Reflecting on Smith Rock.

6 08 2009

It has been about a month since I got back from Smith Rock and thoughts beyond disappointment have started to flow. For all intensive purposes I had performed poorly on the trip despite having fun. I only managed to send one hard climb on my tick list and I neither felt strong nor was I able to maintain a good mental space in smith.

Sending the reachy Toxic.

However Smith did accomplish a big goal of getting me in shape for my successful ascent of Positive Vibrations. I have been writing up a climbing bio which made think about my strengths and weaknesses. In my first many years at Smith ( I went each May from 2002 -> 2004), I saw good bits of progress and was able to really push myself. This was not true in June, as I only finished off a climb I had gotten close to years prior. While I was able to do harder routes than I have on previous trips to Smith I did not find my self at the proverbial “next level”.

Trying not to show how scared I am at the thought of the Monkey’s Face highline

My main realization was that I really like pulling down on holds. I am not so good when the sequence is unclear or I am required to apply substantial force to footholds. While climbing granite I have gotten used to keeping weight on my feet but this did not translate so well to Smith Rock tuff. Lizzy, well versed in small footholds, had a very good trip and sent her hardest route yet. When I top roped Sunshine Dihedral it was crazy to learn how little pulling was necessary despite the high grade. Most of the time the moves were one hand barely making a lock or crimping the crack and the other hand palming against the wall to help move one of my feet up. The climb varied in steepness and some of the smears were pretty desperate. I was very happy not to fall since I expected my feet to give out at any moment. Big props to Lizzy for the lead and for believing in such footwork intensive climbing.

Standing above the void unable to go any further.

Since January, when I tore a finger tendon, my fitness has been slowly decreasing but I have managed to send many “difficult” routes by trying really hard. I have learned that mental determination can help me overcome both physical and mental issues on a climb. Putting in closer to 100% or even 110% will make the physical part of the climb possible. When I really want to send I can push through my fear and keep climbing. However when this mental drive was absent I could not rely on my strength to get me to the top of a climb.

The beautiful columns of the lower gorge.

In Smith I had a great first day and it was likely the best climbing day of the trip. I sent one of my projects, onsighted a climb on my ticklist but in all my enthusiasm tired myself out. Thinking back, I should have been pacing my self more and getting used to the climbing instead of throwing myself at the routes. Day two I had to take it easy since I had tweaked my right shoulder on a powerful gaston the day before. The sun was quite hot and really made me struggle to find climbs to do. It was hard for me not to be able to chose a project to work on for the rest of the day due to the changing shade. I attempted a few 5.12’s – Latin Lover and Take a Powder – with little success and only got to the top with much trickery via stick clip. I was not doing well with the hold size and could not easily commit to the spaced bolts.

Lizzy Starts up Pure Palm.

The morning of the 3rd day I was quite happy I was in need of rest and went on a nice run to the monkey’s face while the girls slept in. My finger skin was suffering and Lizzy was excited to do some jamming so we headed to the lower gorge that afternoon. The weather was much cooler than the previous day and we enjoyed climbing in the shade. After a warm-up my first lead was Pure Palm which I had finished a few years prior with a few hangs. I started up the holdless stem box and made good progress to the 3rd bolt. After much experimenting I took  and tried to figure out the mental and physical crux section.

Lizzy making her way up Pure Palm.

The main idea was to stem up with your feet above the last bolt and some how make it to the next couple of “holds”. I took a few falls, which helped my lead head, before backing off since I didn’t know what to do. Lizzy went next, made it up a bit higher but then fell off and lowered.  Maddy was next and figured out some crazy hand foot match beta which I tried to memorize and  she almost made it all the way to the top (which would have been a flash) but whipped on one of the final bolts. I tried again and was able to figure out slightly different beta and made it all the way to the top. This route was not at all my style but after seeing a solution I was able to commit to the scary crux. Later in the day I onsighed an amazing finger crack called Last Chance that was quite pumpy but super fun. The last route of the day was On The Road which Lizzy styled on lead and I top roped as the light faded.

Lizzy figuring out the tricky gear on the start of Sunshine Dihedral

The rest of the trip I never seemed to regain my usual power, but was happy to onsight a number of 5.11’s, including the super exposed first pitch of Monkey Space. My lead head never quite came together either and I was unable to put 100% into the climbs I tried, falling off the onsight of P2 of Monkey Space and hang dogging all over the first pitch of Astro Monkey. With three people we had to split up our time and make sure everyone got to work on their projects. Since I was not highly motivated I tried to support Lizzy and Maddy on their routes.

Over the trip Lizzy strategically worked through a few Smith 5.11’s before jumping on her onsight Project, Sunshine Dihedral. Lizzy spent the whole “send” day resting and preparing for her lead. The many days before she had tuned her  stemming and gear placements on many easier routes. I believe taking this approach to a project is key since training really works and getting used to the rock and specific body positions pays off.

Lizzy making her way up in to the crux section of Sunshine Dihedral

Despite not having climbed harder than 11b on gear and 11c on bolts Lizzy onsighted Sunshine Dihedral 11d! for her hardest route to date! As I said above the climb was stout and I was very happy to climb it on TR. Her performance was one of the best of the trip and shows how important desire and commitment are to sending hard routes!

One thing I was really excited about from Smith was how well the following photos turned out. I took the time to stick clip my way up a neighboring route and managed to get a nice angle while Maddy was climbing Latin Lover. The wall was still in the shade and the orange hue of the rock really jumped out. I am learning ever so slowly how to take better pictures and I think these are pretty cool.

If you haven’t read Lizzy’s day by day breakdown of our trip be sure to take a look.

Look in the comments of Lizzy’s send list for some of my suggested routes.






2 responses

7 08 2009
rock climbing

Seems like it was still a pretty good trip to smith. I still haven’t been out there but have always wanted to head out. What is the best month to go there?

7 08 2009

It was a great trip for sure I just didn’t meet many of my goals. I think the best months are March -> May and September -> November. The weather can be a bit hit or miss with either rain or excessive heat. IE the season varies a bit each year so check the temperature trends before you go.

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