Tag Archives: Beacon Rock

Climbing outside! At beacon rock! Multi-pitch!


Friday, 01-Nov-2019

Fall is my favorite time of year. It’s bright, the leaves are beautiful, it’s cold but not freezing, and the sun is still up for a fair amount of time. It’s the perfect season for rock climbing.


Thankfully, we were able to make a bit of time, and Sarah and I headed out to The Beacon for a quick three-pitch jaunt up the SE Face.  It was amazing to stretch out our climbing muscles again; placing gear, building anchors, and facing the cold wind through the Columbia Gorge.  We had a blast!

We’d been debating continuing to the summit, but honestly, after Pitch 3, we were pretty burnt and cold – it was NOT a warm day, and while I love climbing in the cool weather, this was getting just a little into the “cold” side of things.  We conferenced quickly, and decided that it’d be better to descend… everything after Pitch 3 is pretty weak anyways, so we weren’t really feeling drawn to it.

Instead, we rapelled down, packed up our gear… and then hiked to the summit!  Woo!

Taking a line up The Beacon!

Taking a line up The Beacon!

Saturday, 26-September-2015

So when I first moved to Oregon and started talking to climbers, I heard about The Beacon. I believe the actual phrase was “the best climbing in Northern Oregon is the Beacon. Which is in Washington.”

So I’ve wanted to climb it for a while – I did the first pitch of it with Dave and Sarah a few weekends ago, and the climbing was fun! It was pretty clean, made up of solid granite that’d been broken up by time and weather. From what I read at the entrance signpost, the spire is actually the core of an ancient volcano; the rest of the mountain was worn down by the floods that carved out the Columbia River Gorge itself.

So when Sarah and I found ourselves in possession of a free Saturday, we racked up the gear, reviewed topos, and got ourselves on the rock!

South East Corner – 5.7 Trad, 5 pitches official. Grades with “?” are estimated, based on my opinion. Which is clearly important, since this is my blog.

Pitch 1 – 5.6ish? – This is the one that we’d done before, so it went cleanly and easily. The anchor was huge, and the belay was comfortable. Good, clean climbing.

Pitch 2 – 5.2ish, if that. – A traverse… basically just walking along a ramp, with a few spicy moves with a bit of air. Not a lot of protection, but you don’t really miss it as you walk along a 2ft wide ledge.

Pitch 3 – 5.7 – Now this. This was the climbing. This pitch is generally classed as the best on the route, and I have to agree with it. Basically, we worked our way around two huge roofs; 5+ ft big, give or take. This was where I started seeing old Pitons, which is always a really fun thing.

Pitch 4 – 5.6? – The first section of a fun ramp. Not the traverse like Pitch 2, but a good technical section of fun climbing.

Pitch 5 – 5.4? – the remainder of the Pitch 4 ramp. Split into two due to the wind causing communication issues between Sarah and myself, and rope drag starting to become an issue.

Pitch 6 – 5.6? – This one was pretty fun for the first few moves, then evened out a lot. An interesting chimney turned into a standard-issue ramp… basically, I started to feel like I was just hiking a series of really steep switchbacks.

Pitch 7 – 5.2? – So the topo calls this a “4th class to summit trail” section. Which is totally believable if you’ve done it repeatedly, and/or have a death wish. Large, slightly-loose blocks on a steep arete, with huge falls on both sides.

Pitch 8 – 5.2? – The finish of the “4th class” section that Pitch 7 started. Then, we topped out onto the summit trail!

Descent – We descended The Beacon via the summit trail, a beautifully designed and built “trail”, that consists of concrete embankments, wooden bridges, and amazing civil engineering. To quote the builder…

“My purpose in acquiring the property was simply and wholly that I might build a trail to the summit.”

– Henry Biddle

Please note that this trail descends what is, basically, a vertical wall. In a fashion that a wheelchair could get up. Dude was awesome.

A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

14-Aug, 15-Aug, 16-Aug

So this weekend was, originally, going to be an alpine weekend. Drive down to the trailhead in the evening of Friday, take a quick few hours worth of nap, then start onto the trail sometime around 03:00 in the morning. Summit before noon, and then head back down to grab some well-earned burgers.

Instead, it rained on our mountain… and this isn’t a mountain that you’d want to ascend in the rain. We’d aimed for Three Finger Jack – a 5-mile approach, followed by a 5.2 traverse and a 5.4 chimney. Both made up of loose, frictiony rock moves… not something pleasant or safe to do when it’s even partially damp.

So we stayed in Portland Friday night, then Hood River for Saturday. Horsethief and The Beacon were our goals – I’ve already discussed Horsethief, but The Beacon is described as “The best climbing in Northern Oregon… even though it’s in Washington”.

Friday, 14-August-2015

The weekend started when I met up with Sarah in Portland, tracking her and her dog Jasper down as they took their early evening walk. We discussed plans; how we’d planned on doing Three Finger Jack, but that the weather was starting to turn against us, and what other options we had for the weekend.

We flopped back and forth, debated, called Dave (the third member of our rope-team), discussed options, and finally ended up canceling the plan completely. In its place, we aimed to meet up with Dave in the morning, and do some low-key adventuring around my place in Hood River instead.

With the plans locked down, Sarah and I turned our attention toward dinner – we were in Portland, after all, and had roughly infinite options of where to go. We finally settled on a small Pizza place near the house – since it had the advantage that we could easily walk both of the dogs (We had Sarah’s roommates dog with us as well) there, and then keep them with us thanks to the outdoor seating.

We walked over, relaxed and chatted and dreamed about where to go over the next few days, and about bigger adventures that we could take over the course of the next few months.

That discussion ended up being a pretty in-depth one; we kept it going as we walked home, and then continued dreaming late into the night… possibly too late, with how early we were aiming to get up in the morning. But trip planning and telling stories about previous adventures got the better of us, though sleep did finally happen at some point.

Saturday, 15-August-2015

We started out early… but not excessively early.

Definitely nothing like the 03:00 plans that Three Fingered Jack had called for, at least. We had time for a quick bit breakfast before heading over to Dave’s house, where we traded cars, packed up the climbing gear and basic other stuff, and headed out to our first adventure location of the weekend: Horsethief Butte! You know, the nice and quiet crag that I’d started exploring… We all figured that it would a good spot for an uncluttered day of climbing.


What did we see when we arrived? Three vans, with the name of a local church group on the side. A fair number of cars too.

But we didn’t give up, being the tough and resilient adventurers that we are. We headed in anyways, braving the storm and figuring that we’d at least find a few good routes to set up and play around on.

And we did find some spots… But not nearly as many as I had been hoping for. These groups were sieging the entire area, setting up dozens of ropes for the 60+ kids that were mostly hanging around. I mean… they even had a poop tube, so that people wouldn’t have to walk the ¼ mile back to the restroom at the parking lot. They had multiple huge Gatorade buckets, and massive piles of gear strewn about.

It was impressive, but I can’t complain too loudly, because at least it’s better than sixty kids running around a tiny soccer pitch, screaming and crying. Climbing is always ideal.

So we put up a few routes, and enjoyed ourselves as best we could.

Side story: The kids were screaming and carrying on as they climbed. Cool. But it started getting a little much… so Sarah headed over and politely asked one of the leaders if he could, and I quote, “keep the death-screams down”. For good reason – death screams mean injury, and we’d been kind of on-edge constantly looking around the corner to see if someone had been hurt.

So he said he would, and soon enough the screams ended. And were replaced by “Ohh god I’m dying ohh no! Death screams!” Literally the words “death screams”, at full-tilt.

So Dave one-ups them by screaming “Does anyone need medical attention?! I have a first aid kit!”

They finally quieted down to more normal kid-levels after that.

So from there we continued climbing, moving around, and setting up routes. I couldn’t list the specific climbs that we did, since I don’t really know any names for the area… But Sarah lead a chimney, I led a few face & crack climbs, Sarah met a lizard on one of her routes, and Dave showcased his level-headedness when leading sketchy sections. It was a fun, yet relaxed (aside from death-screams) day.

Once we finished up and headed toward home, we were kind of famished… so we hit The Mesquitery for dinner… You know, since I’d been there a few times before and it’d been quick and simple. But it was a weekend, and for some reason they were super slow… our Burgers took nearly two hours to get to the table. Thankfully, our soup came out earlier, and the appetizer does come out a bit earlier as well… but lesson learned – don’t go there on the weekends, if you’re hungry and looking for a quick meal.

Then we hit a pub afterward, a small British-inspired place down the street. Drank some beers, chatted with some people, and then took the walk back to the house. A good night; relaxing and low-key. Even if it took a little while to get fed, heh.

Quick note: I felt tough, since everyone had mentioned how cold it had gotten that evening. I thought it was kind of warm, actually…

Sunday, 16-August-2015

Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation… so we woke up slowly again. But instead of getting up super slow, we still got up in time to get some good stuff done – breakfast, guide book review, and time to form some schemes for the rest of the day.

The decision was to explore Beacon Rock – a pretty famous climbing area on the Washington side of the Colombia River Gorge. So we ate, drove over, and started up the South East Face, the most famous of all the famous climbs up this famous rock.


So I lead the first pitch of the 8 pitch climb, and then belayed Dave up, followed by Sarah. We were originally going to continue up for a bit, but unfortunately there was roughly a million people in line to climb the route… and a lot of them weren’t being particularly safe or pleasant.

Like… they were starting to climb up “alternate” routes to cut other parties off… and by alternate, they were climbing random spots and just getting in everyones way, while being rude / unsafe.

So, we moved on. We headed back to Portland, and dropped Dave off at his house after doing a thorough review of the gear, and taking some time to clean everything up.

Then, with the whole rest of the day/evening in front of us, Sarah and I took our time to enjoy Portland. We got slightly dressed up, leashed Jasper up, and wandered over to the grocery to get ourselves some dinner.