Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rock Climbing Road Trip - Part 2: City of Rocks

Rock Climbing Road Trip

May 17 - 27, 2013

Smith Rock, OR and City of Rocks, ID

Continued from Part 1 (click here)

On Tuesday May 5, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Super 8 hotel and headed for City of Rocks.  We made a stop in the last major town before "The City", Burley, ID to do our grocery shopping and then we left the interstate and headed further south. After about 4 hours of driving for Boise, passing through small towns and farm lands, including the closest town to "The City", Almo, ID, a small western town and closest place to get showers, we finally arrived at the park. We set up our campsite and went for a drive to explore the park and find the water pump.

We stopped and checked out a few lookouts and a few climbing areas to get a feel for the park. There is rock everywhere and some really cool campsites tucked in around the rocks. 

Once we got back to our campsite we hiked to the base of "Lookout Rock" hoping to climb the 5.5 ridge to the summit, but with minimal beta on the descent we decided against it.  We opted to go to "Practice Rock" instead to get a taste of the climbing.

We led up "First lead" 5.6 and then top roped a couple of 5.8s "Betwixt" and "Original Left". We also did a bit of scrambling around the area up the "Little Kids Slab" 5.0 and around on the higher rock ridges to check out the area..

The scenery and landscape at City of rocks is
amazing, and we enjoyed our first evening of camping and exploring, but we did quickly learn that they books aren't lying where they say its often windy in the park.....

The next day was a bit cold and very windy, so we slept in to wait for the day to warm up a bit. Once we got up we made a gourmet hash for brunch and headed out to climb at the crack of noon. We went to the Bread Loaves Crag to explore and ran into some other climbers who shared some beta with us on the Super Hits area of the Bread loaves.

We ended up doing two 35m long sport routes: a 5.7, that we both led and a 5.8 arete "Twist and Crawl", both excellent , full value routes. At the end of the second route the wind was so strong and cold that we were freezing and decided to call it a day. We drove into town for some groceries and spent the evening hiding out from the wind in the cab of the truck.

On Thursday, our third day in The City, we woke up to a layer of snow on everything! Not what you want to see on a climbing trip. Once again we went back to to bed in hopes that it would warm up and the rocks would dry out. When we got up again a couple hours later the snow had melted and by time we had brunch the rocks had dried out.

We drove down to the main info area and chatted with the climbing ranger about good places to climb.  He informed us that we could get top-ropes on lots of routes, all you had to do was scramble up the 5.4/5.5 routes....yeah, right! So instead, we talked to some other climbers, got some beta on the Lookout Rock descent and headed back for a summit attempt.

 We scrambled along the 3rd/4th class ridge right from our camp site and then climbed the 5.5 section of the ridge in 2 pitches. The view from the summit was amazing and well worth the climb. We rapped the route off of some slings we left on the blocks near the summit and reached the end of the ridge just in time for another snow storm to start up. We waited out the storm for a couple of hours reading books in the truck and then relaxed over a tasty pasta dinner.

On Friday we got up at 8am and headed out for our last climb in City of Rocks. We had decided to take a run at "Theater of Shadows" of Jackson's Thumb, a really cool looking spire with a 5.7, 4-pitch sport route up to the summit, that was supposedly "bolted do your grandma can lead it".

The route description did not lie, the route was crazy fun and incredibly well bolted. It turned out to be my favorite route of the trip with its adventurous feel, fun climbing, excellent views and the added bonus of summitting the spire.

The free-hanging rappel off the back was kinda cool too; not as scary as Monkey face. We were back in camp for a late lunch and then went and explored some of the touristy areas of the park.

After our exploring we went in search for some hot springs that are listed in our guide book, but it turned out that it was just a city pool, so we opted to pay for showers at Tracey's General Store in Almo instead.

 We spent the evening enjoying a rare windless night around the campfire enjoying some cheap American beer and watching the full moon.

On Saturday we got up early and decided to make a run for the Border. We left City of Rocks at 8am and after one or two shopping stops, and a late-nite visit with my parents to pick up our cats, we rolled into our garage at 1am. A loooooong day of driving to end an awesome spring road trip.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rock Climbing Road Trip: Part 1: Smith Rock

Rock Climbing Road Trip

May 17 – 27, 2013

Smith Rock, OR and City of Rocks, ID

Last week Mike and I left town for 10 days of climbing in the US.  It’d been a few years since we’d been on a full-on road trip, so I was excited to camp, climb, drive and explore for the week.  We left Vancouver early on Friday, May 17 to start our journey to Smith Rock in Terrebonne, Oregon.  We were pleasantly surprised by beating morning rush-hour and then sailing through the border.  The drive was pretty much uneventful. The weather was unsettled most of the way, so unfortunately there were no views of Mt. Rainier or Mt Hood to be had enroute. 

 Luckily the weather was a bit better in Terrebonne. Once we reached Terrebonne,(8 hours after leaving home) we loaded up the truck with groceries for the next few days, checked out the local climbing shop, Redpoint Climbers Supply, for some gear and route beta and went and scored a campsite at the Smith Rock Bivouac site.  Smith Rock was packed for the weekend; I have never seen so many tents in the bivi site! We spent the night relaxing in camp and planning our climbs for the next few days.  Unfortunately several of the routes we wanted to climb were closed due to nesting Raptors, but we found some alternate objectives and now we have an excuse to head back this fall. 

Our first day of climbing didn’t start out as planned.  We woke up at 7am to rain on the tent, so we went back to sleep and  when we got up a couple hours later the rain had stopped, sun was shining and the rock was quickly drying out.  We had a quick breakfast and joined the hoards in the Smith Rock State Park Canyon.  We opted to by-pass the more popular climbing areas and head along the river to the “Phoenix Buttress”.  There was only one other party climbing in this area, preventing us from having to wait in line to climb something. Lesson learned: go to Smith Rock mid-week & definitely not on long weekends! The easier routes at the Phoenix were being used, so we settled on stick clipping our way up a 10a, “Phoenix” and throwing down a Top-rope to start out our day. Not really  a warm-up, but it was a fun challenge to start our day. 

Next, Mike led up “Hissing Llamas”, 5.8 on the same wall and then it was my turn for my first ever Smith rock lead, so we headed over to “Bunny Face” 5.7.  We had to wait in line for a couple of parties who were teaching their girlfriends how to climb & rappel, which was slightly terrifying, especially when they talked of climbing the Monkey Face the following day, but I finally had my turn at the route and we were entertained by climbers working "Chain Reaction", 5.12c, while we waited. The rain showers and run-outs near the top were not my favorite, but luckily the climbing was easy and the route went well. To end our day we headed over to the Peanut Area and top roped two 5.8’s “ Hop on Pop” & "Peanut Brittle” before walking back to camp for some steaks and beers.

On Sunday we decided to go for one of our main objectives of the trip, the iconic Monkey Face! We got up at 6am to beat the crowds, had a quick breakfast and started our hike up over Misery Ridge. We arrived at the base of the "Pioneer Route" just in time to be ahead of a party of 6 with the same plans. Mike started out by linking the first two pitches, which consisted of a 4th class scramble and the worlds hardest/most awkward 5.5. unfortunately  linking the pitches led to horrid rope drag.  Not recommended! keep them as two separate pitches. 

Next we tackled the 3rd pitch bolt ladder. Mike led up and since we had the half-ropes he  managed to always have a rope on tension as he made his way up the wall.  Following the aid pitch with just one set of etriers and no ascenders it was a bit of a chore, but with some creativity and yarding on a lot of draws I clawed my way up the wall and into the cave  (aka, the Monkey's Mouth) with burning arms.

 The next and final pitch (for us) is know as "Panic point". It involves stepping out of the cave and onto the wall with an instant 200' of exposure. Luckily a bolt be can be clipped while still in the cave, so you're protected making the first few moves.  Mike led up this pitch with is nicely spaced bolts and good size holds.  I followed and thought it felt hard for a 5.7 with a slight overhang and  my tired arms.

 From this point we were perfectly set up for the descent, so we decided to forgo the unprotected summit scramble and rig up our rappel. We learned later that it is recommended to link the "Panic Point" pitch and the summit scramble into one pitch if you want to summit the Monkey. After enjoying the view for a few minutes Mike took the first lead for the epic 150' free hanging rappel.  It made his way down quickly without incident and I rigged up my device. The rappel was insane! It was one of the craziest things I've ever done climbing.

 I decided that I don't really like free hanging rappels and spent the descent deciding between taking a break to regain my composure and wanting to go faster to get it over with immediately. I was ecstatic to reach solid ground. Once off the route I decided I'd had enough excitement for one day, so we spent the afternoon hiking and enjoying a coffee in town. 

Monday May 20 was our last day in Smith Rock. We got up early to a nice, warm day and headed into the park to get in a few climbs that morning.  It was nice being there on a weekday; significantly quieter. We spent the morning at the combination blocks area where Mike led up "Dancer" 5.7 and them we top-roped "Jete", 5.8 and "Earth Boys", 5.10b. I was thrilled to make it up "Earth Boys" with no falls!

It was getting hot at that point and we wanted to get in a bit of driving that day, so we headed back to camp to break down our tent, have some lunch and pack up the truck. We hit the road at 2pm to start making our way to Idaho. We were hoping to drive a couple  hours and find an RV park or campground for the night, but everything we found was full.  We succumbed to dinner at McDonald's to use their WiFi and we found that we could get a hotel in Boise, Idaho off of Hotwire for $40 a night, including breakfast. Sold! 

We spent our afternoon  driving for 6 hours through Oregon's High desserts and Idaho's Farm lands, all the while dodging numerous tumbleweeds, ending with a night in the Super 8 Hotel relaxing over Dixie cups of boxed wine.

Part 2: City of Rocks, to come......... (Click Here)

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