Smith Basalt areas line the walls of the Crooked River Gorge upstream of the main area. The climbing here is drastically different from what you'd experience in other areas of the park. The rock quality is generally better than the tuff you see in rest of Smith and most of the routes - with the exception of Lower Gorge (mostly >5.12 sport routes) - protect traditionally (though there are some bolt-protected classics sprinkled throughout - mostly >5.11). This is a traditional climber's paradise where many 4-star classic cracks can be found within a few steps of each other! Overwhelming majority of the routes are single pitch. Though the hardest routes in the park are bolted lines on tuff faces (many 5.14's), there are few classic lines on Smith basalt sub 5.10- (Student Wall with some 3-star 5.8's is the exception). From my limited experience, "moderate" (5.10) crack climbing here tends to be of the "fingers/hands in crack and feet smearing" kind (not that much straight in jamming).
What's The Point Of This Page:
Nobody is trying to cheat Watts out of his well-deserved comission for his ultimate climbing guidebook by posting this page. No amount of text directions on this page will make finding your route of choice as easy as Watts' detailed photos with route overlays. Primary goal is to give you some idea of what your route of choice looks like before you get on it and possibly provide you with more beta (take it or leave it) than what's given in the guidebook. Hopefully, folks will submit more stuff than what I can.
How To Submit Material (Wishful Thinking):
Ideally, I'd like to stay away from submitting individual routes as route pages. Most are single pitch and there are many routes here. I'd like to follow Watts' subdivision logic of areas into walls and submit individual walls as route pages (see Route Statistics section below). Example Wildfire Wall, Star Wall etc... You can include individual routes on these walls as sections on the route page. Hope is that you've done at least one or two routes on the given wall before submitting it as route page. If you submit a page and simply copy stuff out of the guidebook, it'll be deleted (what's the point).
Sub 5.11 Basalt "Superstars":
I have not climbed at the Student Wall nor the Northern Point nor the Upper Gorge....however, these are the best of the best (IMHO) the Lower Gorge has to offer in terms of moderate trad lines. With exception of Cruel Sister (5.10a), you're not likely to see a line on any of them (thankfully).
(1) Cruel Sister (5.10a) on the Catwalk Cliff is the Lower Gorge's "handcrack" superstar. In actuality, the size varies from very thin hands to bit of fist at very top.
(2) Bad Finger (5.10b) on Wildfire Wall. Stellar climbing with crack size ranging from thin hands to fingers and two bulges to pull.
(3) Last Chance (5.10c) on Catwalk Cliff. Finger crack and thin basalt stemming for feet. Very sustained IMHO - very memorable!
(4) Morning Star (5.10c) on Morning Star Wall. Not quite as sustained as Last Chance but the climbing is spectacular nonetheless and on pretty orange basalt. Not to mention you get to see a piece of local art right at the base...
Smith Rock State Park is located outside the town of Terrebonne, Oregon (approximately 30 miles north of Bend) off of US highway 97. Those who wish to fly in usually do so via Portland, OR about 3 hours driving time (140 miles) northwest of Terrebonne.
The Drive In:
Take US 97 to the town of Terrebonne. Turn east onto B Avenue which shortly becomes Smith Rock way (there are signs for Smith on US 97). Follow the road past railroad tracks and down the hill to a signed intersection (approx. 0.75 miles from 97). Make a left onto NE 1st Ave. which then becomes NE Wilcox Ave. Follow it for about 1 mile to another signed junction with Crooked River Drive. Turn left toward Smith. Follow this road (passing the entrance into Smith Rock campground) until you see a roadside parking area on your left. Pay the day use fee ($3 per car per day) at the vending machine (or at the self issue station located in the driveway to the campground) and don't forget to leave a copy on your dashboard. The main parking area has a public restroom and vending machines.
General Approach Information:
Basalt areas can be divided into two general categories: parking side of river (west side) or Marsupials side of river (east side). All parking side (west side) walls can be accessed by following the same directions except for Practice Area on Basalt Rimrock (see below). Some more specific pointers will be given on the individual wall (= route) pages.
West Side Of Crooked River (Except Practice Area):
Park at near the turn-around circle at the end of the park road (past the "main" parking area near the bathrooms). Hike through an opening in the log fence heading for the rim (heading in direction of staender Ridge looming above). Just before you reach the rim, turn right and follow a foot path right shadowing the rim. In a few hundred feet, you will encounter a fence on the right running parallel to the rim. Hike the trail following the narrow strip between the rim and the fence for a few hundred more feet till you see a large cairn (past a gate in the fence) on the right (it's actually a pile of rocks holding down some plywood next to the fence). Scramble down the class 2 (some class 3) opening in the rim rock. Follow the trail down and right as it heads for the tall basalt columns. First wall you pass on your right is the Parched Cat Cliff.
West Side Of Crooked River - Practice Area:
Park at near the turn-around circle at the end of the park road (past the "main" parking area near the bathrooms). Hike through an opening in the log fence heading for the rim (heading in direction of staender Ridge looming above). Follow a well-beaten trail as it veers left (heading in direction of Red Wall). A well-established trail switchbacks down the hill in the direction of Crooked River. Leave this trail at the end of a long, right-trending switchback (well-above the river and below the Rimrock basalt columns) and use a climbers' trail (some boulder hopping) to access your route of choice. Trying to boulder hop your way from here to other east side walls is painful!
East Side Of Crooked River:
Easiest option is to follow the directions for West Side access above and cross the Crooked River on boulders just below Cruel Sister area (Shakespeare Cliff is on the opposite bank). Good trail runs along the river at the base of the East Side Columns. Longer option (and probably the easiest choice for Student Wall is to park in the main parking area. From there, hike down the main trail to the bridge. Immediately after the bridge, make a right and follow the river trail for about a quarter of a mile. Stay on this riverside trail till just before the rescue litter station. There's a fork here - take the right trail (which continues to shadow the river). Basalt columns are above you and on the left at this point. The trail is a bit overgrown in places past the Student Wall but trivial to follow.
It is not clear whether all of the basalt walls lie within the boundaries of the Smith Rock State Park (more rules) - some of them might be on BLM land (fewer rules). Unless you know otherwise, obey the state park rules. These include stuff below.
The park charges $3 per vehicle per day to park at the state parking lot. The park is "open" from dawn to dusk (or about 10 pm in the summer). The consequences of staying past "closing time" are unclear and some climbers do "moonlight climbing".
The park allows dogs but is very strict as to keeping them leashed (fine = $94) and requests that you clean up after them.
New regulation, as of March 1st, 2003: Owners of unattended dogs left tied in at the base of climbs will be given a citation.
When To Climb
The park is officially open year round (though shower facilities at the campground are turned off in winter time). Climbing can be uncomfortably hot in the summer and snow often blankets the rocks in the winter. Spring and Fall are ideal as the temperatures are moderate and the east side of Oregon's Cascade Mountains is generally dry.
Much of the basalt climbing is in the deep Crooked River Gorge wich means that regardless of the wall's orientation, it can be chilly in winter (though empty).
Smith Rock State Park operates a campground that overlooks the crags (see directions above under Getting There section). The campground has bathrooms and shower facilities (showers available summertime only) as wells as some communal picnic tables. Sleeping in cars is not permitted. The campground charges $4 per person per night (this will also allow you to spend a day enjoying Smith without having to pay the additional $3 day use fee).
In addition, there is a free campground (BLM operated?) approx. 7 miles from the main parking area for Smith. Directions to this campground: Skull Hollow Campground. This information was provided by Brian Jenkins.
Want to spend your time at Smith in the lap of luxury? This is especially nice during late/winter/early season outings when the days are short and nights are long. The Hub Motel in Redmond offers clean rooms (shower, fridge, cable included!) for $35/night (double occupancy). This price is most likely a "special" for climbers so be sure to smile at the nice folks in the main office and let them know the purpose of your visit. The motel (huge red neon sign) is located on the left hand side of US97 on the northern outskirts of Redmond, approximately 6 miles south of Terrebonne.
Smith Rock is part of the Oregon state park system. The official (though not very useful for climbers) website is here. A more useful Smith website is here.
Redpoint Climbers Supply store located on the corner of US 97 and B Avenue (the turnoff to Smith) offers not only a complete selection of climbing paraphenelia but is a great place to inquire about route conditions including details such as bolt conditions and route closures (800-923-6207 or 541-923-6207, hours vary with weather and season). This is also the place to purchase the guidebook supplement (New Sh!tuff at Smith). It's OUT OF PRINT now. Rockhard store is another option for route beta and climbing supplies. It is located about 100 yards before the campground driveway on Crooked River Drive.
Route Statistics At A Glance
As stated above, vast majority of the basalt routes at Smith are single pitch, trad-protected lines (except Lower Gorge routes which are mostly bolt-protected and hard). So the information that is most relevant (IMHO) is the (subjective) quality rating of the routes on a given wall. I have summarized this info. for each wall (taking the star-rating from Watts) in the tables of the kind shown here. This should show - at a glance - a given 5.X leader how many choice routes there are for them on a given wall.
|5.X||Total #||# Classics||# Area Classics||# Good Lines||# Worthwhiles||# OK Lines|
From my very limited (Lower) Gorge experience, star rating here speaks about how sustained a given route is rather than rock/pro etc. quality (as in the main area). In other words, 3- or 4-star lines tend to be more sustained at the grade compared with 1- or 2-star routes which tend to have singular bouldery moves. That however does not always mean that 1- or 2- star routes are easier. Some of the "boulder" cruxes can be quite stiff for the grade! Note also that there really don't seem to be any no-star rotues in the Gorge.
If there's only a single route under given table entry (or all routes under given entry share same characteristic) and Watts mentions something significant about it, I try to point it out:
X = death fall potential (bad/no gear)
R = significant fall potential (runout)
TR = top rope route
Basalt Rimrock - Practice AreaHidden Wall
1 route 5.12b (sport)
The Northern Point
Basalt Rimrock - Student WallReproductive Wall
No routes published in Watts on this wall since it is too short (25-30 feet tall) for "real" routes.
The Lower Gorge - West ColumnsParched Cat Cliff
The Lower Gorge - East ColumnsSo Low Wall
Hand Job Wall
The Upper GorgeVast majority of routes in the Upper Gorge are hard (5.12 and harder) bolted lines. A tiny handful of trad routes (mostly 5.10-5.11) do exist though.
The Crowded House
The First Pedestal Area
Second Pedestal Area
The Vatican Wall
Playing In The Traffic Area
Ivory Coast/Red Columns
Example Of Area Classic
Pure Palm (5.11a, sport) on Wildfire Wall - vertical pano. The dog has been put on Prozac and has since defeated depression...