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Bend, Oregon: Snow, Rock, BEER!

[ 0 ] April 24, 2012 |

Words by: Jason and Michelle Smith

Two weeks ago, we embarked from Jackson on a PNW road trip. Our first stop was Bend, OR. We had never been there, but would soon know it as the easiest living, friendliest mountain lifestyle town on the planet.

Pow Day at Mt Bachelor

We had never been to Mt Bachelor but knew it would be fun as the driving rain/sleet hammering on OR HWY 20 meant pow at the higher elevations ahead.

Arriving in Bend around 11pm, we were instantly struck by how mellow and affordable it is. We crashed for all of $40 in the cheap, but clean West Motel near downtown.

Shaking off a touch of road burn, we woke early the following morning to clear skies and the promise of fresh April surf on the volcano that stands tall above Bend. Bachelor differs from its Cascade brethren because not only can you drive to the base, but there is a network of super-dialed high speed quads to hot lap you to Bachelor’s summit, flanks and all points in between. This is a nice amenity when you are new to a place after driving the entire previous day. The hurry up was worth it right away when ropes dropped on the summit for the first time after several stormy days. We randomly made an appearance in this video shot on Bachelor.

Anything Bachelor lacks in rowdiness, it more than makes up for in flow, vibe and high quality 3k vert from top to base. This is a classic mountain with a famous terrain park product – I busted out each of the three grabs that comprise my trick arsenal during two laps of their jump train – that puts it over the edge

After four hours of righteous lift-served shred, we blazed downhill to the 60s, sun and, you guessed it, BEER of Bend.

With 14 micro-breweries to keep the town’s 90kish residents well neutrified, Bend is known as Beervana for good reason. And the goods are epic. If we lived in Oregon, we’d be fatties for sure. We visited a mere two establishments, first for post-shred tastings at the upstart Boneyard Beer, and then for dinner at Deschutes, the titan of the neighborhood.

Boneyard Beer is brewed in a warehouse within a residential neighborhood. For a minute, we thought we were lost until we saw several groups of staggering, smiling brewery aficionados headed in the same direction. When we got to the ‘Yard, we were instantly won over by its bustling tasting room, skulls/fire/satan branding and ridiculously amazing assortment of reds and IPAs. If we had to pick, Boneyard’s Diablo Rojo was the beer of the trip.

The bad thing about only visiting 2/14’s of Bend’s breweries is that we missed a bunch of incredible beer, but because we were lightweights, we were able to keep our shit together to climb Smith Rock.

Just 20 miles up the road from Bend, the limestone pinnacles of Smith Rock State Park soar above the Crooked River like a landscape from Lord of the Rings. Though the forecast was iffy over the two day window we had to climb, we stuck with the game-plan and paid $20 for a site at Smith’s walk-in bivy camping zone. The compact size of the park relative to the zone’s high desert sensitivity + volume of people looking to use it during the peak spring and fall months make it easy to see why regulations are abundant. Regardless, this is a great spot to camp when you wake up to desert hares thumping outside the tent and all you have to do is get out of bed, make some coffee in a designated cooking area, and go give er!

Unsure about the weather and new to Smith, we chose to warm up on the quick/easy 5.9-5.10 bolted routes of the Rope-de-Dope rock, a pretty little crag nestled in the trees just next to the river. Feeling good and stoked, we crossed the canyon to the real goods of the Morning Glory cliff. Perhaps a tad over-zealous, I went straight for Morning Light, a classic .11 sport climb that would be my first of the grade at Smith. What ensued was an hour of lurching, whipping and flailing that no doubt provided ample entertainment for the locals set up on a neighboring climb. Finally, I clipped the chains, but tips were shredded and I was near toast for the day. Gotta love the ass-kicking that can quickly go down when you play in a new neighborhood.

The next morning, we decided to change it up with a mellow gear route to kick-start the day. Despite being a damp, 45 degree Tuesday in April, our 9er start was not early enough to get us to the climb first. On a bolted slab climb just to the right of the low angle ramp/crack of Cinnamon Slab, a couple curiously garbed in floral print cotton hotpants were ascending the rock with climbing methodologies even stranger than their tight leggings. The guy was belaying the girl with a 30M rope from a completely unnecessary hanging belay consisting of a single bolt anchor 15′ off the deck. And goddammit….she was heading right for the chain anchor that the top of their climb shared with the top of our first pitch.

I yell up, “Are you guys stopping at that first anchor or going straight to the top?”. Miss Hot Pants replies in an accent that would later be confirmed as a Northern Idaho/Euro conglomerate “We’re just going up a ways to take some video and we’ll be down soon”. Equal parts amazed and frightened by their ‘project’, I decide to wait before climbing. 15 minutes tick by as multiple parties, including a big guided group, arrive at the crag. Soon, all the other moderates around Cinnamon Slab are swarmed while we stubbornly wait for Cinnamon. Finally, homeboy has proceeded upward from that first anchor to shoot this video. As he lines up the $ shot, the climax of this tangent occurs when a loaf of bread falls from his fanny-pack. Not unreasonably mistaking a mound of yeast and flower for a chunk of deadly rock, the on-point, watchful guide below shoves one of his charges out of harm’s way immediately before the warning cry of “Bread!!!” echoes off the canyon walls.

How was the actual climb? It was a total blast once the bread-tossing hot pantses were safely out of the way. This was my first time plugging gear in limestone, so I enjoyed the easy angle, great pro, fun hand jams and random peanut –like face protrusions that make Cinnamon Slab a cruiser classic. Between the crowds and the sheer volume of the place, we wished we had more time to explore Smith, but it was time to roll after a few more quick bolted routes.

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