Wherever I May Roam is a classic five-pitch climb that receives a high volume of traffic on any given day. The easy rating, adventurous style of climbing, tremendous exposure, and top-out of the Smith Rock Group makes up for what the climb lacks in actual climbing aesthetic. Expect to get on the route early in the day or wait in line behind other parties.
Note: This climb receives a lot of traffic. Pitches 2 and 3 can be linked, as well as pitches 4 and 5. The 2-3 link is a long traverse which will naturally create some rope drag regardless of extending draws. This link up eats up 19 draws, some of which can be back cleaned along the way. Just be sure to only back clean where it doesn't create a large pendulum risk for your follower. The other benefit of linking pitches 2 and 3 is that the belayer can see the leader for almost the entirety of the two pitches. If you break up these pitches, the belayer only has visibility of their climber for the first few bolts due to the belay station sitting on the right side of a corner you turn. The 4-5 link is much shorter and more straight forward with less rope drag. Regardless of whether you link or not, the belayer will not be able to see the climber above the first few bolts of pitch 4.
Start in a dihedral on the face of knobby and well-bolted pillar. Stem and pull on knobs up easy climbing to a two-bolted anchor on top of the pillar. Technically, this climb is named Adventurous 9904, but I'm not sure anyone actually climbs it as a single pitch without continuing on the rest of the way up Whever I May Roam.
Walk along the dirt path from the belay anchors of pitch 1, step across the chasm and clip the first bolt. Follow a line of bolts up on some smaller holds on near vertical rock before the angle of the wall lessens and bigger pockets start showing up. The climb generally trends towards the left until you reach the second belay station that sits just to the right of a corner you will continue around on Pitch 3.
This is the money pitch of the climb that delivers good exposure and an adventurous route traversing left more than it gains vertically. From the belay, step up into a ledge system and make airy crux move left around a corner, staying low the whole way. Once around the corner you will see a line of bolts heading up towards a right facing dihedral. Avoid following these bolts and stay low, continuing to traverse left of knobs and pockets through airy moves. The climbing throughout this pitch is easy compared to any other 5.9 in the park, but the exposure is tremendous. Before long you will traverse around one more shallow corner to a bolted belay in a nook below a finger crack and the start of the 4th pitch. Some of the rock on pitch 3 felt a bit iffy. In particular the far left side of an undercling near the end of the pitch was a tad loose (as of 5/24/17).
This felt like the crux of the climb. Although you don't have the same amount of constant exposure as Pitch 3, there are a few delicate moves that don't seem to offer up many variations for working through the section. Head up directly above your belayer and clip the first two bolts out right before following the bolt line out right. The crux comes making a move on a slabby arete that drops away beneath you. Before long the climbing eases up a ramp system to belay. Continue on linking up Pitch 5 if no other parties are in the way.
Walk up a textured low-angle slab to a steeper headwall section that is littered with big pockets. Climb through this vertical section of pocketed rock pull onto the giant belay ledge. Throw a high five to your partner and soak up the views of the surrounding park.
It's possible to rap off of this route but it is not recommended. You will have to make a rap back to the Pitch 3 belay station, which doesn't offer a lot of room to other parties climbing behind you and turns the whole climb into waiting game cluster for others. We highly recommend walking off this route using the system of faint trails that lead south and eventually off the west side of the formation.
If you must rap for whatever reason, make a short single rap to the east onto a giant ledge that looks over the east side of the park and Crooked River. Make another belay to the Pitch 3 belay station before making one more to the ground (3 total rappels). The last belay is long and you are unable to see if the ends of your rope land on the ground. Tie knots in both ends.
The walk-off of this route is easy to follow. Make the first rap off the top of the climb to the east side ledge described above. Once down, hike up and south (to your right if you are facing the east side of the park) towards a drainage that has a small dirt trail that scrambles up through plants and rock. Follow this scramble until it tops out on flattish ground. From there follow the obvious trail until it forces you to scramble up and over another hump of rock. Trend southwest on the rock which will dump you down and around the west side of the rock you are on top of. You will quickly run into another hump of rock that you will traverse along the east side of, with the large bowl of the east side Smith Rock Group spires falling away beneath you to the east. The exposure is not bad at all and is easy to move through before the trail heads straight south on non-exposed trails before dropping down towards the Cod Rock trail system and off the west side of the formation.
The starting pitch of Wherever I May Roam
The start of Pitch 2
View from the top of Pitch 2 belay
The start of Pitch 3
Climbing on Pitch 3 after linking pitch 2 & 3
Finishing up Pitch 3
Start of Pitch 4
Start of Pitch 5
View from the top of Wherever I May Roam
Smith Rock State Park, OR
Last Updated on May 19 2019, 9:56 pm PDT
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Given Black Diamond’s reputation for strong and durable hard goods, we decided to give their 9.9mm rope a try as our go to gym rope. The rope is priced right and works great out of the box but early signs of wear in the gym make it hard to give it the nod as a preferred gym rope.