Is This Access? – 5 Days At Smith Rock3 min read

Smith Rock From Afar

At the Smith Rock campsite there’s an adorable miniature climbing jungle gym set up right outside of the designated cooking area. It’s the perfect distraction for your kids while you grill up those brats you have on ice in your cooler.

Turns out you left that cooler in your garage? A 5 minute drive from the campground gets you to several convenience stores. 5 more minutes gets you to a Wal-Mart. Looks like you also forgot to bring all of your climbing gear? Not a problem either, even closer than all of the convenience stores is Redpoint Climbing outfitters. They’ll have you in and out with a new set of draws faster than you can say Allan Watts.

With such incredible convenience of local amenities, even if the climbing in the park wasn’t world class (which it is) Smith Rock feels like a crag designed epitomize climbing access.

Climbing gym or crag?
Credit: terra.brainsideout.com please don’t sue us

Access is a word that climbers use a lot, and for good reason: 1 in 5 climbing areas in the U.S. is threatened by an access issue according to the AAC. Often we talk about ensuring it, or gaining it. It seems like we could never have too much access when we’re constantly working towards getting any of it.

At the outset, Smith Rock felt like the ideal crag. Possibly it is what many climbers would consider “peak access”. The ever-present chalk marks on the Morning Glory wall filled me with pride and excitement the first time I walked past them. As the week went on though, the ever present topropes and climbers started to feel invasive. Was there ever not a climber on this wall? 

Every hueco on the wall’s lower 80 ft. had be reduced to chalk and grease covered under clings and sidepulls. Ropes and bolts dangle like obscene piercings off of the wall.

It’s easy to forget that the rock we’re enjoying has inherent beauty that exceeds its value to us as climbers. In some ways, Smith Rock feels like what happens when we forget about that beauty.

The next time you’re hangdogging on the third bolt of your project and you see hikers stop on the trail below to look up at you, consider for a second they’re not gaping at you but marveling at the rock that’s kicking your ass.

Featured Route – Holier Than Thou ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (MP)

Approach

Holier than thou is on the west side of the Christian Brothers. Climb to the top of Benedictine Punk and belay from the gulley.

The Climb

Holier Than Thou feels like a test piece, in that the climbing essentially starts at 5.8 but then increases one difficulty grade per bolt as you ascend the ever steepening and more blank face. At the eighth bolt you’ve finally hit 11b range and are feeling pretty pumped out, but ahead of you still lies the crux: 30 feet of overhung, pocket-ey face climbing to the anchors.

Because this is Smith Rock, your holds are pretty well chalked so that routefinding excuse isn’t going to fly this time. Put on your big non-gendered pants and send the damn thing!

Lodging

Smith Rock Bivouac Area

$8/night

Don’t let the name fool you, this is the most pimped out Bivvy you’ll ever have. Cost is $8 per night, and includes better amenities than many Motel 6s I’m told. Bathrooms are great and include showers for campers. Power station is right in the main campground for charging your phone and also meeting other climbers.

Only downside is that all cooking and open flames are restricted to a designated area in the middle of the main campground parking lot. This isn’t ideal for quick meals before heading to bed or out to the crag, but there is a social upside to having all of the campers in one place.

Nearby Restaurants

Sherri’s
  • Excellent diner food.
  • Highlights: PIE MILKSHAKES. Soups. Food.
Jake’s
  • Diner food with massive portion sizes
  • Highlights: Portion sizes, portion sizes.

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