On Sunday morning we moved slowly. Mark’s aunt and uncle from Portland were down visiting for the weekend, and it was nice to spend time with them. We all went out to a nice, long lunch in the afternoon, and then headed up to Smith Rock late in the day.
Mark was completely shocked when we pulled up to the huge volcanic extrusion in the middle of the Oregon desert. In his mind, we were going to climb in Oregon, which was a quiet place, covered in pine trees. He imagined sport climbing to be more like the Needles in South Dakota. Instead, we were faced with one giant rock, crawling with people all over it. From the trail, we could see nearly 100 people hiking and climbing on the cold, shady side of the rock.
Once we hiked over to the sunny side, we were confronted with the CROWD. There were people everywhere. People climbing routes, set every 4ft, along the wall for the next mile or more. It was loud, and crazy, with babies crying and dogs barking. Mark’s parents stayed down near the river and we hiked up to the wall looking for a moderate or two to get on.
It was fun to talk to the climbers at the base of the crag. I don’t mind a crowded belay station, especially when everybody is friendly and having fun. On Sunday, we kept quizzing people as to what they were climbing as we hiked down the wall. I’d ask “Hey, do you know what this route is?” And the response, over and over again, was “I dunno. Go ask that guy…” or “I dunno. It’s a 9, I think. Or something.”
Eventually we made it over to the Peanut, and Mark roped up to lead Hop On Pop (5.8). It was a great route for the afternoon. Long, fun, knobby, thin, balance-y, my kind of route. Mark was officially freaked out by this time, finding the rock to be a conglomeration of cemented pebbles, and not the usual solid-feeling volcanic rock we’ve climbed on. He also forgot all of his climbing pants, and was leading in blue jeans. He took his time, tested every pebble before pulling on it, and got a good redpoint. He came down happy to have it over-with.
Bruce worked his way up, and found the climbing to be slightly tougher than his last trip out to Joshua Tree. I climbed the route, and loved it desperately. I moved the TR to Peanut Brittle (5.8) for the second climb of the afternoon, and then took a quick lap on the very nice climb. Bruce seconded and Mark cleaned the route. By the end of the afternoon, we were all feeling much more comfortable with the knobbies and pebbles that cover the slabs of Smith.
The sunset seemed to come early again, and we headed out of the park looking for dinner. After tasty brats on the grill at the condos, Mark and I soaked in a hot tub and finished off a near-perfect day of vacation. Yeah, life can be really good.