Yes, Shawn Campbell, I am going to blog about yesterday.
Chris wanted a day at home to do yardwork and other productive stuff that desperately needs doing around the house, but my priorities were elsewhere, so I talked Shawn and Chris “Smitty” Smith into spending the day at Frenchman Coulee for a day of early season sun and climbing. Last weekend, our friends spent Sunday at Vantage… they left here at 7am, and on arrival decided they could have been climbing an hour earlier, so we departed Bremerton at 6am and on arrival decided we could have been climbing an hour earlier. Anyway – the weather was perfect… very sunny and ranging from warm to very hot… so it was the perfect escape from the Western Washington gray.
We started out at Sunshine Wall, King Pins area. Shawn lead George and Martha (5.10a), an ultra classic crack that was an ambitious warm-up. At least, an ambitious warm-up for Smitty and I… Shawn made it look like a breeze. It is always a huge treat for me to get to toprope cracks that I’m not competent to lead yet, so that was a really great start to the day. Smitty and I took turns leading Peaceful Warrior (5.6)… it’s easy moves up an arete to a very short section of chimney, and I only wish the chimney section were longer since it was fun to get to lead a chimney with bolts for pro. Shawn cleaned, taking the tougher face variation up. The crowds had started to assemble by that point, so we headed for our next stop, the M&M Wall.
I fell in love with M&M wall last year… I rarely find projects outside that I really am interested in working, but Ridin’ Sidesaddle (5.9) was one that got stuck in my head. I worked it on toprope for the better part of a climbing day last year, but couldn’t put it together. One of my goals for this year was to lead it, so yesterday was my chance to make some progress. We started out on High Five, a fantastically varied but not 100% straightforward 5.8. I lead it, Smitty got on it, and then Shawn ran up it. Shawn dispatched Cold Cut Combo (5.11a) … I think … I apparently am notorious for not paying very good attention to my partners’ climbs … and then I worked on Sidesaddle and Shawn worked on Walkin’ on the Moon (5.11b). I don’t remember how many falls/takes I had on my first Sidesaddle lead, but I lead it clean on my second try so that was huge for me. The song that played in my head during the climb was “Damn it feels good to be a gangster…” which apparently is a pretty good sending tune. Smitty did Sidesaddle, and Shawn worked hard and got Walkin’ done, and I did a pitiful (but fun) toprope on Power Hitter (5.10b) off of the Walkin’ anchors. By then, I was starting to feel… fatigued. It was getting late in the afternoon, the most beautiful and peaceful time of day to be at Sunshine Wall, so we headed back up to the King Pins to get in a couple more pitches before the walk out. I lead (pitifully — I took a few times, and the guys didn’t notice, but I french freed two of the bolts) Vantage Point (5.8), an 11-bolt route on a beautiful exposed arete, with a few moves at the very top that make you think. Even though my lead wasn’t good style, it was still really fun, and I would like to do that one again when I wasn’t so tired. Smitty TRd it clean, with what looked like zero effort, and Shawn climbed it in tennis shoes. Show off.
With the sun starting to drop, I lead Clip’em or Skip’em (5.8) which was very similar to Vantage Point only without any thinking involved. It was a cruise up ten bolts to fantastic views. Smitty followed and Shawn, again, climbed it in his tennis shoes to clean. Show off.
I don’t know what it is about Sunshine wall at dusk… I spent a top-five-climbing-days-ever weekday afternoon there with Shawn and Heather and another climber last spring break, and have remembered it fondly ever since. The wall is typically very busy, but once the climbing parties start to clear out, and the sun drops a bit in the sky, the place just has an overwhelming feeling of peace and happiness for me.
We stopped climbing just about 24 hours ago, and I am still in a total state of bliss for having such a perfect climbing day and having the privilege of spending another late afternoon in the Coulee. Good company, good climbing, good weather, and a fantastic dinner at the Tav in Ellensburg (holy crap, who knew that Rainier beer and fried chicken could taste that good) made for a perfect Saturday … with only a few pangs of guilt that Chris was at home cutting back blackberries and burning yard debris. Poor guy.
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