Ian Caldwell, 41, donates so much time and energy to the place he loves most, locals call him the “Mayor of Smith Rock.” His allegiance to Oregon’s best-known climbing area started in 1991, during a university outing. One visit turned Caldwell into a committed climber. His most recent claim to fame is redpointing all the 5.14a routes in the park. He can be found at Smith most weekends, snow or shine, climbing with his wife, Darryn, or refurbishing bolts and trails.
Smith Rock has changed over the years. There are a lot of new routes in the 5.9 to 5.11 grades, and a good group of locals where the vibe is very positive.
Alan Watts spent so much time at Smith creating new routes. I don’t really enjoy the work of putting up routes. I enjoy taking care of the existing area—replacing bad bolts or working on the trails and belay areas.
There are actually a dozen or so people at Smith Rock that help out in the park with bolt maintenance and trail work. We have a non-profi t group that puts on the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing in May, which rallies about 200 bodies to work on the trails.
I really enjoy the process of working hard sport routes. I have a very addictive personality. Often, I can’t do all the moves at first. I will use the route for training and build fitness on it. Some routes will take me a couple of years to redpoint.
Being obsessed is how I deal with activities, whether it is climbing or yard work.
[Concerning the recent quickdraw-thief video that spawned a huge amount of online commentary:] I was headed into the park to replace some 20-year-old bolts on Overboard when I saw this guy stick-clipping up Big R, my current project. Tim [Garland] and Stan [Miller] helped me confront him. We got it all on tape, and the video went viral. I think karma lined everything up, because the day I was doing a good deed, I would catch the thief. The weather was bad, and I would not have gone to the cliff except to replace bolts.
Everyone asks me if we got the draws back. Yes, we did.