Think rock climbing in Central Oregon and the mind naturally gravitates to Smith Rock State Park, termed the birthplace of American sport climbing, and its thousands of bolted routes. But, for those less experienced climbers seeking the thrill of scaling walls, Bend Endurance Academy's Climbing Program Director Mike Rougeux, a 15-year climbing veteran, has some suggestions.
For an easy introduction to the sport, Rougeux suggests some top rope climbing at Meadow Camp, easily accessed from the day use parking lot.
"This area offers great access to top rope climbing set along the river with a short approach and is perfect for after work sessions," says Rougeux. "Climbers need to know how to build top rope anchors and have a bit of climbing gear."
Rougeux recommends coming equipped with a cordalette, or longer slings, to extend their master point, as some climbs are set back from the edge. Climbs range in grade from 5.6 to 5.10 and up, with most climbs retrofitted with two good anchor bolts.
To find the climbs, hike down river from the parking lot along the river trail to the climber's trail on the left hand side.
Once those climbs are mastered, Rougeux still suggests heading up to Smith Rock, but instead of crossing the footbridge and taking the obvious left turn toward where the majority of climbers can be seen, take a right toward the Marsupials area of the park.
"This area is technically on BLM land, but the reward is a series of easy to moderate multi-pitch climbs and a different view of the park," explains Rougeux. "Climbers should check out Thin Air, a three pitch 5.10 on Koala Rock."
Rougeux also suggests some single pitch sport climbs at the same location in the 5.10 to 5.11 range.
For advanced climbers, Rougeux is happy to point climbers to a new and unusual venue—the Maple Bridge in Redmond. The 780-foot-long bridge sits 70 feet above the city's dry canyon and opened for climbing on August 26.
"The bridge climbs are the brainchild of Smith Rock local Ian Caldwell and is a welcome change from the just past vertical faces of Smith Rock," noted Rougeux. "At this time there is only one route and it goes at about mid range 5.12."
While not on real rock, climbing the arches of the bridge gives local and visiting climbers the chance to climb on steep routes in a unique setting. For more information and directions visit climbmaplebridge.com.
For those looking to take their next, or even first, step up a vertical rock face, Rougeux suggests enrolling in a class from local guide services such as Smith Rock Climbing School or Chockstone Climbing Guides.
"These classes teach climbers the technical skills needed to build safe anchors, learn multi-pitch climbing, self rescue and more," he said.
Area youth need not look any further than Rougeux himself to attend Academy classes in climbing, as well as cycling and Nordic skiing. Visit bendenduranceacademy.org for more information.