The winter holidays always provides a time to reflect on not only times past but also times that lie ahead. For me, the start of the new year also marks the start of the spring climbing and training season. There is almost the perfect amount of time between the start of the new year and spring break to fit in a whole RCTM training cycle, aiming for peak performance for both the outdoor climbing that will be happening at the beginning of spring break as well as the regional competition that happens at the end.

This spring we’re headed back to Smith Rock, sport climbing mecca of Oregon. I’ve been twice now and have a good idea of the style of climbing (thin, technical face) as well as the selection of classic and noteworthy routes. No climbing season training plan is complete without a set of goals, and Smith is the perfect place for me to both tick some long term projects and work on some new ones


img The Dihedrals

  • Lower Heinous Cling (5.12a, sport). I nearly onsighted this last August, but fell when I failed to decipher the dynamic crux. I might be making excuses but I feel like if I had known you just needed to dyno (instead of attempting to conjure up a static sequence) it would’ve gone much easier (Of course, then it wouldn’t be an onsight!). This climb is considered by many to be the easiest 5.12 at Smith (some even call it .11d), and thanks to its position in the legendary Dihedrals area (home of even harder testpieces such as Darkness at Noon and To Bolt Or Not To Be) it stands as a sort of gateway to the harder climbing at Smith.

The climb is basically dead vertical with a somewhat strenuous 5.10 introduction with poor feet into smooth, flowing 5.11 climbing on pockets and edges. I’ll want to be sure I’m warmed up enough - last time I remember feeling a bit pumped only after climbing for 20 feet (I had only done one pitch of 5.9 as a warmup). There’s an optional gear placement that helps protect the moves to the heinously high first bolt - I think orange Mastercam or purple BD - but I might decide to skip it this time around.

img Me whipping on Chain Reaction in August

  • Chain Reaction (5.12c, sport). Just around the corner from Heinous is this other classic route. I worked this over several days in August, totally stuck by one particular move. However, on the third day the discovery of a partially hidden hold unlocked the rest of the climb. The route is quite short (4 bolts) and relatively burly. Of course it’s easy to say in hindsight but I think if I had one more day to work on it I would have been able to send in August. Hopefully another season of training (and the knowledge of the beta) will lead to a relatively quick redpoint.


  • Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d, trad). Just to the right of the famous face of To Bolt or Not To Be lies this incredibly striking thin crack in a wide dihedral. The climbing is mostly technical stemming and finger locks on good, if small protection. After how much fun I had onsighting Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book (5.11a dihedral on gear) I’m very excited about this route!

  • The North Face (5.12a, trad).

Now we’re getting into some ambitious goals. The North Face is a 3 pitch route on the Monkey face, with the crux .12a pitch commonly done as a 50m mega pitch. It’s another thin crack in a wide dihedral, so I’m hoping Sunshine Dihedral will serve as a good progress marker for this route. If Sunshine goes down easily then I’ll be absolutely stoked on this route.

  • Darkness At Noon (5.13a, sport).

Saving the best for last. Darkness is described as incredibly highly featured, with three distinct sections separated by good shaking holds. The technical crux is low, on similar holds as Heinous Cling, while the redpoint crux is up high when the wall pitches to a slight overhang. I’ll need strong fingers, good recovery, and anaerobic endurance to have a shot at sending this! This season’s hangboarding workout will be tweaked to reflect this, placing an emphasis on tiny edges and shallow pockets.