If you love climbing, you should definitely visit Bend, Oregon before you die. It doesn’t really matter if your particular tastes fall more on the side of sport climbing, bouldering, trad, or even mountaineering. To unabashedly embrace a total cliché, Bend has got a little bit of everything. The main destination here is Smith Rock, the birthplace of sport climbing. But there are fantastic crags of tuff and basalt all around Bend chock full of premium bouldering, sport, and trad climbing. Zooming out a little more, the town sits at the base of the Cascade Mountains, a heavily glaciated range with some interesting options for high pointing and mountaineering, especially come winter (though we may have to cover that in another post).
Maybe what stands out most about climbing around Bend, though, is the town itself. It’s a thriving hub of culture for outdoorsy folks, with plenty of options for how to spend your down time. You can escape the summer heat by tubing down the Deschutes River through the city center, or visit one of Bend’s 25 craft breweries. It’s a great way to wind down when you’re tired from a day in the sun, exploring the hills through your chosen sport. In Bend, the adventuring and the victory laps are just a short drive apart (if that). It’s an all-out adventure sports paradise.
Itinerary For 57 hours in Bend
All in all Bend a jackpot for anyone that wants to cram as much adventure into the day as possible. So we decided the best way to showcase the magic of the Bend area was to put together an itinerary for an action-packed summer weekend climbing in and around town. This itinerary starts at 3 PM Friday and ends at midnight on Sunday. Why? Because that gives you exactly 57 hours, just enough time to cut out of work early and be back in time for your Monday morning meetings!
This philosophy is core to how 57hours.com operates. If you don’t already know, 57hours is a service that connects weekend warriors like yourself with certified guides, so you can maximize your enjoyment on your days off. This itinerary is powered by this adventure offered on 57hours.com. Even if you’re brand new to climbing and curious about what the area has to offer, you can team up with a guide to tackle the basics. And if you’re an expert, even better. Guides will give you the support you need to push grades and go to new heights.
Options for this adventure include a half day with a guide, full day with a guide, and a day of multi-pitch climbing, one of the main reasons to visit Smith Rock. Prices range from $160 to $350, and guides can cater to all experience levels.
3 PM Friday
So, let’s say you cut out of work a little early Friday and head for Bend. Your bags are packed, you’re raring to head for the hills and start hugging some rocks. You might be driving to town, which is just three hours from Portland, or else you could take a flight into Redmond Airport, conveniently close to both Bend and Smith Rock. Once you get into town, you’ll have a solid amount of daylight left to get warmed up, and maybe even grab an IPA.
We recommend checking into the Bunk + Brew Hostel, a local staple for dirtbags stopping over while hiking the PCT, skiers, mountain bikers, and climbers. It’s a cost effective option for a weekend trip, centrally located in Bend and within walking distance of several breweries. You could also camp on Deschutes National Forest or at Smith Rock State Park if you feel like roughing it.
Friday afternoon is primetime to get oriented in town and do some bouldering on the river to warm up. There are several basalt crags that you could easily walk to from downtown Bend. The Depot and The MBV Boulders both have a ton of problems across a range of difficulties to get the blood flowing, with plenty of shade. Mountain project is somewhat limited for information on bouldering around Bend, so it’s a good idea to find yourself a copy of Central Oregon Bouldering. There are lots of outdoor gear shops around town, but Mountain Supply is the best bet for climbing gear and guidebooks.
If you feel like busting out your rope in earnest, you could also head to Meadow Camp for some sport climbing. There are some interesting cracks, flakes, and pocketed faces here. Most of the climbs are short and can be top roped. It’s a nice spot to knock out a lot of easy to moderate climbs on top rope, taking it easy by the babbling river.
After getting up some of the easier climbs around town, you’ll probably be ready for some food and suds. One easy option would be just walking from the boulders to one of the food truck spots around Bend, like The Lot or The Podski. Or you could just as easily head to a brewery, like Crux or Cascade Lakes Brewing. Once you’re fed, get yourself to bed and catch some Zs. You’ll need your rest for what’s to come.
On Saturday you should be heading to Smith Rock to see what all the fuss is about. Pack a sack lunch to eat on the wall and head north to Redmond. If you’re up early, you shouldn’t have much competition to be the first on the wall.
Beginners might want to stick to single pitch climbs like 5 Gallon Buckets or The Outsiders on the imposing Morning Glory Wall, or try Hissing Llamas, a fun ladder of jugs. If you’re a decent climber, but have never tried a multi-pitch route, you should definitely go for First Kiss. It’s an easy, varied route up the Kiss of The Lepers Buttress and a classic for the area.
Intermediates should be looking into some of Smith’s multi-pitch routes. Wherever I May Roam is a perfect mix of length and difficulty, sustained at 5.8 or 5.9 over five pitches. It ascends the less-heavily-trafficked Northwest Face and is shaded in the morning. Go early and enjoy having the wall to yourself. Another option of a similar length and difficulty is Dirty Pinkos, a fun ascent of Red Wall. If you’re wanting to bust out your trad rack, check out Moonshine Dihedral, a classic with some interesting stemming and finger cracks.
Experts looking to go all out right off the bat should head for the Monkey Face. This 350 foot tall tower is Smith’s oddest and most impressive feature. You can tackle it about a thousand different ways, with grades from 5.6 to 5.14 and everything from aid to trad to sport routes. One of the most widely talked-about routes at Smith Rock is Monkey Space rated 5.11b over two pitches, a variation on the Pioneer Route to the top of the Monkey Face. If you have some time left, check out Toxic, an ambitious route up one of the steepest aspects of Smith with a mandatory dyno at the crux. If you’re hungry for some trad, go for Wartley’s Revenge, rated 5.11a over three pitches, though most just do the first.
Wow! What a day. If you and your guide got through everything you had planned you definitely pushed your limits. Time for another jaunt around the lively streets of Bend before bed. You could grab dinner and brewskis at Deschutes Brewery, the most famous of the Bend craft brewers, or Boneyard, one of the newer names in Bend beer. Celebrate your victories, look over your guidebooks, and plan your next adventure. You’ve got enough time for another solid big wall climb tomorrow, and your 57 hours are rapidly running out.
You wake up, maybe a little groggy, maybe a little sore. But you’re already burning daylight and there’s more to see. For Sunday, you should head back to Smith Rock and take on some new challenges. If you haven’t climbed a multi-pitch route yet, go for it. Today is a day for trying something new. You could try your hand at climbing trad or aid with a guide, if you’re typically a sport climber, or push into a new grade. The clock is ticking, so send it!
Beginners should absolutely do a multi-pitch climb before going home. If you didn’t climb First Kiss yesterday, do it today. If you want to try getting on the Monkey Face, you could go for the Pioneer Route, rated 5.7 C0. For an extra change of pace, you could try climbing it with traditional or aid climbing gear. A good backup for this is the West Face Variation, rated 5.8 over five pitches. It can be climbed with traditional or aid gear. With the help of a certified guide, you’ll have the extra know-how to take on something bigger that you wouldn’t have before.
Intermediates will have the most options for today if they commit to climbing trad. Taking on something like Zion on Morning Glory wall. As a one-two punch, you could also take on Blood Clot and its next door neighbor Cruel Sister, one of the big classic climbs at Smith Rock. Both are excellent handcracks following large dihedrals of tuff up the Catwalk Cliff. If you feel like taking on the Monkey Face today, your options are to go hard or take it easy. The harder choice is the aforementioned Monkey Space. But if you don’t feel like going in on something that difficult, or are pumped from Saturday, you could also try for Monkey Off My Back, a variation on the Pioneer Route or West Face route. Getting on top of this astounding spire of rock should be on every climber’s to-do list, whether you’re pushing grades to do it or not.
Experts will have lots to do, provided you’re comfortable in the 5.12-13 range. The Dihedrals are full of awesome, hard sport climbs. Routes like Heinous Cling, Chain Reaction, and Latest Rage all float in the mid-5.12 range and are some of the most charismatic in the state, if not the West. At Morning Glory Wall, Magic Light ascends two pitches, getting harder as you go. The first pitch can get crowded, so better to go early if you plan on doing this one in its entirety. If you want to go back to the Monkey Face, check out The North Face, rated 12.a. Even gnarlier is The Backbone, a grueling push to the top of the Monkey lauded by those who have dared it as being one of the best sport routes in the United States. Push ’til your hands are covered in tape, til you’ve got dirt in your ears, til you become one with the rock. This is sport climbing at its finest.
It’s Sunday evening, and you did it. Your fingers are probably bleeding, and you’re probably dead tired. Contrary to how it looks in the movies, this is what victory feels like. You stepped up and took on a giant, and you won. Probably a few times at least. As the adrenaline of big wall climbing fades to a dim buzz, you load your gear into the car and start back the way you came from. The rock slips over the horizon, and then the ominous Cascade range. You’re leaving, for now, but don’t worry. Bend has that intoxicating quality that people can never stay away from for too long. Before long you’ll be staring at a computer screen, thinking about pocketed surfaces of tuff and sky-high aretes, planning your next trip. And it will all be waiting for you when you get back.
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