..Enter life on the road.. we left Boulder last Thursday, bright and early, with eyes wide and psych level high. Our goal was to hammer out the long drive all the way to Bend, Oregon in a day. Unfortunately, Idaho proved disturbingly huge and we wore out a few hours short.. Prairie City to be exact, somewhere along the historic Oregon Trail. We poached a random campsite and enjoyed a wholesome country style breakfast with the locals in the morning before polishing off the drive to Smith.
on the road. North West status.
making my contribution to this random tree full of shoes (!?)
Smith Rocks is classic, bold, beautiful and wildly impressive. I've wanted to check out this world class destination for quite some time and despite how much I'd studied guidebooks, videos and photography, I was still blown away when I first caught a glimpse of the State Park.
We hurriedly tossed shoes and gear in our packs, bought a year pass, and made our way to the climbing. We headed straight for the Dihedrals, a stunning series of massive corners covered in incredible routes. While the frequently climbed areas are all generally in close proximity, the sheer size and amount of rock at Smith is staggering- there is literally towering stone in every direction. Standing beneath the Dihedrals for the first time is a rad experience; they are completely blank- you need only to tilt your head and engage a touch of imagination to picture parking your car on these seemingly featureless mega-slabs.
After sampling one of the few 5.11s, Paige got right down to business, dispatching the entire 120 dead-vertical feet of 'Heinous Cling' 12c onsight. I followed suit and then continued on by managing an onsight on it's next door neighbor and the first 5.13 at Smith Rock, 'Darkness at Noon' 13a- a beautifully challenging route that demands techy footwork for days. Paige immediately followed with an impressive flash. We were both so stoked on the quality of this test-piece that we thought it would only be right to carry on to the next mega-classic 13a, 'Churning in the Wake'. A truly world-class route, Churning climbs an amazing seam that runs between light and dark stone through just about every character of hold you could imagine from crimps, to finger locks, to slopers to pinches, finishing with a dynamic lunge to a finishing jug. I onsighted to the chains and couldn't get enough, so I carried on with Churnings big brother extension, 'Churning in the Ozone' 13b for the full value. Paige followed by falling off the finishing jug on her flash.. wicked effort.
We had been told that 'Kings of Rap' 12d, was a must do by a few worthy sources and after my successes on some 13s I figured it might come easy. Well! I've got news for you (Leif Gasch), this route is BRUTAL! I had to get aggro on this pitch in order to manage the OS- killer route, but come on! 12d? serious? dang dude. Surprisingly (being so run down after the epic on Kings), I managed to onsight 'Taco Chip' 13a, to finish off our first day. We returned to the parking lot beat-up, smiles ear to ear, eager for more. Smith Rock is legit, end of story.
getting to know the locals
The following day we got out early to lend a helping hand for the annual Spring Thing, a climber organized clean up and maintenance day. With sunny weather on our side, a whole bunch of us carried boulders, moved earth, cleaned up and hung out for the betterment of this amazing park. Paige and I were stoked to help out and it gave us a great chance to meet some of the rad local folk and get to know the place better. We even had enough time to squeeze in a few pitches in the afternoon and have our first taste of the Aggro Gully. This deep running cleft offers some relief from the heat of the Dihedrals (which are south-east facing) and also features the highest concentration of burly routes at Smith. We warmed up on the ego-reducing 5.11 'Toxic' and I took a run up 'The Quickening' 12+ before focusing our attention on the business at the Aggro. I missed a super crucial side-pull on the awesome 'Aggro Monkey' 13b and junked my onsight, but managed to hammer off this lock-off fest second try. Despite some creeping sun and a morning of lifting huge rocks, three local dudes nailed their respective projects in the Aggro Gully on Saturday.. super inspirational. So I decided I needed to at least attempt something hard-hard.
J.B. Tribout was once called a bad man for some unapproved first ascents at Smith Rock back in the early 90s. Particularly of his ascent of the route 'Bad Man' 14a, at the Aggro. I'd heard of this notorious route being extremely difficult for short folk, which oddly often seems to grab my attention.. being 5'5, I'm not totally sure why, but I love / hate reachy routes. After taking a sample run on Bad Man I knew right away why it had such a reputation.. two huge undercling dead-points offer some unique and extreme difficulties for the shorter types, but I was inspired by the line and it's history none-the-less. After a good albeit tired second burn, I figured I would toss in the towel and return the next day for a proper effort. That night we shared some delicious food and a killer slide-show by the man himself, Alan Watts, with the other volunteers at the Spring Thing. Rad crew, great vibes.. much thanks people!!
Sunday we went straight to the Aggro and after warming up I jumped back on Bad Man, but unfortunately had a less than inspiring burn.. definitely feeling my third day on and some rising levels of heat. Paige fired The Quickening though and got me all psyched up again.. so I switched to some stiff boots- for an extra half inch of reach!- and managed to clip some chains on Bad Man. Very, very stoked..
Paige took a couple promising burns on 'White Wedding' 13d and offered me some beta on this incredible power endurance route that climbs through unique sequences and holds for its entire length- pockets, pebbles, edges, etc. I took a sample burn and although I was hugely psyched on the route, I was almost certain that my skin was literally speaking aloud to me in pain, something like, 'Dude, are you for real? The thumbs and all eight of us hate you right now!' Knowing that a rest day was on the horizon I convinced myself that another burn was in order.. and thankfully my skin cooperated for a send. Stoked! Absolutely no shortage of high quality routes in Smith, and after just a few days, Paige and I agree that the park is all it's cracked up to be- world class.
Now we're in Bend, relaxing at a book store downtown after a sauna and a shower, dreaming about our next day out at Smith.. Despite a well-timed rainy day today, the next week looks rad.
Stay tuned for some killer sports action pics from Ben Moon in the coming days!