Growing up in Oregon, I should have climbed Monkey Face a long time ago. Smith saw me reach many milestones as a climber: first road trip, first sport lead, first trad fall, first bleeding finger pad, first German Shepard bite (don't ask). Somehow, though, I never managed to climb this distinctive tower. Last week, I decided it was time.
Monkey Face rises above the Crooked River on the west side of Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend. You can pick it out from the highway, and the foot of the rock is just a 45 minute walk from the parking lot. Erin Smart and I had chosen the very reasonable and classic Pioneer's Route, with the added pleasure of the West Face Direct variation.
Two fun 5.7-5.8 pitches lead up to the notch separating the upper tower from the main cliff. There are easier ways to get to this notch, but few as enjoyable as this. From the notch, a steep but easy ladder of 17 bolts lead up into the cave of the Monkey's mouth. Erin lead the ladder with pizazz, and soon I was clinging to 5.7 jugs over 200 feet of air: Panic Point is a perfect name for this spectacular exit from the cave. One more easy pitch gets you to the top.
The landscape around Smith defies description. I like to think of it as a volcanic Provence with cowboys. The Oregon cascades define the western horizon, while the sage country spills out forever to the south and east.
If you haven't been to Smith in a while, I should mention that the new guidebook is great. The maps and topos make it easy to find climbs, and Alan Watts provides lots of interesting history and first ascent anecdotes to keep it fun. For reference, we climbed up the lines marked 16b and 33.