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Smith Rock Trad compared to Gunks

Original Post
Jonathan Keller · · Fresh Meadows, NY · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

I'm going to be going to Smith Rock in three weeks, and while I'll mostly be climbing sport while there, linking West Face variation Direct to the Pioneer Route and finishing with Monkey off my Back seems like a run excursion.

I'm just questioning that would be getting in over my head.

I'm leading 5.7/7+ in the Gunks, 5.8 was pretty easy when I visited Squamish last year, and can finish 10s on sport.

How do the trad grads at Smith compare to the grades at the Gunks? 

Tim Gentry · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 32

If you're doing 5.8 in squamish and it's easy, you should have no problem on 5.8 at Smith. Routes there are generally soft when compared to places like Yosemite. Never climbed in the gunks but I've heard it's stiff. The exposure on Monkey Face is the hardest part of the climb.

Patrick Beeson · · Portland, OR · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 106

Smith has two distinct rock types/areas for trad: the tuff (mostly sport but some great trad lines) and basalt. The former is pretty on-par with Squamish ratings though the rock quality is not inspiring. Nuts and hexes work well here.

The basalt lines in the upper and lower gorge area are more splitter and of better rock quality. Cams work better here, of course. The routes are more sustained and more dependent on hand-size. I found this area to be harder than Squamish unless you're familiar with pure crack climbing (little foot holds outside the crack).

Matt Enos · · Portland, OR · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 20

From my experience, Smith trad grades are going to be easier than Gunks (generally by one to two grades). I think this depends a lot on when the climb was established - older climbs tend to be a bit more sandbagged. Super Slab (5.6) and Spiderman (5.7) are great intros to Smith trad. If you want to get on basalt column splitters, Lower Gorge is your spot! 

Ryan Dirks · · Washington, DC · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 5

I haven't climbed at the Gunks but I have at Seneca - after talking to a few people that have climbed at both I'd guess Smith is probably a number grade easier.  If you know what you're doing in multipitch trad climbing you'll probably be fine.  If not I'd try something easier / less committing first.

One thing to watch out for at Smith is that the rock can be bulletproof in one area and suddenly switch to decomposing dust within a few feet (and occasionally inside cracks).  I recall the gear being pretty good on that route, but just be mindful.  And bring a couple aiders or long slings for the bolt ladder.

Also, I haven't climbed it in a few years, but the last time I was there there were no rappel rings in the cave near the top, which made it impossible for people to pull their ropes from the ground.  I'd recommend rappelling from the anchor on the boulder above the cave (2 60m ropes should get you down, knot the ends in case).

That combination is my all time favorite climb!  Have a great trip!

chris_vultaggio · · The Gunks · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 505

Agreed on the tuff vs. basalt. Crack climbing isn't in most gunks climber's vocabularies - if you're not used jamming then the crack-specific routes (lower gorge, tuff like karate crack) will feel hard by comparison, especially while hanging on a fingerlock to place a nut. Good news is the protection is pretty straightforward, especially in the gorge.

Monkey Face should be fine on the trade routes - the 7/8 pitch out of the monkey mouth felt like gunks 6 (High E type moves)  - if you're leading 8s in the gunks you'll cruise it.

Good practice is to start a few grades lighter of course.

Chris Winter · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 305

You'll be fine - the climbing is pretty easy and enjoyable. Really, the crux comes when your second has to navigate the bolt ladder - it's way easier if they aid off the bolts as opposed to jugging the line.

Roots · · Wherever I am · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 20
chris_vultaggio wrote: Good practice is to start a few grades lighter of course.

^that's all you need to know when going somewhere new to you.

Jonathan Keller · · Fresh Meadows, NY · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Roots wrote:

^that's all you need to know when going somewhere new to you.

Absolutely, and the intent is to get a feel for the rock on the first day. My partner and I have four days there. 

Jonathan Keller · · Fresh Meadows, NY · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Ryan Dirks wrote: I haven't climbed at the Gunks but I have at Seneca - after talking to a few people that have climbed at both I'd guess Smith is probably a number grade easier.  If you know what you're doing in multipitch trad climbing you'll probably be fine.  If not I'd try something easier / less committing first.

One thing to watch out for at Smith is that the rock can be bulletproof in one area and suddenly switch to decomposing dust within a few feet (and occasionally inside cracks).  I recall the gear being pretty good on that route, but just be mindful.  And bring a couple aiders or long slings for the bolt ladder.

Also, I haven't climbed it in a few years, but the last time I was there there were no rappel rings in the cave near the top, which made it impossible for people to pull their ropes from the ground.  I'd recommend rappelling from the anchor on the boulder above the cave (2 60m ropes should get you down, knot the ends in case).

That combination is my all time favorite climb!  Have a great trip!

Thanks for the tips. Yeah, the vast majority of my climbing is multipitch trad. I plan on the first day being to get a feel for the rock and style of climbing. 

Jonathan Keller · · Fresh Meadows, NY · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Chris Winter wrote: You'll be fine - the climbing is pretty easy and enjoyable. Really, the crux comes when your second has to navigate the bolt ladder - it's way easier if they aid off the bolts as opposed to jugging the line.

This is very useful. Thank you

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, MT/Portland, ME · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

Ditto to the aid pitch—bring a fifi hook and maybe a pocket etrier and have your follower French-free the bolt ladder. It’s strenuous but way faster.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Pacific Northwest
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