I spent my 27th birthday climbing Monkey Face at Smith Rock, Oregon. The iconic 350 foot rock pillar stands is the centerpiece of Smith Rock State Park, and has a number of challenging routes to the summit.
|New bouldering rock modeled after Monkey Face at the camping area|
This was my 3rd of now 5 trips to the park, and I absolutely love it there. HAPPY PLACE! We followed the Pioneer route, which is traditionally 5 pitches of trad, aid, and sport climbing.
|My elementary attempt at route mapping|
From my Climbing Terms blog, you should know what I mean by trad and sport climbing. Aid climbing is a different beast altogether. Aiding is the act of climbing a wall by pulling on gear, either trad pro or bolts. When a wall has zero features, aka no holds for hands or feet, climbers will drill bolts into the wall and use those bolts in harmony with specialized tools to climb. You clip into the protection, run the rope through, and use ascenders and étriers (ladders) to work your way up. Here's a visual:
|Push ascendars up and lock into place, pull up and stand on ladders. Rinse, repeat.|
I've got to tell you people, aid climbing is HARD. I was not very good at it. Like, at all. We breezed through the first two pitches no problem with Jere on lead. Look, he wasn't even wearing climbing shoes the first pitch!
|Jere on lead with Duffy on belay|
|Duffy leading the bolt ladder|
We got to the aid pitch and Duffy got on lead - it took him 15 mins max to put up the pitch. I was second in our group of 5 and I started out well enough. Jere was showing me the rope-ladders so to speak, and I was making progress.
When I was about 10 feet up we had some visitors - Kristi, my birthday buddy!, showed up with her group in tow and they perched on the adjacent ledge to cheer us on.
|Birthday girl Kristi at her perch|
Around this time, more groups started to amass across the chasm from Monkey Face, because obviously climbing is exciting and they all wanted to watch! This is all well and good, except by this point I was struggling. Flailing to be specific.
|I may be smiling, but there are tears behind those sunnies|
Aiding, I'm told, can be easy when you know what you're doing and when all the gear is set up right. I was climbing on gear that wasn't mine, on an overhung bolt ladder, trying not to look down and get freaked from the exposure.
It felt like ever 2 moves I had to take a break. The pitch took me 45 minutes and it was miserable. I was wallowing. Then, someone who shall remain nameless shouted to the masses of observers that it was my birthday. How did they respond? By singing me Happy Birthday as I'm 200 feet up! It was all the motivation I needed!
|Tony finished the route|
|Jere cleaning the aid like a champ|
After "sending" the aid route, I joined Duffy in the cave where we belayed up the others, who suffered equal difficulty at the hands of the ascenders. At least it wasn't just me.
|View from the Monkey's Mouth - The Sisters|
For the last pitch, the first move is very committing. You step out of the mouth over 300 feet of NOTHINGNESS and have to scramble up the side of the face to the top.
|Duffy heading out of the mouth|
I was freaked. So freaked, in fact, that when everyone else climbed to the very tippy top of the head, I stayed safe and sound hugging the rock at the belay station. What? I have no shame in admitting defeat!
|Crew at the Top, me safe at the belay station|
We shared a few celebratory cheers then it was time to rappel down. I was definitely excited about the rappelling! Open air long rap? YES PLEASE! Unfortunately, due to rope weight, the rap was not as exciting (read: fast) as I had hoped but we all made it down in once piece, happy with our work for the day!
|300 feet straight down|
|Double rope rappel - pretty scary exposure|
|Team Monkey Face You In The Eye|
Thanks to everyone who joined me for 27 and 28! I need something epic for 30 (and 29 for that matter) - any ideas?
|Birthday candles for all the May Babies - Kristi, Duffy, Tony, and me!|