When the weather report for the weekend predicted rain for the ski areas, we tentatively started talking about the possibility of a little drive out to Vantage. As the weekend approached, and the forecast held: Saturday, temps in the 40s, low chance of rain, partly sunny... a gamble on Vantage's weather became more and more attractive.
Saturday, February 5th -- a full month earlier than my typical Vantage season opener -- we got an excited but not super early start. I honestly thought we'd be taking our gear for a drive... I've had freezing cold days at Vantage in March, and when it was still drizzling past Ellensburg, our odds didn't look great. Luckily, we had an iPod full of tunes and the two of us never seem to run out of topics of conversation even after living in a little house together for nearly a year... so the drive went fast, with little attention to the weather. I realized -- while still driving east, before even reaching our climbing destination, I already felt my climbing bliss. My eyes were relaxed and happy, and my smile exactly where it belonged.
When we reached the Columbia River and the weather was dry, my visions switched from rain and cold, to a vision of Sunshine Wall covered in climbing parties, with line-ups for the moderate routes I hoped to warm up on. I can, on occasion, be a bit of pessimist in my secret head, I guess.
An aside. If you don't like dogs, this might not be your blog. Maile the Great is likely to feature prominently in this one, since she's -- by far -- the most photogenic of the bunch (no offense, Teresa -- but you and I both know it's true). not offended, its totally true, just look at that face! she's model material -teresa
Maile did a happy dance for all three of us when we pulled into the nearly empty parking lot. The ground was soaked from recent rains, but Sunshine Wall and the other backside crags generally dry fairly quick thanks to frequent windy days and nights on the Columbia River Gorge side of the climbing area.
After a two-girl effort to help Maile through the Dog Catcher -- a notoriously not dog friendly downclimb on the trail to the back side crags -- we found ourselves looking out over a dry, clearing, warm-enough-to-take-our-gloves-off day at one of my favorite, most underrated climbing walls in Washington.
Yes, it's crumbling columnar basalt.
Yes, it gets used and abused by far too many climbing parties of various levels of skill and style.
Yes, it can be can't-hear-your-belayer-crap-the-rope-is-stuck windy.
But on a good day, Sunshine Wall is a little bit of heaven.
And we happened to be blessed with a Good Day.
We spent the whole day on 5.8s and 5.9s, each of us taking a turn on lead and also working our currently-non-existent endurance with long pitches on top rope. While we've been friends for a year (Happy Anniversary, T!) this marked only our second time ever climbing outside together, and served as a well-timed reminder, for me, of the best parts of climbing.
Teresa and I climb without pressure, and with fun. We support and encourage each other; we are quick to praise, and more patient with each other than the average bear when the going gets hard. We pace ourselves. We crack jokes. We coach each other and sing through hard parts of climbs (Me: Extraordinary Machine, by Fiona Apple. Teresa: Just Breathe, by Pearl Jam). Teresa wants me to add that her favorite song of all time is Bryan Adams "The Summer of 69." (please dont hold this confession against me -teresa) Now, Teresa is having an in-depth conversation with Maile about what HER favorite song is.
The verdict: If there were a song about squirrels, that would be Maile's favorite.
Back to climbing.
I am blessed to have a short list of the world's greatest climbing partners, and even more blessed to get to reside with one (and her little dog). From start to finish, this year's season opener was one of those absolutely perfect days I dream about at Vantage. Calm climbing. No pressure. Lots of laughter. No crowds. The sound of quickdraws clanking against each other. Clear views. Climbing without a jacket on. Maile chasing bugs.
If our season opener was any indication, it's going to be a great year.