Tag Archives: Washington

A Thanksgiving Adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington

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A Thanksgiving adventure – Camping in Vantage, Washington

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. This is my first year being single in half a decade, and thanks to the COVID Pandemic it’s also the first year that I can’t travel, and don’t have any friends still in town. I’m flying solo, have a ton of vacation to burn, and am feeling energetic...

From Sunday, 29-Nov-2020 through Monday, 30-Nov-2020



I am drunk, and I am happy.

It’s been ages since I’ve been camping in the desert, and even longer since I’ve sat out under the stars by a campfire. This one is well-earned too – scrounged firewood from the various other campers, who’d headed home to Portland and Seattle earlier in the day.

The drink was earned too – This was my second-to-last night before heading back to work, and the ending of my first Thanksgiving vacation alone… ever, in fact. I’d driven nearly five hours from my home in Wilsonville to get here, and the views of the stars that I have right now were worth every second on the road.




Sunday, late morning


The day started quietly… just like nearly every other day of this vacation.


I got up, had a bite to eat, and finished packing up my gear into the Mustang. Then I got onto the road – stopping for a latte and a bagel for the road first, of course, but mostly just cruising on the open road, listening to music and enjoying the serenity of having a destination still hours in the future.

That’s something that I discussed with my councilor, during and shortly after my breakup with Sarah, that’s stuck with me – Everyone needs their own form of meditation, and for ages I was missing mine. One of the best ways for me to meditate, it turns out, is long drives… something that I got regularly in Boston driving up into New Hampshire, and something that I got while living in Hood River, and driving out to Portland.

Unsurprisingly, commuting to and from work didn’t quite scratch that itch… and now that I’m aware of it, I can enjoy drives like this even more.

So I drove.

As the sun set down toward the horizon, I got further into Washington, and closer to camp. My plan for the evening was simply to set up camp, have a quick dinner, and then enjoy the quiet of the desert night. Maybe have a fire, if I could scavenge enough firewood that had been left behind by other campers over the weekend.

As you may have guessed from the into to this post, dear reader, I succeeded in all of those goals.


Firewood was found – not a lot, but easily enough to have a quiet little fire that needed minimal tending.

Dinner was cooked, and fairly quickly scarfed down under the open sky.

Relaxation, and whiskey, were both had while sitting by the fire in my fold-out camp chair, staring up at the stars as the moon rose over the cliffs.




Monday morning


It snowed overnight!

I love waking up to snow – really anytime that I don’t have to shovel it, but especially when I’m waking up in a tent, looking out over a snow covered field.

The sun was quickly melting everything it touched though, so I quickly got myself moving and made a lovely quick breakfast and cup of coffee, enjoying the smell of the snow, and the crisp air for as long as I could.


Of course, as the day wore on the air warmed up quite nicely, and soon enough I was hiking around in just a long sleeve shirt, exploring and enjoying the landscape. Normally when I’d drive up to Vantage, it would be to climb… but since I was solo this time I spent the time wandering around places that I hadn’t had reason to go to before – the trails around the clifftops, farther down the ridgeline, all of those neat places that I’d passed by previously.

There’s not too much to say about them, aside from that it was completely beautiful and excellently relaxing. No stress, no timeline, and no pressure. Just enjoying the views and playing photographer until the sun started to set.

As the sun got closer to the horizon, I headed back to camp to pack up and start the drive home.

As we get closer to the solstice, it definitely does stink that the days keep getting shorter and shorter… but as with everything there’s a definite silver lining to be had – I was able to photograph during golden hour, and was still on track to get home before 9pm!

That was, until I got back to camp and ran into a subtle delay in plans… As I walked back, I could see my car from quite a ways away. I noticed, though, that I couldn’t quite see my tent though…

As I got closer, it became very obvious that my tent was, in fact, not standing next to my car. Now, one advantage to camping is that it never even crossed my mind that someone could have stolen it. That’s literally unthinkable, thankfully. Instead, I noticed the gusting wind, blowing sand, and remembered just how windy is can get at Vantage during the day – especially in the campground.

I was starting to formulate search plans to find my wayward camping gear when I arrived back, and was pleasantly surprised at just how amazing people really are – someone had saved my gear! My tent, with sleeping bag and everything still rolled up inside, was packed tightly down under my car, secured with a few rocks from nearby.

I spent a bit of time cleaning it up and packing it fully into the car, before wandering off in search of my mysterious benefactor.

I asked a few folks around if they’d been the ones to help me, or if they’d seen the ones who’d saved my gear, with the goal of gifting them my bottle of scotch as a thank-you gift. Unfortunately no one had seen anything, but on the way back to my car I was able to return the favor when I found someone else’s tent in the same predicament that mine had been – their camp was strewn around, thankfully caught on a few bushes, with their tent maybe 200 yards downhill, in a small gully.

As a return of karma, I was able to pack their gear up, secure it with a few rocks, and hopefully make someone’s day just a little bit brighter than it would have been otherwise.

With that happy, karmically-balanced, ending point… I drove off. Back onto the main highway, through the hills, quickly rolling back the miles to home.

Climbing at Ozone, taking the sharp end, and cleaning routes!

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Sunday, 23-Aug-2020

 

I got to climb outside again!

I don’t really know if I’d been to Ozone before; I didn’t think that I had, but after doing a few routes here… I’m less sure.  I can tell you that it’s really good rock, with a good approach trail and well bolted routes.  Parking wasn’t bad, and there weren’t nearly as many people as I’d feared there would be.  I mean, it was basically a perfect day, weather-wise, so I’d been expecting a pretty packed crag.  When there were only two teams nearby… well, definitely took that as a win.

The climbing team of the day was Bri, Lizzy, and myself.  We met up mid-morning, packed up the Mustang, and headed in!

 

Driving, parking, and walking in were easy, and in short order we were racked up and started in on the routes.  The specific climbs I’ll detail below, but the first climb was when we hit our most… exciting… part of the day – a loose boulder.

When climbing, loose rocks are just part of the outdoor adventure.  We’re careful, and warn our belayers if we knock something loose.  It’s why we have helmets, after all.

One of the biggest fears of a climber, though, if knocking a big rock loose.  A rock that a helmet can’t help our belayer against.  A bit over halfway up Night Owl, I ran into that fear first-hand when an ~80lb boulder shifted under my hands.

I was on lead, above my gear, which meant that I didn’t have anything to hold onto aside from the rock itself… which had just moved, so… not a great thing to hold onto.  Thankfully it was an easy route, and I was on fairly solid footing, so I was able to quickly re-adjust, and find some safer rock to hold onto.  I was also, more importantly, able to catch the rock on my hip, keeping it in place for the time being.

First up was warning everyone, obviously – telling my belayer and the climbers nearby to vacate the fall zone, and to keep a steady eye on the area that the rock would fall from.  Then, once I found a better handhold, I wedged the rock back into its place as best I could, and continued up the route.  On the way down, I lashed the rock in place with some slings and trad gear – another advantage of climbing Trad, I guess?

 

Once the rock was secure, our plan was to climb, and then re-assess the danger when we took the route down – the rock was safe and secure, and no one was going to be climbing on top of it going forward.

Once we’d all climbed the routes from that anchor though… that was when the adventure began.  I laced up my hiking boots and headed up on top-rope, assessing the size and fall line more directly this time.  We enlisted the climbers next to us to help keep everything clear – they blocked off one side of the trail, and we blocked off the other, making sure that no unexpected teams would wander into the fall area.

With the area safe and secure, my original plan was to lower the rock down with me, so that it wouldn’t kinetically crash down unpredictably.  Once I got to the rock though, it was quickly clear that it was far too heavy for me to safely maneuver on my own… and that ironically the safest option would be to let gravity do the work, and to let the rock fall naturally.

So I disconnected it from the safety gear, and used the webbing already on it to slowly leverage it out.

Honestly, it was terrifying.

But, in the end, it fell safely… if loudly.  Definitely a scary adventure, but I’m really glad that we were able to clear it ourselves, instead of having to leave it as a possible danger.  I did sacrifice some webbing to the rock, since I can’t re-use the webbing that fell with it, but it’s not a bad price to pay… and now I have an excuse to go to the climbing store again!

 

Routes:

Night Owl – 5.6 Trad, Lead – This one was fun, if a bit dirty.  Hasn’t been climbed too often it seems, which led to the previously-mentioned “fun” of removing the huge loose boulder.  Still, worth climbing if you’re around and are careful.

Why Must I Cry – 5.10 Top Rope – This was really fun, but definitely tough… and I may or may not have actually followed the correct route.  I’ll definitely try it again.

Rude Boy – 5.8 Top Rope – Another fun route, but still a bit dirty.  I think I crossed onto this route while doing “Why Must I Cry”.

??? (Maybe Leisure Time?) – 5.9/10 Top Rope – This route isn’t in any of the guides, but Bri and Lizzy lead it on sport… it was definitely a stiff 5.9, if not a low 5.10, and I was very happy to be seconding it.

Helm’s Deep – 5.9 Top Rope – Similar to the previous one, but has the fun of starting off a huge pillar… so there’s a sort of moat around it!  Much easier than the unknown, but I’d still happily call it a 5.9.

 

A good trip, in every sense 🙂

25, 26 & 27-March; adventurous in Seattle! (Climbing at Vantage)

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 25-March through 27-March, 2016

 

We went to Seattle!

 

A friend of Sarah and I, Dave, lives part time in Seattle.  Seattle is a place that I haven’t been before, but that Sarah thinks is wicked cool (to visit, a little large to live in we think).  If it’s a place, and there’s a reason to go, and it’s only 3 hours driving away…

 

What I’m getting at, is we went to Seattle!

But this is about the climbing that we did around there.  Because I am me, and climbing is what I do.  So we drove 3+ hours North to Seattle, and drove 2.5 hours east to a place called Vantage, to climb at an area called Frenchman Coulee.

Yeah, that equates to “5+ hours of driving, to get somewhere ~3 hours from my house”.  Hush.  It was worth it.

 

Frenchman Coulee is in the Washington desert, on the side of a beautiful canyon.  We stuck to the main climbing area for our adventures here… not that the others looked bad, but just that The Feathers (the main section) was literally up the side of a tiny hill from the parking lot.  It’s hard to convince yourself to explore, when there’s climbing less than five minutes from you.

And the climbing five minutes from us was good.  It was really good.  Very bouldery and very reminiscent of gym climbing, with good hold spaces interestingly far apart.  I did a few trad lines up some really interesting dihedrals and crack systems, but we mostly rocked sport lines up the bolted faces.  I did get to save a cam for a group climbing next to us, which was a nice little bonus, but most of the climbs were pretty straightforward.

 

In total, we climbed two days and did maybe two dozen routes each.  Simple, elegant, and fun… even if the driving was a little excessive 🙂