Smith Rocks 2012: A Climbing Trip Report from Brett Watson

Brett Watson is a photographer and climber from Vancouver Island. He’s just recently returned from a climbing trip to Smith Rocks State Park in Oregon. These are some his great photos from the trip. More about Brett after the post.***

Gullies and Shipwreck Rock

Gullies and Shipwreck Rock

The beginning of October marked the end of our 2012 outdoor climbing season. With weather growing colder and wet, the prospect of dry rock in the Comox Valley was slowly disappearing. The season’s prime was in full effect in beautiful Smith Rocks State Park, Oregon! Jen Eaton and I had planned for this trip six months prior, and we were both very excited when the day was upon us to head south. We left on September 28th, gone for ten days with eight full days of climbing. The perfect getaway before the winter!

Our trip down was full of anticipation, with some beautiful weather and amazing timing of the full moon, which was rising as we were making our way through Mt Hood National Forest. As we were pulling into the Smith Rock Bivy area, the silhouette of the rocks in the moonlight, coupled with the crowds of climbers, dirt-bags, high-liners and fellow adventure bound folk, only urged the excitement of the week to come!

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Our first day we started on the Morning Glory wall, in the sunshine. Five Gallon Buckets was the first route of the trip, a beautiful 30 meter line of giant holes and pockets in the wall, made for a great warm up and intro to the style of bolting at Smith Rocks. The bolts here are further apart than most other climbing crags. Many say they are run out, but the locals say it’s normal. To each their own I guess. The rest of that day was spent exploring many routes on the front side of the rock group. The second day we got right down to business with an amazing multi-pitch route called Wherever I May Roam. Five pitches of beautiful climbing, with some nice exposure on the third and fourth pitches, made for a nice day of 5.9 climbing with an incredible view at the top. Four rappels down and we were back at square one. From the Base of that climb we hiked back around the Smith Rock Group and scouted out some other nice routes and walls.

Jen on Nine Gallon Buckets

Jen on Nine Gallon Buckets

Another day on some fun sport routes for our third, then day four was a rest day with a fun little multi-pitch in the morning called First Kiss. This was located on the Kiss of The Lepers Wall. It sustains 5.5 to 5.7 climbing for the first four pitches, with a 5.4 “bolted Sidewalk” on pitch three. The highlight of the route was the final pitch of beautiful fun climbing on 38 meters of vertical 5.7 terrain. Once at the top with another classic Smith view, we hiked off the back.

Jen on Toxic

Jen on Toxic

A couple days of exploring other walls led us to some amazing routes. Highlights of these would be, Nine Gallon Buckets extension 5.10c, Wedding Day 5.10b, J.T’s Memorial 5.10b, Toxic 5.11b (very reachy moves), Phone Call From Satan 5.9, Scary Hissing Llamas 5.8, of course many more.

Beware: many routes here have a crux, or what feels like some really hard moves, just before the first bolt. To escape this problem many climbers use a stick-clip. Also, the first bolts are very, very high.

The final route of the trip, we went out with a bang!

We had some other friends there who agreed to climb the Monkey face with us. They led the first two beautiful trad pitches of the west face variation, which got us to the famous “Bohn Street” ledge. From Bohn Street we had a 18 bolt ‘Bolt Ladder’ . Leading was fairly easy, although I give credit to the second. Jen did a stand up job muscling her way up this thing, with tiny if not no foot holds and a slight overhang at the top. It was a bit of work but well worth the Beer in the mouth of the Monkey Face. From there you step out of the mouth over the Panic Point with a sheer 200 feet below, and keep going up, through a fun short 5.9 pitch to the top. Exhilarating! Two rappels, one with two 60 meter ropes, and you`re on the ground. Thank you very much Martin and Fraser for leading us up the first half!

Our final night, was the culmination of the many like-minded climbers in the Bivy. Jen and I had collaborated with our fellow Canadians Martin and Fraser, and hosted a Thanksgiving Potluck for all the Canadians in the Bivy, and of course any other who wished to join. With an awesome turn out, meeting new faces and hearing many climbing stories from all over the world, we left our new family and friends and headed back north with some serious motivation for next seasons climbing adventures.

Smith Rock Beta

First Kiss Multi-Pitch 5.8 – Fourth pitch is a long traverse around a buttress. It gets very difficult to hear your partner once at the next Belay station, so make sure you have an adequate communication backup plan to avoid any complications. Great rest day activity!The sunny areas get very hot very quickly. Chase the shade, but bring warm clothes! The sun and shade were two extremes. Be prepared. Good areas are the backside in the morning, then the Dihedrals or Christian Brothers in the evenings. Morning Glory is great first thing in the morning. Once the sun hits morning glory, you have about an hour before it’s too hot to climb anything really hard, let alone bare it.

Classic Routes – If you have a limited amount of time, stick with the classics. The 3 and 4 starred routes in the guide book are very true to their claim. Do your homework, plan out what routes are where and hit them up! They are well worth the little bit of extra time.

Martin on The Monkey Face

Martin on The Monkey Face

Monkey Face – This is a must do! Pick your route of choice, there are many. It is a classic multi-pitch, take your time and enjoy it! It’s a lot of fun to do with a couple friends! The west face variation is a 5.8 route. First two pitches are 5.8 and 5.7 Trad climbing with bolted anchors. Pitch three is the bolt ladder, and then Pitch Four is a choice of 5.7 to the Nose, or 5.9 to the top of the head. The panic point is the ultimate highlight!

Bivy Beta – You arrive and wonder where you set up your tent? Hike towards the open field and there are many spots with trees where you can make your home for the time. Once your tent is up, head back to where you parked and setup the kitchen in the centre communal picnic area. Mingle with the other climbers; after all they are all there to do the same thing. Climbing Partners, Beta, ride shares, and many more opportunities await you in this bivy community! Respect it, pick up after yourself and please share the tables, weekends get busy and there aren’t enough tables for everyone to have their own!

Spend the money, and buy the guide book. It is an amazing resource, with beta like you’ve never seen in any other guide book before. Don’t go down to Smith with the intention of just ‘grabbing one on the way into the park’…this year they were all sold out, and waiting for more to arrive. The “Smith Select” is good, but we were constantly sharing our guide book with others that had the “Smith Select”. So order one online, or make a MEC run before you head down there.

Use the campground to its full potential. By this I mean talk to as many other climbers as you can. They are the ones that are going to give you that last minute beta you never would have thought of before heading out the next day. Plan your multi pitches using other’s advice. It seems like everyone wants to share their thoughts and advice, so take them!

The hike around the park is fantastic. Do it on a ‘rest day’. Fun view point of climbers working their way up Monkey Face. Other great rest day activities: a trip into Bend with a stop for Huckleberry ice cream at the little store on your way back into the campground.

Brett Watson

Brett Watson

** Brett Watson is a photographer, outdoor enthusiast, traveller, and adventure seeker, whose passion lies in expressing his experiences and adventures around the world. Currently living in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, he spends the majority of his spare time photographing, mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, or surfing. While planning and saving for the next adventure abroad, Brett continues to photograph the beautiful landscapes and people of Vancouver Island. Find more of Brett and his photography at  Brett Watson Photography and on his flickr page.

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