Driving out from Portland I was super excited to be able to have a look at the local area around Oregon. A year ago I had flown into Redmond and was whisked straight out to the camp site at Smith Rocks State Park to begin a four day guided adventure with Chockstone Climbing Guides. But this time was different and the landscape in and around this region is something to behold.
Once out of Portland we cruised down the endless black tarmac through pine forests as far as the eye could see. Large redwoods were everywhere and it was stunning. I could see snow capped mountains in the distance and could not believe it. I remembered flying lower than the summit of one of them last year. Karine’s reaction summed up the vista perfectly……..C’est beau mon amour….magnifique!!
The reaction was at the first sighting of Mount Hood and the surrounding forest. Further on along the trail we came into the canyon lands heading towards the desert. Tall tuft pillars lined the skyline from the valley floor as we rose up on to the desert plains. Ten miles later Smith Rocks came into view in the distance and there was more excitement in the car.
Arriving a little after 2:30pm on Saturday, we expected to see the car park full. The weekend before a friend of mine had stated on his FB page that the place was packed with people all day. Thinking back now it was Memorial Day in the US. This time however it was State Parks Day and parking was free. Getting out of the car was like walking into sauna, it was 36 degrees celsius and you could feel the sweat pouring off you immediately.
Walking down into the canyon it got warmer and we had a half hour walk to Phoenix Buttress. This was our sector of choice for the day and it was simple for us. Get used to the rock and have a lot of fun. We did a few routes and called it a day as Karine and I were exhausted after the long drives over the past two days. Tiffany and Colby were also a little tired and so we called it a day and headed back to the car. Dinner was at The Terrebonne Depot where boutique beer is in great supply and very tasty too. We then went back to our accommodation in Bend to sleep off the fatigue and beer.
Tiff and Colby had decided to camp out in the forest somewhere for the night as Colby’s dad Tom was in town (as such) and they were going to be hanging out a bit and doing some serious “birding”. I didn’t know at the time but Tom and Colby are very serious bird watchers. They go out in the night looking for these amazing little critters. Pretty cool actually.
After a solid night in the arms of Morpheus (not the one from The Matrix) we woke to a blisteringly hot day. It was 8am and 26 celsius already……it was going to be a slow start. Catching up on emails and all this social media stuff when you travel is a constant reminder that there is always work to be done.
We headed out to meet Tiffany at 2:30pm in the car park at Smith and it was still incredibly hot. We all arrived at a similar time and decided it was too damn hot to walk in, let alone climb! We sat in the shade and read the guidebook and checked out a few lines and then we waited some more and then some more…….and then some more. 4:30pm arrived and we thought we better go and climb.
The shade began to hit us as we walked in to the gully and it was a blessing. We headed to the Phoenix Buttress again, but the upper level. We warmed up on Wannabe Llamas 5a (5.8) and then did it again because it was fun. Took a few shots and then decided the to try the 6a (5.10a) to the left of it.
As I tied in Karine said “honey theres a snake over there!” I looked over and there it was, my first rattlesnake. It was beautiful and it was coming our way. I am not a fan of snakes due to a bad experience as a child, but Karine was very very scared and……….I hate to say it but WE BAILED! I wasn’t sticking around to find out if it was friendly or not. We have enough deadly snakes at home, so you know when to go.
We talked as we walked and getting Karine past the snake in the first place is worthy of a whole other conversation, but I will not go into it right now. As we walked past Tiffany’s old project that she kept getting smashed on, Tiff said “Do you wanna get on that 11 that you are interested in?” I immediately jumped at the opportunity and off we went.
We spent the next hour and a half having fun on a route called Heresy 7a (5.11c/d). It is bouldery beastie with a very cool and challenging last move for everyone. I did it my way and was super happy with the attempt, it was hard but it was super fun and testing. Tiff did it hers and the young crowd that had gathered around us we yelling support from below. We then headed over to another wall where Karine flashed a very runout and challenging route for her called “5 Gallon Jugs” 5a (5.8). Exhausted from the heat we strolled back to the car content with our short but fun adventure. It was now 9pm.
Day 3 at Smith was now upon us as we arrived in the car park to yet another exhaustingly hot day. We wanted to get in early so we could get out and do the three hour drive back to Portland in relative daylight. So I suggested we go though the pass and up to the western walls via the ridge line I could see in front of me. Tiff said there is a great view at the top so I said lets go.
We arrived at the top of Misery Ridge (appropriately named) sweating and already tired beyond belief. Switchback after switchback had taken its toll in the high twenties temps. It was now just after 10am. It was unseasonably hot for the area but we were only there for a short time, so we were making the best of it. We did a couple routes and called it a day. Mind you, one of the routes was on gear and it was so much fun. I have to say I am inspired now to climb on gear a little more.
All in all a great three days out in the canyons in a great place with “good humans”.