First Projects: Redux

Fair warning: This post is a monster. tl;dr–just read ‘Lessons Learned’

1st Project: Magic Light, 5.11a, Smith Rock

Magic Light is a Smith classic, located on the Overboard wall. I first tried the route on top-rope. At the time, I had just redpointed my first 5.10c, and I was beginning to consider the possibility of climbing harder. I fell head over heels in love with Magic Light. The bottom crux involves technical moves on some small crimps to a good hold, and the upper crux is sustained, involving movement on rails and slopers.

The first time I tried Magic Light on lead, I got totally shut down. I went basically bolt-to-bolt, and didn’t make it to the chains. The next time was not much better, although I did make the chains. At the suggestion of one of my climbing partners, I tried the upper crux a few times before I lowered off, discovering an intermediate hold that made a reachy move easier. Before the second time I climbed, the route had seemed possible, do-able, and I still got totally shut down.

After a rest day, I tried the route first thing in the morning. My climbing partner took one for the team and warmed up on the route, pre-hanging the draws for me. I warmed up quickly, then, as the shade receded, hopped on the route. The intermediate crux hold turned out to be crucial, and I sent my first try! I was completely pumped out of my mind by the time I clipped the chains, but I managed to pull it off and send.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Pre-hung draws can make a big difference, especially when there are tough clips on the route
  2. Test out beta on top-rope on the way down. Check for useful holds you might have missed, and try out a few different ways to climb challenging sections.
  3. Don’t stress about falling, or stress about clipping. Let go of all your nerves and fears before you pull on.
  4. Set impossible-seeming goals. You might surprise yourself.

Sunset after another perfect day climbing at Smith, June, 2012

2nd Project: Vomit Launch, 5.11b, Smith Rock

Vomit Launch is a great climb in a terrible location. To get to it, you have to shimmy up a chimney in between some boulders, using a fixed rope for assistance. It’s a major pain in the butt to get up to the gully. In my last week at Smith, I went up there five times in a row.

Unlike Magic Light, I never top-roped Vomit Launch. The first time I tried the climb, I cruised through the bottom section to a jug to clip the fifth bolt, then went bolt-to-bolt in the top section, getting totally pumped silly. There is a decent rest at the 6th bolt, and there are a couple places in the upper, pumpy section where you can grab a shake.

Unlike my first project, I never sent Vomit Launch. On my best go, I made it to the 6th bolt rest pumped, but not too pumped. I was able to recover fairly well before attempting to finish the climb. Unfortunately, on the sloper-jug right before the crack, I matched instead of crossing, and popped right off. I tried the climb one last time on my final day at Smith, but didn’t manage to put it together.  Comparing my last attempt with my best attempt, I realized that on my best attempt, I used efficient beta in the lower crux, arriving at the rest much less pumped, which allowed me to recover better.

Lessons Learned 

  1. Beyond a certain level of pump, I can’t recover very well with weight on my arms. Beyond this level, resting just maintains the pump, making it neither better nor worse.
  2. How you climb the non-crux parts of the climb can be important too.
  3. Sometimes you just need to rest. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You can learn even from failures though–every climb is an opportunity to get better.

Rain at the end of the day in Ten Sleep Canyon.

3rd Project: The Dope Shinto, 5.12a, Ten Sleep

The Dope Shinto is a 12a in the FCR area at Ten Sleep with two distinct cruxes. The first four bolts consist of long(ish) moves on thin holds: crimps and 2-finger or fewer pockets. The moves get steadily harder off the ground to the 4th bolt, then ease up for 2-4 bolts of mellow, 11- climbing, followed by an upper crux. The upper crux involves a move from a mediocre crimp to a 3 finger pocket on delicate feet, then pulling over a bulge onto slab on decent handholds and marginal feet.

I tried the climb twice, sussed out all the crux beta, rested, and then came back and sent it. It went down surprisingly easily for the grade, but the climb was very much my style. I was surprisingly stressed during the hike up to the climb–I had been obsessing about the climb for the entirety of the rest day. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I joked around with my belayer before starting the climb, and managed to release some of the tension, which helped a lot. By the time I pulled on, I was relaxed, focused, and ready to go for it.

Lessons Learned

  1. Visualization is good, stress is bad.
  2. Harder routes that are ‘your style’ might be done more easily,  but might not feel as satisfying. I still feel like I ‘cheated’ by projecting a route that was my style.
  3. Hold on. It matters.
  4. Confidence in your belayer is a must.

Anyone have good posts about your projects? Hit me up with links in the comments! :)



Smith Rock Dirtbag Beta

I said goodbye to Smith Rock on Wednesday morning, bidding a fond farewell to a beautiful place to live and climb. Here’s some dirtbag-approved Smith Rock beta on where to go, what to do, and where to eat while you visit the park.

What to do on a Rest Day…

Rainy Day: The Green Plow

When it rains, long-term bivy residents can be found at this independent coffee shop in Redmond, a 10 minute drive from Terrebonne. Free wifi, great coffee, and comfy chairs make it a good place to hang out for a while if the weather sucks. There is a large room in the back which could be used by a large group to play board or card games.

Getting there: From the bivy, go into Terrebonne and then turn left on U.S. 97. Take exit 119 and turn right on 6th street, passing Walmart and other large chains, until you reach downtown Redmond. The Green Plow will be on your left. Parallel parking on the street is available.

A latte and a cookie hit the spot on a rest day at the Green Plow.

Chore Day: Rainbow Laundromat

To my knowledge, this is the closest Laundromat to the park. Depending on your tolerance for sketch, you may or may not like it. There is a change machine for coins, and you can buy laundry soap there if you need it. Budget two hours for washing and drying.

Getting there: Turn left on U.S. 97, then take exit 119 and  turn right onto 6th street. The laundromat will be on your left a ways down. It is tucked back from the road, located right next to a tattoo parlor. There is a sign with a rainbow on it in the parking lot, towards the edge of the road.

Hot Day: Steelhead Falls

Located west of Terrebonne, on the Deschutes River, the Steelhead Falls are an excellent option for a hot afternoon rest day. The falls are reached by a short, 15 minute hike downhill. Nearby rocky outcroppings provide low-commitment cliff diving, with jumps between 10 and 15 feet. Bolder jumpers can swim across the river to reach higher cliffs. Icy water feels incredibly refreshing on a hot, sunny day. Local dirtbags sometimes put up slacklines across the river, of varying heights.

Getting there: Turn right onto U.S. 97, then left onto Lower Bridge Road. Right on 43rd street, left on Chinook, left on Badger, right on Quail, then left on River road. Signs appear at some point to direct you through the last few turns.

Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River

Life Essentials: Beer and Food

Thriftway in Terrebonne: The local grocery store has good produce and a decent selection of beer. Block ice can be found in a cooler on the end of the freezer aisle, towards the back of the store. Also has an ATM To get there, head to town, then take a right just before Redpoint. There is an espresso place on the back side of the store where you can get your coffee fix if needed: snobs need not apply.

Ferguson’s Market: Limited selection of food items, well-stocked on cheap beer, some mid-range beer. Located on 97 right before the right turn to reach the state park.

Sun Spot: Great food in a diner frequented by locals. Located on 97 before Ferguson’s, can also be reached from the bivy by taking a left just before Redpoint. The breakfast is amazing, and the milkshakes (made with local favorite ice cream flavor flavor huckleberry) are delicious.

Terrebonne Depot: This climber owned and operated establishment gets rave reviews from everyone I’ve talked to. Happy hour is from 3pm to 6pm, and the Depot is closed on Tuesdays.

The Ice Cream Stand: On the road just before the turn to the bivy is a small store which sells delicious, delicious huckleberry ice cream. Sizes start at a single, and go all the way up to ‘The Monkey.’ Bring cash.

1st World Essentials: Internet

Best option = Redpoint: the climbing gear store has a guest network you can use, and camp chairs and outlets available for your use. It can be hard to go in without buying anything—you have been warned!

Next Best = The Green Plow: a bit more of a drive, but a comfier option if you’re planning a marathon computer-use session. The armchairs are comfy, chairs abound, and the internet is fast enough to watch streaming video.

Commercial = Starbucks in Redmond: I never feel guilty about using the internet from my car outside a Starbucks without buying anything, mostly because I once had a serious addiction to Chai lattes. If you need to get your Starbucks fix, Redmond is your closest bet.

Dispatch from the Desert

I’m still having a great time at Smith! I’ve been making continuous progress in the difficulty of the climbs I can do. I recently ticked off my first 5.10c, the uber-classic 9 Gallon Buckets. I’m working on leading harder and harder grades, including two 11a’s in the last few days.

Do you ever get impostor syndrome with your climbing? I do. I’m used to climbing 9s and easy 10s. When I climb well on something harder, I feel like it can’t possibly be as hard as the book says it is. If it was, I wouldn’t be able to climb it! My confidence leading has grown by leaps and bounds while I’ve been at Smith, but it seems I have a while to go.

I’ve been working on an 11a called Magic Light. It’s an amazing climb with two distinct cruxes–a crimpy crux down low and a slopey, sidepull, arete crux up top. I’ve taken tons of falls off the difficult bit in the top, but I’m hoping I’ll get it together and send soon.

Since I’m hoping to get out climbing soon when it cools off, I’m going to keep this one short and get out!

The other night, we decided to eat in the dining room. Victor made a Spanish tortilla, which was (as always) excellent.

The view from our dinner table, looking towards the Smith Rock group.

The very distinctive Monkey Face. The route we climbed to get to the top goes out the Monkey’s mouth on solid holds, but with HUGE exposure.

Climbing Magic Light.

A first attempt at long exposure was not at all successful.

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!