Black Sky Friday: Shivers at Smith Rock

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Well, we went to Smith Rock, and it was miserable.

I mean not really. But yes. Somewhat. At times.

Evan, his brother Matt, and I left Corvallis at 5:00 yesterday morning in hopes of getting in a full day of climbing before heading to Redmond for a few nights. When we pulled into the Smith Rock parking lot at 8:00, we were pleased to find we had the whole place to ourselves. “Do they know something we don’t know?” I wondered aloud.

Turns out, maybe. We spent the first two hours of our long-awaited climbing morn shivering in the rain. It was really just sprinkling, mostly, but it was also coldcoldcoooold and thus, well, miserable. I staked out a tiny cave as a potential dry-nap spot, and I may have whimpered a bit.

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We did climb; the rock, though freezing, magically remained dry through the drizzle. Mostly. And the routes were super cool! We warmed up on a 5.8 jug ladder aptly named Five Gallon Buckets. It took me about a year to finish the thing because #leadfear, but it was a really fun introduction to Smith’s pockety tuff. We also climbed a 5.9 and a 5.10, the names of which I do not know, and I didn’t have a single freakout moment! Granted, I didn’t climb anything too difficult, but usually I feel a little terror on any lead climb. There was one point when I thought I might slip off some crimps, but I didn’t feel tearful or shaky or nauseous. I just said, “I’m scared!” And then I didn’t fall. YAY

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Then Evan led a 5.11 that Matt and I toproped with breezy ease. I kind of wish I’d led it too because it was just my style.

Somewhere in there, the sun came out, and the wiser climbers (and walkers and nature admirers) began to appear. We met some cool people and some cool dogs and even saw some cool babies.

So things were looking brighter. Matt departed after lunch, and Evan and I headed back to the crag. We made a treacherous ascent to a 5.11 called Vomit Launch, which required some of the sketchiest scrambling I have yet engaged in. After climbing/stemming/shin-scumming up a dark, crumbly chimney, we emerged just in time for the downpour.

So we sat in the rain for a while. We talked about the climbing awaiting us down South and bemoaned our bad timing and took this selfie:

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At least the view was nice.

Finally, we began an even more terrifying, falling-means-death descent. Def should have rapped down. But we made it out alive and mostly unscuffed, then drove to our warm and swanky condo. Later, we had some pie.

Unfortunately the general consensus is that today and tomorrow will be too cold to climb, but I’m not too torn up. Yesterday’s warmup was unlike any climbing I’ve done before, and I’m glad we had the experience.

~*~

My first impressions of Smith Rock and the climbing West:

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IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

My brain can’t handle naked rock faces not surrounded by dense forest.

My sense of dimension is confused.

The sky is magnificent, always.

This rock doesn’t hurt my hands!

There are BATHROOMS! With COMPOST TOILETS!

~*~

So I’m a little bummed the trip didn’t turn out how we wanted, but I know I’ll be back soon. The West is beautiful in so many ways, and I want to explore much more of it. For now, I’m grateful for central heating and a few more days in Oregon.

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