Technique Lessons in Smith Rock

My time at Smith so far has been absolutely amazing. I’ve had the good fortune to climb with two amazing groups of people for a few days at a time. First I had Maria and Angela, who took the photo below. It’s nice to climb with partners for more than one day at a time–to develop comraderie and trust. Lately I’ve  been climbing with two other climbers who are on the road like me, and the three of us have our own little rhythms settling in.

Climbing on Light on the Path, 5.10a, at the Zebra/Zion area of the Morning Glory Wall. The giant huecos on the wall are a bit atypical of Smith Rock stone.

I’ve been having mixed success here at Smith. I feel solid on 5.10a, but I lack confidence on anything harder. I’ve been climbing with folks who climb a bit harder than me, so it’s been easy to chicken out and top-rope instead of leading.

Three things I’ve learned about climbing in Smith Rock State Park:

  1. It’s all about your feet. The feet at Smith tend to be delicate edges or smears. I recently mailed off my beloved Muiras for re-soling, and I’ve been struggling a bit with my other shoes, which are not as aggressive or pointy. My climbing significantly improved when I focused on pre-planning where my feet were going to go next before I moved.
  2. Good technique rules the house. It’s amazing to see someone climbing a Smith route they have totally wired. They appear to float smoothly up the wall, every movement flowing seamlessly into the next. It’s definitely something to aspire to for Smith newbies like me!
  3. I have one move. At least at Smith. It involves finding a good but too-high foot, and hauling myself up on whatever hand-holds (good or bad) I happen to be grabbing at the time. This move tends to come out when I’m pumped, tired, and wishing that the next bolt would hurry up and make an appearance. In addition to working on my footwork, I’m trying to look for ways to climb more efficiently.

I’ve been trying to lead harder routes, including a few 10d’s in addition to the 10b’s I’ve been getting on. I’ve been highly self-critical the past couple days. However, when I re-read my training log while writing this post, I realized I haven’t been on that many routes 10b or harder, and that I’m remembering failures more than successes.

Hopefully the rain has cleared out and we’ll get out climbing this afternoon–I’m psyched to keep getting better and climbing harder!

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