Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Outdoor Climbing in Vantage: rather hot but still enjoyable!

Last weekend, the day after the 4th of July I headed to Vantage, Wash. to climb during the weekend with a group of friends.  I climbed with Kayla Erickson (who I have mentioned in previous blog posts) and Kayla Culmback. To  differentiate between the two we would sometimes call Kayla E.”Big Kayla” and Kayla C. “Little Kayla” since she is smaller. Problem is, Kayla C. is not that small anymore (she’s 5’5) so “littler Kayla “or “medium size Kayla” would be an more accurate nickname.  Also on the trip was Sequoia, a good friend of Kayla C., and Kayla C.’s parents, Craig and Janelle.Vantage (also known as Frenchman Coulee) is an enormous collection of basalt cliffs located in the Eastern Washington desert. Since it is a desert it is usually dry during the summer but it can also get really hot.

The trip got off to a great start and we did a little climbing the first evening we arrived. It was so warm in Vantage that evening was was the best time to climb and even late into the night it would never drop below the 70s (not so great for sleeping unfortunately.) We did not climb hard anything hard at all but it was nice to stretch our muscles after sitting in the car all afternoon, and I had fun getting to go climbing with a headlamp for the first time. It was cool to be able to rock climb when I could see so many stars in the sky. The next day we got a true taste of the Vantage heat. I did one easy rock climb in the morning and then we did a hike up a hill in the intense heat to a climbing area called “Sunshine Wall.” Unfortunately, by the time we got to Sunshine Wall it was too hot to climb at all because, with the exception of a few shaded climbs, the rock wall was simply too hot to hold onto. We decided to go swimming instead and that turned out to be a great decision. We drove to a beach and after a quick lunch we waded and swum a bit in the cold Columbia river, which cooled me off rather nicely.

Me, Kayla E., and Sequoia(left to right) at Sunshine Wall

It wasn’t until after evening that we got around to climbing because we decided to let the rock cool off a bit. After dinner, we headed back to Sunshine Wall, and fortunately by this point the whole area was shady and much cooler. It took us a while to find the wall we wanted to climb at called M&M wall, and we had to hike down a steep scree slope to get there, but we eventually got there. Overall, I found the routes at M&M wall to be quite difficult. I warmed up by doing the most awkward, not to mention scary, 5.8 of my life.  I had to climb on top of a pillar to reach my first clip so I wasn’t on belay until I was a solid 15 feet off the ground* which made be especially nervous since you had to do some awkward movement to get on top of the pillar. The climb didn’t let up much and seemed unusually hard for  a 5.8 but I survived just fine and did not fall. However, I regretted not wearing my helmet. A lot of climbers never wear helmets (common excuses are that helmets are hot and uncomfortable) and sometimes I feel awkward wearing one when no one else is. Nonetheless, after my sketchy 5.8 experience I sucked it up the next day and wore my helmet even though it got up to 100 (in all honesty I usually forgot I’m  wearing a helmet anyway once I start climbing.) There’s also the issue that Vantage is known for having rockfall which made me feel bad about not wearing a helmet. After the 5.8 I hopped on a 5.11c which also probably turned out to be hard. This time the first clip was much lower so I wasn’t as scared but I had a rough time getting anywhere on the climb. In fact, I couldn’t get to even the second clip because there was a big move and I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. After Sequoia tried the 5.11 with a similar difficulties we left since it was getting really dark, and we didn’t get back to camp until 10:30.

Me belaying at The Feathers, a popular wall at Vantage

On Sunday we climbed in the morning in the shade before heading back home. I did a somewhat funky but enjoyable  5.10b that received four stars in our guide book as well as a three star 5.9. So considering that I can climb up to 5.12 outside I didn’t climb anything that hard outside on this trip for me. However, it was nice to just get back into the grove of climbing outside so I didn’t  mind climbing easier stuff. That said, I do hope to climb some more difficult climbs outside this summer and am really itching to go back to exit 32 and try some 5.12s. All in all, the trip to Vantage was a nice, “mini” vacation. I got to climb a bit, relax in the sun, and enjoy how beautiful Vantage is (one of the most beautiful climbing areas in Washington in my opinion). At the same time, I’m glad to be back into Seattle were it is still clear and sunny but in the comfortable 70s instead of the mid-high 90s.

*When lead climbing, you are technically not on belay until you clip the first draw since before then your rope is not attached to anything.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *