Vantage, October 25: 5.11 day
One thing about climbing in the Northwest is that by the time you get a little bored with one climbing area, the weather changes and you have to go somewhere else. October usually means it’s time for Vantage: the pizza oven effect of the south facing Sunshine Wall is very welcome when it’s 45F in late October.
This fall, Sketchy is going to school on weekdays and working Friday evening and Saturday during the day, so our trips have to be a little shorter than they were in the summer. Vantage is not a bad day trip, even the early morning drive towards the sun rising over the Cascades is more pleasant than tedious.
We headed to the Sunshine Wall to start at one of Sketchy’s favorite climbs, Steel Grill. At which point he informed me that it was my lead. Hm. I wouldn’t usually pick a 5.9 trad route as the very first climb of the day, sin. Upon further consideration, I decided to go for it. I’ve done it before on toprope, what could go wrong? And I was too lazy to go look for another route.
Steel Grill also shares an anchor with Bob’s Your Uncle. Its 11a rating is courtesy of the last 10 feet of thin finger locks/lieback/stemming nonsense, so it’s definitely worth doing while Steel Grill is set up. If you fall off near the top on TR you pendulum over and have to finish on Steel Grill anyway.
While I was cleaning the anchor, a group of guys rappelled down the neighboring Stems and Seeds. Turns out they were intending to set up on Sinsimellia, which is almost a number grade easier. All these columns do kind of look the same. The first two guys just thugged up stemming the whole way. The third used a bit more technique, but he still had to switch sides between the two cracks. They kindly gave me a chance to try it (probably hoping it would be entertaining to watch the short girl climb the must-be-this-tall stemming problem). When I stepped up to the start I couldn’t even reach between the two cracks with my hands. No stemming for me. The right side crack definitely looked doable as a finger crack with even a few face holds for feet, at least as far up as I could see, but I expected to get shut down eventually. To my surprise, the thin crack went, the whole way. All the way to the surprise easy hand crack at the top.
I’ve had a goal on my 43 Things list for a while to lead a 5.11. It’s just happened that this summer I haven’t really been in a group situation where I felt I had the time to try something that I might not get easily and quickly. But today was it — Sketchy was not really feeling the climbing, and we weren’t about to go home after driving two and a half hours (and one difference between Vantage, and, say, Leavenworth, is that there is not a Bavarian-themed distraction ten minutes away). I had the captive attention of my favorite belayer, and his favorite easy 5.11, Weep Holes on a Sill, just down the trail. It’s short, bolted, and there’s only one part that’s actually 11a (which I figured out when I tried it 4 or 5 times in the spring). Somehow I actually got it clean on my first try leading it this time (but then messed it up on TR when I did it a second time). So that was that.
We did two more routes on the lower columns. I would have wanted to stay longer, but Sketchy was kind of grumpy about climbing, and getting bored belaying, and good coffee and Mexican food in Cle Elum was calling us (along with the sun creeping behind the columns). I was pretty happy to be able to lead two 11s and TR two other ones, since I usually think of myself as more of a 9/10a climber (of course this is Vantage…).
- Sunshine Wall, Steel Grill, 5.9 trad (lead) listed as an “offwidth” but it’s really a regular sized crack with a few wide sections,
- Sunshine Wall, Bob’s Your Uncle 5.11a trad (TR) it starts out easier than Steel Grill, then it’s not.
- Sunshine Wall, Stems and Seeds 5.11b trad (TR) did the “and Seeds” variation (no stemming). The 5.7ish perfect hand crack at the top was a nice surprise.
- Riverview Park, Weep Holes on a Sill, 5.11a sport (lead) my first 5.11 redpoint! (I tried it on TR this spring)
- Riverview Park, Camazonia, 5.10b sport+ (lead)
- Riverview Park, The Creation of Tranquility, 5.11a sport (lead) my first 5.11 onsight!