Tag Archives: Smith Rock

A trip to Smith Rock


Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 17, 18 & 19-Nov-2017


Bill and Greta, Sarah’s Mom and Dad, came to visit us for Thanksgiving this year!  Since they’d be visiting for the week ahead of Thanksgiving itself, we planned out a few various adventures for us all – the first one being a trip to finally show them Smith Rock!


We met Bill and Greta at the airport, complete with Ollie in her little Wonder Woman outfit.  After some impressive face licking and tail wagging we were back at the house, and then fairly quickly back on our way, driving South past Mt. Hood and down into central Oregon.  It was a bit of a hurricane, we’ll readily admit, but it payed impressive impressive dividends impressively quickly.

Sarah had put together an adventure for us all – Our first target was a small house that She’d reserved from AirBnB in Redmond; not right next to Smith itself, but pretty darn close in the scheme of things.  Sarah and I would usually just camp out while visiting Smith, but this time we had a request from Greta to fulfill – it was her birthday, and Scotland isn’t exactly known for exceptional steaks…

Yup – turns out, Scotland doesn’t have steaks like the US does.  They have whisky and mountains, deer and kilts… but no US-quality steaks.  But that’s something we could easily remedy – we hit up the butcher shop on our way out of town, and picked up a few rib eyes.  Once we were settled into the house, we set Sarah loose; we’d brought the cast iron skillets, the seasonings, and the tools.  Sarah has many skills that set her apart from the crowd, and one of those is definitely her skill with searing steaks up right.  Soon enough we were feasting, sipping wine, and settling in.

It was a lovely evening, especially after the whirlwind of driving, unpacking, repacking, and getting ourselves out to Smith.  We relaxed, caught up, and got ourselves ready for showing off our little playground in the desert.

Sarah and I have hiked and climbed at Smith Rock more times than I can count.  We’ve had epic adventures, relaxing days, and made tons of good memories.  Alongside that, Smith is a pretty unique piece of geology; a beautiful chunk of rock soaring out of the high desert.

Bill and Greta are both geologists, and have heard Sarah and I talk about climbs and hikes at Smith tons of times… but somehow, we’d never had a chance to all visit Smith together.  Now was our chance, and since they’d been doing a lot of hiking out in Scotland, we figured that it’d be pretty safe to drop all of us into the deep end, with a short hike called “The Misery Ridge Trail”.


It’s kind of miserable, from the first look of it: You hike a ways down into the valley, then hike all the way up to the top of the ridgeline, then back down for a long walk along the river before hiking back out of the valley.

We were in high spirits though, and needed to burn off the huge steaks that we’d eaten, so we got to it with a vengeance… and honestly had a really great time of it!  The hike always seems harder and longer than it actually is, and we all had a great time traipsing around, looking at the rock formations, and even doing a little bit of climbing on the far side of the trail, at a small cliff called Waterfall Slabs.  Mostly though, we just explored and enjoyed the walk.


Since the hike was the primary goal of the trip, we didn’t really have too much else planned.  After a bit of deliberation, we settled on finishing plans over dinner – sticking with the theme of “things you can’t find in Scotland”, we found an awesome BBQ pit-style restaurant and ordered a rather impressive pile of dinner for ourselves.  We gorged, tasted some pretty impressively delicious local beer, before heading back to the rental to continue catching up and relaxing.


Sunday dawned nice and early, to the delicious smell of re-heated brisket and ribs.  Our plans for the day, after devouring the leftovers from the night before, was to drive back to Portland while doing a hike in the Mt. Hood area.   It was mostly a chill day – the hike at Smith hadn’t been particularly intense, but it had still been enough that we weren’t planning on anything too intense the day right afterward.

Our hike turned out to be perfect – It was in an area that Ollie could run free, unlike Smith, and the trail was a gorgeous bouquet of winter wonderland covered in light snow and ice.  The trail we’d chosen was along a river, heading up into the mountains toward a few waterfalls; in short, gorgeous.

We hiked for a while, though we didn’t end up making it all the way to the final viewpoint – as the trail wound onward and upward, we started encountering more and more snow, followed by icier and icier conditions on the trail.  We finally hit our limit a ways in, when the path took us through a boulder field.  It had iced over nearly completely, and upward progress was basically impossible.  So we had a rest and a lunch break, before heading back toward the car, and to Portland.

Smith in September

Smith in September


Monday, 25-Sept-2017 through Thursday, 28-Sept-2017


It’d been a while since Sarah and I had done a dedicated climbing trip – we’d been kind of hesitant, since we weren’t really sure what my knee could do, and that hesitancy had bred just enough inertia that we’d become complacent and okay with sticking in town and playing on the plastic of the climbing gym.

No more.  No more would we be captives of our own inertia.  No more would we be slaves to complacency.  Instead, we would blaze a trail of adventure and excitement!


So, a quick summary:


Arrive mid-morning, after depositing our finally-returned security deposit from the house in Hood River.

Crush a few routes in the more popular areas, since they’d be empty mid-week.

Side note: Ollie was amazing.  She hasn’t forgotten her crag-dog training, and relaxed like the best pup.

Head back to camp, and make a group dinner with the friends who we were meeting up with.

Sleep like logs, and start to fix our messed up circadian rhythm.


Wake up, have breakfast, and do some hiking.

Tuesday was a relaxation day – I read, Sarah painted, and we wandered around with the puppy.

Hit some quick climbs at the waterfall slabs, just to keep energy up.

Glorious dinner and gloriously early bed.


Dawned hot… hotter than expected.

Bust out a climb at the Dihedrals… then skip out to the shade.

Climbed at a new area… new to us, at least.  Sarah led a 5.10!  Ben followed!

Read and draw some more, climb a little bit more, then another early dinner.

Super early bed – we were seriously in the tent falling asleep by 8:30.  What.


Pack up, head out back toward Portland.  Get coffee a few times on the way, because we missed coffee shops.



Climb details:

We honestly didn’t climb as much as we’d expected.  I guess that inertia that I mentioned above still held sway over us… But hey.  We hadn’t been out on a trip like this in a while, and we needed the chance to re-connect to our more energetic selves.  This was the perfect opportunity too, since the park was nearly deserted, and the weather was glorious the whole time.

What we did climb though…



5 gallon buckets, 5.8, Sport.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

Left Slab Crack, 5.4, Trad.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

Easy Reader, 5.6, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.


9999, 5.6, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.

Amelia Dearheart, 5.7, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.

We also did a few variants of each, for giggles.


Purple Headed Warrior, 5.7, Sport.  Sarah and Ben led.

Nacho Libre, 5.6, Sport.  Ben led, Sarah seconded.

Float like a Butterfly, 5.10b, Sport.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

How low can you go?, 5.7, Sport.  Ben led, Sarah seconded.

Rope de Dope crack, 5.8, toprope.  Ben and Sarah climbed.


What else… The trip was excellent!  We had a great time, enjoyed cooking food over a fire, and doubly enjoyed the pizza and mozzarella sticks that we had on the last evening we were there.  We climbed well, hiked well, and felt really good.  My knee didn’t give me any trouble the whole time, and actually felt better than it had in a long time.  I think that means that I’ve been under-exercising it, which is definitely good to know.  Means I can push harder, and maybe even start doing heavier lifting… deadlifts, here we come!

Driving toward Crater Lake

Driving toward Crater Lake

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…


Tuesday, 29-August-2017

After our evening adventure, we slept in.  It was glorious.

We drank Dunkin’ Donuts, we ate breakfast, and even made sandwiches.  It was awesome.  And best part – we woke up to a glorious sunrise over Smith, thanks to the campsite we’d snagged, and the fact that we’d been too tired to actually set up a tent.  We’d slept under the stars, and could roll over and see the sunbeams shining onto the rock.

Or… in theory we could.  I didn’t have contacts in.  So I couldn’t see anything.

Also, there were forest fires that made everything hazy and thick with smoke.


That last part was the big theme of the day, unfortunately.  Thick, cloying smoke that messed with breathing and vision and plans.


We had debated staying at Smith an extra day, but since we’d burnt most of our energy on the epic the previous day, and since the smoke was already wafting in from the nearby fires, we decided to travel South, pressing on toward our destination of the evening: Diamond Lake.

As we drove though, the smoke didn’t get better.  It actually kept getting worse… we stopped in Bend to catch our breath (literally, in Sarah’s case), and pick up some nasal sprays to try and make the air breathable.  They didn’t work so well, unfortunately… but having lunch in an air conditioned (and thus filtered) cafe was definitely a pleasant reprieve.


The final decision came when we stopped for gas in a town called Crescent.  While filling up, we heard some subtly pertinent news – specifically, that the highway ahead of us was on fire.  And closed.  But mostly the fact that it was on fire.  That’s subtly pertinent when on a roadtrip.

We turned around and went home.  Cooked steak in the kitchen, drank some beers, and got annoyed at the Northwest for being on fire.