It was my spring break and I was at Smith Rocks in Oregon. The weather was just plain bad. The bivy campground was empty; the seasonal climbing bums had moved south looking for warmer rock. I spent Tuesday flying like a kite in the breeze. I wanted to lead Heinous Cling, but found it very difficult to do the delicate moves I needed. Gushes of wind seemed to hit at the critical moments, ripping me from the face of the rock. Even my belay slave dad was getting hammered. Not only was he in a constant dust storm, but small pebbles were getting dislodged from the rim. After falling 200 ft, they tended to cause a little pain when they hit him. Dark clouds kept it cold. Wednesday was also predicted to be a bad day, so I continued to work the route figuring I would rest the next day.
We were the only people in the bivy site that night. Reluctantly, I got up when my dad awoke me. He likes sunrises and wanted me to see this one. I was somewhat surprised; it was a sadly boring sunrise. No red clouds, no spectacular colors, nothing. Just a bright yellow object sitting on the horizon. And then it hit me: the clouds and wind were gone. The sky was blue. It was actually warm. I quickly got ready for the hike to the cliffs. This day was going to be a good climbing day!
Saying Smith Rocks is a popular climbing area is an understatement. We are used to climbing by ourselves. At Smith Rocks, the crowds of climbers overwhelm us. Waiting in line for a climb is the norm there. On this Wednesday morning, something was wrong. There were no other climbers. There were not even runners on the path by the river. The entire crag was deserted! We had the place to ourselves for nearly three and a half-hours. The predicted bad weather had scared people, including the locals, away.
We immediately fell into our usual "let's have fun" routine. We started with the first route just to the right of Asterisk Pass. He led and I followed. Then, we moved right to the next route. I led it and this time he followed. We continued working down the cliff in this manner, switching leads from route to route. We had no idea of the route name or the rating. We just climbed. We laughed and joked, making fun of each other. We acted silly without worrying about how the "other" climbers would stare. We were free!
These moments of climbing are very important to me, and I know they are important to my dad. He is my father and I am his daughter. But during these moments, we are more than that. We are friends and climbing partners. We are two people sharing an experience we will both treasure.