Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bend and Climbing at Smith Rock

I have always wanted to try rock climbing. Even with climber friends and boyfriends, I simply never got around to it. Then in April of this year, my old friend Tegan suggested we go to Bend, Oregon together in June to visit mutual friends and climb at Smith Rock. "You'll have a few months to join a climbing gym and practice!" It was a great idea.

Then I blinked, and suddenly it was the end of June and I still had zero climbing experience. "I don't think it's really worth it for me to go," I lamented to Tegan. I told my roommate Sara of my disappointment and she said, "Smith is a great place to learn! You should just go. I'll give you a crash course tomorrow after work."

So thanks to her encouragement, I decided not to be deterred. She loaned me a harness and shoes and taught me how to belay in our living room, and told me what safety things I needed to know. Then we went to Vertical World and I took the belay test and then climbed a few routes. I climbed a few routes! I had this perception that I needed super human strength and special techniques to climb anything, but I pleasantly surprised to find that in the beginning, you mostly just have to do it.

Then Tegan and I loaded up the car with snacks and drove first to Portland, where we picked up another friend of Tegan's. Lindsay is an awesome all-around outdoor lady, and would be our lead climber at Smith. When we got to Bend that evening, the air was still thick and warm. We were greeted graciously by our hosts before all walking down the block for a delicious dinner at Spork.

The next day we awoke earlyish, theoretically wanting to beat the heat but also wanting to be on vacation. We drove to Smith Rock, and here is the view as we started the hike in. Smith is made up of a handful of big tuff and basalt rock walls with the Crooked River winding through the valley.
The first day we went to the Dihedrals, where I had my second climbing experience ever, and first time outdoors. Both Lindsay and Tegan were super supportive, never in a hurry, and helpfully coaching me on technique. Oh, and it was really HOT. I don't think gym climbing can prepare you for being on the hot, sharp rocks.
See this boulder to the left? That honestly might have been the hardest part of the route! It took me a bit to get over it, but after that I had a lot of fun picking my way up the route.

This was our view across the river. We were on a south-facing wall baking in the sun, so we made a note that this rock was east and north facing and shaded, maybe a good climb for tomorrow.

We headed back to our friends' house in the afternoon, happy with our climbs of the day but worn out from the heat. What better cure for that than a river float?! We piled in our friend's circus van and did a car shuttle to a couple points on the Deschutes River. 
The green, cool water was such a nice foil to the dry, rocky climbing of the morning.

We went to bed early and got up a little earlier the next day. Our hosts came with us which was great, making us a party of 5. We loaded up a ton of water bottles and a cooler hiked in to climb a very classic and recognizable Smith route.
It's called 5 Gallon Buckets, and full of these big holes or huecos. When we first got there, a family was just finishing the route with their son who looked about 8 years old. Anytime I started to lament my short height, I just thought of that little boy, monkeying his way up the wall.
It worked out great that there was a harder route right next to it, so with an extra lead climber, we were able to constantly have 2 people climbing, 2 belaying, and one resting, which was perfect. We got to all hang out together and challenge different ability levels. At one point Tegan and Jessica ended up at the same hueco on the two different routes, and they did a little synchronized dance.
It was another super hot day, in the high 90's. Remember that view across the river from yesterday? We went there in the afternoon, and lo and behold were in the shade! After lunch we picked this shady spot with two routes next to each other again. Here's Lindsay and I with the Dihedrals in the background.
After we all felt like we had climbed enough or were too hot, we decided to head out. We got invited to our host's parents' house in Bend for dinner that night which was really sweet. We offered to bring beer to contribute, but in this town, don't bother picking up a 6-pack. No, in Bend they have growler fill stations! I've only ever seen growlers filled at the home brewery, where you are limited to that one brewer. But here, at a place like Growler Phil's, you have over 30 choices, almost all from craft Oregon breweries. Mark my words, we will start to see this in Seattle soon! We sampled a bunch of different beers and left very satisfied with our selections.
It was a quintessential summer dinner that night- BBQ'ed beef, salmon, and veggie burgers, potato salad, corn, fresh fruit. By the time the sky was turning purple, we were pretty tired from our day of climbing and decided to call it a night.
The plan was to leave in the morning. But first we made a big house breakfast, including coffee and fresh cream. Yes, they had just gotten milk from a farm down the road, from a cow named Josephine, and here's Lindsay scraping the cream off for our coffee. SO GOOD.
We got back on the road to Seattle, sore and tan with full bellies. A big thanks to our friends for hosting us, and to Tegan and Lindsay for being climbing mentors. I seriously couldn't ask for anything more.

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