Weekend of 10, 11, 12-Mar-2018
So far I’ve been to three instances of the PDX Pulldown – the first year where I made it into the open professional category, the second year where I had a broken knee, and now this, the third year in a row.
Each time it’s been a bit of a madhouse. Competitions always are, but this one was particularly impressive; they don’t cap attendance, so it usually ends up with a 30+ minute wait for any individual climb. But, in my opinion at least, it’s still totally worth it.
Why’s it worth it? What could make that much craziness and such a press of stinky rock climbers worth it?
When they have a competition, they pull out all the stops. They bring in route setters from… I don’t know, route-set-topia? From somewhere. And they set interesting challenges; neat sequences, tough footwork, and powerfully dynamic moves. It’s awesome, and I love climbing them in the heat of competition.
The climbing went pretty well, although we went kind of lightly, truth be told. We could have probably pushed a bit harder and maybe even broken into the open category, but since we had a trip to Smith coming up over the next few days, we didn’t want to hurt ourselves or burn too hard. We need the fuel in the tank for the real rock climbing, instead of just competing in the gym, right?
It was an excellent competition, though. We didn’t end up winning any prizes for how hard we climbed, but we were both pretty proud of how well we did. On top of that, we won a few random raffle prizes, which is always nice. Nothing too nuts, but I got a $50 mountain hardware gift card, and Sarah got a set of stretching tools and a set of nutrition consultation appointments, which are also pretty neat.
Our trip out to Smith was supposed to start on Friday evening… but let’s be honest. Who wants to drive 3 hours in the dark, just so that you can set up a tent, in the cold, sometime after midnight? No one, that’s who. Or… strange people, maybe? Not us, is what I’m getting at. Instead of driving out late, we decided to go early. Early to bed, early to rise, and early to drive the long drive to Smith.
Ollie was already in puppy camp, so our goals for the trip revolved almost exclusively around multi-pitch routes and big climbs. While Ollie can do well sitting at the base of the wall, she’s only good as long as someone is with her… multi-pitch routes, where both Sarah and I are on the wall for a few hours, don’t quite work with little miss separation anxiety over here.
Our goals hadn’t really been chisled into stone when we left Portland, but the drive clarified it up a bit as we sped on, deciding on what we wanted to work on.
That first day, we finally completed a long-standing goal of mine – a route I’d started calling “The Moscow Palace Traverse”. It’s not a single route, but instead it’s a traverse of the entire Smith Rock formation, starting on the East side with Moscow (a 3 pitch, 5.7 trad climb) and ending with a route called Matthew, in an area called Pleasure Palace (a single-pitch, 5.10 sport route). I’d come up with the traverse while climbing at Smith with Daniel a few years back, but had never had a chance to actually make it a reality.
But this was our time! This was our place! The Moscow Palace traverse was completed!
It went really well, too! Both Sarah and I got some successes in; Sarah led the two harder sections of Moscow, which had been giving her trouble for a long while. I climbed Matthew (not on lead, I’m sorry to admit), which was a really solid benchmark for me, since it’s a tough climb and I’m still a little unsteady on my healed knee. I busted it out though, and felt strong doing it. I think I need to start doing some more deadlifts though, to keep bulking the stabilizer muscles out a bit…
Anyways, the climbs went really well. The hike out went really well. Dinner… Ohh man. Dinner went so absolutely well, you don’t even know.
We made mac and cheese – a double portion, if I recall, made mostly with butter and a little bit of half and half. But we also made some chicken apple sausage, sliced it up, and added it in. Seriously, you don’t understand how amazing that meal is, after a whole day of climbing and hiking. It’s… well, I probably would trade it for gold, since gold is just super valuable. But… silver? I’d probably weigh it against silver, yeah.
After dinner, we embarked upon our final adventure of the day – sharing my ultra-light tent. I’ve had it since before I went to New Zealand, and it’s amazing for solo backpacking trips. It’s light, it’s small, and it’s quick to set up… all on top of being windproof and quite rainproof too. But… it’s small. As in, a bit cramped for two people, and definitely cramped for two people and a dog. So we didn’t want to test it out when Ollie was with us.
Results came back… neutral. Not super positive, since it was definitely pretty cramped, with not too much space for any gear. But not negative either, since it still easily had enough room for us, and it’s majorly lighter than any of the other tents that we’ve got. Will we take it on our next backpacking trip? Ehh…. maybe. Depends where we go, I think.
With that scientific experiment ongoing, we slept under the stars (in a tent, under the stars).
While the tent experiment went well, our sleep didn’t go quite as well… not really sure what caused it, but somehow we didn’t end up quite as rested and refreshed as we’d hoped. Simple to solve, though, especially since the morning dawned rather bitterly cold. We just curled a bit deeper into our sleeping bags and slept in a bit.
Or… I slept in, I should say.
Sarah’s kind of a badass, so she didn’t want to sleep in. She wanted to wake up and make breakfast and brew up some coffee. When I say “she wanted to make breakfast”, I usually mean “Sarah looked at some food, then thought better of it and just drank some more coffee”. Today, though, it meant that she tied her hair back, rolled up her sleeves, and made us mini pizzas.
Yeah, seriously. While camping. Sarah made. Pizza. For breakfast. While I slept.
I woke up to pizza chips. It was unbelievably delicious.
I mean, I don’t even understand. I didn’t realize we had the ingredients for pizza chips, much less the option to have them as breakfast-in-sleepingbag. It was like waking up from a pleasant dream, just to find out that I was having another, even more pleasant dream.
Anyways yes we ate breakfast and it was awesome.
Then, we went rock climbing again! Keeping with our plan of doing some trad multi-pitch routes, we re-did another legacy route that we’d worked before – this time one called Super-Slab. It’s a pleasant route, with a bit of scary exposure at a few points. Sarah lead the first two pitches, and I took on the third.
Nothing was really out of the ordinary, which was honestly a really nice aspect of the climb. Climbing is, too often, a stressful event with us… swinging leads, making sure we have the right gear, negotiating challenging sections, it gets tough. This time it was different though – we cruised up, ripped past the tough spots, and had a great time!
The day was honestly just a really pleasant and quick one – we climbed, we descended via three long rappels, and we took the long trek out to the car. It was fun!
I’ll admit, the Dairy Queen on the drive home was also pretty fun, same with getting to sleep in our own bed after a night of cramped camping, but I’m pretty confident that’s simply because of how well we’d climbed the previous two days. DQ food is good, as is any semi-fast food, but it’s honestly only truly delicious when you’re covered in chalk dust and exhausted from a few days of good adventure.