to make it back. For now, I’ll be hitting the gym, pretending to get strong enough to cut my teeth on all the projects I left behind.

Bivouac Area