Vantage for Halloween

The only thing spooky about the Frenchman Coulee is the chossy rock, and the “Welcome to Vantage, We’ve been expecting you Sign” in the small town of Vantage. WIthout any good costumes for Halloweens, Sarah Paul and I headed south for two days of climbing in the sunshine. The climbing here can be hit or miss, depending on which routes you pick, but it’s always nice to come here when it’s raining and cold everywhere else.

DSC_0441 Desert Sunshine
Desert sunshine.

DSC_0443 Air Guitar
Basalt columns

DSC_0445 Basalt Cracks
Paul leading up Air Guitar, the famous 5.10a crack where Goran Kropp died. A plaque at the top is in his memory. The rock is polished/glassy and I’m not sure if I trust any of the gear on this route, or at Vantage in general. We also climbed the crack to the right, another 5.10a called Pony Express. It starts as a hand crack with weird texture inside so you can’t actually get any good gear in. And then at the top, it’s a wide crack, with the remains of a #4 camalot. I’ve seen stucked and welded cams, but nothing compared to this one. It was completely mangled, and only two of four lobes were still there.

Paul leading Sinsemilla, 5.10c. Sunshine Wall. From the topo: “Some say the climb got easier a few years ago when a big chunk of rock fell out o the middle section. It’s still a beautiful stemming and finger crack”. Originally I thought Paul and Sarah were going to lead Stems and Seeds, an awesome looking stemming route further left. So I climbed up to the left of S&S, and set up to take photos. Maybe it was the early departure, or some miscommunication, but Paul ended up climbing up this route instead, further to my left, and into the sun. Oh well.



Paul and Sarah at the top of Sinsemilla. It turns out there isn’t a bolted anchor at the top, so Paul placed some gear and belayed Sarah up. Meanwhile I decided to come back down to the ground because my harness wasn’t feeling great, and it was getting stupid windy. Sarah had some loose pages in her guidebook, these blew away easily but were fortunately rescued. There were even loose pebbles flying around too!


DSC_0535 Hot Waffles
So we didn’t end up camping at the Coulee where’s it free. We ended up this Super 8 motel, which advertised free hot waffle breakfast, the ultimate dirtbag dream. Turns out the batter came from a machine, and then you pour the batter into the waffle iron which has a 2 minute timer on it. Paul described it as: “slightly worse than an Eggo waffle”

Sunday was beautiful. It got almost too hot for climbing. Everything along the Echo Basin is in the sun for most of the day. We spent the day climbing fun but uninspiring lines at the Skinny Man Wall, and continued on to the stout routes at the M&M Wall, home to some of the first sport routes in the gorge. Surprisingly, there’s hardly anybody on these lower walls, compared to the busy crowds at the Feathers and the Sunshine Wall.

Sarah cranking on Monster’s under my Monster’s Bed 5.11a.

Paul leading Fifteen Minutes of Fame, 5.11a. M&M Wall.

Paul on Stemming M’s, 5.12a. M&M Wall.

It’s October, but Sarah is still trying to hide from the strong desert sun

Sarah hiking out of Frenchman’s Coulee.

DSC_0624 The Coulee

DSC_0627 Coulee Landscape
Coulee Landscape. After this short visit in the sun, I was ready for winter.

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