Monday, April 6, 2009

Smith Rock - 04.03-05.09

The stars aligned for the possibility of Ken traveling to Smith Rock with Julie and I to climb Monkey Face. Ken could do the Friday and Saturday, but couldn't do Sunday. That was alright with Julie and I as we had planned to ski Mt. Hood on Sunday on the way home. So we took two separate cars.

I rode with Ken on the way down Thursday afternoon. We met Julie in the climber's bivy parking around 10pm at night where we promptly went to bed. It was a cool and windy night. I had a bit of ice in my Nalgene bottle the next morning. (I left it on the ground outside my bivy sack.) The morning was windy and cold. We decided to let the day warm up a bit by driving into town and stopping at the Starbucks inside the Safeway. We got back to Smith Rock and proceeded to hike up Misery Ridge to Monkey Face. Hiking got us warmed up, and the day was not looking bad. There were some clouds, but the sun was shining through. When we arrived within view of Monkey Face there was a group who appeared to be setting up a Tyrolean Traverse. We asked them if they were going for the summit, and they replied "no."

So we went to the base of the Pioneer Route, and geared up. Julie was to lead the first two pitches, and in less than 25 minutes, we were all at the base of the second pitch. At this point the weather turned a bit more sour (snow flurries.) Julie headed out on the second pitch only to encounter high winds at the notch, and a bunch of men in various states of climbing. Ken and I could only watch as the other group's ropes blew in the wind with horizontal flurries. Julie got to the ledge and belayed Ken up. Ken belayed me, and after crossing the notch, my hands were so cold, they were practically useless. Once all three of us were on the ledge we started to gear up for the aid pitch. Only to realize that the other party had started and they were taking an horrendously long time. Ken was trying to give pointers to the guy on lead, but he did not seem to grasp even simple concepts of leading on rock. Ken predicted they would take 2+ hours to reach the cave mouth and that we should bail. We all agreed. As Ken set up our bail rappel from the end of the Bohn Street Ledge, Julie and I discovered that this other party was a bunch of army guys on their first rock climb. We were astounded. Monkey Face is not a good first rock climb.

After bailing we decided to head over to Superslab(5.6). The wind and snow seemed to fade out and I started up the first pitch. It was enjoyable climbing that followed a crack up a steep shallow corner. I brought Ken up and then he belayed Julie up. Then the graupel started. We decided to wait it out a bit, but then Ken got impatient and started off on the second pitch. The snow subsided as he crossed the traverse, but the cooler temps prevailed, and Julie and I climbed the second pitch with gloves on. At the belay, Ken offered the third pitch lead to me, but I let him have it. He started up and led the pitch to the top. Julie and I arrived at the top without incident. Two rappels later, and we were back at the packs heading for the car.

We decided to go for Monkey Face first thing in the morning on Saturday and went to bed after dinner. It turned out there was a record low(15°F) for the area Friday night and I awoke to a Nalgene completely frozen solid. It was time for another trip into town to let the sun warm things up. Getting back to the parking lot, and hiking misery ridge a second day seemed worse. To our delight, no one was on Monkey Face when we got there. We tried to experiment with the notion of connecting the first two pitches, but when Julie started the first pitch again, there was too much rope drag for that to be a possibility. Soon, we were all back on the Bohn Street Ledge with no one else there. Ken started up the aid pitch while I belayed. Once in the cave, he hauled the pack and fixed the lines. Julie got the easy jug of the free line in space. I had the more difficult task of cleaning the route. What seemed like an eternity later, I was finally in the cave. I had opted not to re-aid the final traverse into the cave, which didn't prove to be any faster, and involved a lot of grunting and struggling for me.

In the cave we organized gear and I got ready to lead the scary Panic Point pitch. The pitch is rated at 5.7, but felt much harder the first time I did it. The difficulty comes from leaving the relative safety of the cave and stepping out with 180' of air between you and your packs at the base of the climb. I hemmed and hawed and tried to offer the lead up to Julie. She didn't bite, so it was out of the cave on the sharp end for me. Fortunately, you can clip two draws from the cave before stepping out on a bit of top rope. Shortly after stepping out you are heading up a face (that I remembered to be steeper.) The crux for me was the not ideal hold you have to hold onto while placing the second draw and clipping. The rest of the pitch seemed to be a cruise after that. After Ken and Julie came up, I set off leading the final pitch. It is fairly easy climbing to the top, but not particularly easy to protect. We all reached the summit, lounged, had lunch and then proceeded to rap over to the rap station to get off Monkey Face.

Ken set up the rap and went first. This was the part Julie was waiting for. About 180' of rappelling free in space. I followed Ken so I could take a few pictures of Julie on her way down. The rappelling went smoothly except for a bit of confusion on which rope to pull at the end. After pulling the rope, the time was 3:30pm and we decided to just head for the car rather than climb anything else. We celebrated at the cars with Monkey Face Porter from the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company.

We had dinner and checked the avalanche conditions for our Mt. Hood attempt. Avy conditions were high above 5000', so Julie and I decided to stay another night in Smith. We said good night to Ken as he would leave for Ellensburg earlier than Julie and I were waking up.

On Sunday, we headed straight to the dihedrals to climb Cinnamon Slab. There was a group there, but they were only interested in the sport routes, so we were able to get on Cinnamon slab early and climb both pitches. From the guide we had, the second pitch is rarely climbed. Which is a shame, because it was fun easy climbing. Although I will admit, that the route gets its three star rating from the first pitch. After climbing Cinnamon Slab we waited a bit for some of the sport routes to open. Julie led Lichen It (5.7) and I led Easy Reader (5.6) before the sun got to hot and we started our 5 hour ride home.

Unfortunately due to the army (and some uncooperative weather) we didn't get as much done as we wanted to. It was fun for me to finally get on something other than Monkey Face. I really enjoyed Superslab and was jealous of Ken for having led the third pitch. I found that the second pitch on Monkey Face felt way harder than I remembered it as well. Overall, still a great trip.

My pics are here.
Julie's pics here.

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