The prep and planning of these past months is now drawing to an end. Personal affairs are in order, the route has been mapped and our equipment has been cataloged. But as any NASA attempt at space would do we wanted to fire off a test rocket before the big launch.
Contending with the blustery conditions of Seattle in Autumn we looked East over the mountains toward the rain shadow of the Cascades. Two buddies, Sam and Chris from our hangout at the Seattle Boulder Project jumped on board and we all rallied in the Land Cruiser late on a Friday afternoon. Our destination was Frenchman Coulee near Vantage, Washington to climb the exposed basalt columns that line the natural amphitheaters.
We arrived well after nightfall and had a fire built, tents pitched and chicken fajitas cooking on the Coleman stove with the efficiency of a well ran Scout Troop. As the night progressed, the four of us crowded and conversed around the centerpiece fire built of sage and pine. An hour before midnight Chris scanned the camping coulee and noted how many climbing parties were actually there. “Wouldn’t it be sweet if we could be on the Sunrise Wall (the name of the area we were headed to) at sunrise and beat out these crowds?” From behind the handful of beers running around our brains we organized our thoughts all agreeing on an early start for the next day.
A few short hours later we were standing in the same place drinking piping coffee brewed in a trial run in our new percolator. There is definitely room for improvement in the process but the brew certainly served its purpose. Following a brief hike and a bit of scouting we lined up our first pitch and play a customary round of rock-paper-scissors for the first lead. The always sneaky double rocks won out and Chris jumped on “ride’em cowboy.”
The climbing was solid and dry throughout day yielding about six routes a piece throughout the session. It was fun to see the climbing community that we had invested in over the past couple of months come full circle. At the crag we bumped into classmates from our university time and former camp neighbors from Canada who we had met early in the summer at Smith Rocks in Central Oregon. To beat back the chill we brewed tea on an MSR Superfly stove and pumped tunes from the JammyPack while climbing. Both of which helped us make new friends especially when Austin threw on a T-Rex album from the 70s that we found out had changed the life of the middle aged guy one rope over from us.
All in all the test rockets fired successfully and presented a positive outlook for the big launch to come. I can only hope that this weekend of new friends, strong climbing and no major malfunctions is a precedent for what is to come.