Friday, February 19, 2016

The Advenutres of Rock Climbing

Isn't the valley beautiful?
This post has been sitting in my Draft section on Blogger for...a long time. A really long time. Like, a year.

That's probably due to the fact that... I never thought the rock climbing outings that my family and I went on were worthy of a blog post. (That's, I guess. ;))

However, a few weeks back, we took a trip to Vantage, Washington for one of the longest days I have ever spent hiking and rock climbing. It was pretty crazy. Adventurous. Plain standing-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff. Yeah, that last one...

I finally thought: This day is worthy of that blog post.

This blog post. The one you're reading right now.

This is it.

The story? Here goes:

5:36am on Sunday, January 31st, I woke up. (From this horrid dream about dinosaurs and Star Wars and robots all mixed into one. If you spend enough time with me, you'll probably find out that I do not like dinosaurs and robots. They kind of freak me out.) Anyways. I woke up and just stared at the clock, mostly, until 6:00am, the set time to get up for the soon-to-be-crazy day. I got ready, made sandwiches to take along, and at about 7:00am we marched out the door to drive to my brother's house.

8:30am: On our way to Vantage. It's a two hour drive. But it didn't feel that long. (I don't mind drives so much as I used to. 45 minutes used to be a long time to me. ;))

Random (not so random): I occasionally make notes of funny bits of conversation that happen among my family. This was one on the drive to Vantage:

Passing by a bunch of junkyard-worthy items and a trailer in a field-ish area:

Mom: "What a dump."
Ashley: "What an eyesore!"
Jeremiah (oblivious to our surroundings because he was playing a game on my mom's iPad), head popping up: "What?"
Mom: "All those campers and old trucks."
Ashley: "And a boat!"

Hahaaa!!! I just had to record that. ;) (The Memo app on my phone rocks - at least, to me. I use it quite frequently. You would find bits and pieces of scene ideas for my book on one of the note-pages. And many other random subjects...)

So, we're almost there (we arrived between 10:30am and 11:00am, I think). Most of what we were seeing was rolling hills and snow-capped mountains in the distance. But, THEN, we took a few turns and came upon this huge area that looked like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. I think everybody was pretty surprised! It was beautiful there. We even passed by a waterfall quite a few hundred yards to the right beyond a wide valley. We were driving on the end of the canyon, a railing and a deep drop between us and the valley floor.

This was Vantage.

Long story short, we parked off to the side of the road, hiked up a short hill and through two rock walls, and did three climbs on the other side of those walls (after checking it out beforehand and using the restroom a little ways down the road. Worst bathroom experience of my life so far. That is all.). ;)

I ended up finishing one route on that wall. But this wasn't really what we came for. There was a rock wall called the Sunshine Wall (thus named because it stays in the sun all day long. Except when it's cloudy. More on that later.), and that was where Jesse had been planning on going before he ever even brought up this excursion. So we packed up, drove about one minute down the road (literally), and parked.

This was where things got crazy.

Since no one in our group had ever been to Vantage to climb or hike before, we didn't know exactly where we were going. Thankfully, a buddy of Jesse's (who also climbs) had a book on Vantage, which included climbing routes and the hiking trails. But, even so, we got lost! Took a wrong turn.We were right by the trail that actually led to the Sunshine Wall, but didn't realize it. (The trail was not incredibly visible from where we paused.) Hence us getting lost. Jesse found a trail in front of us a little ways and thought that was where we were supposed to go.

The cliff-trail. (That's actually me in the distance, followed by Jesse, and then Jeremiah, who's smiling off to the side.)
 But the trail was on the side of a cliff. It was pretty much a foot-and-a-half wide. (Yeah...)  We hiked on for a bit, assuming we would arrive sooner or later. Jesse finally stopped, looked at the book, and told us we had to turn back.

When we had made it back to where we originally were confused, some hikers came down from a trail on a hilly area and told us this was the way to the Sunshine Wall. There would be a tunnel through rock walls that we would climb through, and then five feet of down-climbing out of the tunnel you could 'shimmy' down (that
was the word the hiker used), then another bit of down-climbing.

So on we went, stopping for 20 minutes or so to make and eat oatmeal with my brother's new camping stove he had brought along. Then came the tunnel. (pictured below) Through it we went, having just enough room to make it through with backpacks still on our shoulders. (I got a new hiking/camping/climbing backpack from Jesse for Christmas. I gotta say, it's really cool having my own! And this was the first trip it had ever made. ;)) The down-climbing went all right, even with the fact of having to pass my niece, nephew, and our dog down.

Did I mention we brought our dog? ;)

Through the tunnel.

Around another bend and we had made it to the Sunshine Wall. We were walking along the side of a steep, steep hill with broken shards of rock all the way down. Looking out, what you see is a huge, horseshoe-shaped valley leading out to the snow-capped mountains with slowly moving windmills sitting atop. It was amazing. The climbing routes were all about eighty-feet tall. I attempted one, rated 5.8. I didn't make to the top. I think that was a mixture of the fact of me never having been up that high before, never having climbed a route that tall, and being a bit worn out from the day already. But I made it about halfway. AND THEN...

Jesse, Jackie, Ashley, Travis (the buddy of Jesse's that lent him the book), and I all went back to Vantage this last weekend. And it was fun! Although, it was rather cold... I didn't plan on it being cold - it as the Sunshine Wall, right? But it was cloudy, and windy, and brr-worthy. And I had dressed semi-light. Fortunately, Jackie had pulled out an extra winter coat and we had brought it along. All three of us girls shared two jackets, exchanging them when one of us went to climb. We finally sat next to each other with a rope bag on our legs - a windbreaker, people! ;)

This time I finished two climbs. *happy dance* A 5.6 rated chimney climb that wasn't too bad, and I conquered that 5.8 I hadn't finished before! I was so happy (and really proud of myself) when I got back down from that one. ;) I also cleaned it - my first time - which means I took down the anchor. Granted, it was really easy to do (slip the rope into two clips on the anchor, take the clips we had been using to hold the rope up off, clip those to my harness, and come down), but I was really nervous! I triple-checked it - and I was so nervous that, though I had already checked it probably two times, when I told Ashley, who was belaying me, to lower, I then shouted "Wait!" and checked it again. Yup. 

Climbing the 5.8 (the first time around)!

But I made it down safely.

The funny thing was, that I wasn't nearly as nervous about the height of the climb and the cliff as I had been the first time we went. I was actually pretty relaxed (climbing up to the actual climb - the belay spot - and just sitting when everyone else was climbing), and when I climbed I didn't really think about how high I was getting or even was at the moment. 

Overall, Vantage was an adventure I won't ever forget. 

And the sunset, back at where we parked. Gorgeous, isn't it?
(We came back from the second trip and ate steak and rice at my brother's house with the kids and my younger brother and mom, who babysat, and watched Antman - which, actually, pretty surprisingly, was a lot less dorky and ridiculous as I had at first made it out to be. I mean, a guy who shrinks and can take out people when he's the size of an ant!? But it was...sorta funny, and definitely not as intense as, say, Man of Steel was. Though Man of Steel is by far my favorite superhero movie. I got to watch it in theaters a few years back, and I came away amazed and totally hyper! Hehe...yes. I was soooo hyper. ;)) 

I plan on being back soon with a tag-post... So, be on the lookout for that. ;)

~Micaiah K.~

More tunnel.
The first view you get of the valley after exiting the tunnel.

The climbing walls! The climbs are either on the face of these pillars or in-between them - either in the crack next to it, or literally between two climbs.