Introduction to Rock Climbing in Northwest Oregon
Area 51

Portland Rock Climbs provides you with crag information, road and trail directions, and beta for popular rock climbing crags around Portland and northwest Oregon. You have the opportunity to acquire the high quality Portland Rock Climbs guide book here on this website, or at a variety of local retail outdoor sports shops. This book discusses all the popular local hot spot crags such as Broughton Bluff, Rocky Butte Quarry, Ozone Wall, and beyond.

The Northwest Oregon Rock guide book provides an indepth look at the sport of rock climbing throughout our unique little corner of the state. Don't be left out in the dark this summer without this quality book. Northwest Oregon Rock is nearly 400 pages of quality information describing climbing areas within an easy days drive from Portland, Oregon. The book details sites around the Mt Hood region (French's Dome, Razorblade, Enola (aka The Swinery), Coethedral, Pete's Pile, Bulo, Area51, etc.), in the Columbia Gorge region (Chimney Rocks, Rooster Rock, The Rat Cave, Apocalypse Needles, Rabbit Ears, Clif Cliff, Windy Slab, Wankers, OH8, Horsethief Butte, etc), in the Santiam valleys (Needle Rock, Elephant Rock, Spire Rock, condensed Menagerie, Santiam Pinnacle, Iron Mtn, Two Girls, etc), in the McKenzie valley area (Skinners, Wolf Rock, Moolack), and the outermost hinterland of northeast Oregon (Spring Mountain, High Valley, etc). Check out the NWOR web page for a variety of basic info and pickup a copy Northwest Oregon Rock . This book is available at local recreation based retail stores, and via online retailers.

NW Oregon Sports and Climbing Analysis

The following introductory overview on the nature of rock climbing is designed to help you focus on beneficial solutions with emphasis on good economic vitality for our region. Seven unique climbing crags (within an hours drive of Portland) enhance the beauty and enjoyment of living in this part of Oregon by providing you with a great outdoor based opportunity to be involved in this great region. Our Northwest Oregon Rock book details a plethora of additional crags for nearly 80 miles radius from Portland.
The following links provide general overview information on each rock climbing cliff, directions for how to get there, as well as a road & trail diagram to help guide you quickly to the crag. The seven popular rock climbing cliffs are: Broughton Bluff, Rocky Butte Quarry, Carver Bridge Cliff, Madrone Wall, Ozone Wall, the Far Side, and Beacon Rock. Take a drive to these local crags and explore some of the unique rock climbing opportunities.

The Portland Rock Climbs book, and the NW Oregon Rock guidebook encompass a select group of our favorite crags. Some are long established rock climbing sites, yet many of the further afield sites are fairly new. These popular crags provide a broad base of consistent rock climbing opportunities. Each chapter provides an in-depth analysis of our regional rock climbing opportunities, both books together covering a general radius of 70-80 miles around Portland, detailing a multitude of fine climbing sites ranging from a large number of places around Mt. Hood, to numerous sites in the Columbia Gorge, and a brief string of sites in SW Washington. The books also detail a selection of sites on the North and South Santiam Rivers, and in the McKenzie River basin near Eugene. Portland Rock Climbs generally discusses popular and very local traditional style lead sites and sport climbing sites, while the NW Oregon Rock book details a broader range of off-trail back country adventure crags or sites, yet also details an extensive fine variety of mixed sport climbing crags such as Enola and Area51.

Gorge Classic Climbs NW Oregon Rock Portland Rock Climbs
Portable eBook beta for Smartphones and Tablets

Ebook Beta: We offer a small selection of high quality free Ebook presentations that you can download for quick reference while at the crag. Great for use on various portable devices from Tablets to Smartphones (epub, mobi, iOS, etc) in conjunction with one of your favorite eReader apps. A new era of digital beta utilization has arrived through tools such as Tablets and Smartphones, offering rock climbers a new method for carrying beta information out to the local crag. The market for digital Epubs and PDFs through popular businesses like, Barnes & Noble, Apple Store, Google Play, and many others, continues to bring fresh new concepts in Epub book technology direct to you through an internet connection. The brief set of Ebook publications that we have included here on the next page provide local rock climbers with an ultra-convenient beta source designed to enhance your abilities to advance to that next rock climbing level.
See our EBOOKS web page for local crags epubs.

Select Guidebook and Map Titles
Portland Rock Climbs 4th edition Portland Rock Climbs
Northwest Oregon Rock 1st edition Northwest Oregon Rock
Beacon Rock Topographical Climbers Map Beacon Rock Map
Gorge Classic Climbs 1st edition Gorge Classic Climbs
Select Outdoor Sports Links for Portland
Climb Matrix Climb Matrix is a social community of climbers, from beginner to experienced, meeting at indoor sports gyms and at various local outdoor rock climbing sites.
Cascadia Womens Mountain Group CWMG is a group of women with an avid interest in hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, kayaking, mountain-biking and rock climbing.
NW Wilderness An adventurous group of people that enjoy outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, kayaking, and skiing.
Portland Outdoor Adventurers ClubHiking, Skiing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Snowshoeing, Biking, Rock climbing, Backpacking, Boating, Mountaineering, Canyoneering, Caving, Orienteering, Road trips, etc.
Silver Star Outdoor AdventureOutdoor enthusiasts that share the same recreation activities such as hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, rock climbing, camping, kayaking, bouldering, water skiing, excursions, paddle boarding, and other fun events.
Hood River Rock ClimbersRock climbers near Hood River who venture to climbing destinations within the local area (Bulo Point, Horsethief, Ozone, French's Dome, Pete's Pile, etc.), or a bit farther afield (Tieton River Canyon, Vantage, Smith Rock, etc.)
Open Season at Larch Mtn Boulders

lmb2 The season is in, and opening day bouldering at Larch Mtn Boulders has begun. Superb granodiorite bouldering at its finest, and all within a one hour drive from Portland. You can find virtual year-round bouldering by touring a combination of several local hot spots - Larch, Cascade, and BOG Boulders (Bridge of the gods boulders). All are local, fast to get to, and offer plenty of flavor that sure beats a repeat trip to old haunts. Larch Boulders are great from late April thru October (till November if dry days occur). Then shift over to Cascade Boulders and spend all winter (on dry days) workin' the circuit over there on an endless string of tricky andesite beasts, some as tall as 16'. When sunshine and clear sailing skies beckon, go visit these quality bouldering destinations. Browse our Bouldering web page for more details.

Madrone Wall

Browse our Madrone web page Madrone Wall for more details.
Stay informed!   Attend the meetings!   Be part of the process!  

A Brief History of Local Climbing

Turkey Monster

An ascent of Turkey Monster in the Menagerie Wilderness.
A great bit of beta with a great selection of photos that really capture the essence of a wild ascent on this unusual pillar east of Sweet Home, Oregon. The next time you are planning a mid-summer adventure check out the Menagerie.
»» Turkey Monster

Exploring and scrambling has been a favorable pursuit in Northwest Oregon since before the turn of the 20th century. In the Columbia River Gorge interest for exploration expanded, in part, because of the building of the Columbia Highway, which began in 1913. Recreational values of northwest Oregon have continued to become focused and energized ever since those early years.
From the early 1950s onward rock climbers have found great interest in the local crags such as Broughton and Rocky Butte. As the rock climbing equipment improved, and as lead climbers broke into new degrees above the 5.9 level, these favorite local crags became great learning grounds for everyone to practice the sport of climbing.

A few notable early ascents: the SE Face of Beacon Rock was climbed in 1952 by John Ohrenschall and Gene Todd; the Giant's Staircase at French's Dome was climbed in 1958 by Ray and Leonard Conkling. Eugene Dod, Bob Martin, and Earl Levin teamed up to make an ascent of Dod's Jam at Beacon Rock in 1961. From the early 1960s onward, rock climbing in NW Oregon increased rapidly, with several core groups being driving forces in each decade. The 1970's saw a surge of effort to free most of the 'old style' routes at Broughton Bluff and other local crags. In the 1980s and 90s, various groups tackled the steep 'blank' faces, developing a variety of fine quality free routes ranging up into the upper 5.12s. Even over the last several decades we have seen several core groups of climbers tackle a variety of 'new' crags, bringing to light a much greater selection of choice destinations for quality rock climbing.

Sites such as Enola Hill, Hunchback, Rock Creek Crag, Coethedral, Pete's Pile, Mosquito Butte, Area 51, Bulo Point, Klinger Springs, OH8, Syncline Wall, and many more sites that offer quality climbing, superb scenery, unique outdoor environs, all on a variety of rock types from basalt to andesite.

Accessibility & Oversight: Climbing Regulations and Precautions

Famous Climber Quotes

"To rest is not to conquer."
-the movie 'White Tower'
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have climbed it. Then you will see how low it was."
-Dag Hammarskjold
"All true paths lead through mountains."
-Gary Snyder
..."we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-Lionel Terray
"Going to the mountains is going home."
-John Muir
"The only true sports are bullfighting and mountain climbing. All the rest are games."
-Ernest Hemingway
"It must go..."
-the movie 'White Tower'
"...our clothes were in rags and next day we would go back down to a life of slaving for the barest essentials..."
-Lionel Terray

Several local crags have structured governing policy concerning the activity of rock climbing. The land owners and/or governing agencies who oversee these areas strive to bring a degree of beneficial long term multi-purpose use to the site under their care.

Ozone Wall

These three areas are: Carver Bridge Cliff is a privately owned crag with limited access granted to Carver Climbing Club members for $8.  Madrone Wall, though closed at present, is in a process of eventual park development through Clackamas County.  Beacon Rock is a popular climbing crag with a seasonal Peregrine Falcon closure on the south face aspect from approximately mid-Jan to mid-July. Browse the link to each section for specific access information and other regulatory guidelines.
Our local rock climbing crags do occasionally have certain objective hazards, and rock climbers should take precautionary measure against exposure to poison oak or rock fall risk. Be safety conscious and use a helmet while climbing, especially at Beacon Rock. Wearing long pants will help to protect against encounters with poison oak. Learn to recognize the 3-leaf cluster of this very prevalent reddish foliage. When very strong east or west winds are blowing through the Columbia River Gorge, anticipate stone fall hazard to increase at Beacon Rock. Use extra precautionary steps while rock climbing during very strong windy conditions when you are at Beacon Rock.
Trails: most climbing crag approach trails are not typically maintained and can be a bit brushy or poorly sloped, and may be a challenge, particularly when the soil is damp and slippery during the rainy season. Western Oregon crags tend to be fairly brushy, with considerably seasonal growth of stinging nettles, blackberry vines, or poison oak encroaching upon the path. Some crags have steep approach trails (i.e. Enola Crag, Hunchback Wall, and Rock Creek Crag). Rocky Butte Quarry, in particular, has difficult to negotiate descent paths (some are 4th-5th class), especially if you are planning to descend down to the base of the proposed climbing route. Will crag trail maintenance become a better coordinated feature of this regions various climber groups? Perhaps eventually, but to date, only a few local rock climbers opt to occasionally pledge time and energy toward crag trail improvements. It is a concept in its infancy and still generally lacking stronger NGO effort in northwest Oregon. The Access Fund has coordinated some very beneficial local efforts toward trail maintenance in years past, and it's a worthy goal to see a similar NGO tackle this broad challenge locally to meet the growing number of rock climbing crags in this region.
Parking: parking access at certain climbing sites may be a bit challenging depending on the season. And some sites have particular parking rules (see PRC book or NWOR book). For example: Ozone Wall parking can be quite conjested when seemingly everyone makes their first few runs to this crag on the first warm days of late spring or early summer season. The Broughton Bluff state park staff closes the entrance gate at dusk. French's Dome has adequate parking, but the crag can become packed quickly because most climbers will generally utilize the same ten rock climbs. Rocky Butte Quarry has plenty of parking (just be sure to park along the roadside and not in the private parking lots). The OH8 Crag has two common yet small pullout parking spots (holds perhaps 4-5 cars).
Note:»» The Iron Mountain Crag in Lake Oswego is NOT open to rock climbing. You risk being issued a trespassing citation by the Lake Oswego city police for being on railroad property. Do not climb at that crag.

Northwest Oregon Climate

Rock climbers in northwest Oregon generally seek the local crags from May to September. During this portion of the year mild Pacific marine air often mixes with inland Great Basin hot weather to bring a climber friendly cycle that keeps Northwest Oregon quite comfortable.

  • Summer month temperatures average about 70°F to 80°F with occasional short peaks of hot sunny days in July and August in the 90°F to 95°F range. Check the forecast link NOAA Western U.S.
  • Winter Pacific marine air brings a consistent series of rain showers, starting in late October through March. Cold winter rainy days offer temperatures that average in the 35°F to 50°F range.
  • Virtual year-round rock climbing is readily available at Broughton Bluff and eventually the Madrone Wall. Both offer a southwesterly orientation toward the winter sunshine. With a little sunshine each of these crags will quickly dry out, and both crags provide a respite from the notorious howling east winds of the Columbia River Gorge.
  • And if the rain showers are expected in western Oregon a quick drive through the Gorge to Hood River and The Dalles opens up a plethora of rock climbing options: Horsethief Butte, Pete's Pile, Klinger, Bulo Point, Area 51, Syncline Wall, OH8, Lyle area crags, and much more.
NW Forest Pass and Discover Pass (parking permits and passes)

Certain rock climbing sites are located on either state or federal land, which may necessitate attaining a parking permit or parking pass for your vehicle. The Discover Pass for Washington state is for use on state-managed recreation lands – including state parks, water-access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads. This pass can be attained online or by mail, or at certain businesses (see the website links below for more info). The Northwest Forest Pass may be required for certain trailhead sites within the U.S. Forest Service managed areas (see links below for more info).

  • Gorge waterfall ice is an elusive creature, yet it is quite comparable to some of the finest ice climbs throughout the upper western states. Though infrequent, Gorge ice does form with a certain degree of regularity. By watching closely for specific weather pattern cycles, ice climbers can attain a reasonable edge of preparedness for its arrival. When extreme winter cold encases the Gorge in a frozen world of cascading ice, vertical ice pillars and ribbon-like ice smears, climbers discover a new dimension amongst the giant rock walls of the Gorge. One advantage Portland ice climbers enjoy is immediate access to stellar ice (when it forms) in the Gorge via well-traveled highway corridors. The I-84 freeway on the south side of the Columbia River and Washington State Route 14 on the north side provides an efficient conduit for fast access to all the Gorge ice climbs. Hiking approach time to most ice climbs range from one minute to one hour maximum, and this converts to more time climbing on the ice. When ice is lacking in the Gorge you can compliment your ice climbing career with visits to other major areas such as Banks Lake, Leavenworth, Mazama, Colorado, or Canada, and still have time to catch a bit of the ice ‘wave’ as it rolls through the Gorge. A few of the fine quality ice climbs are: Crown Jewel, Bent Screw, Black Dagger, Brave New World, Ainsworth Left, etc.
  • Chimney Rocks is a cluster of pinnacles on a long sub-ridge southeast of Silver Star Mountain. If the crag were located in Portland it would surely be a very popular climbing area. The outcrop though, is nicely situated on a wind swept ridge with breathtaking views of nearby mountains and the Columbia Gorge. The spire offers great quality rock climbing. Numerous crack climbing opportunities exist ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.11 and involve mostly natural gear protected leads. You could not ask for a better alpine environment near Portland than this. Never overrun with crowds, crisp mountain air, plenty of sun, plenty of climbing, easy two-mile hiking access along a gated road, and superb scenery. Hike in and ascend some of the best, such as South Chimney, the South Pillar, the SW Crack, or one of the triple north face cracks.
  • The Rat Cave is one of Northwest Oregon’s little gems in that it sports a high concentration of difficult rock climbs within a reasonable proximity to Portland metro area. The Cave is an unusual basalt rock feature with a wildly overhung 30’ horizontal cave roof surrounded with a 50’ steep overhanging outer face. The routes provide an intense opportunity to experience beta-intensive rock climbing requiring endurance, power and movement. The routes are beta intensive, because every single knob looks like a hold. An initial foray might leave you with a sense of being sandbagged but local climbers who know the routes very well can provide great guidance to each climb. Climbing at the Cave is feasible for 12 months of the year, but the best time to climb here is generally from September till February.
  • Illumination Rock is a challenging sharp profiled high altitude spire situated high on the SW slopes of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock is deeply cut by glaciers on all sides yielding a three-sided sharp profiled fin of rock. This unusual rock formation represents some of the most difficult and committing alpine climbing in the entire State, and in recent years I-Rock has become the central scene of a whole new dimension in technically demanding alpine routes in Oregon. During the summer months after the snow and rime melts off from the pinnacle, a somewhat reasonable ascent can be made on this wind-swept challenging pinnacle. All routes to the summit are 5th class rock climbs. After all of your hard effort to conquer I-Rock you will find that the summit block is a teetering boulder that few climbers will venture to stand upon. During Oregon’s long winter months, when Mt. Hood is covered in a mantle of ice and snow, Illumination Rock offers the totally honed alpine climber numerous exhilarating rime ice ridges and alpine ice gullies to ascend. This is the core attraction to Illumination Rock and provides quite possibly Oregon’s only all-winter site for difficult rime ice ravine climbing of an extraordinaire degree. This type of steep ice climbing requires exceptional stamina, strength, and commitment, as well as proper equipment in order to succeed.
  • The popular Horsethief Butte, located near The Dalles, Oregon, offers an ideal respite from the liberal amounts of western Oregon rain. At this site you can often find sunny weather crag climbing alongside the Columbia River shore. For rock climbers this crag offers a tremendous variety of short boulder problems within a series of corridors in the inner portion of the butte. This site offers an effective means to practice and enhance the basic concepts of rock climbing and rappeling. The natural open atmosphere of the inner butte offers easy communication from instructor to climber. The Butte is a prominent feature within the Columbia Hills State Park and is a popular site for climbing as well as hiking. Take a drive and ascend some of the favorites: Entrance Cracks, West Nook, main Inner Corridor (with its various classic aretes, rock faces, and plethora of angular cracks).
  • Enola Hill (aka The Swinery) is a well-established crag that holds a sizable selection of steep rock climbs on a bluff that faces directly west overlooking the tiny community of Rhododendron. This quality rock climbing site offers a variety of climbing routes from pure face routes to traditional crack climbs using natural/mixed pro, typically 50’ to 100’ in length. The crag is well-suited for climbers who have solid 5.10 to 5.11 leading capabilities. The crag is generally accessible during summer weather (May to late October) with a frequent light breeze that rolls up through the trees from the valley below the crag keeping the temperatures comfortable all summer. Make a visit to the crag and climb some of the favorites such as: Burning Zone, Too Cool, Twenty Year Hangover, Welcome to the Swine, etc.

St. Peter's Dome

Would anyone ever touch the summit of the St. Peter's Dome massif after Wayne's rope-solo? Yes, indeed!
Check out this vivid April 26th, 2008 ascent of the vertical cobblestone choss monster of the Columbia Gorge.
»» St. Peter's Dome

Community News In The Spot Light
  • On Mt Hood is a biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak written by Jon Bell. A book about anything and everything related to the mountain: news, conditions, trails, campsites, wines, accidents, triumphs, stories, connections, and much, much more.
  • An excellent alternative Fall and Spring climbing destination worth visiting to escape from rainy west side weather is Smith Rock in central Oregon. When western Oregon rains are simply too much, make a fast road trip over the mountains to the semi-arid, often-sunny Smith Rock climbing paradise.
  • For those who like sustained vertical columnar basalt crack climbing then check out Jeff Wenger's website for Trout Creek. Trout Creek has become one of the quality new additions to the central Oregon climbing tour, and its a mere 3-hour drive from Portland.
Your Next Climbing Adventure Starts Here In The Pacific Northwest
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Rock climbing contains certain inherent risks that may be dangerous to your health. The information described on these web pages is subject to human typographical error. This generic web site information should not replace additional methods for gaining experience at this sport, such as personal insight, other quality advice, beta consultation, common sense, caution, or instructional guidance knowledge taught by rock climbing instructors. Think of the risk factors in the sport before taking a risk for a sport.