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My Smith Rock Adventure

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Mark (my DH) and I left Portland on Friday around 2:30 p.m. and headed out over Mt. Hood. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the trees were so vivid and green against the blue sky. A perfect spring afternoon. The snow was still melting up near Government Camp, and I imagined that Timberline Lodge still has snow, and skiers will continue to ski on the glacier even though most of the snow is probably still gone of the main ski areas. Not enough to ski on, but still enough there to surprise you in May!

We headed south into Central Oregon - the desert - and started feeling the heat of the late afternoon. We pulled into the campground early Friday evening around 5:30 p.m. and I started setting up camp. We put up our new tent, I put a paper tablecloth on the table and tied it down to keep it set in the wind. It started to get chilly so we started a nice campfire, and I started prepping the food we would have for dinner - fish tacos and roasted corn guacamole!

Our friends arrived around 8:30pm, just as the sun was setting in the distance. It was a beautiful night - and really got COLD. We ate our fill of fish tacos cooked over the fire, and sat back and made our plans for the morning.

We decided to get up early to beat the rush and the heat. The alarms were set for 6:00 a.m. and we went to bed around 10:30 so that we would be fresh in the morning. We were determined to be in the car on our way to Smith Rock National Park by 7:15 a.m.

Mark and I snuggled in for a great night in our new tiny tent, which kept us very warm until the early hours of the morning when the cold sneaks in from underneath. But even still, it was a good sleep.

At 6:00 a.m. we were up and about, eating our oatmeal and bananas, packing our lunches, and making sure we had our gear all packed. We took out any extra weight from our packs, and split up the climbing gear so that no one person had to carry all the metal or heavy ropes. We loaded up the gear and our friend's dog, and headed out to the park by 7:15 - as planned!

As we pulled into the park, the sun was shining on the giant cliffs of Smith Rock. There's just nothing like it. It's a giant rock formation in the middle of a desert - you can see it for miles. And when you are in the park, from some places, you can see all the white snow-covered peaks of distant mountains hundreds of miles away. It's A.Maz.Ing.

We loaded ourselves up, and hiked down into the park. We had to carry our gear down a really steep hill, across a bridge, and then along a path and up into the climbing areas.

We were not alone. There were already tons of people hurrying and scurrying up to the more popular places, trying to be the first to get their ropes up. Once you have ropes up, it can take a couple hours to get a leader and their climbing group of 2 or 3 up the ropes, and then "cleaned" which means taking the ropes back down again.

This is what the climbing area looked like:

We spread out our gear, got our harnesses and helmets on and then watched and waited while our leader Paul put the ropes up. Paul climbs up and puts the ropes up one clip at a time until he can get it through the anchor at the top. Then he comes down and we can take turns belaying each other up to the top.

Here's Paul, "leading":

There aren't any pics of me climbing on my camera, but my friend Ali took some so hopefully she'll send them eventually and I can show you! It pretty much looks just like Paul climbing, so I'm sure you can use your imaginations.

It was much different than the gym. My climbing shoes are made of rubber mostly, and so they really STICK to the rock. That's a GOOD thing. So you can do things on rock that you really can't do in the gym. The other cool thing is that in the gym, all the routes are marked and you pretty much have to do what it tells you to do. In nature, there are no rules. You just go for it! You use whatever you can find - you stick your foot in a hole, you try to hang on the to edge of a crack, you use one finger to pull yourself up, you pray that a tiny pebble will support your weight, you push, pull, and claw your way to the top. And it's worth it. I enjoyed every second of it!

When we had been out there about 5 hours and the temperature had really reached an unbearable point (we were sitting in the rocks with little or no shade after all) and I had about exhausted my own water supply - we decided to hike down to the river to eat lunch. I took my hiking boots and socks off and just put my feet right into the water. That was NICE.

Then Mark and I looked at each other, and I could tell in his eyes that he was done. Cooked, even. And so was I. So we let the HARD CORES go on and do some more climbing, and we hauled our behinds back UP the steepest hill ever with a ridiculous amount of gear, and now layers of clothing stuffed in our packs, too. We made it to the top and just cranked up the AC in the car and sat there for a long time. Luckily, we had all worn a ton of sunscreen, so nobody got burned. But we were HOT.

The rest of the trip was camping as usual. Sitting around a fire, telling stories and singing songs and having some laughs. It was great. Here are the rest of the pics - enjoy!

I'm on the far left, then my husband Mark in the brown shirt, and the other two are our friends Alison and Paul. The dog is Perdita or "Perdy".

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I like your background pic of the guy on Monkey Face too!

    What route/wall were you on? We did a few over there, Cinnamon Slab, and Bunny Face (I think) really nice are to climb in.

    Thanks for a chance to relive the experience!
    3162 days ago
    I was waiting to read this blog.
    How cool was that trip! And I love the dog.
    Really nice pictures Sarah!
    3166 days ago
    Incredible pictures. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing experience. Way cool!
    3167 days ago
    I thought of you a lot this weekend, hoping you had a blast, the weather behaved, etc. Looks like you had a GREAT time and I am sooooo glad that you got to do this! I'm like Dana - I *almost* want to do it myself. But not quite! (Hope your tummy is better today)
    3167 days ago
    LOOKS LIKE SO MUCH FUN!!! It really makes me almost want to try climbing outdoors... ;) hehehe. OK Now I have to do it at some point because it'll make me nuts not to try it, but the idea is still terrifying to me.
    3168 days ago
  • RKJ1969
    Wow! That looks like so much fun! I really want to try climbing sometime soon! emoticon
    3168 days ago
  • BKP4166
    Great story and terrific pictures. emoticon
    3168 days ago
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