On May 19, Bend rock climber Ryan Palo had a breakthrough.
After competing in the bike leg of the Pole Peddle Paddle, Palo trekked over Misery Ridge to the backside of Smith Rock State Park to once again attempt a long, incredibly hard line on the Monkey Face—one which had haunted him for over a year. With his completion of Just Do It, a route rated at 5.14c, Palo became just the twelfth person to send the nearly 150-foot-long line, considered by most climbers to be the hardest route in the park and one of the toughest sport climbs in the U.S.
“It's a huge sense of relief,” said the 5-foot-7-inch, 140-pound powerhouse on completing his yearlong goal. “I felt like my life was on hold in order to do this.”
Upon completing the route, Palo's buddy and belayer presented him with a t-shirt he had specially made that read, “Just Did It.”
Palo, who has done a number of other 5.14s at Smith, first jumped on JDI five years ago, but was quickly shut down by the route's strenuous moves. The native Oregonian gave the famous route another try about one year ago and said that he gained a sense of what it would take to complete the American test piece.
For the next year, he spent at least 20 hours per week training for JDI. He'd ride his mountain bike to improve his cardiovascular fitness, he'd lift weights and climb in the gym for strength-specific training, and three days a week or so the 29-year-old ,nine to fiver would go out to Smith and throw himself at long, hard climbs and do them again and again. And, of course, he'd train on JDI where he regularly took 50-foot falls as he attempted to work out the most efficient sequence of moves.
The scary falls failed to deter Palo.
“I really like big, longer routes where there's one line on a face,” Palo said.
It was the dramatic changes in the weather, not the huge whippers, that proved to be one of Palo's most significant obstacles in completing the route.
“Conditions vary so much [from the front side of Smith to the backside],” Palo said.
Since the route is often in shade and exposed to the wind, Palo said he'd often start JDI in a down jacket even though it was 75 degrees in the parking lot. He also said he spent some time openly and audibly cursing the winds, winds which can be quite unnerving when you're climbing at your limit hundreds of feet off the ground.
The route was originally bolted in 1989 by Smith stalwart Alan Watts (father of local ripper Ben Watts, a snowboarding phenom), but Watts was unable to complete the thin, sustained route. For years some of the world's best climbers attempted the route but they too came up empty handed. It went uncompleted until a Frenchman named J.B. Tribout visited the park in 1992 and sent the line he named Just Do It. The route became America's first 5.14c and it remains an enigmatic attraction for climbing's elite.
“I think it's so amazing that a line that inspired people 20 years ago still draws people today,” Palo said.
With his yearlong project completed, Palo is now looking forward to resting, healing (Palo suffers from tendonitis in three of his fingers and in his left knee) and giving back to the park that has given him so much.
“I'm going to focus on taking pictures, helping out around the park, supporting friends on their projects, and of course climbing shit I can do in a couple goes. No more white whales,” Palo wrote in a recent blog post.
Cycling Results Roundup
Congrats to all the Bend racers who represented Central Oregon at USA Cycling's Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho this past weekend. In the pro races, Adam Craig won the Super D race and Carl Decker finished close behind in second. Ryan Trebon took fourth in the XC and Brennan Wodtli finished 21st. Bend had a number of amateur racers who finished inside the top five at the national championship race, including Serena Bishop Gordon who won an XC national title (age group 30-34). Bruce Rogers took second in his race (44-49), Don Leet finished fourth (60-64) and Timmy Evens was fifth in the Super D (30-39).
Closer to home, Bendites dominated the High Desert Omnium road race which was also this weekend. It was a Bend sweep in the Pro/Cat. I/II road race as Scott Gray rode to first place overall with Eric Martin in second and Roger Worthington in third. Brenna Lopez-Otero won the women's Cat. I/II race and former Source columnist Michelle Bazemore was third overall.