Tag Archives: Bouldering

Climbing on Larch Mountain… or at least trying to

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Saturday, 01-Aug-2020

 

Some adventures are clean, clear, and go exactly as planned.

Other adventures are challenges, that are unpleasant in the moment but make memories that last a lifetime.

 

This adventure lay somewhere in between the two. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as one would have liked.

A quick quote from the trip summarizes it well, “Today isn’t the day that we sent the route. Today is the day we found the route.”

You see, we went looking for bouldering.

 

By now, I should know better. The Garden. The Rat Cave. Neither “famous, best in the area” climbing areas were easy to find – I still haven’t found The Rat Cave after five years living here. When Laurel and I settled on going to Larch Mountain… I should have been skeptical.

The guidebook seemed to have a good map, and showed solid climbing on good rock. Interesting routes, good moves, and safe landings. You know, all that good stuff that you look for in a bouldering area.

We did find it, at least. It did take a while though.

 

Thankfully, Laurel did the driving and so we had the four-wheel drive truck to help us grind our way up the questionable trails in Washington State. Nothing was too bad, but I was still glad that the Mustang wasn’t making the drive up, if only for the time savings that a solid two feet of extra clearance give!

So we drove. Parked. Looked around. Drove some more. Got turned around. Backed up down a scary-small road in a scary-large truck, and were thankful for backup cameras.

Finally, we found one extra landmark that made us pretty confident that we thought that we might have found the area we were looking for. Packed up, and started hiking in.

It was a longer, and steeper, hike than I’d expected we’d be taking, but it was a good chance to get some training in, and for us to just hang out and chat – never a bad thing, especially with views of the whole gorge like we had there.

After a while, we found it!

 

Weirdly, we missed about half of the area though… I think we passed it somehow? I’m not really sure. But we found ourselves hiking into the mid-point, which… you know what? After a hot and dusty hike? Sure. I’ll take it. Sounds good to me. Let’s eat.

The advantage of bouldering is that you bring a crash pad along for safety. Which, interestingly, is just a huge cushion. Sort of like a portable couch.

The disadvantage of bouldering is that you’re in rocky terrain, that doesn’t usually give you a comfortable area to place said couch.

So we settles onto the rocks, pulled out our sandwich parts, and ate.

Then we explored, did some bouldering, and… Man, I couldn’t really tell you what we climbed. Here’s my best bet, though…

  • VB – Two easy / fun routes near the East Fin of the Wild West cluster. Slabby, slightly mossy, but definitely a fun reminder of foot movements and sloper holds!
  • V2 – Meat Cleaver – Maybe? I think we did this one? It was really fun! Must easier if you skip the sit-start, and I couldn’t honestly tell you if I completed it cleanly with the sit start. But We met some cool other boulderers working this area, and both Laurel and I were able to rock most (if not all) of the route, so… I’m happy about it!

From The Wild West, we moved onward. The rock was okay, but the landings were pretty rough – the V2 that we worked was safer, thanks to 3 pads that the other folks brought, but on our own my single pad wasn’t quite enough to inspire confidence with the landings we were looking at.

So we ventured onward, in search for the mythical Leavenworth Boulder…

 

We did find it. After a lot of dust, small turns in a large truck, and bashing through brambles. We did, in fact, find it. Queue the quote above “Today is the day we found it.”

I’d thought I was smart when I wore shorts – It was going to be hot, so I figured that the less cloth would be a bonus. Laurel thought I was nuts, because she fully expected to be bushwacking and battering through brambles… so she wore pants.

I did not make the optimal decision. But, bloody and battered, I was able to break through the undergrowth to the boulders!

 

And… they were… interesting. To be frank, the only good route we found for the day was that V2 I mentioned above.  I mean, we did get to do a quick photoshoot for “king of the fairys” Biscuit, but… that was really the highlight.

In the Leavenworth and Black Forest boulder area, it looked like there’d be a ton of great routes… but we figured out that everything was based on it being winter, without the undergrowth clogging the pathways and landing zones. We tried a few lines, just to give it a sporting chance… but luck and climbing was not on our side, and every route just seemed to dead-end.

You know what, though?

Not every trip has to go ideally. Some trips can be challenging, hot, dusty, and have less-than-optimal endings. At the end of the day, we’d gotten to explore. Go outside. And even find a new area I’d never been to before.

And that? That makes this an excellent trip in my book.

A long staycation on July 4th – Bouldering at French’s Dome

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So my company was hit pretty hard by COVID-19, and instituted a 10% furlough program. Reduced pay, but balanced by various furlough days scattered throughout the year… primarily around holidays. July 4th was one of those, which meant that I had Thursday through Monday off from work – the 2nd through the 6th. Five full days for adventure!

My original plan was to drive out to City of Rocks in Idaho. I reserved a campsite maybe two weeks beforehand, and started planning out what to bring, and what route to take.

But… It’s a 10 hour drive, shortest route. 11, by the route I was thinking of taking. And that doesn’t include stops for gas, food, and the stretch breaks that I’d absolutely need on a trip that long. I kept trying to talk myself into it, but in the end I just talked myself out of the trip.

I canceled the reservations, and put together a new plan. A staycation, full of relaxation, organizing my new apartment, and re-aquainting myself with the Pacific Northwest…

 

 

Monday, 06-July-2020

 

Monday dawned brighter and earlier than I would have liked. I’d had a heck of a time falling asleep the night before, and getting up and mobile was particularly challenging… as it tends to be after four days of vacation and eating lots of great food. But I mobilized, got showered, and started packing myself up for the days adventure!

The night before, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d went through the various guidebooks that I have and picked out the adventure of the day. I wouldn’t be going back to the Garden, but instead heading East, to a volcanic remnant on the slopes of Hood called French’s Dome.

 

I’d heard about the Dome before, from a few different people, but for some reason had never actually made the trip out to climb it. It’s not like it’s far, either… turns out, it was the closest of the various options! A fact that definitely contributed to choosing it.

I had another happy breakfast of avocado english muffins and seared ham, finished packing up the car, and headed into the great wild… after stopping at the post office and REI for some quick errands.

 

But I made it with tons of daylight to spare, and started in with my bouldering pad and trad gear. Not that I expected to be doing any roped climbing, of course, but it had been so long since I’d placed gear that I figured a refresher course was absolutely in order… if only to remind myself that I do feel confident placing gear in rocks.

 

Well, first off, French’s Dome is beautiful, and beautifully close to the road. Seriously, it was less than 5min walk. Downhill, even. The drive itself wasn’t bad either, but was still just a bit over an hour. Combine those two, and I think I may have a new favorite after-work climbing place here in Oregon! Which… is kind of sad, comparing it to Hammond Pond in terms of distance, or Quincy Quarries in terms of variation of routes…

 

 

But you know what? Gift horses and mouths, as the saying goes, and I was just happy to have found a fun area!

I set up the crash pad, and started working the starts of a few routes. French’s is actually set up nearly perfectly for long bouldering, because the pinnacle is up on a steep slope, which has been terraced to avoid erosion. Because of that, I could get 50ft bouldering lines in, while staying less than 8 feet off the ground! I couldn’t bring my crashpad with me the whole way, which stunk, but it was still a really awesome chance to work on my footwork and endurance.

 

I stayed later than I had planned, only leaving when the mosquitos started coming out and my stomach was reminding me that I hadn’t brought quite enough snacks.

I’ll be back soon, I promise.

A long staycation on July 4th – Exploring The Garden

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So my company was hit pretty hard by COVID-19, and instituted a 10% furlough program. Reduced pay, but balanced by various furlough days scattered throughout the year… primarily around holidays. July 4th was one of those, which meant that I had Thursday through Monday off from work – the 2nd through the 6th. Five full days for adventure!

My original plan was to drive out to City of Rocks in Idaho. I reserved a campsite maybe two weeks beforehand, and started planning out what to bring, and what route to take.

But… It’s a 10 hour drive, shortest route. 11, by the route I was thinking of taking. And that doesn’t include stops for gas, food, and the stretch breaks that I’d absolutely need on a trip that long. I kept trying to talk myself into it, but in the end I just talked myself out of the trip.

I canceled the reservations, and put together a new plan. A staycation, full of relaxation, organizing my new apartment, and re-aquainting myself with the Pacific Northwest…

 

Friday, 03-July-2020

I haven’t climbed outside in… longer than I can remember, actually. I think it was Joshua Tree? There must have been something since then… maybe a run of The Beacon, or something, but nothing that stands out.

So I went outside.

 

I pulled my guidebook off the shelf, and leafed through it. I opened up Mountain Project on my phone, and paged through that too. It took a while, but I finally settled in on a bouldering area called “The Garden” that claimed to be the best bouldering in Oregon… at least on Mountain Project.

The car packed, I headed out. Finally tracked down the parking, thanks to some friendly climbers I met – the trick is to say Hi to people with crash pads. Since only climbers use crash pads, it’s a pretty good guess that the random people parked on the side of the road, loading crash pads into their cars, are probably climbers.

After hiking in, I set about to exploring and climbing! And quickly learned that… well, I politely disagree that The Garden has the best bouldering in Oregon. It was… okay, but not my jam in any way. The rock was pretty, and the scenery beautiful, but the routes themselves were… not good. Maybe it was just too overgrown, or maybe the rock had worn down over time, but it just wasn’t interesting, you know?

 

 

I stayed and climbed for a while though, and even headed downhill to try and find more boulders down by the nearby river. I didn’t find any, unfortunately, but I did find some beautiful rapids, and excellent views of the river!

I’ll take that as a consolation prize. I’m glad I got out, and got my hands on some rock, even if it wasn’t quite as stellar as I was hoping for.

 

To quote a YouTube channel I’ve been watching, “A parade of mediocrity… is still a parade”