Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two days in Vantage - 05.13-14.09

Ian and I had planned to go to Squamish for a bunch of days. However, the forecast was not favorable for any of the "local" climbing areas. By Monday, Ian wasn't feeling well, and we decided to make it a two day trip to the Frenchman's Coulee area. Since I don't seem to enjoy climbing there, this didn't make me feel great about the trip before going, but I kept my hopes up that we'd have a good time.

When we arrived, the skies were gray, with a light wind. We headed to Sunshine Wall so I could help Ian finish his project of climbing all the sport climbs at Sunshine (and the Feathers.) Once there, I believe we "warmed up" on Throbbing Gristle(5.9). Ian led it and I followed. It was technically easy for a 5.9, but strenuous. I fell and hung at one point. I cleaned the anchor, and we moved on to the next objective: Air Guitar.

Right around the corner is Air Guitar(5.10a), a route with a little history. (Goran Kropp died from a fall on Air Guitar.) Ian sort of psyched himself out of doing this one in the past due to that reason. He climbed it, and sewed up the middle section a bit before he ended up leap frogging protection near the top, then running it out when out of gear. You should include two #3s and two #4s in a rack for this climb. (One guide book even says a #5 if you have it, but I think two #4s will do.) I had Ian leave the gear in for my climb. I cruised the lower 2/3s of the climb then the crack got to off hands for me. I didn't have a good jam to move up on, and took a fall trying to go for a higher hold. After a few attempts, Ian gave me the advice to go deep into the crack for a jam. It worked. I basically wound up jamming my forearm, and it gave me enough purchase to make the next hold. That got me up to a big ledge, where what I would call the final crux moves waited. Above the ledge the crack was wider and was either fists or off-width depending on your body size. I couldn't manage to get decent fist jams, and ended up arm barring the last section with a few falls to reach the chains. Since we had the top rope set up, Ian climbed it again, and then I gave it another lap where I struggled more on the lower 2/3s and had an easier time with the off hands section.

Ian on Air Guitar

At this point the wind was picking up, and it was trying to rain on us. Ian and I huddled down for a bit hoping it would pass and then decided to head back to the car area and possibly climb at The Feathers. We took a long scenic way back admiring the flowers on top of the mesa while hiking.

Desert Flowers

Before we got back to the car, we decided to climb at Zig Zag wall. Neither of us had before, and it was about time. So we headed over to Unfinished Business (5.8) as our first route over there. Ian then told me it was my turn to lead, so I led up the route. He wanted to see me climb at my limit, which that route technically wasn't, but was challenging for having smaller holds after we had been doing laps on Air Guitar. I on-sighted the route, and then Ian pink pointed it. He commented about the strenuousness with the small holds and congratulated me on a nice lead. We spoke with a few women about looking at their newer guidebook, then decided on a .10b route nearby. (I think it may have been called Group Therapy?) Ian led it nicely, then I thrashed up it to the chains. (Actually I wasn't that thrashy, just in one section.) We called it a day and ate dinner and hung out in the car before camping. (It had started to rain around 6pm, but we decided to stick it out to see what the next day would bring.)

We woke up at 6:15am and Ian promptly went back to sleep. I took a walk down to the Columbia on the road and just enjoyed the smell of the sage, and the desert morning. When I arrived back at the campsite, Ian was topping out from a free solo of Where the Sidewalk Ends (5.1). We got in the car to get him his morning coffee.

When we got back we headed to The Feathers in an effort to complete his project there. He wanted to start with a warm up on The Uprising (5.8), probably the nicest route at The Feathers. However, he wanted me to lead it. I was intimidated by the first bolt being 15' off the ground and backed off one move from it. Ian led it, and then I pink pointed it afterward. I told him that it was a little too stout of a lead for me to warm up on.

We headed through the notch and geared up for I'd Rather be Skiing at 49° North (5.10b). Ian stated to me that this was still not finished by him due to a somewhat scary clipping issue at the 4th and 5th bolts. (There is a potential for falling on a ledge if falling at that point.) It turns out that is the crux of the climb where it is slightly overhanging and has some awkward foot placements. Ian led it in fine fashion, and I cruised to the crux, and then thrashed a bit trying to overcome it. It mellowed out above that point and I cleaned the anchors.

The next target was Hardening of the Arteries (5.10c). This was another route with a high first bolt which has caused Ian trouble. Although after climbing it, I'd say the crux was between the 2nd and 3rd bolt for sure. Ian led the route with no issues, and I climbed it well to the crux where I got pretty pumped trying to pull through the steep moves before it mellows out again near the top. We left the rope up and allowed a Canadian guy named Peter to top rope the route. Then Ian climbed it again to clean the anchors.

Peter at the Crux on Hardening of the Arteries

The wind picked up again, and we sat in the car for a bit eating lunch and hoping it would subside. Ian had only one route left to complete his task, but neither of us was feeling great about going out and tackling it. So we hiked over to it, and looked at it and proceeded to pack the car and leave for Seattle.

Overall, a great trip. I feel I need to step up the next time I climb with Ian. I usually feel content following harder stuff, but want to start leading some harder stuff too. Perhaps next time.

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