Wednesday, May 19

Life on the Ranch

The saga continues at Smith Rocks.. Everyday as we cross back over the Crooked River and grunt our way out towards the car, we can't help but reflect on how special this place is. Between the quantity and quality of climbs here, the scenery and the extremely well maintained condition of the Park, there's little to complain about. Crashing at Steve House and Jeanne Young's place has been a serious lifestyle upgrade as well, with views of Smith Rocks off the back porch, indispensable wifi and a soft bed to rest in (thanks a TON Steve and Jeanne!). Now, with the recent addition of our good friend and photog superstar Andy Mann, we're stoked to make the last couple days at Smith count..

Sun rising on the Smith Rock Group.
Due to some hotter weather, we've had to be selective with our route choices and employ some alpine start techniques to stay cool. Waking up as early as 4am was not even enough to get a good effort on the mega-classic technical masterpiece, 'To Bolt or Not to Be' 14a.. this thing heats up instantly, catching the sun the moment it rises- it's actually quite amazing how quickly this vertical sidewalk becomes unclimbable. However, despite To Bolt being temporarily out, we've been staying busy on the front side early in the morning, long before the bustling crowds pour in. I checked out an alternative finish to the super-arete climb 'Slit Your Wrist' 13b, called 'Mr. Yuck' 14a. This route climbs through the crux of Slit Your Wrist and then breaks right, up an impressive wave wall, through holds few and far between with waning feet. For me this route came down to a series of moves that require precision footwork and trustfully applying pressure to tiny feet, just far enough away that pushing into them is tricky. I found this climb very fickle-subtlety was everything. After attempting Mr. Yuck in some ridiculous heat, I decided to return early the next morningand in better temps I finished the rig. Later that day I also dispatched a cool Aggro Gully route onsight called 'Disposable Heros' 5.13c (wicked soft..), that climbs a series of lay-backs and long moves through somewhat crumbly, albeit decent, rock. Paige skillfully took down the classic, 'Churning in the Wake' 13a, also... killer day.

home on the ranch...
Amongst our classic burl-fest sport climbing tour of Smith, we'd been eying an awesome multi-pitch route that hangs high above the Morning Glory wall.. 'Zebra/Zion' 10a, was on our list, a perfect option for a scorching day. We began with an 11d corner called 'Zebra Seam' that got our blood flowing proper before a couple long, brilliant pitches above, culminating with perhaps the best 5.9 pitch I've ever touched, a juggy arching flake WAY off the deck to the summit. Other than some hair raising lightning (literally hair raising, it was intense) and a lost #7 Metolius cam... (calling all dirtbags- potential booty on the third pitch!!) we had a ball.

Paige follows a pitch, high on 'Zebra/Zion'
Speaking of Metolius cams.. we had a chance to tour the factory, right here in Bend on our last rest day. Metolius and Smith Rock go together like spaghetti and meatballs- in many ways they evolved together. I've been a Metolius ambassador for almost two years now, and seeing the headquarters for the first time reflected the company exactly as I expected it would- classic, friendly, with attention to safety and a very homegrown atmosphere. Brooke Sandahl, an old-school Smith Rock honemaster and long time Metolius team member gave us the thorough tour- taking us through the entire birthing process of Metolius cams. It was shocking to see the amount of work and inspection that goes into a single cam. Rest assured loyal Metolius users, your safe lobbing on these puppies!

Brooke displaying the goods..
'I'd take a whipper on this thing!'
Yesterday we got back to the crag early and I got after a vicious route I'd randomly tried once or twice over the trip (in the sun, like an idiot!). Now, the awesome aretes on 'Vicious Fish' 13d, were finally in the shade and I gave it some proper effort. This incredible route is no doubt one of my favorites at Smith. Movement and holds vary from pockets, to pebbles, to compression, to technical, airy arete climbing. It's brilliant, runout and hard! I was stoked to send. I also dispatched a flash on a cool, overlooked 13a/b route called 'Oxygen', just around the corner from Vicious Fish.

Andy Mann photo of myself on 'Darkness at Noon'

Sportiva Miura is CHOICE for Smith
After picking up Andy Mann from the nearby Redmond airport, we went back to the crag for an evening session. I hung a line and chucked a repeat on the amazing 'Darkness at Noon' 13a for some photos before turning my attention to one of the last standing routes on my must-do list at Smith. 'To Bolt or Not to Be', America's first 5.14, was finally in the shade and our buddy IanYurden was ready for a solid effort. After his killer burn, and unfortunately super heinous upside-down fall, I was (...scared?) ready to give it a try. Simply put, this climb is insane- brilliantly technical and like nothing I've ever experienced. It could be one of the better, more interesting and uniquely difficult climbs I've ever been on. I'm stoked on my initial effort and can't wait to try it again... now the weather just has to cooperate!

'To Bolt or Not to Be'. Andy Mann Photo