The Bureau of Land Management drew the ire of the climbing community on Feb. 1 when it notified climbers that it had closed Trout Creek, a popular crack-climbing destination just north of Madras and situated on a bluff overlooking the lower Deschutes River. BLM cited concerns over disturbance to nesting eagles as the reason for the emergency closure.
The announcement caught many in the climbing world by surprise since advocates, like the Access Fund and Friends of Trout Creek, had been working with the Prineville branch of BLM since last spring on the issue of nesting golden eagles.
"There seems to be some correlation with climbing and nest failure," said BLM Associate Prineville District Manager Steve Robertson, citing research completed by Portland General Electric, which conducts studies on and manages the eagles' habitat at Trout Creek.
Robertson called the emergency closure "unforeseen," but said the crag would remain closed through the critical nesting season (until August 31), which would also give BLM time to conduct an environmental assessment on the area, currently slated to begin sometime in March.
The BLM's lack of community involvement, however, has many climbers fired up.
"The outrage isn't related to the closure, it's due to the lack of notice and collaboration and data," said Eric Sorenson, the Access Fund's Central Oregon regional coordinator.
What bodes well for all is that both sides seem solution-oriented.
"We want to work with the BLM on a collaborative, transparent approach that makes sense and that works to protect bird habitat and us as a user group," said Jeff Winger, a local climber and author of a guidebook on the area.
The BLM admits some fault in the process and seems willing to work with climbers to come up with a sensible solution.
"We got a little behind the curve," admits Robertson about the BLM's game plan. "We weren't able to alert the climbers like we would have liked to, and we own up to that. If there's no nesting, we will lift the closure."
That could happen as early as May 15, he said.
Young Phenom Experiences Low-Gravity Day at Smith
Climbing world, meet 12-year-old Drew Ruana, who on the last Saturday of January completed one of Smith Rock's hardest routes on a sunny but cold Central Oregon day.
The pint-sized prodigy has been climbing since he was three, which is a little hard to believe until you consider that his dad, Rudy, was once a certified climbing bum living out of his van at Smith. Now a family man, Rudy Ruana has also climbed a collection of Smith's most difficult routes.
Drew Ruana, following in his father's footsteps, cranked out a 5.13 called Vicious Fish (not his first, he's also completed Oxygen, Taco Chips, Churning in the Wake and Rude Boys, all Smith Rock test pieces rated 5.13, just two grades below the world's most heinous routes, rated 5.15), and is easily one of the burliest climbs of its grade, both for 4-foot, 6-inch Drew and for the other full-grown members of the climbing community. Though Fish took the fifth grader about six months to complete, the Redmond, Wash., resident only spent "five or six days on the route."
And the day before Drew finally succeeded on his project, he wasn't feeling particularly psyched.
"The first day that I was on it, I didn't feel really good," Drew said of Friday's attempt on the steep, 35-meter route where decent hand-holds are sparse.
Saturday, however, dawned clear and cool and Drew, who regularly hones his strength and skill at Seattle's Vertical World climbing gym, felt stronger, despite the cold temps.
"I numbed-out on the first couple of holds," Drew said, explaining that he would get to a good "rest" (are there really rest-holds on 5.13s?) and thaw his digits with the hand warmer he had stashed inside his chalk bag. "Right before you got to the business," Drew added.
As he pulled through the crux move, the 60-some-pound climber tried to contain his excitement. The fact that he was able to remain relaxed further cements his status as a young-master.
Once he clipped the final anchors, Drew said he let out a victory yell in celebration and relief.
What is perhaps most impressive about Drew's accomplishment is not his tender age but his ability to envision sequences of moves. "Tall-person beta," as Drew calls it, is useless to him and his reduced stature. Moves that work for other adults rarely work for the elementary school student, who's already plotting an ascent of a Smith 5.14.