Sat 9 Feb 13

The last time I was sick was late 2008 after spending a night sleeping in the snow in the mountains. By sick, I mean any sick symptoms. 1500+ days. Heck of a run that ended last week with a couple days of cold symptoms. Stuffy nose, sore throat, little headache. Seemed to be on the upswing already though heading into the weekend, so yesterday with a sunny forecast I went rock climbing with a friend out at Frenchman Coulee near Vantage, WA.

Vantage is just over an hour’s drive from our house via I-90. I’d been to Frenchman Coulee once before back in 2009 for the rock climbing component of a mountain rescue class I was taking, but that was half a day tied to one location. This time it was nice to be able to roam. And I could do a lot of roaming here, scrambling or climbing rock with expansive views of the Columbia River, waterfalls, sand dunes, spectacular cliffs, and the surrounding desert landscape.

We got a little lost on the hike in and ended up on the plateau above the cliffs, before eventually locating the main hiking trail and dropping through a neat little hidden slot canyon down to the lower rock columns. The weatherman said temps were supposed to be in the low 40s, but tucked against the cliffs with the heat of the day baking into the rock it felt more like 60s, tee-shirt and shorts weather. Just a perfect day to be climbing.

The rock at Frenchman Coulee is volcanic basalt that was exposed by the massive Missoula Floods at the end of the last ice age. The upper rock shows off the columnar jointing that makes for neat crack climbing, while the lower rock is entablature that results in funky angled grips and some gas pocket vesicles at the top end. Here’s a good rock climbing guide that has some more details about the area, along with a bunch of fun routes.

Below left is the columnar Sunshine Wall. Below right is the entablature Fat Man Wall.

We spent most of the day climbing easier routes on Fat Man Wall and M&M Wall. Teaser (5.5), Tease Me Please Me (5.7), an unknown route to the right of Tease Me Please Me, High Five (5.8), and part of Cold Cut Combo (5.10c). I led the Fat Mall Wall routes and we top-roped the M&M Wall routes. Highlights were High Five (tired arms catching a two-finger pocket on a lunge) and playing around on the athletic start to Cold Cut Combo (big power moves).

Setting up the top ropes on M&M Wall was a little dicey, but we set bomber three-point anchors in the rock above the anchors before dropping down and setting gear and rope. Below left, me rappelling off of Cold Cut Combo after setting up the top rope anchor from above. And below right, looking up at the route from below.

All and all, just a great day. We climbed until the cliff shadows stretched onto our backs and then hiked out in twilight. Looking forward to coming back here again.

1 thought on “Sat 9 Feb 13

  1. JOZ

    Crazy rock formations and impressive climbing. Your 1500-
    day record is impressive too–though I suppose your “injury-free” record might be quite a bit shorter.

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