After a beautiful couple days at Smith Rock, we took a rest/travel day to head down Hwy97 for our next objective. Acker Rock is a dacite plug in the middle of nowhere (I mean REALLY in the middle of nowhere) in West/Central Oregon. The Peregrine Traverse is a beautiful ridge climb billed as the longest rock route in Oregon, which I’d certainly believe. You only gain some 500′ vertical elevation, but probably climb about 1200′ all told. The gorgeous Crater Lake is on the way from Smith Rock to Tiller (last “town” before Acker Rock), so we stopped there for some beer, lunch, and beautiful views. Its a National Park, so there’s an entrance fee if you don’t have a pass, but its well worth the visit!
After a very long and windy road (some 4.5 hours nonstop from Smith), we reached Tiller and bought some provisions before heading into the forest to find a campsite. It being the 4th, we were worried we wouldn’t find any, but a gorgeous site awaited us at the Boulder Creek Campground. The other campgrounds in the area were full of some of Oregon’s more colorful denizens, and we were serenaded by Black Sabbath and a constant stream of cursing from the nearby campsites all night, but it was otherwise a pleasant place.
We got an early start and headed up to Acker rock. The route/approach beta we used was from Weekend Rock: Oregon, and was really quite good. The approach trail is very hard to find, but it is marked with tape. The “trail” hadn’t seen any traffic for months due to the Peregrine closure, so it was covered in loose tree duff on rock slabs. The base of the route was fairly obvious when we finally reached it however. (Plus, you can’t really go any further once you hit the base).
Now, while the approach and routefinding beta in Weekend Rock is excellent, the gear/pro beta is downright dangerous in my opinion. The book claims is to be nearly a sport route, so we were all set with dogbone draws and very small alpine racks, expecting to clip bolts for 10 pitches. We were very very wrong in that assumption. There ARE bolts where you need them, but there’s also significant runout on exposed terrain in many places. If I were to do it again, I’d leave the draws at home and come with a standard alpine rack and slings, plus a set of tricams (lots of pockets). On top of that, bailing is nearly impossible after pitch 3, and you’re many miles from help or cell reception.
The climb itself is gorgeous however! Excellent rock, beautiful views and airy exposure, fun climbing that’s runout but not terribly difficult for the most part. A comfortable 5.7 leader will have no problem with this route if they’re ok with running out 5.4-5.5 or so. The crux of the route (4th pitch) is well bolted, and it has an alpine feel overall. I’d actually say this is one of the more aesthetic rock climbs I’ve done. The valley is mostly forest, with even the roads blending into the trees. The hills all around are devoid of cell towers or clearcuts, and its hard to believe civilization is lurking beyond them at all.
I think the only thing keeping me from calling this a 4-star route is the somewhat sketchy pro, poor beta, biting ants (see Pitch 9) and a scary rappel at the end of the climb (more on that below). Definitely a climb I’d do again.
Specific Route Beta:
P1: Climb a 4th class ramp that eases off into walkable terrain before a set of bolts
P2: Head up to the obvious bolt line, then traverse right on 5.6ish face climbing to an awkward belay. (Be ready for your following to launch right into the next pitch, the belay ledge isn’t big enough for 2)
P3: Follow a couple bolts (not enough) up and left towards the ridgeline. Roughly 5.6 again. Tricams would be nice here, there’s definitely opportunities for pro on this pitch, and it would be nice to have. Fairly mellow climbing, but definitely runout.
P4: Head up the bolted 5.7 ramp to the right. Its easier than it looks, nice pockets as features. Once you gain the ridgeline, traverse right (long runout, at least for me) to a tree with a set of bolts just past it. There’s another anchor about 20′ to the right, but the belay stance is much better at the tree.
P5: Fun notch/downclimb pitch. Traverse right to the edge of the ridge and an easy downclimb into a notch, then climb back up the other ride. Low 5th class. Bolted anchor on a large ledge on the other side of the notch and up 20′ or so.
P6: Climb up the blocky face (not quite as easy as it looks from the base) and traverse left across an exposed and runout ledge. Nice and airy. =) The route then continues up the ridge. This pitch is quite runout, and rope drag can be very nasty if you don’t have extendable draws. Probably 5.6ish climbing.
P7: Extremely runout low 5th class climbing up and left towards a tree visible at the ridge crest. A shiny pair of bolts awaits here once again.
P8: Climb around a notch and small exposed knife ridge, then up to the false summit. There are a couple places to belay from up here. This is a good place to take a break too, the next couple pitches are longer and a good deal less fun, and this is the last good place to rest. Probably 5.4 climbing for a few moves.
P9: “The Jungle” Downclimb over a prow, and beware the ants that made their home in the dying tree just at the start of the downclimb. They bite, and they like to swarm over gear and ropes. Took me a while to shake them all off the sling that was around the tree when I was cleaning the route. Continue down to a rock ledge, and then onto a dirty ledge with a tree on it. Find a place to make a gear anchor if possible, as the tree is directly in the rockfall line of the last pitch. This pitch is mostly 4th class.
P10: Sketch! Climb the obvious rotten chimney. I had a #2 camalot shoved in a pocket, but apparently when the next team came through the pocket broke apart. I guess it was good for psychological pro. Falls in the chimney would be short due to it being several steps, but its more or less unprotectable. The route moves up the crack system on the right face at the top of the chimney. There’s probably pro here, although I didn’t use any. The route gains a ledge across the final ridge where I was able to sling a small horn. Run out the rest of the pitch (easy but scary) across a somewhat knife-ridge to two sets of bolts. We belayed off the top one.
Descent: This is one of the most difficult rappels I’ve ever done, including Monkey Face. The lower set of bolts sits about 8″ below a downward sloping lip and has a set of rap rings on it, setting up a scary sit and spin start. Its not obvious where you’re rappelling to, and a single rope clearly doesn’t reach the visible bottom below you. Rap to the large tree on the left (careful, the ledge is dirty), pull the rope, and follow a dirty trail across the gully and up the other side. Immediately upon reach flat ground, you’re greeted with an excellent view of… a backcountry toilet. Very rewarding. :P
The view from the lookout tower on this peak is excellent, and the descent from the tower is well maintained.
Looking up the route from the base (Pitches 1-6 at least partially visible)
Jack following Pitch 2
The view up Pitch 5 (The rest of the route is at least partially visible here)
Jack leading the Pitch 5 notch
Ken and Ryan on Pitch 5
Jack at the top of Pitch 7
Ryan belaying on the False Summit (Pitch 8)
More pictures here: Acker Rock Gallery