Friday, May 20, 2011

All you could want in Leavenworth

Leavenworth is an adorable Bavarian town that attracts thousands upon thousands of tourists in the warmer months. People flock for the festivals, the authentic food and the quaint structures that are reminiscent of another time and place. I, however, bypass all this without blinking an eye and head for the crags just outside of town.

The rock climbing here is boulders, and that means crack climbing. I spent several hours belaying and shimmying up the granite before calling it quits and heading for Eight Mile Camp just up the road. From there, we threw up the tent next to the river and went in search of a decent hike. After picking our way over mud pits and boulders the size of small cars (a mudslide closed the road somewhat recently), we found a dirt road that angled left into the hills.

Since we had no idea where we were, it’s hard to say how far or high we climbed but the roundtrip was probably just over eight miles. It climbed at a decent rate, bringing us closer to the mountains where fog was settling in. We decided to push on a few more miles in hopes of reaching a nearby lake, but we made it maybe halfway before the sky opened up and instantly drenched us. That’s all we needed to hightail it back to camp.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nothing to Squak about

This trail didn't look exciting from the get-go but it met the basic requirements for a before-work jaunt: less than an hour drive, at least eight miles and minimal elevation gain to ensure I make it back with time to spare.

Squak Mountain is a state park in Issaquah and has a network of trails that can add up to eight miles. There was no one else in the parking lot when I set out at 6 a.m. but the babbling brooks kept me company. It was
a pleasant enough hike through a tidy forest.

After a few miles and about 1,000 gain, I stumbled over the one interesting sight: an abandoned fireplace. There were no other clues about what building had once been there but it's clear the fireplace still saw some use as it had fresh ash and broken beer bottles at its base.

The trail swooped upward a little more before I found myself hugely disappointed and staring at an electrical substation. Chain link and metal towers took over the trees and brush that had drawn me out in the first place. So I turned around and lost myself in the maze a bit longer before hightailing it out of the park.

Note to self: stay away from parks!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Peaceful pillars

This is my own heaven on earth.

Vantage is in Eastern Washington, set along the Columbia River in the middle of an expansive desert. It's the most popular rock climbing spot in the state, for good reason. The basalt pillars offer easy grips and breathtaking scenery. There are 700 routes spread out over miles and you can climb for hours without seeing another soul. Even the clouds are more majestic here. Here are a few shots:

LEFT: It's a pretty good mix of sport and traditional routes in Frenchman Coulee. The climber on the left is reaching into a chalk bag mid-climb.

RIGHT: This was one of the first sport climbs I did. For those of you who think climbing is dangerous, proof is to your right that all precautions are taken. This is the anchor I used so I could hang upside and take pictures before rappelling down.

LEFT: A view of the campsite from atop a pillar.

RIGHT:Getting from climb spot to spot sometimes means navigating between rock walls. Think 127 Hours...

LEFT: Peace settling in for the eve.

RIGHT:Looking out from the bottom
of the valley.