Pioneering Smith Rock

Alan Watts and the birth of sport climbing at Oregon’s iconic Smith Rock State Park.

By Matt Kleiner | February 5th, 2018

“It’s hard to separate those rocks from my life,” Alan Watts, one of the foremost developers of Oregon’s Smith Rocks and one of the trailblazers of modern sport climbing in the U.S., says in the video above.

After climbing all the lines that were there, he realized that if he wanted to be an elite climber, he’d need to develop his own climbs and push the standard of the sport. “To do the routes that I envisioned doing, I needed to clean off the rock, and a lot of them were really steep and overhanging, and there was no way to stop and drill bolts if you were just climbing…. I was always looking for the most difficult way to go up a particular section of cliff that I could climb.”


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