Tag Archives: Moscow

Visiting Smith Rock! An Epic of epic proportions!

Visiting Smith Rock! An Epic of epic proportions!

A Crater Lake adventure!

Sarah had planned a glorious adventure: We would drive down to Smith Rock to climb for a day, then spend a day at Diamond Lake exploring, and then hit the jewel of the trip – a sunrise exploration of the Crater Lake rim.  From the rim, we’d stay nearby, explore Crater Lake, relax, take a boat ride, and have a great time.  We’d packed the car, made trip itineraries, and Ollie was safely at camp for the week.  All we needed to do was drive…


Monday, 28-Aug-2017


Smith Rock.  Climbing place.  Rocks.  Stuff like that.

We’ve been here a few times… a lot of few times.  We weren’t particularly worried when we parked at the main site in the mid-afternoon, and started racking up at the base of the cliff at 3:30.

We… we should have been, though.

The route started gloriously though!  We headed up Moscow, a 5.6 2 or 3 pitch trad route – one of my favorites at Smith, if I’m being honest.  It’s easy… but sustained; the climbing is never insane, but it’s almost never easy.  The moves all keep the same difficulty level, and it’s a great challenge of a route.  It’d been a bit of a challenge for us though, since the first move is Sarah’s white whale – a reachy bulge move.


But she pulled it!  Sarah crushed the move, and annihilated the first pitch.  I did the same to the second pitch, officially ticking off my first post-injury Trad lead!  Yay wins for both of us!

Pitch 3 threw us a bit of a curveball though… Sarah ran into some trouble about halfway up, with tough moves and tired hands, so I climbed up and took over the reins to finish out the route.  I did leave a headlamp with her though, just in case my lead took longer than expected and we had to have a dusk adventure.

Ohh… I am glad I left that headlamp with her.  Though I kind of wish I’d brought a second one…

When Sarah topped out after Pitch 3, it was dark.  She’d needed the headlamp for the last dozen feet, which led to a pretty cool view from my end.  Something between an angel ascending up the rock, and a monster crawling up from the abyss.  I think it depended more on what noises she was making at the time… either happy about finishing the climb, or angry at my difficult-to-remove placements.


But wait, there’s more!

There’s always more, isn’t there?  Remember… the climb is only half the fun!  The other half if the descent!  This descent wasn’t super fun.  Short version: I taped my phone to my helmet and set it to flashlight mode, Sarah tracked our way up, and we took a 20 minute nap at the base of the climb because we couldn’t really walk super well, thanks to being tired and super thirsty.

In all, the three-pitch route was done in five pitches, including the final roped top-out for safety, and took us nearly six hours.  We did debate sleeping on the wall at one point… but I think that thought was what kept us going to make sure we DIDN’T have to do that.

Then began the long trudge down into the canyon.  Then back up the canyon.  Honestly, not that bad in retrospect… we were tired, true, but we held a pretty good pace and kept pretty happy spirits.  Once back at the car we chugged more gatorade than one should normally chug, and ate more cheetos than one normally admits to eating.  A quick drive took us to the campsite, and then a quick unpack had us cooking ourselves a dinner.

It was nearly 11:00 at this point, so we’d obviously debated skipping dinner and setting up the tent right away.  But this was the first day of our adventure: It doesn’t behoove one to start an adventure by starving ones self.  We buckled down and made ourselves pasta with rendered sausage and asparagus, paired cleverly with a nice red ale.  It went down wonderfully, and was clearly our best decision of the day.


Then our sleeping bags lay out, and asleep we went.

A Halloween without Halloween – also known as a climbing trip to Smith!

Halloween – Saturday, 31-October-2015
Sarah and I had a few party invites on hand, but… well, none of them seemed quite as fun as going rock climbing down in Smith.
So, we went to Smith instead.
Sarah and I drove out to Smith early on Saturday morning – making the drive in her trusty truck.  The back was packed in with climbing gear and camping supplies, and the plan was to hit Moscow, followed up by some single pitch climbs… all dependent on how long the expected rain held off.  We made pretty good time; even though we left a little later than planned (don’t we always?) we still made it before noon, and were on the wall quickly.
Moscow 5.6 (Trad) – We’d done this one before, but I don’t mind re-doing route that I enjoyed.  And I had definitely enjoyed this one initially, so… why not, right?
Pitch 1 – per the last time we climbed this route, Pitch 1 is really fun, clean climbing.  However, this time I took the difficult variation, following a neat layback-crack up to the right, instead of following the traditional climbing line out left.  Definitely made it more difficult, but Sarah beared with my flailing, and I made it through the extra crux.
Pitch 2 – I actually built an anchor at the right spot!  Otherwise, exactly the same as the last time.
Pitch 3 – The longest pitch, and also the most interesting… but yeah, nothing new here.  Long, off-width, fun, super enjoyable.
Pitch 4 (the finish) – I still don’t really agree that this is 4th class… it’s maybe a V0 boulder problem to top off, but that problem is at the top of a ~250+ft cliff.  So we stayed roped in, and went left up a crack to a pair of bolts.
Walk off to the left, following a small path.
After climbing, we got back to the packs, ate some more burrito, and then headed back to the truck… the initial plan was to stay in town, relax, do some shopping, and maybe even visit a dog shelter in Bend on Sunday.  Instead, when we realized that we’d be leaving Smith ~ 6:15, we decided that a comfortable bed was more interesting than exploring Bend… and just headed back to Hood River.
We got some pizza for dinner at a place called “Base Camp pizza”… somehow there’s always a pizza place near climbing walls.  Makes sense – groups of hungry people, right?  We ate, played cornhole, and relaxed.
It wasn’t a simple drive back to Hood River, thanks to a torrential downpour that started around 7:45, but it wasn’t bad either.  Sarah and I kept each other awake for the time, talking and giggling and imaginging our next adventures… but honestly mostly wishing that it wasn’t raining, so that we could have stayed in town and climbed on Sunday as well.
Ce la vie.

My first trip to Smith Rock!

My first trip to Smith Rock!

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.

Friday, 07-August-2015

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.

Saturday, 08-August-2015

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

Sunday, 09-August-2015

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.