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a little more rock climber girl... Exit 38 and (surprise!) Vantage

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
6 min read

Whew! What a weekend!

Saturday was planned to be a girls’ day with Kari (my climbing life partner) and Megan (my incredible sister) but Meg woke up with an ear infection… in true climbergirl form, she txt-ed to basically say… I can only lay on my left hand side, but I still want to come! I encouraged her to see a doctor instead, and presume that’s what she did…

So, Kari and I met up at the super convenient Eastgate park and ride to carpool from there. My original plan was to do Mt. Washington area at Exit 38, but when it turned out to be me and Kari, I suggested maybe we do another exploratory trip of the Far Side. Historically, I’ve been crag-and-route-finding challenged at the Far Side, but she and I were both just so excited to get to see each other, and to be outside, that we decided it was a good day for exploring even if that meant a little less climbing.

We headed off looking for Interstate Park (like I always do), and took the wrong trail (like I always do) and wound up at the base of a really low-angle slab (like I always do). I thought we were at Headlight Point (like I always do) but this time were lucky enough to have another climbing party there, with a new book, who could point out that we were actually at Easy Street. Kari and I did one “vertical hike” there, a “5.6,” then headed out with our new friends toward the real Interstate Park.

For the first time in my climbing career, despite a few attempts, I actually got to climb at Interstate Park. The routes were fun (more fun than average at North Bend) and despite the highway noise, the place managed to be scenic and peaceful.

Kari and I did Swerve (5.7) … fun. We then did Swarm (5.7) which was more fun, and felt like the first real rock climb of the day. We toproped the “10b” variation, Carnage Before Bedtime, which was FUN. It was so FUN, we pulled the rope and I lead it — for, I think, my first 10- lead. While we were climbing, my cell phone vibrated with a climbing invite for Sunday… the plan was to work Sunday but… why? What can’t wait until Monday? So sure… I’m in for a whole weekend of Washington climbing.

Anyway, back to Saturday… Kari and I went up to Eastern Block next, and scouted out the routes… I was aiming for Ellie’s Sweet Kiss, a 10a, identified as having six bolts in the old Burdo guidebook. There’s been new development up there… everything looked fun, and, from the ground, do-able… but I didn’t see anything that looked like it had six bolts. I set off, and then followed my instincts up what I do think was Ellie’s Sweet Kiss, even after looking at the new guide. It was a great lead… I felt confident, had fun, and kept my head despite there being a rather large runout on the route. Kari was a champ all day, despite basically being right off the couch after a knee injury… anything I can lead she can follow, and she’s leading a lot harder than last season… we have a great time together, and typically wind up with the crags all to ourselves since we talk so freaking much we scare everybody else away.

After Ellie’s, Chinese food in North Bend beckoned, and we called it a day.

So, Sunday…

An auditor and a lawyer walk into a bar…

But, that’s the end of the day, so I guess I should start at the beginning. Don’s partners all bailed but me, so we headed off for North Bend despite the weather being a crapshoot. I figured, even if it was damp we could try Amazonia, and, before leaving in the morning checked Vantage (clear and in the 70s) so tossed my copy of “Rock Climbing Washington” into the bag so that we’d have a backup if North Bend wasn’t climbable. We got to North Bend and just about Exit 32, it started to drizzle… by Exit 38 it was a definite drizzle. I suggested Vantage and we pressed on. Unlike most Washington climbers who start out outside at Vantage, Don hadn’t been, so it would be a fun adventure. The weather lifted once we hit the east side of the mountains… it felt more like the California I left a few weeks ago than the Washington we’d just driven through.

We arrived at Vantage to … drumroll please … one car in the DFW parking lot below Agaltha Tower. Sunny, breezy, 70-something… prime, beautiful day, and we had the place practically to ourselves.

We started out at M&M Wall on High Five (5.8) and my favorite 5.9 of all time, Ridin Sidesaddle. I always forget to take new-to-Vantage folks somewhere else to warm up… I just love both of those routes, and M&M Wall generally, but forget that they’re technical for the grade, and not the easiest leads in the world at the grade. But — we both lead both, and both did Ridin a couple of times because it’s Just That Good. After climbing out those two routes, we headed back up to Sunshine Wall.

Sunshine Wall, for those unfamiliar with Frenchman’s Coulee/Echo Basin, is a long line of desert rimrock basalt columns. To the trained eye, they don’t all look the same. To a rock climber who comes there a couple times a year, without a detailed guidebook, it all looks kinda the same. There are a couple of routes that are unmistakable… Party in your Pants (aka, Twin Cracks for the PG version), a 5.8… and Air Guitar, a 10b gear route and the site of a heartbreaking climbing accident which is marked with a memorial. So, if one uses her eyes and brain, there’s really no excuse for not being able to orient one’s self at the Stems and Seeds area; alas, my route reading just wasn’t up to par yesterday. We looked at the routes and saw one that looked particularly fun, thinking it was Clip’em or Skip’em, 5.9. Don got on lead and made it look easy (it wasn’t) and I started up and all I could think is, this feels familiar, and I’m pretty sure I had to take on this the last time I did it… and indeed, I did take twice… but it was super fun. We scouted routes a bit more and then hit up the one other party at Sunshine Wall for beta — turned out they are Randy and Katy, local climbers from Ephrata. They commented on our climb of Hakuna Matada (10a) … so *that’s* why it felt so hard. We asked for recommendations on other 10a-ish routes, and had a great chat… I think, after that conversation, I won’t get “lost” at Stems and Seeds again.

We took turns leading Whipsaw and Clip ’em or Skip ’em (both 5.9, and both super fun). The wind was whipping on both of our leads of Clip ’em, and despite the rope bag being a pain in the ass for the belayer, the climbing was really fun. Then, on Randy’s tip, we headed for Ride ’em Cowboy (5.9+) on the right edge of Twin Cracks wall. I lead and had a BLAST… it was one of the most fun 9s I’ve climbed in a long time. A bit burly, a bit technical, well-bolted… at one point about 2/3 of the way up I was pretty sure I was going to pitch going for a horizontal wide pocket, but decided to give the move a shot and stuck it. The leads were good all day, but that one was *particularly* good, and a great way to end the day. Don lead the route and cleaned, wrapping up a slightly atypical first-trip-to-Vantage, without a stop at the Feathers, and we hiked out just before dusk.

I came home to an email full of camera advice from Tim Kemple himself, thanks to my buddies at F-Stop, a very cool company staffed by very cool people that makes bags for active/outdoor photographers. You can follow F-Stop on Twitter here, or stay tuned for more about them in a future post.

Anyway, life is good. I had a great rock climbing weekend with no tears, no partner drama, no blood (well… Don bled a bit, but I didn’t), very few takes, and only one small injury (my right index finger tendons are a bit tweaked, but nothing, I’m sure, that a few days of rest won’t heal right up). Thank goodness, since I may have a bit of a hiatus the next few weekends with other com
mitments.

As an aside, apparently (YES!) some girls are actually starting to read this blog, judging by a handful of comments that have come in the last few weeks from girls. I would love to hear more from my fellow climbergirls… please comment abundantly (despite blogger’s less-than-perfect commenting system, I do respond whenever I can) or if you’re shy, you can always email me at thegirl@rockclimbergirl.com.

Have a great week…

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.