Zig Zag Wall, The Feathers and Sunshine Wall, Frenchmen Coulee
October 14 - 15, 2006

Just like the last time I was at Vantage, there isn't a lot to weave into a narrative, especially as most of what goes on when a large number of lazy sport climbers get together shouldn't be shared with the general public. So, once more, I'm only offering up a few boring captions to go along with the photos from the weekend. Karen had a really nice cake made to commemorate the end of the sport climbing season and the Mountaineers Sport Climbing class. Of course, I'll be heading out to Vantage again this year, so things really are not over.

Muscles was back for another round of climbing this weekend and, as before, put most of us guys to shame. She climbed several routes directly after I did, finishing three times as fast as I did and making it look easier by a factor of about ten.

Wild Bill couldn't join us, but my friend Tom (from such trips as The Brothers, Upper Wildcat Lake, and Mount Hinman) came out for some fun. Even though Tom has a much lower ham index than Wild Bill, and lacks a goatee, I like him anyway. Here he is top roping a 5.7 on Zig Zag Wall before he does his first lead at Frenchmen Coulee.

Over at Zig Zag wall, I sweated my way up two 5.8s and a 5.9, arms pumped at the end, only to watch Coleen send one of the 5.8 routes with a minimum of sweat and no pump. Muscles showed me up last time, and Coleen did this time. But I can grow a beard, which neither of them can do.

Thomas jumped on one of the 5.8s and was joined on the 5.9 next to it by an older woman from Seattle that quickly called him out. "I'm an old grand ma, and if I can do it, so can you!" Now, she meant to be supportive and encouraging, but everyone on the ground broke out in laughter as it sounded like a challenge. She was quickly christened Grandma Snakes.

Having climbed Zig Zag to our hearts content, we moved over to the Sunshine Wall area. Unlike Zig Zag, Sunshine was packed with climbers and we had to move to the far end of it before we could get on some routes. Peter, Tom, and I hopped on a very long 5.8 called Vantage View, with Peter doing the leading thing. As we set up to climb, I noticed some people climbing actual hard routes, as opposed to our junior strivings.

We were right next to one of the more popular 5.8s in the area, a route called Clip 'em or Skip 'em. Here is another woman showing me up. I went up and cleaned Vantage View, running out of gas at the top and having to rest for a couple of minutes before I could do the last move. An easy climb, but its length and my general lack of skill made it more challenging for than it should have been.

We were all pretty tired so we headed over to the Feathers to thrash around on some smaller routes before heading back down into camp for beers and dinner. Most of the climbers came back as we did and the camping area soon had a festival atmosphere to it, with groups making the rounds to various campsites, beers in hand, to track down old friends and meet new ones, to talk about failures and brag about successes. I'd write more at this point, but to preserve the dignity of others, along with my own, I'll simply say that the night was very entertaining.

In the morning we had a window of opportunity to climb, but everyone was pretty tired, hungover, and sore. I did manage to hike up toward the Feathers for a nice shot of the windmills on the horizon, and get a better perspective on how many people were encamped at Frenchmen Coulee.

In the below photo, which extends quite a ways, the tent that Tom and I stayed in is in the lower left corner. Scroll along it to get an idea of the popularity of the area. Many more were encamped on the other side of the Feathers, just out of view.

After downing several mugs of coffee and some excellent breakfast burritos, cooked up by Karen, we finally felt human enough to try to get a climb or two in before leaving. When I say "human" I, of course, exclude Peter. Notice the cut on his nose that he got from walking into a door while sharpening a pencil.

Peter, Tom, and I headed back toward Sunshine and hopped on Rod of God, a freestanding tower with a good 5.8 route on it. All of us managed to get up and down it in style, but realized that we really were still hungover and that coffee does little for sore bodies. A storm was coming and we needed to get back to get cleaned up before a potluck dinner and so called it quits after just the one route.


From Lakewood drive I-5 north to SR 18 and take that to its junction with I-90. Drive on I-90 to exit 143, a few miles past the Columbia. Exit and make a left onto Silica road. Drive about a mile to the first house and make a left. Drive another mile until you reach a rough parking area with some outhouses. The Feathers are the big, obvious rock formations. To get to Zig Zag Wall, make a walk to the big monolith and make a left. To get to Sunshine Wall, pass the big monolith and hike up onto the mesa. When you get cliffed out, spot the slot heading down to the right. Hike down this to get to the wall. Most routes are bolted, but there is plenty of trad climbing as well. There is a nice collection of beginners routes, varying from 5.2 up to 5.9, along with some advanced 5.10 climbs. You'll need a $12 state game and wildlife pass, available at local stores (Fred Meyer, GI Joes, etc). A pass issued by the feds (Northwest Forest, Golden Eagle, etc) is of no use here. There is no running water at Frenchmen Coulee. It gets pretty hot in the summer time, so be sure to drink plenty of water and cover up from the sun.