07-Aug through 09-Aug
Texts flew like… things that fly… a lot… through the whole week. Sarah and I built up a framework, then the details, of an amazing climbing weekend in the desert. We’d put together a basic idea the previous weekend, but it was fleshed out and ready by the time Thursday hit.
So the car waited for me while I worked on Friday – full of climbing gear, my camping kit, and the bit of food that I’d need over the weekend.
And as soon as I finished up the last bits on my project for the week, and made a quick appearance at the company faire that was happening in White Salmon (a small town across the river in Washington) I rushed out, put the top down, and fired the car south toward the mecca of sport climbing: Smith Rock.
The drive down to Smith was pleasant. The road trip had reminded me of my love for long drives, and this was my first excuse to really hit the road since I’d landed in Oregon. So I took my time and enjoyed the scenery; watching the gorge dissappear behind me, then the trees of Mt. Hood fall away, and finally the desert appear on the horizon.
As soon as I got to camp, I was regaled with stories of hobos and thieves. Turns out, the camp keeper was a little paranoid of people – she told me about cops appearing at the campground, and peoples climbing gear vanishing overnight.
But I’ve made a habit of traveling alone, and part of that skillset is being unobtrusive, and careful with my equipment. I’ve always been a little paranoid, and it’s served me very well so far. Paranoia and the confidence to act as if you know exactly what you’re doing at any time (especially when you’re alone in a new area) have kept me safe… so I just stepped up my game a bit, and checked in with Sarah to see where she was on her drive.
And it turned out that I’d be camping alone that night anyways – She’d run into some difficulty at work, and wouldn’t be able to make it to Smith until Saturday morning. A disappointment, to be sure, but I was able to take it in stride and still set up camp as I normally would.
And then the best part of the night – the stars. Smith is in the middle of the desert, far from the nearest town (Bend, Oregon. If you’re curious). That means that the stars are highly visible… and the moon wasn’t out that weekend.
So I set up my tent, and then promptly ignored it for the rest of the weekend in favor of sleeping out under the stars and stargazing.
I actually wake up on time, but Sarah’s running a little late… which is kind of good, since that gives me time to make breakfast and relax a bit and organize my gear.
And then once she arrives, we head in to climb!
Moscow – 5.7 Trad, 3 pitches, Ben leads all three, and messes up the belay ledge on one. Sarah leads the final summit, which is awesome and definitely not 4th class.
In all honesty, this was a really good route. Pitch 1 is simple and clean, Pitch 2 is a little more interesting, and then Pitch 3 is a big crack that slowly flares out to a #4 cam. It’s lovely.
We debated doing more routes, but since it was getting late and I didn’t sleep super well the night before we made the call to head back to camp, make dinner, and relax for a bit.
So we made our dinners and chatted a lot. Sarah, the true Mountaineer, had a quick and simple meal of Lentils ready within a few minutes. I, the coddled rock climber, made a full meal of pasta, chicken, onions, and sauce. Not to brag, but mine was pretty awesome. Even if it took like four times as long to make. And was heavier.
While we’re cooking, Sarah noticed a random guy sitting by himself, looking a bit sad and lonely… So she checked in with me, and then we invited him to join us to eat and chat. Turns out that he was a solo dude from New England named Zacks – climbing at Smith as a break while traveling the West Coast. So we all chat, eat lots of dinner, and have much enjoyment.
After a while, Zacks heads out and Sarah and I proceed to chat way too late into the night… but we do finally crash at some point. I let her take the tent so I can sleep out under the stars again
Next morning, super quick breakfast and then on the rock ASAP – Zacks told us that he was aiming for the same route we were, and that his guide would arrive @ 8:00… so we get mobilized at 7:30.
We make it to the rock and are just starting up as Zacks and the guide arrive. Good timing, though we do end up sharing a few belay spots with them… which isn’t really a bad thing, but is never really ideal.
First Kiss – 5.7, 5 pitches sport. Ben, Sarah, Ben, Sarah, Sarah. – Beautiful climbing, long, slightly exposed, and only a bit of crazy route finding. Getting to the actual Descent trail is a bit terrifying… it’s a semi-bouldering section, made more “interesting” by having the rope coiled up on my back.
So we survive the walk over the descent trail, and start into the walk down. It’s a simple trail, but since I’m pretty beat by this point I have a little bit of fun on it, taking a nice little slide trying to traverse a particularly difficult section of perfectly flat ground.
As I pick myself back up, Sarah checks in to make sure I’m okay… and a random guy on the trail quips in with the line, “Are you sure you can climb, if you can’t even walk?”. I ignore it, being used to BS like that from New Englanders. Sarah, however, doesn’t appreciate the comment… and proceeds to rip into the guy, with a nicely placed rebuttal of her own.
So we finish the descent, grinning and happy… if I’m a bit tired. Lunch fixes that though, and Sarah even takes the time to make sure my gear is well fed, by spilling some of her curried lentils onto the gear. Thankfully she’s got a spare shirt that cleans it up nicely, once my ATC has eaten its fill.
Energized, we walk on and hit up the waterfall slab for two final climbs before we’ve got to leave…
9999 – 5.6, sport. Ben & Sarah both lead – Simple and fun, this one followed a pretty solid bolt line. Nothing too crazy to report.
Amelia Dearheart – 5.7, sport. Ben leads – This one was… interesting. Not a hugely great route, but the beginning was definitely fun. It falls into the “well, we’re already here, so… may as well” category.
Then comes the walk back out to the campsite, packing of gear, and a sad farewell to Smith Rock… at least for the time being.