More than a rock and a hard place
Rock climbing in the Umpqua Valley dates back to 1958 when Walt Coady, Norval Ferguson and Gary Kirk climbed Old Man Rock up the North Umpqua River in the Umpqua National Forest. The Umpqua Valley rocks that Walt, Norval, Gary and future generations have made their first ascends on were created millions of years ago. Roseburg and the Umpqua Valley’s climbing areas are not defined by one type of rock, but rather several geological elements.
Roseburg sits just west of where three geological provinces meet. Geological provinces are large areas that have common geological or geomorphic attributes. Roseburg is on the eastern edge of Oregon’s Coast Range province which is defined by its geologic basement that was formed about 50 million years ago when an ancient volcanic island chain collided with what was then the Oregon coast.
Southwest of Roseburg sits the Klamath Mountains province, complexly folded and faulted belts of metamorphic and igneous rocks, formed 150 million years ago. To the east are the Cascades, made up of two volcanic regions, the more eastern High Cascades such as Mount Thielsen and the much older and very eroded Western Cascade.
When Mount Mazama (now Crater Lake) blew its top about 6,800 years ago in an eruption, it also changed the geology of the area by spewing ash, pumice and larger rocks into the air which traveled over 400 miles in the wind.
Combine all of these geological elements together and you’ll start to understand what makes rock climbing around the Umpqua Valley special. Each climbing area offers something a little different to climbers.
Acker Rock is located near Tiller just 90 minutes from Roseburg. Acker Rock features two of Oregon’s longest climbing routes and it’s second longest rappel at 600 feet. The rock is a large, coarse-textured, shallow intrusive, quartz latite volcanic plug. For those of us who aren’t geologists — it’s a very large rock made millions of years ago in a volcanic event which formed some quartz within the rock and its texture is great for climbing.
The Honeycombs are just six miles east of Glide and were created by avalanche flows of ash, steam and gases. Since the Honeycombs are less dense than other rocks in the area, weather and time have taken their toll. Many of the rocks at the Honeycombs have developed naturally into excellent climbing surfaces with natural finger pockets, large huecos, cracks and fissures.
Further east, up river along the North Umpqua River, there are rhyodacite intrusions that were formed somewhere between 17 to 25 million years ago. These rocks are far more dense than those found at the Honeycombs and include Old Man, Old Woman, Dome Rock, Medicine Rock, Eagle Rock and Rattlesnake Rock.
Youtlkut Pillars, located up Little River Highway near Glide, are named from a Chinook jargon word for “long.” These pillars were formed when molten magma was extruded into vents, fissures, and flows that cooled and hardened into spires. Standing at 120 feet, the hexagonal pillars have a textured wall of extensive cracks and narrow faces providing climbers with an excellent climbing surface. When climbing these pillars, it’s imperative to preserve the columns of this unique rock feature.
This is just a taste of what the Umpqua Valley has to offer rock climbers. Other climbing areas around Roseburg include the Callahans, Jurassic Park, McKinley Rock and much more. Many of these areas have few established routes, making room for a lot of first ascends. When climbing here think about the history of climbers that were here before you and the future generation of climbers, and always clean up after yourself and leave the climbing area better than you found it.
For more information about rock climbing in Douglas County please visit mountainproject.com/area/109532066/southwest-oregon or check out the book Oregon Rock Climbing Vol. 2: Umpqua.