Smith Rock Beta

Written by Matt Farrell 2008

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Logisitics:
- Fees and Camping
- Meeting Up/Communications
- Driving Directions
- Weather
Beta:
- Climbing (Basalt and Tuff)
- Hiking and Mt. Biking
- Bend and Redmond

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FEES AND CAMPING

Smith Rock is a State Park, and there are day use fees and camping fees. If you camp in the Smith Rock Bivouac Area, then it is $4 per car per night, which includes hot showers and day use access. If you camp elsewhere (or stay in Bend) then the day use parking is $3 per vehicle per day. The Bivouac area has no designated sites, and the number of people allowed to stay there is limited only by the number of parking spots. Furthermore, the bivouac area is right next to the day use parking area, so you can just walk to the climbing from your camping spot. There are also other places to camp relatively nearby to smith, but all require driving, and hence you will still have to pay the $3 day use parking fee. If you are really that frugal that you can't afford the extra $1 per car per day, then you can look into other places to camp online.

MEETING UP/COMMUNICATIONS

Smith is split into two pretty distinct areas - the basalt columns and rimrock in the Gorge, and the volcanic tuff of the main Smith formation. If you are going to be climbing on the tuff, a good meeting spot is the bridge across the river, or the Morning Glory area. If you're going to the basalt, a good meeting point on the north side of the river is below the point of the Student Wall, and if you're on the south side of the river or in the upper gorge, then the area right below the climb Cruel Sister is a good spot to meet.

Cell phones generally work most places in the park, although there are definitely areas where there is no service - if you drop down into the gorge, or at the dihedrals, for example. Generally, it is not far to go to find service, however, which is handy in case of an emergency.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Driving to Smith is pretty straightforward. Get yourself to 80 going east (my favorite way is to go around the bottom of the bay on 101S -> 237 -> 880N -> Mission Blvd heading east -> 680N -> 80E), and just after passing Vacaville (actually in the city of Leisure Town), you take 505 N. 505 N will meet up with 5 N, and there is cheap gas in the town of Corning about 45 minutes south of Redding. Corning is also the Olive City, and you can swing by any one of a number of olive places (the Olive Hut is a personal favorite) for free olive samples and a chance to stretch your legs if you need it.

Continue on 5 past Redding to the town of Weed, CA just beyond Shasta. The pass next to Shasta can have some pretty bad conditions, so if the weather looks at all questionable, carry chains. In Weed, you'll turn off 5 and take 97 to Klamath Falls, just over the Oregon border. Klamath Falls has the cheapest gas on the whole route - just as you're about to come into town from the south there's a cheap station called "18" or something like that. Be aware, in Oregon it is illegal to pump your own gas (to create jobs), and tips are not generally expected for the pump attendant.

After leaving Klamath Falls, you'll pass by the beautiful and huge Upper Klamath Lake, and then you're on the home stretch (about 2.5-3 more hours). 97 from Klamath Falls is pretty much dead straight, and the speed limit is 55, which can be frustrating. If it is late at night, feel free to drive faster, but during the day I have often seen highway patrollers, so I certainly wouldn't drive faster than 65. Watch out too, if the weather was at all bad coming by Shasta the whole section before and after Klamath Falls can be icy. If there hasn't been precipitation, then even though the air temps may be quite cold (it was 4F last time I came through), the roads are usually good.

After passing a few tiny towns (Chiloquin, Chemult, Crescent), you're getting close to Bend. If you're heading straight for Smith, you'll pass through Bend staying on 97, then continue another 15 minutes to Redmond, which has the last good grocery store and cheap gas before Smith. Another 10 minutes on 97 past Redmond will take you to tiny Terrebonne, where you make a right turn on pretty much the only cross street in Terrebonne - look for the sign for Smith Rock State Park. The road (Smith Rock way) will drop down a hill (you should definitely notice the giant rock formation at this point), and then you should take the first left (1st street), which will swing right after a bit and turn into Wilcox. Take Wilcox maybe a mile to the left turn onto Crooked River Dr. for the park. After passing the Smith Rock gear store, the first left is the Bivouac area, and the day use parking area is after that. If you want to climb in the Gorge, go on to the end of the road and park at the turnaround.

In total, the drive to Smith is around 8.5 - 9 hours if you go the speed limit the whole way. If you are leaving later in the day, its best to make it at least past Redding before stopping for the night. If you can make it onto 97 between Weed and Klamath Falls, there are plenty of dirt forest service roads to pull off onto and sleep. Between Klamath Falls and Bend is a little more lean for good sleeping spots.

WEATHER

Smith Rock is in the high desert in the rain-shadow of the cascades. The best climbing can be had in late february-june, and again in the fall up until early/mid november. There are definitely some nice days throughout the winter, but they are scattered in between cold and snow. If you are up in Oregon to ski anyway, it might be worth bringing some climbing gear, especially in late January/February, but it probably doesn't make sense to drive up here for climbing until mid-march or later.

Smith itself has its own microclimate, where even if the weather in Terrebonne (the closest place with a weather forecast - http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=terrebonne%2C+or ) looks bad, its probably pretty nice on a south-facing wall at Smith. In fact, it can be in the 30s and dumping in Bend, and be patchy sun and temps in the mid-40s at Smith, which on a south facing wall is definitely climbable. For example, the other day (March 13, 2008) the forecast was for 41 and 60% chance of rain/snow. We went out to a south-facing wall in the Gorge, and it was beautiful, sunny most of the day, and temps were perfect for long pants and t-shirt climbing. If its at all early season, definitely bring warm jackets/sweatshirts, and something wind/drizzle-proof to the climbs with you.

Good south facing walls on the Basalt include the Student Wall, the Textbooks, the North side of the Lower Gorge, and the Upper Gorge (warmest basalt). Good south facing walls on the Tuff include Morning Glory (the warmest tuff), Redwall and the dihedrals until mid afternoon, and the south facing sides of the Gullies (cocaine wall especially).

Later in the season it can be quite warm, and good shady areas include the south side of the Lower Gorge (from mid-morning on) and North Point (both basalt), and Monkey Face, Mesa Verde, and the rest of the backside of the tuff.

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CLIMBING

The climbing at Smith is mostly single pitch, and generally the best stuff is 5.9 and up. More info on the climbing on each type of rock:

BASALT

Many people say that Smith Rock is only hard sport on the volcanic tuff. This is a lie. Smith also has excellent trad and sport on the basalt columns and rimrock of the Gorge. Also, the Gorge has generally excellent weather, is beautiful, and never crowded, even on the busiest days where you'll have to wait in long lines elsewhere. Something about people thinking that Smith only has sport and not bringing their trad racks... The basalt itself is super-strong volcanic rock which commonly forms hexagonal columns around 5 feet in diameter, stacked one next to the other with cracks in between. Above the columns (or where the columns are still underground) the basalt rimrock forms an interesting layer up to 60' high of cracks, edges, corners, jugs, crimps, and pockets.

If its warm, the columns of the lower gorge are know for awesome, cerebral, dead vertical .10 and .11 cracks between 60 and 100' long. If you are looking for excellent .10s, the lower gorge is definitely the best place to go at Smith (if you lead trad). A double set of cams and nuts will serve you well for pretty much any of the routes in the lower gorge, as will a 60m rope. Favorites include: Cruel Sister (10a), Gruff (10a), Quasar (10a, reachy), Blood Clot (10b), Badfinger (10b+), Wildfire (10b), Cornercopia (10b), Last Chance (10C), On the Road (11a), and one of the most unique climbs anywhere, Pure Palm (11a sport, easily toproped from Cornercopia).

If it is cold, the Student Wall, the Textbooks, and the north side of the Lower Gorge are the ticket. The student wall and textbooks are on the basalt rimrock and vary from 30-60' tall. The north side of the lower gorge are columns like the other side of the gorge, but generally are slightly less steep and shorter. If you are looking for Smiths best 5.7, don't miss Mines of Moria, 5.7 R (bring standard rack and a headlamp for this awesome chimney). The Virgin Slayer is tied for the best .9 I've done at Smith. Also excellent on the warm basalt are: The Living End (10b+, cruxy), Hand Job (10b+), Labyrinth (10b), Original Sin (10c), and Embryonic and Drilling Zona (11d and 11c, sport, easy to toprope).

Finally, if you're looking for harder (.10-.13) sport that climbs like trad climbs, on a warm south facing wall, with absolutely no other visitors, or if you want to do smith's best 10a sport climb, then head to the upper gorge (tricky approach). The best sport at smith is a climb not in the guide, which shares the start of E-Type Jag, but then cuts left below the roof to pull it where it isn't quite as big on giant jugs, finishing up to the anchor for E-Type Jag. Favorites include: Land of the Lost (10a trad), Sign of the Priest (10b, sport), Naxius (10b, sport), E-Type Jag (11a sport), Virtual Beach (11a, sport), and Wardance (12a, sport).

TUFF

For almost everybody that comes to the park, this is the climbing at Smith. They're missing out. But, nonetheless, there are some nice routes, especially if you like steep, crimpy pocketed faces, and other hard sport. The rock is similar to that of pinnacles, except with far fewer cobbles and much more of the welded stuff holding the cobbles together at pinncales. The tuff is generally not particularly strong, and it is not uncommon to pull off holds or have "nubs pop" on you if you venture off of the beaten path. Its generally recognized that the 9s and 10s on the tuff (with a few notable exceptions) are not particularly interesting or good. Once you get up into the 10+ and harder range then the climbs start to get more interesting. In fact, people say that many of the 11s on the tuff have bigger holds than the 10s, they're just steeper, more balancey, and generally more interesting. See the weather section for warmer and cooler areas of the tuff. Recommended climbs are:

Sport: Cinnamon Slab (.6), 5 Gallon Buckets (9), 9 Gallon Buckets (9), Light on the path (9), Dancing with Clams (10a), Barbecue the Pope (10b), Screaming Yellow Zonkers (10b), Moons of Pluto (10d), Magic Light (11a), Vomit Launch (11b), Toxic (11b), Monkey Space (11b), and Chain Reaction (12c).

Trad: 5.8 West Face Variation of the Pioneer Route on Monkey Face (5.8 A1, 1 pitch bolt ladder, 5 pitches), Peking (8), Lion's Jaw (8), Moonshine Dihedral (9), Sundown (9), Zebra-Zion (10a, 5 pitches), Trezlar (10a 2 pitches), Bills Flake (10a), Pack Animal Direct (10b), and Calamity Jam (10c+).

HIKING AND MT. BIKING

There is hiking at smith rock proper, and specifically the misery ridge trail up and over the formation, past monkey face, and back around along the river trail makes a good ~5 mile loop. There is also excellent hiking at many places in the nearby Cascades - if the snow is melted out. Otherwise, you can ski at Mt. Bachelor (alpine), or backcountry on Tumalo Mountain, with cross country at any one of the sno-parks along the highway up to Mt. Bachelor.

Good mountain biking can be found when there isn't snow at most trailheads along skyliner road, and the highway up to Mt. Bachelor.

BEND AND REDMOND

For information, gear, guidebooks, and supplements to the guides, check out Redpoint Climber's supply in Terrebonne, right on the corner of Smith Rock Way and Hwy. 97.

Redmond is the closest major town to Smith, and it is a good place for supplies (large safeway right in the middle of town), but otherwise there is little of interest in Redmond.

Bend is a very cool town, with lots to do. Recommended restaurants are: The Taj Palace (reasonably priced Indian), Toomies (excellent Thai food), and Pizza Mondo, all downtown. If you're looking for cheap Mexican, head over to Rigobertos, on Gavelston and Century. There is free live music (usually bluegrass, rock, or reggae) at McMenamins just south of downtown every wednesday night from 7-10pm. The summit saloon downtown comes recommended if you want to head to a bar, and movies can be seen at the movie theater on the east side of town on Highway 20. Drake park along the river is an excellent place to hang out, and in the warmer months many people float the river through town to stay cool.

Enjoy!
-Matt (mfarrell1 [AT] gmail.com)