A BLM ranger came around this morning. She was pretty angry with us at first for camping where we did. I was clueless to what rule we had broken. I explained that the sign said to stay ½ mile away from the campground and a particular road, but she countered with the fact that the road I mentioned was the one my car I was sitting in was parked on. Whoops.
Once she figured out we didn’t do it on purpose and that we had legitimately thought it was a camping spot, she lightened up and admitted that it did look like a camping spot. (Sounds a lot like our situation in City of Rocks.) She had us pack up all of our stuff and we headed out after getting directions to free camping further down the road.
We drove a total of ½ hour from Skull Hollow and tried a few dirt roads that matched the description the ranger gave us but found nothing. We admitted defeat and headed to Smith Rock, securing a place at the Smith Rock campground and forking over the cash for three nights.
We were very excited to actually be there and we commented on how beautiful the place was, how many routes there were, how we could spend so much time there just climbing.
That’s how we felt before we got on the rock.
The rock at Smith is NOT easy. We were climbing 5.10d in City of Rocks (our last area) and here we couldn’t even get on 5.8. The first clips are ridiculously high, making you wish you had a stick clip and crash pad. The rock itself is a mix of sandstone type rock with tiny little pebbles that look super sketchy to hold on to or put your feet on (if you can fit them, considering many were the size of my pinky nail).
We tried several routes without success and decided our last hope was “Hop on Pop,” a 5.8 climb which should be relatively easy. We never even got bolted into the first clip. Hop on Pop rejected us without mercy. Steve, full of frustration, told a local climber that the area was horrible. We shook our heads at further suggestions from them, having already tried them.
As we walked away, we made up our minds that we were leaving early the next morning. There was no use sticking around in an area where neither of us could climb. But then we met Juan. Juan was grinning from ear to ear, having just completed 30 climbs in honor of his 30th birthday. He was brimming with happiness and we easily fell into conversation with him. We described our frustrations and he explained them all away, saying the bolts here were known for being high, the rock holds took some getting used to and the climbs were rated a little differently because many of them had been set years ago.
After telling us not to give up, give it another go, and offering the advice of where and which parts of the day to climb and (the sun affects the slickness of the rock here, and we were climbing in a “slippery” area) he hospitably invited us to his birthday bash at Skull Hollow to enjoy fish tacos and German chocolate cake.
As we returned to our tent, Steve looked at me and said, “This is a day to just throw under the bus. Tomorrow will be better.” Surprisingly, even though our first two days here have been less than noteworthy, I agree.