Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Smith Rock State Park - Intro to Sport Lead Climbing

Oh man - what an incredible weekend! I headed out to Smith for the first time since moving to Oregon. As I adventure out here, I keep thinking "it can't get any more beautiful!" but then it does. Smith is like that - it's breath-taking... stunning... incredible. Sigh. I didn't want to leave on Sunday. 

I started bouldering back in December at The Circuit in NE Portland. After doing that for about four months, I decided to start climbing at the Portland Rock Gym (PRG). I'm a little scared of heights so bouldering can be tricky for me. At PRG, however, top roping is an option - I have no problem with heights when I'm roped in. So, I had been top roping for about a month and a half when I saw an introduction to lead climbing posted on a MeetUp. I'd been wanting to start climbing outside and was having a hard time getting started so I figured, what better way than to take a class!

I headed down to Smith on Friday night after work. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Portland. When I arrived, I decided to do a little hike. I hiked on the Misery Ridge Trail and then headed back down to the bivy site where I met up with the other students. There were three women, including myself, and the teacher. We camped on Friday night in the bivy site and then started early on Saturday. I got to test my new tent, the REI Half Dome 2, and it was awesome!

We spent Saturday learning how to lead. We started on Night Flight - a 5.5 route. First we all mock-lead the route meaning the instructor set up a top rope. We tied into the top rope and also tied in to lead. This was a great way to lead for the first time. After one mock-lead, we each lead the route (successfully!) without a top rope backup. This was incredibly exciting and scary! It really put me out of my comfort zone... but in a good way!

leading Night Flight!
After everyone finished leading Night Flight, we went over to Asterisk Pass and practiced rappelling. Next, we set up a route for falling practice. The thing about lead climbing is that the falls you can take can be pretty big - they're called whippers. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), I actually fell for real while doing this. It wasn't so bad - I bumped my knee pretty badly but other than that, it was fine! We also took some time to practice anchor cleaning but I still need some practice with that.

It turns out that one of the women in the class and I got along pretty well - we ended up deciding to stay on Sunday and climb by ourselves. This was such an awesome experience. It was scary because we were climbing without our instructor but it was so fun because we really felt comfortable and confident. 

lead belaying

I lead two 5.6 routes and a 5.5 route on Sunday. The woman I was with, D, did most of the anchor cleaning and rappelling required after a route has been lead because I wasn't comfortable doing that. The last climb we did was my favorite. It was pretty vertical and the first bolt was pretty high up. That meant that I had to free climb without support until I got to the first bolt and clipped in! It was exhilarating  This route went up pretty high but had great handholds the whole way - I loved it! 

We have plans to go again soon! I can't wait! This was one of the best weekends I've had since moving to Portland!

More Photos!

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