The number of routes to climb at Smith Rock is pretty astounding but so are the number of climbers visiting each weekend, especially when the temperatures are just right. When that is the case it’s usually a pretty easy call to make: time to go for a hike.
It was a perfect November day for climbing – low 60’s with a bit of cloud coverage and just a touch of a breeze. We pulled into the park a little before 10am and found a spot in the nearly full overflow parking lot. Walking into the park we looked down at the main area only to see lots of bodies standing at the base of popular climbing areas with ropes up on nearly every route you could make out. Clearly we had the option of getting in line for a route or finding our own space outside of the central park.
Not to make myself out to be an anti-social hermit but being outside means solace from crowds, time to think, tracking birds from sky to branch, and recharging the body by looking inward and maybe gritting out some climbs. Smith Rock on a busy day in the main area of the park is not that.
The Marsupials are my favorite getaway area at Smith Rock. It takes anywhere from 45-minutes to an hour-plus to reach the base of the crag you want to climb. I’m guessing this alone is what weeds out 90% of the park from making the hike because the climbing is abundant and phenomenal. The majority of the rock is beyond solid and doesn’t leave you guessing. The variety of the climbing is something not seen in the rest of the park. And the ability to chase sun or shade is just a short walk away.
This day was going to be a Brogan Spire day. The mini-peak is one of the few climbs in the park that ends on a small perch overlooking the park. There are a few ways to gain the top as well as a handful of fun single pitch climbs to check out at it’s base.
We started the hike in along the Crooked River, suffered through the trail up and over Burma Road, scrambled up over the notch next to Mini Half Dome and quickly decided to work our way up the two pitches of Barred Reality before making the final pitch up Brogan Spire. All in the hike was just under three miles. Barred Reality is a two-pitch climb that requires a bit of strength through the crux on each pitch that is more of a means to an end than anything, it’s good but nothing you would come back for without wanting to climb Brogan Spire.
Brogan Spire is memorable not because of the flow the climbing, the position, and definitely not the bragging rights of climbing 5.7. It’s the quirks of the route and finding yourself on the outer edge of the park with few others around. The first highlight of the climbing comes from the cave you encounter, for which The Cave Route gets its name. A giant hollowed out cave sits at the base of the final pitch with a window cut-out that you can sit in while you belay your leader up to the summit. On hot days the cave is a godsend, on windy days it’s a shelter, and every day in between it still makes you smile – it’s weird and unexpected.
Moving out of the cave things just kept getting better. Making it to the first bolt means traversing through an amphitheater type of wall that then heads straight up low angle rock, encountering bolts along the way. The climbing meanders a bit with ease and pretty soon we found ourselves standing on a ridge between the north and south faces of Brogan Spire looking up at the last 25 feet of climbing. The view from this angle helps understand why it’s named a spire.
Finally, sitting atop Brogan Spire was a pretty damn good feeling. We definitely weren’t tired or feeling overly accomplished from the easy climbing but the views and position were amazing after having climbed some fun easy rock. No one else was around so we figured we might as well hang out for a while and do what we love to do – enjoy being outside.