Monthly Archives: February 2013

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.

Thu 7 Feb 13

Our furnace blew up, quite literally, three weeks ago, covering our house in soot and blowing a couple holes in the living room wall. Pretty exciting and probably lucky nobody got hurt. Not our fault, the furnace repair company we called to service the furnace made multiple bad choices when working on it. We’re working with their liability insurance at the moment to pay for the damages. In the meantime we’ve been living over at the old house, minus internet, but plus heat.

Other than that though, things have been great around here. The inversion hung around for about a week and a half, which was kind of depressing, but we’ve had lots of blue skies and temps in the mid-40s to low-60s since then. Snow-free since early January I think. Here are a few photos out and about with Parko a few weeks back when I needed to get away from the inversion.

Tried hiking at Goose Egg Mountain, but Parko was a baby about the chest deep snow. I carried him up the slope for a while until, dripping with sweat, I quickly realized how ridiculous it was to be carrying my dog up a mountain. So we drove up Highway 12 a ways to nice views of the Cascades and Mount Rainier.

Back west on 12, I just picked a random spot on the side of the road and we ran around the rock formations and the Tieton River. Sloppy footing with lots of ungulate tracks and droppings everywhere.

Still further west on 12, we stopped at Bear Canyon and ran down the trail there for about a half mile. Frozen waterfalls and frosty pine branches overhead.

And finally back into the inversion and a drive-by of the elk feeding station just before dark.