Smith Rock is an awesome place filled with adventure, dirtbags, choss, and beautiful sunsets. (Seriously, the dirtbag scene here is great. $5 a night to bivy, well kept showers and bathrooms, water, picnic areas, and loads of climbing partners. It rocks) Once I returned from Tahoe, I met up with some cool peeps from Portland that were going to do a multi-pitch but had three people. I could join them and not slow things down. After a warm up, I lead the first pitch and onsighted it. The next was an 11a so I let Dylan (my partner) lead that one. He went for it and got his first 11 onsight! When I went, I got my first 11 tr-onsight. Super happy about that. Though I did lose my watch in the process.
Dylan mentioned to me that he was scrambling in a gully and found something that looked climbable but he didn’t have any trad gear. I said I did and would be willing to give it a shot. Venturing up a thin slot at the end of the gully I got a piece in and was presented with a choice: a runout and blank vertical face (and really loose) or an offwidth slightly less runout and chossy. After poking around a bit, I went with the offwidth. Thankfully Dylan found a well protected alcove to belay from because the choss was raining down. Offwidths are often intimidating by themselves, but I had the added worries of my gear ripping out the weak rock in a fall and the ledge right below me. Thankfully I didn’t need to put that to the test. Out of the offwidth and some easy climbing later, I found some rock solid enough to build an anchor and bring Dylan up. (I must say that I really loved my big hexes on this climb)
Once we were on the ground, we thought “that was probably a real climb that is in the guidebook.” We looked it up and found out we were on Death by Vulture 5.8 X. The X here means “Falling not allowed. You might get really hurt even if you don’t fall.” We wanted adventure and that is exactly what we found.
For the last two days, I climbed with a guy from England and his friend from Portland. While they were not new to climbing, 5.8 was the very limit of what they could lead, so I took on the rope-gun role. When I started off, a lot of the people I climbed with did this for me, so it was really cool to pass it on. We started off with some pretty chill climbing, but I eventually got on some good tens. If you climb in Smith, the 10c at Rope-De-Dope Rock is really fun.
And I also saw a couple I climbed with in Ten Sleep here today! Kariss and Tom. Super crazy to be thousands of miles away and randomly meet up again. And Rod (the climber from England) told me that he is moving to Thailand and I should go there sometime so we can meet up (not so randomly) and climb. The climbing there does look amazing…
I climbed with Victor today. He is a really strong trad leader so we went to the North Point area by the lower gorge to climb on the basalt columns. I have not climbed on basalt yet, and love to try out new kinds of rock. I didn’t do a whole lot of leading, but I did get in some good experience. Hopped into an offwidth called “The Meatgrinder”. My offwidth technique obviously needed some work because I flailed a lot on it. And true to its name, my arms were pretty abraded by the coarse rock.
Last night I swung by the local climbing shop and met Derek, a local climbing guide. It turns out he saw me on Death by Vulture from the top of another 5.8 X climb in the next gully. He said the route that he did and the one I did only get climbed once every ten years. Pretty crazy that they were both climbed on the same day. So today I went climbing with him. I love climbing with folks that are better than me. I learn so much and get on things I would never dream of doing. So he took me up an 11b called Holier than Thou. It starts off on a super easy slab with nubbins sticking out everywhere but then it kicks back and makes up for it. The real climbing is overhung with big powerful moves and decent exposure. Oh, there was also 40 mph winds, so that added to the extreme feeling of it all. I fell twice, but that was just to work out the sequence. This is definitely a route I could climb sometime. And I definitely want to. It is one of the best routes I have gotten on.
Next we went to an endurance 11a. Nothing was too hard about it, but by the time I reached the anchors I could barely hold on. But hold on I did and got my second clean follow of an 11.
Derek decided to step it up a notch and do a 12. Not a very tall climb, but there was a lot packed into it. Once he got down, I hopped on it. More like tried to hop on it. Just getting off the ground was really hard. After I was on the rock, I could only do about one move before I would need to rest on the rope. It was a really wide dihedral with a super thin finger crack and barely existent stemming foothold. At one point I busted three or four moves without stopping but was hyperventilating so hard I thought I might puke on my belay. “Don’t pass out man” were the words of wisdom called up by Derek.
On the next route, I think I invented a new move: the knee layback. It is fun to come up with new ways of doing stuff.
Shortly after I got on the ground, we heard a group of people 20 feet away start calling out “Rock!” in rapidly increasing volume. Derek rolled into a little cave and I tried to get as much under my helmet as I could. We were safe but we heard someone up high crying out and then say, “The blood is squirting all over the place.” Derek being a guide was trained for this type of thing and sprung to action. There were also two trauma nurses hiking in the area that came to help. And once she reached the ground, she got bandaged up properly. Thankfully it was only her hand that was hit by the falling rocks and she was wearing a helmet. There were plenty of people at the base that were not wearing headgear though. I think they learned a valuable lesson. (If you are in an area with loose rock, always wear a helmet even if you are not climbing)