Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smith Rock

Somehow I got a week off! Kyle and I left the beautiful fall weather in Calgary and headed south with our fingers crossed that we weren't making a big mistake. Fortunately, it was even nicer in Oregon, with temperatures in the mid 20s and sunshine every day! We put in our long day of driving on Friday afternoon and slept in the Kennewick Walmart parking lot in our trailer. This made our drive on Saturday much more manageable and we pulled into River Rim RV park near Redmond Oregon early in the afternoon. This gave us time to set up camp, sample some local beverages and play disc golf. We cooked a thanksgiving dinner on the BBQ and camp stove, but had to retreat inside to finish the cooking when the wind picked up. We were in bed super early, eager for climbing at Smith Rock State Park.
Little american town - somewhere in central Oregon
We spent 4 days climbing in Smith Rock, repeating all the routes that Kyle had done when he came down with the alpine club in 2013. Most of our routes were multi-pitches and we only did one day of sport climbing because it was way more fun to climb cracks!
Chilly mornings at the RV Park
Mt. Jefferson in the background of the Monkey Face (very popular on a Sunday!)
Our first route of the trip was the most challenging. We did the West Face Variation Direct (5.8 Trad) up to the Pioneer Route on the Monkey Face (the landmark formation of Smith Rock). It was an eventful day and crazy busy on the route. High traffic combined with a late start made for a long day on the climb, but we had the fortune of watching a base jumper leap off the top and got to chat with some of the other climbers as we waited at the belay stations. I got to try aid climbing for the first time, which was much more difficult and frustrating than I had expected, but the views from the Monkey's mouth and from the top were totally worth it. Kyle and I topped out as the sun was low in the sky and we had the whole thing to ourselves. Suddenly he pulled out a ring!! I couldn't believe it!! I said, "are you kidding?! Of course!". What a way to start the trip.
A bit stunned and very happy

Celebrating at the top of the Monkey Face
Awesome rappel down as the sun was setting
The rest of the climbing flew by as we ticked off classic easy trade routes like Spiderman (5.7), In Harms Way (5.6), Super Slab 5.6) and Moscow (5.6 with a 5.7 variation). We also did a few fun sport multipitches; Wherever I May Roam (5.9) and First Kiss (5.8). We had great weather every day, met some really nice people, enjoyed local beer at Redpoint (the local climbing shop) and had a great time on the rocks. Smith Rock attracts a lot of climbers, base jumpers and high liners in addition to hikers and sightseers. People are drawn to Smith for the amazing formations, easy access, solid rock and beautiful scenery. It was an interesting mix of people, and I was surprised to hear that some people spend the whole season living at the bivouac near the climbing area. It made our RV Park life seem quite luxurious.
Spiderman (5.7 trad)
My new fiance rappelling down Spiderman
Kyle follows my bold 5.4 traverse on Super Slab
Hanging out at the top of Super Slab
High-liners are crazy!
Playing on the high-line
Fun in the sun at Smith
Kyle loves climbing! Dirty rope = dirty hands
Scrambling over Asterix Pass to get to the back side of the park
Fun with hand jams on Moscow
Not as much fun with off-width on Moscow
Kyle roams up Wherever I May Roam (5.9 Sport)

Moving around the crux corner of Wherever I May Roam
Amazing views over the Crooked River
 Climbing is not the only thing that Central Oregon has to offer. Bend has 16 craft breweries and lots of great mountain biking in the area. Our trip would not have been complete without checking out a few of the pubs. We combined an evening of biking at the Phils Trail System with a brewery tour at Deschutes for an excellent "rest day".
Kyle samples the local ales at Deschutes Brewery
Delicious beer
Deschutes brewery bottling assembly line
 We took a full day off climbing near the end of the trip to drive down to Willamette National Forest and ride Waldo Lake Loop, an IMBA epic. The trail was 20 miles long and only have 300 metres of climbing so we were able to get the ride done in just over four hours. The west side of the lake, where we started the loop, had the most technical riding, and the final 12-15 miles of the trail were fast and flowy. On the north shore of the lake, we rode through an area that a forest fire had burned in 1996. It was a very interesting landscape, much different than anywhere I have rode before. 
Waldo Lake Loop - IMBA Epic Ride
Waldo Lake
Excellent spot for a refreshing beverage
Old forest fire area on the Waldo Lake Loop
 Thanks to our early start that morning, we had some time to be tourists on our way back to camp. We stopped at Newberry Crater, hoping to enjoy the hotsprings but we never found them. Instead, we checked out an obsidian flow from an old volcano and drove up to the top of Paulina Peak where we were met with spectacular views of the surrounding area. We had an unexpectedly rewarding visit to the national monument despite the lava tunnel being closed for the season for bat hibernation.
Obsidian chunk in the lava flow at Newberry Crater
Paulina Lake from the top of Paulina Peak
Kyle checking out the obsidian flow with East Lake, Paulina Lake and the cinder cone in the background
 The trip was over far too soon, but we were able to squeeze in a few more activities, meeting up with Evan and his girlfriend for a hike in the Columbia Gorge before continuing up to Canada where we stopped for a bike ride in Fernie.
Kyle's favourite tree on our Columbia Gorge hike
Driving home on I 84 through the Columbia Gorge