By Robin Avery
In early November the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) at the University of British Columbia, where I attend, organizes a climbing trip to Smith Rock in Oregon. Smith Rock is one of those epic places you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. It’s a sport climbing Mecca of sorts, a place where sport climbing was popularized in North America.
The park is pretty accessible for the day traveler so it sees a lot of tourist traffic. For the life of me I don’t know why Smith Rock isn’t a National Park. It’s a pretty small place considering the amount of bolted sport climbs it hosts.
Day 1: After the obligatory phaffing around, time wasting, etc… We started driving from Vancouver, B.C. around 3 pm. Arrive at the US border. We stop to use the washroom, and the Canadian Border Guards swarm in. Perhaps we got profiled? I guess an Insane amount of miscommunication lead to our friend getting detained, long story short, we have to leave him behind…in the end the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up, and they let him go. We never did figure out what happened in the first place. Worst of all he had to take the bus back to Vancouver from the border. One man down…
While passing through a small town near Smith Rock at around 4 am, a cop pulls us over for speeding, I immediately chatted him up and actually got him to give me directions to our campsite instead of a ticket. Local cops are nicer than the Canadian Border Guards.
Day 2: An easy day, full of world class sport climbing in Smith Rock, cheap American beer, Mexican food, ending with the inevitable pallet fire jumping by VOC members.
Day 3: Wake up at the arse-crack of dawn. Dark o’clock. Walk in to the Monkey Face. Begin climbing it. It’s a rappel down to the notch, then a flashy pitch to a small ledge.
Then it’s another pitch up to an exhausting bolt ladder. (…and of course I forgot my etriers!)
This is a popular route, so we had to wait for a party ahead to finish. Finally just before the sun was setting we were able to rig our second anchor inside the monkey face mouth, and tyrolean traverse off by headlamp. Evening time: cheap American beer, pallet fire, and Mexican food. what could be better?!
Day 4: Up at the crack of dawn, pack up camp, head back to the Monkey Face. The wind is howling! Visibility has gone down significantly with all the dust being kicked up. It seems I’m the only one here who actually wants to walk this thing so I end up rigging a 3rd anchor and have a friend belay me on rope in additional to my leash attached to the line. This rope ends up acting like a sail in the wind trying to pull me off. I don’t suggest this method at all, but it was time saving.
I fell quite a few times, the wind was so intense! No whippers though
On the drive home we turned on the radio and heard that most of Oregon and Southwestern Washington was without power due to “hurricane force winds” Hmm… perhaps the wind was stronger than I thought it was…