Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last Day Climbing at Smith Rock

Today was my last day to climb at Smith Rock, unless I go there in the morning to send a project before I take off. You will hear more about that later though. I was blessed to climb with Calvin today. Those who don't know who Calvin is, he is the director of Solid Rock and I have been living at his house for the past month. We set out for the park late this morning with a plan. We were going to get on the uber-classic four pitch route Zebra-Zion. This is actually a combination of two different routes. It combines some amazing climbing, possibly the best I have been on at Smith.

We did a different first pitch mostly because the original first pitch of Zebra traverses the entire wall and we didn't want to keep other people from climbing. Instead we climbed a route called Gumby (5.10b) to get to the hanging belay below the second pitch. Calvin led the first pitch. This way I could lead the amazing pitches (2 and 4) since we were going to swap leads. The first pitch climbs up the face with a thin, tricky crux past five bolts. It ends at a hanging belay right where a right facing dihedral starts. This is the second pitch.

The second pitch is a stelar dihedral that slits the upper wall. It has a crux roof which has some amazing moves. Then you get finger locks, liebacks, stems, smears and a few hand jams for 70-80 feet until you hit a ledge with a two bolt belay. Even though the crux is low on the route, that doesn't mean it gets really easy. After the crux you are on kind of bad feet for the rest of the route. Normally you would wear a stiffer shoe since you will be on your feet a lot on a route like this. Well, I wore my La Sportiva Vipers. They are a slip-on climbing shoe. Slip-ons are normally a soft shoe that is not stiff at all. They are great for crack climbing and climbing overhanging jug hauls, not for climbing dihedrals or climbing at Smith Rock in general. Because of this, my feet became very tired. Near the top I was worried about falling because of my feet and legs giving out on me. Luckily they didn't and I made it to the belay without any problems. I then proceeded to belay Calvin up to the ledge. While belaying him, I decided to try and get some pictures of the dihedral. It didn't work since I was tethered to the anchor and was too far to the left to see the main dihedral. I did get a picture of Calvin finishing the pitch though.

Calvin then had the next lead. The third pitch is a tricky one. It isn't the hardest pitch to lead, but has a run-out traverse in the middle of it, leading to a crack on a slab. This pitch goes at 5.8. Calvin takes off up the dihedral that continues from the second pitch. Other than the airy climbing on knobs during the traverse, this pitch climbs easily and quickly.
Here is Calvin beginning the third pitch.

I made it up to the belay and scoped out the last pitch. This is what I have been waiting for for two years. When I came out to central Oregon the last time, I never got on this route. I wanted to just to climb this last pitch of Zion. From the belay you go up and left for almost half the pitch on a flake. Then the flake turns a little and you climb straight up. You then hit a ledge, traverse left then easy climbing takes you to the top. This sounds like any random 5.9 flake pitch, but trust me, it isn't. This pitch is also slightly overhanging a few hundred feet off the ground. The exposure is awe inspiring, as is the climbing. You start off on slightly slopey holds, that begin to turn into a small crack. As you go, the crack get a little bigger, more positive, and more vertical. It offers great protection for the entire pitch. Near the end, you are pulling on jugs on the flake and smiling the biggest smile that you have ever smiled. When Calvin asked me about that pitch after he arrived and the belay, all I was able to say was, "WOW!" This one single pitch has to be the best in the park. I have never climbed anything so beautiful and fun at Smith Rock before. Even now, thinking back at it, I fail at finding words that can equal its beauty. All I can say, is that you need to climb it the first chance you have. Do not wait like I did.
Me climbing the fourth pitch of Zion. It was amazing.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I just had such a great time on this pitch. I made it to the top then brought Calvin up and marvled at the amazing climbing that we just did. After that, I walk to the edge and look over and notice that this is a great view of the top of the second, the third, and fourth pitches. Normally I would draw lines, arrows, and circles on the picture so you can get a good idea of what was happening. Well this time you will have to figure it out.

If you follow me here I will walk you though the last few pitches starting with the fourth. You see that flake/crack there in the middle, that is the fourth pitch. It is slightly overhanging and amazing. It starts just under the overhang on the lower left. Follow a thin seam down from there. That is the last bit of the third pitch. It actually starts further right in the picture in that dihedral. Then below that there is a large ledge. That is the belay at the top of the second pitch. If this pictures doesn't make you want to come climb this route, quit climbing if you already do and if you don't climb, don't start.

After we got to the top, we hiked down back to our packs. There we ate lunch and decided what to do next. The day before, I had gotten on an 11a crack called Wartley's revenge. I worked out the moves yesterday and figured I would be able to get this thing the next time I get on it. Calvin convinced me to give it a go. We hike over there. Its sunny, its hot, and I am starting to question if I want to do this climb. We get to the base though, and I get inspired again. After sitting there for a minute, I begin to rack up to do the climb. I grab my stoppers, my brown tricam, and the camming units I will need to protect the climb. I then sit down, try to relax and slow my breathing down. Then I am ready. I quickly put my shoes on and tie into the rope before I lose motivation. Then I take off up the climb.
The beginning finger crack of Wartley's Revenge (5.11a).

The lower portion of the climb is a tricky finger crack in a dihedral. I slowly make my way up it placing the tricam and a stopper. Finally I make it to a ledge where a roof causes the crack to go to the right. It is here at this ledge that I milk a wide stemming rest. After regaining some strength there, I take off to the right under this roof. The climbing isn't hard, but the feet are nothing to rave about. I get to the end of the traverse, put in a .5 camalot and begin to move up on bigger holds. You get some holds that you can stick you feet on to the rock really well. Then you hit an undercling. I put a piece in the crack here and prepare myself for getting into the pumpy climbing.
After a few strenuous moves, you gain this upper dihedral. You then lieback this to pull up to the finishing moves. After placing a .75 camalot in the dihedral, I reach up to a jug, place a #3 Camalot in the wide crack near the top of the climb. The crux is coming up. I try to stay calm. I grap a thin pinch to the left of the cam, move my feet up, then reach into the crack above the cam to a great hold in the side of the crack. I then move my feet up, reach out left to a crimp that. The final move is up next. I position my feet to reach up to it. Then as soon as I am about to make the move, my feet slip. I keep from falling by holding on, but only for a second. I let go and take a fall. My redpoint is over with. I climb back up to the cam and begin doing the moves over again. This time, I start to make the last move. The last move on this route is a very committing throw up to a huge ledge with a bit of a lip on it. I position myself again, pull hard on the left crimp, and throw my right hand at the ledge. I touch it, but failed to grab on before falling. I fall past the cam, ending at the bottom of the dihedral. This was such a fun fall. I have not take a good lead fall on trad gear since this past fall when trying to redpoint Arkansas Reality (5.11c) down at Sam's Throne. After this I was tired. I climb back up to the #3 cam and rest. After feeling like I have regained enough strength, I go up to make the moves once again. I grab the left crimp, move my feet up and throw for the hold. I latch on and mantle up on to the ledge. I am a little disappointed that this didn't happen the first time, but realize that it is only a climb. It will be here waiting for me to give it another attempt my next time I come to central Oregon.

I couldn't have asked for a better day of climbing with Calvin. After I come down, Calvin follows it and cleans the gear off the route. We then pack up and head out of the park. I have a huge smile on my face from the day. The trip out here has been an awesome experience. Not only has the climbing been great, but God has shown me a lot during my time here. I also got the website up and running, which was the goal in the first place. I also managed to have some amazing conversations with Christians and non-Christians while here. The conversations with the non-Christians while climbing, has given me more of a purpose. If that leads to any kind of job, career or calling; I don't know yet. I can only hope that it does. Until then, I will continue to climb so that I can bring Jesus to the climbers that do not already know Him. I wanted to say thanks to all of you who read this, pray for me, and supported me in this adventure. I am sure there will be many more in the coming months. So please keep reading and I hope you enjoy it.

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