14 Sep Climbing and Area Guide – ‘Not-Smith-Rock’ – Bend, OR
After my amazing visit to Portland in July, I was eager to get back to Oregon as soon as I could! Thus, when my new Portland climbing friends mentioned a trip to Bend, I quickly decided to take a few vacation days from work and drive up to meet them.
My only previous experience with Bend was Smith Rock, which I loved (high first bolts and scary runouts and all), but I’ve been on a big exploration kick lately, so I was pretty excited when we decided to skip Smith in favor of exploring some lesser known, newly developed crags. Our plan for the weekend was to hit up The Zoo for sport climbing, Meadow Camp for bouldering, and then take a jaunt up to Redmond to climb Maple Bridge.
As our first stop, The Zoo, was located just behind the popular Skull Hollow Campground, we decided to make this our home base for the trip. Skull Hollow is a large campground located a few miles from Smith Rock, which provides nice sites and minimal facilities. It is first come first served though and as it was pretty crowded that weekend, we ended up driving past the official campground to find a spot on nearby BLM land. This turned out to be an awesome happenstance as we discovered a beautiful secluded site just off The Zoo trail with incredible views of the valley below.
If you’re interested in camping at Skull Hollow or the surrounding BLM land, you can find more information here! If camping outside designated Skull Hollow spots, just be sure to follow the local closure order, which prohibits camping within 1/4 mile of Lone Pine Road.
The Zoo: The easiest way to access The Zoo, is from the Skull Hollow Campground road, NF-1395, which is the same road you would take for BLM camping. Follow this dirt road past the campground until you meet a cattle guard. Turn left at the cattle guard and head up the hill until you round a sharp bend, after which will be a dirt pull out for parking. The trail begins adjacent to this parking area. A good map of the area can be found here!
The trail itself is mostly flat, skirting around the base of the hill then dropping down into The Zoo area after about a mile. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you pass through a cattle gate (make sure you lock it behind yourself!) and see a large rock pillar left of the trail. This pillar is called the Tasmanian Devil and is home to a few moderate routes. The main Zoo area is down and right of the Tasmanian Devil, it’s most prominent feature being a large cave fitted with dozens of perma-draws.
Unfortunately there isn’t much beta available on climbing at The Zoo and as I have only climbed there once, I don’t have a lot of specific route information on hand. However, I can give a general overview, and if you’re lucky, there will be a public guidebook in the cave which you can also use for reference. Some awesome folks left it in there for visitor use, so if it is still there, please take a look but make sure to leave it for the next person!
As far as routes go, the cave ranges from 5.10d all the way up to some 12d’s and unfinished projects. The problems are steep, with generally big moves between good holds. The overhung sections on most of these routes have fixed draws, however you’ll need to bring a few draws and anchors for the top. One route I can definitely recommend here, is the 5.12a that starts towards the left of the cave, traverses under the roof for about 5 draws and then pulls up and over the lip. This was my second EVER 5.12a onsight and it is such a fun route. Juggy and a bit pumpy down low, followed by a powerful crux move just over the lip, and then easy climbing to the anchors. Definitely give this a try if you’re climbing around this grade!
If you’re looking for some more mellow climbing, there is plenty to be found on either side of the cave. Just to the left of the cave is a ledge with a good assortment of 5.9 – Mid 5.10 routes, which is where my crew warmed up. A short hike to the right will bring you to a 15ft high platform with some more moderate routes. The sport routes start on top of the platform, however the lower 15 feet also makes for some fun bouldering and a good warm up. Past the platform, further down the trail to the right, is an enclave with some amazingly featured climbs. This enclave also provides some shade when the rest of this wall comes into the sun in the early afternoon.
Afternoon shade can also be found on the opposite side of the trail from the cave, where there are some fun slabby sport routes, ranging from 5.8 – mid 5.10s. When you’re tired from all the steep climbing elsewhere, these routes are a nice, technical alternative to finish out the day!
Meadow Camp: Meadow Camp is a relatively new climbing area just outside Bend, which offers dozens of top rope, trad, or highball routes along a 30 foot tall cliff band, as well as some just-being-developed bouldering scattered throughout the area. To get there, take Century Drive/Cascades Lake Highway west of Bend and turn left onto a dirt road about one mile before reaching the Widgi Golf Club. The road should be labeled Meadow Day Use Area, and will take you down to a parking lot by the Deschutes River. From the lot, follow a climber’s trail left along the river until you reach the obvious cliff band and boulders.
As far as rope climbing goes, this is mostly a TR area. There are anchors every 10 feet or so along the top of the cliff, which makes it a great place to set up TR’s, and work on your crack climbing! You can find specific route beta on Mountain Project, here! As far as bouldering goes, the area is still being developed and there isn’t much published beta available. A new guide is currently being written, however, by my friends over at Central Oregon Bouldering, and the most up to date info and pics can be found on their FB, IG, and BlOG.
The bouldering here seems to be mostly vertical and covers a wide range of grades, from some easy V0 warms ups, to some tiny, techy crimps on V7 and V8 problems. Check out the pics below for some of our favorite problems of the day!
Maple Bridge: Closed… 🙁
Unfortunately the Maple Bridge climb out in Redmond has been shut down until further notice due to insurance reasons. This was not posted on the website at the time, so we ended up driving out there and having our hearts broken. 😉 That being said, it should be open again in spring of 2017, and it does look awesome! The route that’s up now goes at about 12b due to the extreme overhang, although there are supposedly no real crux moves. If you intend to be out in Bend next year, check out the official website for the bridge here! It has now been updated with the closure information, and also has good info on directions and parking.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the bridge opens again next year!
Despite the closure of the Maple Bridge, my trip to Bend was very fun and filled with some awesome climbing. Both The Zoo and Meadow Camp were great areas and for anyone headed to Smith Rock, I’d encourage you to check them out. Also, be sure to visit the Central Oregon Bouldering links above for more information on other new climbing areas around Bend.
Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Happy Climbing Everybody!