Block breaks offer Quest students the unique opportunity to explore the surrounding areas for four days without any obligations to class. Because British Columbia, specifically Squamish and the Sea to Sky Corridor, have so much to offer, you often don’t have to travel far to lose yourself in the wilderness and unwind from your last block. The first block break of the year is unique because the mountains are normally free of snow, making alpine ascents
safer and more accessible. My roommate Andrew and I had planned to drive to Rogers Pass, an area not far from Revelstoke, and climb Mount Sir Donald. Due to a bad weather forecast, we abandoned this plan during the last week of the block, as snow was undoubtedly going to be cover the peaks and we didn’t want to get caught on the wall during this. Mount Sir Donald is about a 7 hour drive from Squamish, so it was already pushing it for distance to travel. Needing somewhere to go, and with bad weather forecasted for Thursday and Friday in Squamish, we got together a group of climbers and decided to make the 10 hour drive to Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.
Smith is the birthplace of sport climbing in North America. Compared with the granite and traditional climbing style favored in Squamish, Smith offered an appealing change of pace and opportunity to push ourselves in new ways. We headed down after class on Wednesday before block break, and were greeted with the total darkness that accompanies a 4 a.m arrival. September in central Oregon is hot, so despite not getting to bed until around 4:30, we were all up before 8 and getting ready to climb. Andrew and I spent the morning helping some of our friends who were new to climbing get the hang of it and understand how to be safe, and then we took off to tackle the classics.
We quickly realized how much harder it is to climb in the sun in Oregon than in Squamish, and after suffering for two hours in the sun and not cleanly finishing any of our climbs, we decided that chasing the shade was the way to go.
That night the rest of the Questies showed up, and the following day was full of multi-pitch climbing to keep in the shade, and watching Henry and Sam climb really really hard. On our final day at Smith, we started the day on Toxic, a top 100 Smith climb. We spent the heat of the day back at camp reading and relaxing, and then headed out around 4:45 pm to do our last climb of the trip. We decided to end on Zebra Zion, a 4 pitch mixed route that gives some of the most exposure at Smith and tops out in a place where the less experienced climbers could meet us to watch the sunset together. Though the placements of gear weren’t nearly as solid as in Squamish, Zebra Zion, specifically the final pitch, is possibly the best climb I have ever done.
The next day we packed the car early and were on the road by 7:30 a.m, driving 10 hours back to Squamish before the next block began. While central Oregon certainly isn’t close to Squamish, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the drive back down there again.