The last few weeks I have been attempting a route that climbs the Picnic Lunch Wall at Smith Rocks. With all of Smith's classic single pitch lines, there are a few gems that venture higher up on the walls of tuff. The Picnic Lunch Wall route was and is an aid line that takes a steep path through some of the largest roofs and overhung dihedrals on the wall. It is unclear if the route has seen a free ascent since a visiting climber cleaned and replaced all the old bolts on the entire route a few years ago. No one locally knows if the climber was able to free the route before leaving. I have been happy repeating classic lines at Smith for most of my climbing life. Whether I do a line first or not is pretty low on my radar. I am just excited to see if it is possible. What is important to me is choosing lines that are inspiring and or challenging either mentally, physically, or both. The Picnic Lunch Wall route is definitely high in all these categories.
The route is comprised of five distinct pitches. The 1st 12 c pitch is 180 feet with a crux right off the ground. With some loose rock and some healthy distance between less then stellar protection, this pitch keeps your attention the entire way. I would describe it as pumpy and quite committing. The 2nd 12c pitch starts with a 30 foot traverse right using banged out pin scars in a roof seam. At the end of the traverse an exciting boulder problem awaits with hard pulls and a full on toss where you have to cut your feet to surmount a roof where the wall below falls back and away leaving your tail hanging out in space with 200 feet of air beneath. The 3rd sandbag 11d pitch climbs a blank corner with few holds and ends with an overhung stemming dihedral with poor protection. The 4th 12d pitch starts with a tricky bolted face variation that rejoins the corner in the largest dihedral on the wall capped with two separate roofs. The corner involves technical stemming, smooth finger locks, and a committing pull around a roof at the very end. The 5th 11d pitch climbs the corner above to a technical finishing face traverse. I have climbed many chossy pitches at Smith, but this pitch took all of my mental capacity to keep it together and continue going upward. Everything is loose with horrible protection. After four other mentally involved pitches, this one could be a heartbreaker in the end.
For me this route is mentally exhausting due to the loose rock, sparse protection, and intimidating climbing. Not many climbers will appreciate the quality of this climb as they will blame poor rock or bad pro as to why it will never be a classic. But for those who find that challenges like these only add to the overall experience, they will be surprised that a gem like the Picnic Lunch Wall has sat for so long without a true free ascent.
I have tried this route twice now. The first time I bailed off the top of the 3rd pitch mentally trashed. The second time I freed the first three pitches clean and fell at the top of the 4th pitch dihedral and went to the top. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm. The last pitch will need to get cleaned up before I commit to leading it again. Due to this work, the lack of climbers interested in this line, and the warmer weather on its way this project will probably be continued in the fall.
A special thanks to Smith locals Tara Reynvaan and Jeanne Young who were willing to join me on this adventure.
After working on this project I am looking forward to the much less mentally challenging steep sport lines at Maple Canyon Utah for the summer.