Tag Archives: outdoor climbing

A Weekend of Climbing – Competition and Smith Rock

A Weekend of Climbing – Competition and Smith Rock

Weekend of 10, 11, 12-Mar-2018



Friday, 10-Mar-2018


So far I’ve been to three instances of the PDX Pulldown – the first year where I made it into the open professional category, the second year where I had a broken knee, and now this, the third year in a row.

Each time it’s been a bit of a madhouse. Competitions always are, but this one was particularly impressive; they don’t cap attendance, so it usually ends up with a 30+ minute wait for any individual climb. But, in my opinion at least, it’s still totally worth it.

Why’s it worth it? What could make that much craziness and such a press of stinky rock climbers worth it?

The routes.

When they have a competition, they pull out all the stops. They bring in route setters from… I don’t know, route-set-topia? From somewhere. And they set interesting challenges; neat sequences, tough footwork, and powerfully dynamic moves. It’s awesome, and I love climbing them in the heat of competition.

The climbing went pretty well, although we went kind of lightly, truth be told. We could have probably pushed a bit harder and maybe even broken into the open category, but since we had a trip to Smith coming up over the next few days, we didn’t want to hurt ourselves or burn too hard. We need the fuel in the tank for the real rock climbing, instead of just competing in the gym, right?

It was an excellent competition, though. We didn’t end up winning any prizes for how hard we climbed, but we were both pretty proud of how well we did. On top of that, we won a few random raffle prizes, which is always nice. Nothing too nuts, but I got a $50 mountain hardware gift card, and Sarah got a set of stretching tools and a set of nutrition consultation appointments, which are also pretty neat.



Saturday, 11-Mar-2018

Our trip out to Smith was supposed to start on Friday evening… but let’s be honest. Who wants to drive 3 hours in the dark, just so that you can set up a tent, in the cold, sometime after midnight? No one, that’s who. Or… strange people, maybe? Not us, is what I’m getting at. Instead of driving out late, we decided to go early. Early to bed, early to rise, and early to drive the long drive to Smith.

Ollie was already in puppy camp, so our goals for the trip revolved almost exclusively around multi-pitch routes and big climbs. While Ollie can do well sitting at the base of the wall, she’s only good as long as someone is with her… multi-pitch routes, where both Sarah and I are on the wall for a few hours, don’t quite work with little miss separation anxiety over here.

Our goals hadn’t really been chisled into stone when we left Portland, but the drive clarified it up a bit as we sped on, deciding on what we wanted to work on.

That first day, we finally completed a long-standing goal of mine – a route I’d started calling “The Moscow Palace Traverse”. It’s not a single route, but instead it’s a traverse of the entire Smith Rock formation, starting on the East side with Moscow (a 3 pitch, 5.7 trad climb) and ending with a route called Matthew, in an area called Pleasure Palace (a single-pitch, 5.10 sport route). I’d come up with the traverse while climbing at Smith with Daniel a few years back, but had never had a chance to actually make it a reality.

But this was our time! This was our place! The Moscow Palace traverse was completed!

It went really well, too! Both Sarah and I got some successes in; Sarah led the two harder sections of Moscow, which had been giving her trouble for a long while. I climbed Matthew (not on lead, I’m sorry to admit), which was a really solid benchmark for me, since it’s a tough climb and I’m still a little unsteady on my healed knee. I busted it out though, and felt strong doing it. I think I need to start doing some more deadlifts though, to keep bulking the stabilizer muscles out a bit…

Anyways, the climbs went really well. The hike out went really well. Dinner… Ohh man. Dinner went so absolutely well, you don’t even know.

We made mac and cheese – a double portion, if I recall, made mostly with butter and a little bit of half and half. But we also made some chicken apple sausage, sliced it up, and added it in. Seriously, you don’t understand how amazing that meal is, after a whole day of climbing and hiking. It’s… well, I probably would trade it for gold, since gold is just super valuable. But… silver? I’d probably weigh it against silver, yeah.

After dinner, we embarked upon our final adventure of the day – sharing my ultra-light tent. I’ve had it since before I went to New Zealand, and it’s amazing for solo backpacking trips. It’s light, it’s small, and it’s quick to set up… all on top of being windproof and quite rainproof too. But… it’s small. As in, a bit cramped for two people, and definitely cramped for two people and a dog. So we didn’t want to test it out when Ollie was with us.

Results came back… neutral. Not super positive, since it was definitely pretty cramped, with not too much space for any gear. But not negative either, since it still easily had enough room for us, and it’s majorly lighter than any of the other tents that we’ve got. Will we take it on our next backpacking trip? Ehh…. maybe. Depends where we go, I think.

With that scientific experiment ongoing, we slept under the stars (in a tent, under the stars).


Sunday, 12-Mar-2018

While the tent experiment went well, our sleep didn’t go quite as well… not really sure what caused it, but somehow we didn’t end up quite as rested and refreshed as we’d hoped. Simple to solve, though, especially since the morning dawned rather bitterly cold. We just curled a bit deeper into our sleeping bags and slept in a bit.

Or… I slept in, I should say.

Sarah’s kind of a badass, so she didn’t want to sleep in. She wanted to wake up and make breakfast and brew up some coffee. When I say “she wanted to make breakfast”, I usually mean “Sarah looked at some food, then thought better of it and just drank some more coffee”. Today, though, it meant that she tied her hair back, rolled up her sleeves, and made us mini pizzas.

Yeah, seriously. While camping. Sarah made. Pizza. For breakfast. While I slept.

I woke up to pizza chips. It was unbelievably delicious.

I mean, I don’t even understand. I didn’t realize we had the ingredients for pizza chips, much less the option to have them as breakfast-in-sleepingbag. It was like waking up from a pleasant dream, just to find out that I was having another, even more pleasant dream.

Anyways yes we ate breakfast and it was awesome.

Then, we went rock climbing again! Keeping with our plan of doing some trad multi-pitch routes, we re-did another legacy route that we’d worked before – this time one called Super-Slab. It’s a pleasant route, with a bit of scary exposure at a few points. Sarah lead the first two pitches, and I took on the third.

Nothing was really out of the ordinary, which was honestly a really nice aspect of the climb. Climbing is, too often, a stressful event with us… swinging leads, making sure we have the right gear, negotiating challenging sections, it gets tough. This time it was different though – we cruised up, ripped past the tough spots, and had a great time!

The day was honestly just a really pleasant and quick one – we climbed, we descended via three long rappels, and we took the long trek out to the car. It was fun!

I’ll admit, the Dairy Queen on the drive home was also pretty fun, same with getting to sleep in our own bed after a night of cramped camping, but I’m pretty confident that’s simply because of how well we’d climbed the previous two days. DQ food is good, as is any semi-fast food, but it’s honestly only truly delicious when you’re covered in chalk dust and exhausted from a few days of good adventure.

A glimpse into my life in Hood River: A week in August.

Week of 23-Aug through 29-Aug
I love living in Oregon so far.  Granted, we’re still in the sunny and beautiful months, so that’s definitely a factor that I should take into account: I don’t like long dark days, and I hear that we’re going to have a lot of those soon.
But thankfully, my current adventures are filling up my “get outside and rock out” tank, and I’ve got a whole new network of mountaineers to call on once it gets rainy, and my thoughts drift toward muddy hikes and bagging peaks.
So what have I been up to?  Well – let me give you a quick summary of an enjoyable week that I just had.
Monday, 24-August-2015
Interesting fact, the week officially starts on Monday, per ISO standard 8601.  I did not know that until I looked it up for this post.  I really thought it was Sunday.
I started the week, officially, driving from Portland to Hood River.  It’s an early morning drive; a side effect of Sarah having to wake up at 4:30 for her current project.  It’s nice though, because I’ve been regularly seeing something that I previously thought was only a myth: The sunrise.
And this sunrise is over Mt. Hood, through the smoke of the forest fires that’re burning throughout Oregon and Washington.  So the sunrises have been particularly pleasant recently.
Another advantage of being awake early: breakfast.  Stopping in for a good breakfast is an excellent start to the week, especially since it’s definitely a treat for me to be able to have a solid pre-work breakfast.
After work, Monday was a quiet day – my rest day for the week.  Cleaning the house, reorganizing my gear from the previous weekend, doing Laundry and making a big huge dinner so I’d have leftovers for the week.
Tuesday, 25-August-2015
The Columbia River Gorge is huge – 75 miles long, with an average height between 1500 and 3000ft.  There are 75 major waterfalls, and countless rock faces.  I have two books that show climbs in the area, and it will be years before I’ve explored all of them.
This week, Tuesday is a climbing day.  My coworker has been pestering me to go climbing with him, but I’d been dodging him in favor of trip prep and random other events going on the previous few weeks.  This week was finally open, so we left work a little early and headed to a crag that I’d never been to before, but that he’d climbed at once with some other coworkers of ours.
OH8 – Old Highway 8 – crag is a lot like… I don’t know, really.  It’s like itself – it’s got pretty solid Basalt rock, with tons of small fractures throughout.  Though looks can be deceiving, and the climbs had far fewer crimps and nubbins than I expected, going into it.
If anything, it’s like Quincy Quarries back east – semi-tall, good climbing.  Except that everything is Sport (eat your heart out, Daniel), and they bolts are well maintained, and there’re no heroin needles or huge graffiti tags.
So not like Quincy Quarries at all, I guess.  The rock is, though.
Climb #1 – Tidewater, 5.9 Sport, lead by Ben.  A fun route, though kind of run out.  Right at the crux.  With a ledge fall potential.  So… a little bit sketchy.  But not super tough for a 5.9… I’ve heard it called a 5.8, which fits more with what I’d rate it at.
Climb #2 – Sasquatch, 5.11b Sport, set up as a toprope from the top of Tidewater.  It’s a challenge… but a fun challenge.  I work up it twice; the second time I come close to doing it clean, except for the crux section.
Wednesday, 26-August-2015
Another quick note about Oregon – everyone is athletic here.  Like… my oldest coworker still goes free diving and spear fishing on a regular basis.  Portland has the highest population of interesting / adventurous people that I’ve seen so far, so it’s no surprise that there’s more than a few climbing gyms in the area…
Wednesday I run into Portland again – It’s a bit of a haul, but the only climbing gyms in the area are here, and the chance to climb and have dinner with Sarah definitely makes it worth the ride in.
And honestly, my road trip reminded me just how relaxing and calming driving is for me.  So the drive is a good chance to decompress halfway through the week.  Call some family & friends, maybe.  It’s nice.
So this week, we hit Planet Granite – versus the usual Portland Rock Gym.  In all honesty, I find that I like PG better than PRG; the routes are more toward my style of powerful moves, and the gym is a bit bigger, and so less claustrophobic.  PRG is still excellent, with much more delicate & technical climbing, so I’m looking forward to alternating between the two.
Sarah and I take our lead test, and then get on the wall for some adventure…
5.9, sport lead – this is where we take our test.  Fun.
5.10a, sport lead – a solid jug haul, with some good overhangs and committing moves.  Definitely my style.
5.12a, sport lead – Why did I get on a 5.12a, you may ask?  Because I’m trying to show off to Sarah, is what I’ll answer.  Also, I was curious… and it turns out that PG has very soft ratings… I nearly finished this route with only a single fall.  I wasn’t able to move past the crux though, but it’s a project that I’ll be working on.
5.11b, top rope – Again, proof that their ratings are soft… yet very fun.  I did this route twice in a row – only falling once during the second run.
From the gym, we headed back and made dinner – an amazing charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine.  Because Portland is a classy city, and we’re classy people.
Recipe: charcuterie plate
2 oz prosciutto smoked ham
1 Fuji apple, sliced thin
1/3 of a thick baguette, cut into medium chunks
1 pot of home-made fig jam (or bought, if Sarah isn’t around)
1/2 summer sausage, sliced
8oz Brie, thick cut and slightly warmed so it’s spreadable
8oz blueberries, in a small bowl
All served on a large cutting board, and artfully arranged with a selection of rock climbing gear (see picture)
Paired with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Because the bottle was interesting looking.
Thursday, 27-August-2015
Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.  You’re close to the end, but there’s still enough time to get everything done before the weekend.  And that ties in with both work and pleasure: At work, everyone’s relaxed because we’ve still got Friday to get those projects finished up.  At home, all I ever really have to do is some basic packing and prep work for the weekend.  So, by this rule, Thursdays have become my gym/gaming night.
Thanks to the fact that I stayed in Portland Wednesday night, I find myself in Hood River (awake) much earlier than normal – I’d love to say that I get into work super early and beast-mode the day, but… that just wouldn’t be even remotely true.
Instead, I head home and make myself breakfast.  I’ve done breakfast out on some of the occasions that I’ve driven down the gorge early in the morning, but it’s not really as excellent as I’d like… half the fun of a huge breakfast is knowing that you don’t have to go to work afterward.
So instead of eating out, I save a few bucks and stick with my usual smoothie.  I grab a quick shower, a less quick nap, and then head into work a little bit earlier than normal, as opposed to super-early.  It’s still pretty good though, and the day goes by quickly.  Especially since I’d spent some of the early morning making lunches, and so I had an excellent Brie & prosciutto & apple sandwich to eat.
Then after work, I bike over to the gym.  Very exciting.  I pick up some stuff.  Put it back down.  Pull some things, push some others.  You know, the usual stuff that a dude would do at the gym.  Flex.  Growl.  etc…
Leaving the gym isn’t particularly pleasant though, since it’s not actually the end of my workout… I still have to bike myself home.  Which isn’t generally particularly pleasant, at least after doing squats for half an hour.  But home means dinner, and dinner means happiness, so I push through and have myself a plate of delicious food ready before too long.
Then some gaming, then soaking in the tub full of salt water (Epson salt is amazing, and I’ll be forever thankful to my old roommate Lizzie for introducing it to me), then some more gaming, then a bit of packing for the weekend.  A simple and pleasant Thursday.
Friday, 28-August-2015
Friday’s are not my favorite day at work – but they’re almost always the best day of the week as soon as I leave the office.  That’s because, especially out here in Oregon, I get to go on some amazing adventure for the weekend. 
This weekend was originally going to be a pure climbing weekend – Saturday and Sunday at Smith Rock, trying to get a semi-insane number of climbs done in a rather short period of time.  Sarah was going to meet me in Hood River, and then her friend Josha would meet us at Smith.  Then on Saturday we’d start on a five-pitch sport route, then get two single-pitch routes done, then finish off on a three-pitch trad route.  Then I’d drop Sarah off for a mountaineering trip on Sunday, and Josha and I would spend Sunday climbing some lighter routes.
However, plans change… pretty regularly, in fact.
The forecast was for rain, so Sarah’s mountaineering trip was canceled.  Not a bad thing, since it meant we’d have more time to climb.
But then the back-breaker – Jasper (Sarah’s arthritic, geriatrically lovable dog) got sick.  Sick enough that he couldn’t be left home alone.  Sick enough that he had to go to the vet that evening, to make sure he was okay.
So instead of leaving the house early to drive down to Smith, I hit the gym on the way home.  Then, Sarah and Jasper drove out, we ordered some Chinese for dinner, and settled in to have a low-key rest weekend.  A nice change of pace, since I haven’t had a real rest weekend in over a month…