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Portland,OR vs Bellingham, WA for climbing?


Original Post
Varun Ramesh · · bellingham, Washington · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 15

Howdy fine folks of PNW,

I am in the process of relocating to the PNW and have potential job offers in Portland, OR, and Bellingham, WA. Both are great jobs and would keep me pretty busy M-F, leaving me with just weekends to climb. I love climbing but hate driving, therefore a very important factor in evaluating the jobs offers would be quick and easy access to a variety of climbing areas. I would appreciate any inputs you might have in helping decide. I'm mostly a boulderer/trad climber with the occasional indulgence in sport climbing however, I don't find it appealing.

Thanks!

Edit: Thanks once again to all the input folks! Based on all you feedback, I have accepted the position in Bellingham, Wa. Looking forward to being a part of the PNW climbing community.

See you on the rock!

Mike Brady · · Van Diesel, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 681

Bellingham will put you closer to more world class climbing.

Portland will put you very close to many decent craglets. The bouldering within 1.5 hours of Portland is very meh.

Both places will require driving.

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,964

Portland. Bellingham doesn't have much for good climbing close. It has better climbing a couple hours away, but not much for local stuff. Portland has lots of stuff close to town, and of course smith 2.5 hours away.

Jon Nelson · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 4,675

Portland also has one of the best gyms in the US:

climbing.com/places/america…

whereas Bellingham just has a bouldering gym and a limited rope-climbing facility at the YMCA.

Matthew Tangeman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 35

Bellingham puts you within more or less a 2 hour drive of Squamish, Index, Darrington, Newhalem, Washington Pass, along with a couple small mostly sport crags within a 45 minute drive.

If you're also into running or mountain biking, the trail systems around Bellingham can't be beat.

Benjamin Chapman · · Small Town, USA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 13,267

Ditto for Bellingham. Squamish is less than two hours away and is world class. Other Washington areas like Index and Darrington are reasonable drives. And the North Cascades; Baker, Rainier, etc are close too.

rockhard · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 55

No question Portland. Portland is close to smith rock, while winter will suck for climbing in Bellingham

Tapawingo Markey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 75

I'm not knocking smith rock but with driving times equal I would take Index, Leavenworth, and Squamish over Smith any day, even with a shorter climbing season. Also as mentioned above, do you mtb or ski? Go Bham.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
varunr89 wrote: I'm mostly a boulderer/trad climber with the occasional indulgence in sport climbing however, I don't find it appealing.
I think this is a key detail that other posters are overlooking. If you were more into sport climbing, the access to Smith from Portland would mean more. For trad climbing (especially multipitch) and bouldering, Bellingham's access to Squamish, the North Cascades, and Index/GoldBar/Leavenworth put it way ahead of Portland. Yes, Trout and ythe Lower Gorge have great crack climbing, but the quantity and variety there are limited compared to Squamish. Bouldering options in Oregon pale in comparison to those within two hours of Bellingham.

Another factor to consider is the size of town/city you'd like to live in. Portland is a much larger city than Bellingham, with all the amenities and incoveniences that come with that. Really just a matter of what you prefer...
balzano · · Augusta, ME · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 270

Bellingham dude. Better climbing and skiing. Not sure what they have for after work stuff in town but you're adjacent to some good stuff.

Portland is an amazing city but the climbing in Oregon isn't much to write home about. The skiing is good, but doesn't approach what you'll have access to in Bellingham. The only true destination in Oregon is Smith, and that's a 3 hour ride from Portland. You've got Squamptom st your finger tips up north.

jedeye · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 0

I'm not familiar with Portland, but B'ham has plenty for you. I'm sure you've looked up the nearby climbing. Chuckanut has great bouldering right on the water, and some little sport spots. Mt Erie has bunches of sport routes. Both get lots of sun, when it's out. Squamish and Whistler aren't far. The only drawback I can see is that airports aren't as accessible if you want to escape the clouds. On the other hand, you can easily take a train to Seattle and/or Vancouver, so you have plenty of flight options without having to factor in traffic and parking.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
jedeye wrote: The only drawback I can see is that airports aren't as accessible if you want to escape the clouds.
There used to be an airport in Bellingham. Is it gone?
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10
FrankPS wrote: There used to be an airport in Bellingham. Is it gone?
Nope, but your options are pretty limited.
christoph benells · · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 235

for the climber who wants to drive no more than 50 miles to get to the crag, Portland.

otherwise, Bellingham.

Many Portland climbers take the long drive up to Bellingham's (somewhat) local spots like WA pass, Shuksan, and Squamish.

broughton bluff > mt. erie

Washington Pass > All of Oregon

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65

While the OP is focused on the climbing aspects, an equally significant question is how living in the two cities compares. You spend a lot more time just being in a place than climbing near that place.

Downtownt Kay · · Everett, WA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 110

Bellingham has a smaller town feel. Its cute. A lot of white people. A bit pretentious, but so is Portland (same with the white people and homeless pop).
Since you're a boulderer/trad climber the bouldering gym in Bham should fit your needs and the areas within 2 hours distance to climb will fill your heart with joy, Index, Squamish, WaPass etc.

Portland is great if you wanna pay way too much money for coffee.
But have greater access to a music scene and bigger city stuff (overpriced books, beards, flannels, its beautiful in the spring).

Bellingham is close enough to seattle, anacortes, and other areas beyond climbing for beauty, fun and exploration.

If you're into the smaller vibe, Bham for sure.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 650
christoph benells wrote:Washington Pass > All of Oregon
It is known. Seriously, Washington Pass is that good.
Billcoe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 655

Bellingham would be my choice. (living in Portland here) The rain at Squamish is horrendous, but it drys out quick if it ever does stop:-). For non-rain (when Washington Pass and West Side stuff is not climbable and its raining at Squamish: the equation Portland has Smith (dry) could also be Bellingham has Leavenworth (dry). About the same drive. As you say being a non-sporto, Leavenworth has it hands down over Smith for you is my thought.

I can't help you with the "hate driving" thing you note. Unless you get to move to Lander, Wy or El Portel, Ca you'll probably have to drive either place. Maybe Portland would be better than Bellingham if you truly hate any driving, we have a crag right in the city (Rocky Butte), and a few pretty respectable cliffs nearby just out (Ozone @25 miles, Broughtons - 10 miles both south facing). As noted upthread re climbing gyms, there's some great ones in town. Gary Rall's Portland Rock Gym was the 2nd R Gym ever built in the US and a recent remodel means it's current and a strong contender for likeability. Beaverton has the very friendly Stoneworks with great bouldering as Matt Spahn does a first class job with the routes, and Planet Granite did move to town as noted, although parking is a bitch.
(we have the same rain Bellingham has)

balzano · · Augusta, ME · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 270

I confidently recommend Lake Placid/Saranac Lake NY to anyone who hates driving, wants an abundance of crags at their fingertips (1 minute to one hour).

Varun Ramesh · · bellingham, Washington · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 15

Wow! Thanks so much everyone for the overwhelming wealth of information.

Marc801 wrote:While the OP is focused on the climbing aspects, an equally significant question is how living in the two cities compares. You spend a lot more time just being in a place than climbing near that place.
I have definitely taken that into consideration. Having lived in Madison-Wi, my wife and I love the life in small(ish) town but wouldn't mind living in a bigger town with better access to quality restaurants, great music scene and ease of connectivity to the rest of US. Therefore, Portland and Bham rate about the same on all but access to climbing.
Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
balzano wrote:I confidently recommend Lake Placid/Saranac Lake NY to anyone who hates driving, wants an abundance of crags at their fingertips (1 minute to one hour).
Very useful advice....in a thread comparing Portland to Bellingham.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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