Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break at Smith Rock

We just got back from a 7-day whirlwind trip to central Oregon. Smith Rock is a popular destination for British Columbia climbers stuck in winter's icy grip, and spring break is the time to go down. I've been doing trips to Smith for well over a decade and have had all types of weather, from heat waves to snow, sometimes in the same week. One thing's for sure, you are bound to get drier weather than in the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland corridor, so if you don't mind enduring the odd cold day, a trip in mid-March is quite workable.

Nights at this time of year are cold, though, so you might wish to choose indoor accommodation, although the Skull Hollow campground remains busy enough during this time. Nearby Redmond has all the supplies you'll need, including showers at the local pool. Drive 20 minutes farther to Bend for more selection and a more interesting town.

Welcome to Smith. The hiking and trail running in the park is excellent if you need a day off from climbing. The trails are good and the views are excellent.

A view looking west from the summit of the Misery Ridge trail. The famous crack "The Optimist" is located on a clean overhanging wall on the right side of the ridge in amongst the small orange coloured towers.

The Phoenix Buttress at sunrise. On the far right of the photo is the Christian Brothers zone, home to famous routes such as Rude Boys (13c) and Scarface (14a). The nice thing about Smith is all kinds of routes sit side by side, allowing groups of all abilities to enjoy the park.

The iconic Monkey Face, on the backside of the park. The route Monkey Space (5.11c) ascend a diagonal right-to-left line across the dark brown "head" of the Monkey. This route comes highly recommended and offers great exposure and a true summit experience. The 40-metre free-hanging rappel at the end is wild!

The Churning Buttress. This chunk of rock is home to some of the finest stone in the park. A climber ascend an excellent 5.9/10c in the centre of the photo. Kings of Rap (5.12d) takes on the sharp, shadowed roof on the right side of the photo. This zone is home to a bunch of excellent routes and is very popular with climbers of all abilities.

Looking down at the Dihedrals. Chain Reaction (12c) follows the short, undercut arete in the lower left portion of the photo. Darkness at Noon (13a) and Heinous Cling (12a/12c) climb the super smooth wall to the right, and To Bolt or Not To Be (14a) climbs the tallest vertical face in the middle of the photo.

A view of the dihedrals from below with a climber starting Chain Reaction.

Chain Reaction (12c).

We skied a day at Mt. Bachelor and hit pay dirt. The sun came out and the snow conditions were phenomenal. If you go to Smith at this time of year, it is definitely worth bringing your skies for a day off. Bachelor is exactly a one-hour drive from the park and at a much higher elevation.

They have over 12 feet of snow up there this year!!!

We took a detour on the journey home and did two great hikes along the coast. The first was a pleasant 2-hour round trip journey out Cape Lookout in northern Oregon (just south of Tillamook). The trail was muddy, but well-used and the views at the end of the hike were excellent. This is a photo of Haystack Rock, on Cannon Beach, where we spent the night. Beautiful spot...

On our last day before coming home, we drove into Olympic National Park and hiked an awesome nine-mile loop at Lake Ozette. Three miles of incredible boardwalk through old-growth forest leads to the beach. Three miles down the beach leads to a sandy bay and three miles back through the forest gets you home. People choose to camp on the beach and I don't blame them - it's spectacular. If you find yourself in this area, we highly recommend this loop.

Hello from Squamish and enjoy the spring everybody.

Marc Bourdon

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