It’s 70% mental and 30% physical. Climbing that is. You could be the strongest climber and still struggle on a novice route. For me, the mental aspect of climbing is what royally screws me over, yet exhilarates me at the same time. I have a secret to tell you….I’m incredibly scared of heights. Many don’t actually know that. Ironic isn’t it? A climber terrified of heights. So why do it? I could provide a whole list of reasons, but the biggest reason is that it makes me feel alive. The mental concentration that is needed….the internal reminders that you can do it and just committing to a move…it makes you feel free, as if you could do anything. The immediate adrenaline rush that follows. It keeps you going back for more, even if in that instance, you hate yourself for committing on a route. It’s worth it in the end.
Being at the hardest point in a route (also known as the crux) is one thing…..being at the crux of a route and attempting to not flail, fall and have it raining is a whole different matter. On our third day in Smith Rocks, that is exactly what I faced. But before I get there, let’s rewind a bit. After a four am wake up call, Laura picked me up in Bette and thus our road trip began. Five hours later and we were in Portland. The first order of business: food. More specifically, revisiting 808 Grinds- a delicious Hawaiian inspired food cart that I first visited when I was in Portland two years ago.
From there, we drove three hours through winding mountain roads to hit our camp grounds at a location known as Skull Hollow. Located 20 minutes away from Smith Rock State Park. It’s…shall we say rustic? There are no facilities, with the exception of one outhouse. Camping here costs $5 per vehicle per night. It’s an incredibly quiet and private campground. Different from the main campground that do have facilities-read running toilets and showers. We opted for this site as the main campground was full by the time we arrived. Really living that dirtbag life out!
Both Laura and I were at Smith about two years ago. Nothing has changed with the exception of who our belay partners are. This was also my first real taste of “dirtbag”/”hippie” road tripping as my first time, I stayed at a Motel 8. Commence the judgement 😦 let’s just say that I was getting the full experience. Camping and climbing came naturally for Laura, as this was her second time with such an experience at Smith.
Climbers describe the Smith route rating as “sandbagged”- a term used to describe routes that are a lot more difficult than one is led to believe. Two years ago, I found this to be true…two years later, nothing has changed. The routes are still difficult for their grades and, in my opinion, require balls to do. Many of the routes here are crimpy, technical and require good footwork. As well, many of them are long. Which bring us to the climb on our third day….
Our third day of climbing was spent on much harder routes than we had both previously ever been on. We both felt that it was time to push our climbing, physically and mentally. The last route of the day was spent on our hardest route to date. It featured a slabby crux near the end of the climb and was hella scary. Laura sped up it. I…took my time. I was feeling tired, but felt the need to push myself on a harder climb, as my end goal at Smith is to climb much more difficult routes and to push myself, physically and mentally. At the crux, it started to rain. Mentally, it took all my will power to keep trudging up. I eventually made it to the anchors, but was mentally exhausted. We were eventually rained out and thus came an end to our third day.
The lessons learned thus far? 1) That heights are still incredibly scary, but a little preserverence and determination will get you far. 2) Pursue anything that makes you feel alive. Life is too short to be doing otherwise. We’re half way through Smith…we leave on Friday morning. Cheers to another adventurous three days here, pushing our boundaries mentally and physically.