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Beautiful Girls: Smith Rock, April 2008 Trip Report

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
16 min read

We got home at about 2:30am from our latest long weekend, and I’m a little groggy but wanted to get the trip report up before I get back to real life. We had the pleasures of taking Friday off, allowing a Thursday night departure, and sharing my VW Jetta wagon (read, a very small stationwagon) with Kelly, Shawn, and Amy “Ropegun”. Erin “Beta Bird” was on the road ahead of us along with most of our climbing gear so that we could actually sit five in the wagon, and Alex, Katie and Vic came down on Friday night. Sorry — too tired to come up with new nicknames for the oldtimers.

Mark and Amber came down too, but we were on different schedules/route plans, so didn’t actually get to climb with them which was a bit of a bummer. And, Jason, Rhi and Rhi’s daughter and a friend were out too, but were also doing their own thing most of the time.

I thought I’d take the time to do this all in one (report and pictures) with an emphasis on the facts as I remember them… commentary and feelings will follow in later posts once I get some sleep.

Here’s the link to the full photo album. Holy crap, I climb with beautiful women…

Chris got some good shots too, so I am pleased to have a few more pictures of me climbing. Sorry to the men this time around… we were split off from the strongmen much of the weekend, so could see them from afar but without a telphoto lens they just looked like little ants on big rocks. Chris and the rest of the boys got short shrift too; I did get some good shots of Chris leading Five Gallon Buckets on Morning Glory Wall, and the guys were off doing other things. Katie, Vic and Rhi fall into the beautiful girls category for sure, but I missed opportunities to get Katie climbing, and missed my chance for portraits of Rhi and Vic. I’ll try to do better at spreading the photographic love around the next trip…

Thursday, April 10
The trip down was cozy, but pretty smooth. We rolled in to the park about midnight (I think) and crashed out at the bivouac area at the park in the area that’s come to be one of my favorite places to wake up — looking out over the rim toward the Crooked River valley, with a view of the whole front side of the climbing area and the Smith Rock formation.

Friday, April 11
After some shut eye, we got up and headed down for an unusually quiet Friday of climbing. The party split up… Shawn and Kelly started out on Zebra/Zion, a stunning three-pitch 5.10- on Morning Glory Wall, Zion area. As jealous as I was, my goal for this weekend was to lead, so Zebra/Zion will remain on my tick list. Amy, Chris, Erin and I started out on a remarkably quiet Morning Glory wall. I lead Five Gallon Buckets (5.8) and Amy lead the Outsiders (5.9), both really fun romps up huecos galore… we had the luxury of playing on the routes for some time, without other folks lining up behind us.

Now, if that photo doesn’t make you want to subscribe to my blog, male or female, there’s just something wrong with you.

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I anchored in at the top of Outsiders to take some shots of Erin and Chris on lead on Five Gallon. My route plan for the weekend included a long list of 5.7s and 5.8s, so I was pretty excited that our crew were stronger leaders than I’d anticipated, right out of the gate.

From there, we headed down to the Peanut and Combination Blocks areas. Amy did a fantastic (gutsy) ropegun on Pop Goes the Nubbin (5.10a) at the Peanut, a route I have always wanted to try but I don’t think we’d done before. The route was SUPER fun, and her lead was impressive.

I put the rope up on Snuffy Smith (also SUPER fun, at 5.9) and we had a great time taking turn on topropes on the routes. This shot (below) is of me on Snuffy Smith. Apparently that’s my angle… I am so pleased that I (for once) don’t look like a sausage, and if you zoom in close, you can even see my climbergirl back. Woot woot!

The middle of the day is rather fuzzy — from the heat, lack of enough water and food, and the exertion, I wound up with a migraine, but most of us were ready for a siesta in the shade anyway so it worked out okay. Shawn climbed something with Amy that sounded cool (I don’t remember what) while the rest of us snoozed under a rock and caught up on snacks and water and waited for my Imitrex to kick in.

We met up with Shawn and Amy after the siesta; then Shawn lead one of my favorite projects, Double Trouble (10b) at Combination Blocks, and I think I toproped it clean so now I have to add it to my someday-will-lead list; this pic is me on the big lean out to the top block off the happy ledge. It was super fantastic. Shawn then lead Toy Blocks (10a) with the full traverse to the Hesitation Blues anchor and I got to follow and clean the gear on that. I’d say that particular climb played to Shawn “Forearms” Campbell’s strengths; it was incredibly fun, and strenuous.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold on by the end of the traverse… talk about pumpy. Kari was on Dancer (5.7, Combination Blocks) (well lead!) and I think some of the party did Dancer or Jete to round out the evening but I was absorbed in Double Trouble and Toy Blocks so missed the crew’s other accomplishments.

Next up was a trip to Churning in the Wake, 5.13a, Churning Buttress on Morning Glory Wall for a few burns for Kelly. He’s making progress, and picked up some additional beta. He worked the climb on Friday and Sunday, both times at the end of the day. I’m thinking he’s close, especially if he gets in a good warm up and picks the right time of day for the attempt. We also ran into friends Mo and Bree who are smart enough to live where Smith is their “local crag.”

The pulling by hardmen gave me a chance to start on my impromptu beautiful climber girl portraiture project… first victim, Kari, who was very patient until she could take no more shutter clicking.

I took a bunch of shots all in a row, with different Kari-expressions and smiles… when I look through them I can’t help smiling to myself. Kari, my dear, you have a fantastic smile! I miss you terribly, and am so glad that at the very least we get some weekends together.

Dinner was a trip to Terrebonne Depot. Sure, their prices aren’t exactly dirtbag-climber, but once in awhile a nice dinner after a full day of climbing can’t be beat. We had a great dinner, good beer (apparently my beer of choice is a good Porter — the Monkey Face Porter by Cascade Lakes Brewing Company hit the spot), and returned to camp re-hydrated, exhausted and happy.

Saturday, April 12
After a good night’s sleep, Shawn, Kelly, Alex, Katie and Vic headed to the Lower Gorge where they eventually ran into Jason, Rhi and the kids. Erin, Amy, Chris, Kari and I had more moderate goals for the day, so we headed to Northern Point for some gear leading practice. When we rolled into the crag there was a friendly group of local guys there, who asked Chris how the heck he ended up with such a hot harem of climber girls. Chris was modest, as usual. When I started racking up a trad rack for my first gear lead of the day, the guys just about passed out over Chris’s good fortune.

I did my first 5.7 gear lead (I think) on Jersey Shore, which was SUPER fun and a great confidence builder. Erin lead it also, and I think Kari, Chris and Amy all toproped it — some of them a few times, since Amy was practicing placing gear on TR and Chris climbed to give feedback on placements. I think Erin did the first lead on Lean Cuisine, a 5.6 gear route with a cruxy roof; her gear placements were solid, and she did a great job. I lead it next and was shocked at how hard that “5.6 roof” was to figure out how to pull around; I placed two relatively good pieces under the roof (a red Camalot and a similarly sized Rock Empire) (although I did sling them too long; still really trying to learn how to sling pro properly) and I had some good pro below, but having never weighted my own pro off the ground I was still pretty sketched at making a committing move over the little roof to bad feet. I did the typical Sara thing and climbed up to the move and then downclimbed when I got sketched about five times, burning up just about all of my energy. On attempt number I’ve-lost-count, I wasn’t sure I could make the move and almost took a fall on my gear but was able to downclimb partway so that I could gently take on my gear. Chris did a perfect job on belay, and I actually weighted my gear and it held. I had him lower me to good feet (but not all the way down) and I had a little meltdown but recovered quickly … I was safe for the moment, I knew I could do the move (I’d done it on TR the last time we visited Northern Point) and I’d just weighted my gear and it held, so I had a little talk with myself and then got back on the route, pulled over the roof, and finished the route. It was the first time I’ve ever been able to pull myself together from one of those fear-induced meltdowns and actually finish the lead, so even though it wasn’t attractive to bystanders, I felt like the whole thing was a huge accomplishment.

I moved the rope over to Thumper, a 5.8 that had caught my eye immediately when we got to the Point, for topropes by everybody. It was unanimously a fantastic little climb — we all had great fun on it. It definitely played to my strengths; I actually felt like I could have lead it even on gear, so will go back to it for sure. It’s got everything I love… jammy liebacky goodness.

After that, we were going to go out to Student Wall but decided to meet the rest of our party at Lower Gorge instead. The Lower Gorge approach was a bit of a scramble, but well worth it — the climbing area was right on the river, felt secluded despite the company of some other parties, and the climbing was awe-inspiring.

I got in a few more climber girl portraits, of Katie (above) and Amy (to the left).

While I was wandering a route caught my eye… it was jaw-droppingly inspiring. I just looked up, and there it was, in all of its inspiring glory, and I fell instantly in love-at-first-sight with it. The route turned out to be Cornercopia, 5.10b, a route that Shawn had told me about the day before, with a bouldery first few moves to a bolt, followed by stems and jams way up on fantastic Basalt. Sometimes the universe smiles on a climber girl… Jason started racking up and I watched him expectantly… Cornercopia was his destination (YES!). So, I got to clean it for him and it lived up to my expectations and then some. I popped off the start once or twice, but then figured out a sequence that would work for me and from there had a great climb. I did have to take a couple of times to clean gear (should have just unclipped and climbed on lower, but didn’t think of that until just now). Amy and Erin both did a great job on it, too. I’ll be back, for sure.

Shawn lead Pure
Palm, a four-star 11a just to the right (Shawn – do I have this right?), which is an unlikely sequence of palming moves and presses … I didn’t see an actual hold on the entire route. The lead was impressive to watch, but difficult to photograph without getting the ever-frequent Shawn’s-butt view. At least this trip Shawn’s butt earned its own nickname, so I guess it’s only fair that it make an appearance in each photo album.

After the scramble out (which wasn’t as bad as the scramble in) we met Jason and Rhi at their camp at Skulls Hollow/the Grasslands and ate dinner and visited until Amy was zonked and almost fell asleep in the car waiting for us to wrap up the visiting.

Sunday, April 13
After a not-so-great night’s sleep, Amy and I were up early and had a nice breakfast sitting out on the rim by camp. The day’s destination was the West Side area, to escape the crowds and the sun. Katie and Alex did Zebra/Zion and then walked off down to Mesa Verde. Shawn, Kelly, Vic and Erin went through Asterik Pass, then sampled the Mesa Verde wall among a surprisingly large number of other climbers. Amy, Chris and I wanted to start out a bit more slowly, so we did the walk around the Smith Rock formation to the back side and started out morning at Spiderman Buttress. There was another party on Spiderman, the three-pitch 5.7 trad route that gives the Buttress its name. I had hoped to do that route, but after Saturday’s 5.6 roof experience I was a little nervous to try a 5.7 roof on gear, and Amy was happy staying lower to the ground so we kept things to single pitches.

Amy and I took turns leading the 5.7 bolted slab up to the anchors on the first pitch of Spiderman. Chris photographed, and Amy and I both had fun on the route.

Chris cleaned, while I scouted out other options. Our last trip up, I had checked out In Harm’s Way (5.7) and Out of Harm’s Way) but they are mixed routes — gear is required for the first half or so up a 5.7 flake to a ledge, then a ramp to another ledge. The 5.7 (In Harm’s Way) goes up from the second ledge on a sequency, traversy, knobby face route up four bolts to the top. The 5.8 (Out of Harm’s Way) goes up from the first ledge on a slightly steeper knobby face route past some bolts (didn’t count how many). I ruled the route out on our last visit because I had only lead up to about 5.6 on gear, and wasn’t sure about taking on that particular 5.7 flake yet.

This time, I took some time to read the route while Amy belayed Chris on the slab route, and did some analysis. The pro on the flake did not look ideal… there’s a lot of loose crap in the flake, and the rock quality is not great. From the ground I could see there would be some marginal-to-good nut placements behind the flake, and I judged the higher, lieback section of the flake as about a red Camalot size, where it looked like I may have to make a blind placement to protect the mantle move onto the top of the first ledge. The ramp up from there looked easy, and once on top of the second ledge I knew I’d have a bolt to clip. All in all, the route looked do-able, so I racked up, lined Chris up to belay, and set to work. Sure enough, the route was spicy right about where I thought it would be — and, I did have to make a blind red Camalot placement behind the flake, which I backed up with an additional Rock Empire cam once I could see into the crack. I ran it out a bit since the ramp was easy and I didn’t see good pro and was in a little bit of a hurry to get that first shiny metal bolt clipped. The first bolt was a few moves off the ledge, so I moved up and clipped a quickdraw and clipped in; then moved out right to traverse to the second bolt forgetting my plan to extend the first draw with a long sling to reduce rope drag. (My hands are sweating while I type). After clipping the second bolt with a quickdraw, the rope drag was so bad that pulling the rope took serious effort and the pull on me was noticeable. I figured, with two bolts clipped in I would be safe to take a fall, so forged on, pulling hard on the rope to make the clips and finished the knobby face to the top anchors feeling really accomplished. I was proud of reading the route, assessing my skill level, coming up with a plan, and then (mostly) sticking to it. I made some mistakes, but the risks were calculated, and the whole thing was a really good learning experience. Amy followed and did the 5.7 then followed it by lowering to the first ledge and climbing the 5.8 finish. Chris did the 5.7 and enjoyed it greatly, and then I did the 5.8 on TR to clean the anchor. We all had a lot of fun on the route.

Packed up, then met everybody else over at Mesa Verde Wall. Erin and Vic had been taking turns on lead on, I think, Sundown (5.9). Vic lead Cosmos (10a) and us girls had a blast on it, although I could feel I was getting REALLY tired and the top — which I don’t remember having a problem with the last time I did it — took me a few tries. Shawn and Kelly did moderate classics and hard stuff, along with a scramble by Shawn to free a stuck two-rope rappel setup after Tale of Two Sh*tties (10a) (I think – may have the route identification wrong).

The day was getting hot, and the sun had come around to the West side, so Chris, Erin, Amy and I all headed back around on the trail and met Kelly, Alex, Katie, Shawn and Victoria just as they got to the main trail after coming over Asterik Pass. It was late in the day, but Erin had her eye on a lead on Outsiders to round out the trip, and Kelly had a hankering for another Churn. So, we headed to Morning Glory wall for a last stop. Erin and Amy jockeyed with another party to get on Outsiders, and Kelly hit Churning again. Shawn, never one to sit around when he could be climbing, harnessed up for Nine Gallon Buckets, a 5.9 pitch with a bouldery crux start followed by a fun cruise up enormous huecos to the original anchors, followed by a 10c sequence of underclings, sidepulls and footwork, to a 5.8 honeycomb finish where the problem isn’t finding holds, the problem is choosing a hold from the gazillion options. I wanted to try the whole route, but wasn’t sure I could do the 10c section, so we had cleaners lined up. I did pop off the start once or twice (thank you for the spot, Mr. Campbell) but once on the route, the huecos were super fun. I hit the 10c crux and didn’t read the sequence well (plus, was pumped) so fell trying to get out to the left-hand sidepull. It took a try or two, but I figured out the sequence and then I think popped off just after the crux because of fatigue, and then finished up the route. Katie climbed it like a pro… she gave me footwork ideas for the crux, and everyone indulged me getting back on it (thanks, guys). My second try, I got a good rest before going into the crux, and pulled the crux but popped right after it (I think – can’t remember for sure, so correct me if that’s wrong!). I felt like I had one more burn in me, but in retrospect I didn’t (I’m exhausted) and the sun was starting to duck behind the rocks. Amy did a great job on the route on TR, and then Alex cleaned while us slow hikers got a start on the walk out to the car.

A quiet evening at Overboard was a perfect way to end another perfect weekend. A short way into the long drive home I realized I was the only one who di
dn’t have to get up for responsibilities in the morning (I’d scheduled a quiet day in my home office) so put in a long series of CDs I could sing to, to keep myself awake, and cruised toward home. Home safe a bit after 2am, slept until Kelly (who crashed at our place to be closer to work) got up at 6:30; then slept until Chris called from the office at 10am to see if I had court today.

So – it’s about time for a shower and a nap. Thanks, as always, to our beloved climbing friends for another treasured weekend. Here’s a repeat for the
link to the photo album for your viewing pleasure… until the next time!

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Trip Reports

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.