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[TR] Smith Rock - Guided Family Climb @ North Point 8/7/2007


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Trip: Smith Rock - Guided Family Climb @ North Point


Date: 8/7/2007


Trip Report:

Last week, I decided our upcoming annual summer vacation in Sunriver would be the perfect time to take the kids climbing outside. My three (ages 9, 7 4) had attended rock wall camp in June. My best friend from college and her kids were meeting us so I asked if they'd be up for rock climbing. She wasn't, but her two boys (ages 11, 9) were, even though neither had climbed before.


Since we're all newbies, a guide seemed the wisest choice. I searched the cc.com archives and also talked to a few people to figure out which guide service to use. I chose First Ascent because they have a great reputation working with kids and that was going to be the key for this being a successful outing/intro for the kids. I managed to get all three of mine loving snow skiing this past winter so rock climbing is next! I booked a guided half-day tour for seven of us: me, hubby and five kids. My friend wanted to tag along and take pictures.


We left Sunriver at seven o'clock in the morning with a lot of excited faces in the back of the minivan. I was psyched to climb again, but mainly I wanted to get the kidlets & hubby outside for the first time. As we approached Terrebonne, hubby pointed out Smith Rock to the kids and told them that's where we would be climbing. Suddenly the minivan got very quiet. The excitement drained from their faces. The smiles disappeared. No one seemed excited to climb.


"That is so high," a shaky voice said.


"Do we have to go all the way to the top?" a high-pitched voice asked.


"No way," a voice cracked.


All five kids thought they would be climbing the huge rocks they could see from Hwy 97, hundreds of feet into the air. Hubby, of course, didn't correct their wrong assumption. Before the fear and trembling got too far out of hand, I explained we would be climbing different routes that were much lower and easier. I also added that no one had to go all the way to the top and could come down whenever they asked. A huge group sigh of relief could be heard. Crisis one averted!


We arrived at Redpoint a little before eight o'clock. We filled out the paperwork (release forms, helmet forms) and the other six got fitted for shoes. Then we were off to Smith Rock Park. It was our first time there so we had no idea what to expect. My friend and her family had been in Yosemite last week and saw climbers at the base of El Capitan. She assumed Smith would be the same-a flat area with a few trees where you could sit and watch the climbers, not being up on the rocks right there at the ropes.


We were climbing at the North Point area. One of our guides, Zach, had gotten me setup with all my climbing gear back in April at Redpoint. I asked if I could go with him when he set the top ropes. I figure the more times I see it done, the more comfortable I'll be doing it myself. We set off while the others got the rest of their gear. His first route choices were taken so we moved to the other side and put on our harnesses.


Once again, the scariest part for me was up at the bolts. But as soon as I clipped in, I felt a lot more secure and that was my last height issue for the day! I got a lesson in setting anchors and top ropes. I learned about SeRENE and how to set two top rope routes using one rope in a W configuration. As usual, I asked question after question. These are the two routes we climbed: Jersey Shore and Lean Cuisine.




Our other guide Nina (pronounced Nine-ah) led the rest of the crew down to the climbing site. There was a lot of scrambling over rocks. They suffered one injury during the approach and the first tears of the day. My eldest fell and her hand landed on something that stuck a bunch of white splinter-like things in the palm of her hand. We picked as many as we could out and used water to wash out the rest. Luckily it didn't keep her from climbing. Crisis two averted.




Zach and Nina talked to us about what we would be doing out there. They showed us techniques like smearing, edging, jamming, bridging and stemming. They also went over a few rules such as keeping our helmets on due to rock fall, and not bouldering while waiting to climb. Then it was time to climb. They went over the figure eight knot with each of the kids as their turn came up.




Mr.rmncwrtr is on the left being belayed by Nina and our oldest daughter is on the right being belayed by Zach. Rock climbing was harder than mr.rmncwrtr thought it would be. He kept using his arms too much. That kept him from reaching the top because they kept getting pumped. But he liked it and wants to go again!




I really felt myself moving up the climbing learning curve. Of course, I suck so any progress is huge. A few of the techniques I learned the first two times out started making sense as I put stuff together on these climbs. I felt better and more confident with the hand jams in the cracks. Stemming didn't quite seem so foreign to me and I made upward progress. I actually made it to the top each time so that felt really good.




My friend's oldest on Jersey Shore. He struggled, but never got frustrated. He just listened to the advice being offered and tried his best. When he couldn't go any higher he would come down then wait for another turn. When asked what his favorite part of the day was, his answer: "Everything."




My friend's youngest is a natural athlete and he rocked. It took him a couple of tries to get the hang of it and then he sent both routes, loving every minute of it. My friend told me that she might end up hating me for introducing him to rock climbing. When asked what his favorite part of the day was, his answer, "Making it to the top twice.




Our oldest got over the splinters in her hand and gave each of the routes multiple attempts. She found the hand holds difficult, but didn't give up. Each time she hit a route she went higher than the time before. She made it past the roof on Jersey Shores, but just couldn't continue on. When asked what her favorite part of the day was, her answer: "The climbing."




Our son has been the most timid of my three kids when it comes to gym climbing, but he was the first one to step up and want to climb. All five kids had problems understanding how they could get through trouble spots, but they all did excellent thanks to the guides who made sure everyone felt safe. When asked what his favorite part of the day was, his answer: "The hike out" (which was the "spicy" scramble up to the top.)




Our youngest was a real trooper. She would only let Nina belay her, however. The two became fast pals. We think it might have had to do with the saying on Nina's T-shirt, "Climb like a girl." She fell and scraped her knee on her second attempt up Lean Cuisine, which led to the second round of tears, but a bag of candy we had hidden in one of the packs (thanks RuMR for that tip) worked its magic and as soon as I pulled it out, the tears stopped. One piece and she was ready to climb again. Crisis three averted! This time, Zach came over to give her a few pointers.




Here's another shot of our youngest making her way up Lean Cuisine. She didn't make it all the way up, but she did great considering it was her first time out and she's only four! She was much more interested in showing off for those watching her than the actual climbing. She also gave Jersey Shore a shot, but it was getting close to her naptime and she just wanted to be done. I asked what her favorite part was. Her answer: "The hike in and the girl belaying me."




This was the "spicy" way out that my son loved so much. Zach carried the youngest out to make sure she reached the top safely.




It was an awesome day. Worth every penny the guides cost. I loved watching the kids climb and seeing them improve as the day went on. We topped it off with ice cream cones at the Sun Spot. The best part is everyone wants to go again, even my best friend wants to try it now. Her mom lives in New Paltz, NY which is near the Gunks. A free place to stay. Yay! Climb on!



Gear Notes:

First Aid kit and bag of candy (must haves when climbing with kids)


Approach Notes:


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Hiring a guide:$$$

Renting helmets, shoes, harnesses:$$

Hiding bag of candy in pack for "emergency":$

Celebrating with ice cream afterward: $

Sharing a something you love with someone you love: PRICELESS


Well done!!! Way to get the whole family involved and excited about something new. Sounds like it was a worthwhile experience on all counts. :tup:


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I dunno about him. he always wears the same hat and just gives me a creepy vibe. Maybe it's nothing but he seems a little off.


I'm sure it's not because he looks and acts gay, and not because he named his business "RockHard".


Nice job Mel. But "not bouldering while waiting to climb." thats anti-American.


Guides :tup: Especially with kids.

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How long was the drive? I've thought about taking my nieces to The Feathers while they are visiting here, but the thought of a 3-hour drive each way is horrifying. (7 and 10 years old.) Camping there might make it better.


Who knows who else might have used kids' rock shoes? Second Ascent? I'd prolly only get new harnesses & helmets.

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Thanks all. It's nice to be able to share the trip with people who get it and don't think I'm endangering my children by letting them climb.


SmilingWhiteKnuckles - enjoy your little one. They grow way too fast. Something I probably should have added that I forgot to was the rock wall camp and climbing really helped my kids with the lowering. They knew the position to be in and how it worked whereas the two who had never climbed didn't quite grasp the concept even after multiple lowerings.


Nice job Mel. But "not bouldering while waiting to climb." thats anti-American.


Haha! Well, it was a safety issue, Bill. We were up in the rocks, and the kids could have gotten stuck or slipped or fallen really easily. I thought it very smart of the guides.

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How long was the drive? I've thought about taking my nieces to The Feathers while they are visiting here, but the thought of a 3-hour drive each way is horrifying. (7 and 10 years old.) Camping there might make it better.


Who knows who else might have used kids' rock shoes? Second Ascent? I'd prolly only get new harnesses & helmets.


Camping would definitely make it better, lizard_brain. The drive from our house in WA to Terrebonne was maybe 2.5 hours. I'm guessing. We stopped in Madras for a bathroom and snack break and I can't remember how long we were there. From Sunriver it was 50 minutes which wasn't bad at all.


You might want to try eBay for used kids' rock shoes. Maybe have them try on new ones so you know their size in a certain brand.

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I'd be hesitant to take a couple of kids on a day trip to Vantage due to the length of the drive, but Mount Erie is half the drive -- and a spectacular place to take kids.


As to shoes, you might have some luck borrowing on this site if you aren't too picky. I've taken various nieces and nephews climbing with shoes that may not have fit exactly right but they didn't really care.

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Reading that put a big smile on my face.

Thanks for sharing.

Glad everyone had a great time.

Its really nice that one of the guides brought you up to show you the TR set up!


Where is that area anyway?

And I want to know where nina got her shirt! I have numerous run like a girl waterbottles...but I dont run!!!!

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Great report. My two boys are 4 and 2. I am figuring another couple years and we will be ready for a similar outing. Where did you do the rock wall camp? It sounds like a great way to introduce them without mom and dad pushing them and potentially turning them off from climbing.

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Not sure where you're located, Wopper (we're near Portland) but every rock gym I've looked at has kids programs. The problem we had was finding one that would take a four year old so we ended up at two different places. The 9 and 7 year olds did the camp at Club Sport. 3 hours for 3 days. The four year old went to the Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver. 1 hour for 4 days.


And having experienced this introducing a sport and wanting them to love it with snow skiing the last couple of years, I really see the benefits of having someone else teach them. Granted ski lessons aren't cheap, but the long term payoff will be worth it. On that end, I highly recommend the Mt. Bachelor ski school :)

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