Ryan Cafferky - Smith Rock Steward


As an arborist and a serious climber, Ryan Cafferky pays more attention to the condition of his gear than most people do. So it’s no wonder that Cafferky, living in a cabin off the grid near Hood River in Oregon, keeps a close eye on the bolts at nearby Smith Rock. In addition to establishing new lines on Smith’s soft welded tuff cliffs, he’s been replacing hardware on some of the area’s most worn routes. “We need to take better care of our crags, as far as reducing our visual impact,” Cafferky says, “and make sure that if we are going to put something there, it’s really good.”

What kind of hardware do you use? I like either glue-in stud bolts or glue-in eye bolts. Especially at Smith Rock because the rock is so soft. As an [expansion bolt] installation happens, the rock around the bolt crumbles a little. Since it’s so soft, after continued falls and wear, the bolts get looser and looser. I’ve replaced bolts that are only a year or two old, because the rock is so soft.

Any current issues in the area? The ropes around the area get really dirty because of how dusty an environment it is, and as people lower through the anchors, it can wear them out. Also, Smith Rock has been a climbing area since the 1940s, and there are some very old routes and some really ancient hardware.

Do you work closely with anyone else pushing glue-ins? I’m the lone guy that’s trying to convince everyone else that glue-ins are the way, but I think I’m winning some converts. I’ve been placing that type of anchor pretty consistently for about 10 years now.

What can other climbers do to take care of the area? Don’t toprope through the anchors—climbers should use their own quickdraws. Another thing that’s really important is to pay attention to the bolts and not take them for granted. If you do see something loose, let somebody know.