Trip: Smith Rock - European Vacation
I haven't seen any other TRs on European Vacation, one of the longest new routes in Alan Watts' new guide to Smith, so I thought I'd clarify his description. We had a great time up there on Saturday, with the sort of weather Septembers used to always have.
This is a great way to get way high up in the air with much more of an alpine feel than anything I've ever done at Smith. There are fun, interesting moves on almost all of the pitches. No crowds. But except for the first pitch, the rock is not generally as good as what you expect at Smith. It seems like no one has climbed it -- chalk doesn't mark the way up the whole route (for now), and there's a lot of loose rock and lichen, especially on the more north-facing aspects higher up.
That said, on paper, the route sounds a lot more intimidating than it is: 5.11a R with gear to 4" -- that sounds burly. In reality, we thought the route was a little soft compared to other sport routes at Smith, and the cruxes were generally short-lived. The beginning of the second pitch -- the only part Watts was calling "R" -- was no big deal. And, you barely need any gear; we thought one each of 1,2,3 Camalots and a small set of nuts would be adequate, if a little sporty, even if you wanted to string together pitches 3 and 4 (the only pitches we placed any gear).
Last, and most important, the rappel anchors on the summit described in the book have been removed. We rapped off of the only anchors at the top, which leave you pretty far around the south side from the route (which the book says to rappel). Since we had left our cams at the top of the fourth pitch, we wrapped around to find the route, which involved some scrambling and the huge potential to rain large rocks down on the base, the Phoenix buttress area, and even the river trail. This was also a problem during the rest of the rappel. I'm not sure what the best way down, but we found the descent to be very unpleasant.
The route takes you to the top of this tower.
Climbers weren't the craziest people we saw.
Took a small rack including a bunch of large unused cams; could have taken a smaller rack.
Easy as ever at Smith