"It’s hard to separate those rocks from my life."

— Alan Watts

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— With Alan Watts

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"I wasn’t looking for the easiest way because the easiest way had already been done."

— Alan

Alan Watts took his local climbing spot and turned it into an international destination by working tirelessly to establish new routes and push standards higher.

Today, Smith Rock State Park, just outside of Bend, Oregon, is known as the birthplace of sport climbing. Join Alan on his journey of overcoming controversy and personal challenges to find peace with his contribution to the sport.
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A conversation between Alan Watts and Hydro Flask:

Hydro Flask: Rock Climbing Smith Rock State Park is a huge guidebook with over 1,000 routes described and detailed. How long did it take you to put it together?

Alan Watts: There are now more than 2,000 routes at Smith Rock State Park. My book is a reflection of climbing out there for 45 years. My climbing career has had its ebbs and flows. At times, I’ve been tremendously active and close to what’s going on. At other times, other climbers pushed things ahead while I played a minor role. But I never lost touch with what was going on. I can’t even begin to count the thousands of hours that I have put into my guidebooks about Smith, but it never seemed like work at all. The cliché “do what you love, and you won’t work a day in your life” very much sums up my approach to climbing at Smith and the guides I’ve written as a result.

HF: Are new routes still being established at Smith Rock? If so, how will you incorporate them into your guide books?

Alan: New routes are constantly being established. Rarely does a day go by when someone isn’t working on a new route at Smith. It gives me great joy, knowing that a generation that wasn’t even born when I was doing my best climbing is now carrying on the tradition. However, it does present a challenge when compiling a guidebook. It’s easier when I can add new lines to existing areas because it’s just a matter of adding a few new lines to my previous drawings, but when entire new crags are developed, it’s a far greater challenge. Most of the 325 new lines at Smith since my 2009 guide are in entirely new, previously undeveloped regions of Smith. It takes a lot of time and patience to detail all of these new lines.

HF: We have to ask: what are a few of your favorite routes in the book and why?

Alan: Every single route at Smith holds interest to me. Every route tells a story—the story of those who did the first ascent, what was involved in the effort, and why it received its name. I see each route—good, bad, short, long, easy, or hard—as a real part of what makes Smith climbing special.

But, without question, there are routes that inspired me and marked critical junctures in both my development as a climber and the development of Smith climbing in general. These aren’t necessarily the finest or most popular routes, but they mattered when they were done. The Awl, Wartley’s Revenge, Rising Expectations, Monkey Space, Sunshine Dihedral, Watts Tots, Chain Reaction, Scarface, and To Bolt or Not to Be are a few that come to mind.

HF: Where can people find a copy of Rock Climbing Smith Rock State Park?

Alan: Redpoint (in Terrebonne), Mountain Supply, and REI always have my book in stock. You can also order a copy online here.

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"Hydro Flask is the perfect hydration solution when climbing year-round at Smith Rock because it keeps drinks cold or hot all day long."


"Hydro Flask is the perfect hydration solution when climbing year-round at Smith Rock because it keeps drinks cold or hot all day long."

Hydro Flask Blue Bottle