Tuff Love in Smith Rock

Mike Blicker, Jan McPhee, Jon Effa and I headed down to Smith Rocks over the Easter weekend for some sweet climbing on volcanic tuff. We left Vancouver at 7pm, and showed up at the campground at 4:30am the next morning. We were delayed only by Vivace coffee in Seattle, some funky navigation in Portland, and a police officer somewhere outside of Portland who told Mike to slow down. Several hours later, we woke up to go climbing, and it was sunny. There’s so much good climbing here, you can do the usual sport routes on the front side, or go to the backside and find some gems like Spiderman or Trezlar. It was pretty crowded on the frontside, so we did the easy popular climbs at dusk. 

Early Saturday morning, Jan and I headed off at a way too early time to go and climb the Monkey Face, via the west face variation. The first 5.7 pitch felt really hard, but maybe it was just so cold in the morning. The exposure was great though, and it was only going to get better. 

Part of the reason that the Monkey Face feels like such a big climb (even though it’s only four pitches), is the A0 bolt ladder. Armed with two ghetto aiders made out of a big biner with a short and long slings and twenty something draws, I worked myself up the aid pitch, thinking about Champagne’s epic. 

Neither of us really knew what we were doing when it came to aid climbing, but clipping bolts seemed straightforward enough. Eventually we both made it to the belay at the cave, just as other parties showed up at the ledge below. The cave was nice, but we knew previous parties had peed all over the cave. The final pitch exits the cave via 5.7 moves with big exposure, and Jan was nice enough to let me lead this pitch. 

Four hours later, we were on the ground (after an exciting 60m freehanging rappel)and enjoying the sun, while watching Matt Frey and Ian on the aid pitch from afar. Ian is the black dot above Jan’s helmet. 

It was nice in the backside, not too crowded, and really nice views of the volcanoes and surrounding farmland. 

To get from the frontside to the backside, people usually scramble over Asterik Pass. But on the way back, you can climb something like Spider Man (5.7 3p) and then rappel down Cinnamon Slab on the other side, which is exactly what we did. This is such an awesome climb! In fact I did it twice, on back to back days. 

I guess we were feeling a protein shortage after the day’s climbing, so we headed into town to find dinner. But the only thing open was a BBQ house, complete with a bar pumping wild tunes. They had buckets of peanuts, with nowhere to dispose of the shells but the floor. We woke up the next morning, feeling a little too healthy, so bacon and eggs were the solution. Note to self: avoid bacon and eggs if you don’t want to feel lethargic while climbing for the next couple hours. 

On the third day, we headed down to the east side of the Lower Gorge, looking for the Windfall? wall, but ended up on the Hand Job wall instead. It’s a bit of a hike to get here, but the basalt columns are nice, and it’s quite a peaceful setting. 

It’s all about the basalt columns here, with good stemming and jamming action. The basalt felt more solid than the stuff at Vantage, but detached columns like this one kept me thinking about which column would fall down next. 

Crack is good. After a bit of a warmup, I got on Hand Job, an exciting climb with a crux down low. Afterwards Jon got on Original Sin, another stellar crack. 

Spring means long climbing days in Smith, and we climbed until the sun disappeared. This is a picture of Mike on Master Looney, an awesome climb with a bolt protected roof move leading to big jugs. 

On the fourth day, we were all feeling somewhat bagged. It’s a long drive back to Vancouver, so we just had enough time to climb in the frontside, getting on some classics like Karate Crack. Grunting sounds were definitely made on the route. 

We finished up on Pack Animal, doing the direct start which offered way nicer (and harder) climbing than the traverse start. Eventually it was time to leave the nice place that is Oregon, and head back to Vancouver. The border delays weren’t bad at 11:30pm, and soon it was time for bed.

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