I’ve never been to Smith Rock before so when my training partner suggested we go there when our training was done, I got pretty excited.
We ended up leaving Friday morning around 6 am, an early start that would hopefully give us a good first day of climbing that afternoon. Takes about 6 hours to drive from Spokane to Smith Rock. With still about 45 mins to go we stopped at this rest area just north of Smith Rock and as soon as I stepped out the car this overwhelming smell of urine over came me. At first I thought it was just the rest area bathrooms, which isn’t to out of the normal but it was rather strong for just being that. After commenting about it to my travel mates they insisted they didn’t smell anything at all. I was very confused and we got back in the car and headed down to Smith.
We arrived around 1 pm and there were already a large number of cars in the parking lot. I really cant guess how many but I would soon learn in the days to follow that it was actually pretty empty compared to the days to come. I was filled with excitement to see this place with my own eyes, I’ve obviously seen pictures but always wanted to check it out in person, but once again my first breath of the air smelled like urine! To be honest I was pretty disappointed at first but then Phil asked me if I had ever actually been around Juniper trees before. Thought it was an odd question but i said no. He said its probably the mix of the Juniper trees and the sage that im smelling. Most people find it a pleasant smell, my climbing mates sure did but all I could smell was urine.
Anyway, once I gathered my stuff I went and walked over to the edge of the parking lot to check out the view. Wow, it truly is beautiful, though in a very odd way. Its so strange that so much beauty could be held in such a small area with nothing really of beauty around it. Its like an oasis of awesomeness in an otherwise forgetful desert.
The first day went well, we sampled some moderates on the Picnic wall or Lunch wall? In about the middle of the day, it was already super hot on the rock I would say mid 70’s. Since we were coming from 30 degree weather this felt absolutely blazing. It would take some time to get a good feel for the rock. The tuff is pretty interesting, its like climbing on little nubbins or on small pebbles sticking out of the rock. Its also super griddy, which is nice but took me awhile to trust it while climbing. I had heard people saying that your finger tips will go raw quickly there and that your skin would be the biggest issue while climbing there. I actually didn’t really experience this, however, i would coin a new term, the ‘foot shake out’. Its common while climbing to shake out your hands / forearms as they get tired through the climb, but at Smith it was my feet that were killing me. Standing on crappy little half a toe nubbins in the blazing heat with fairly new shoes was very painful. I would dread putting on my shoes the rest of the weekend due to the blistering and pain.
The rest of the weekend went pretty well. On Saturday we sampled some harder routes along with some moderate classics, all of which were alot of fun. I didn’t get any sends of the harder routes which was a little bit of a bummer but it was still a blast. After hanging out in cocaine gully through the afternoon on Saturday, which we pretty much had to ourselves. Very rare, especially since you could see the insane amount of cars in the parking lot across the canyon. We hiked up ontop and got a good view of the Monkey Face, a tall iconic tower. To my surprise I even got to watch a guy work the route “Just do it” a famous 14.c that has only seen a handful of ascents. More importantly though Mr. John Shields himself possible saved a guys life after we watched him rap past the second anchor station, which we assume he was trying to go to the ground, where his rope was NOT touching. John was smart enough to yell at him before he got to far beyond the correct second anchor set. I think he yelled at him something along the lines of “If you continue down you will be eternally fucked!”. Was pretty crazy and memorable.
Over all the trip was alot of fun, wish we could have spent a couple more days down there. Hard to get use to the rock in a couple of days then have to leave, but it is what it is. Hoping to go back soon.
Check out some photos from the trip: