Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bring out the canoe

Bring out the canoe; it's time to go climbing

My car, The Subaru, will not die. So we're trying to use is as hard as we can just for sake of it. Last week we strapped a 17' Grumman to the vintage Yakima rack and drove straight into the wind for two hours. While I did smell burning oil the car seemed unaffected and happy to make the trip.

We were headed for a boat-access granite crag in the heart of Washington. With winter weather in the mountains heading to the Columbia Highlands was our only choice, and with the climbing guide swearing it was granite we just had to check this place out. The road was closed for construction when we got there so we rallied through the sand and grass and launched by carrying along an airport fence. I took a picture of the Gazetteer because we were now attemptimg a "new approach."

Three trips from the car and we were ready to launch. To who ever invented dry bags with backpack straps: I hope you own your own island by now.

Banks Lake was deserted. We saw maybe four fishing boats from afar over the three days we were there. The weather was spotty but rarely did we have a problem with the winds

After feeling are way towards this "granite pennnisula" we found our way into a narrow passage with noisy Canada geese and sandy beaches. I couldn't help think how nice the place would be when it's warm out. There appeared to be lots of climbing to be had in this unnamed corridor but we couldn't find sign of any route development. Nearing the end of the day, we choose to milk the last heat from the sun and make camp. We'd have to find said peninsula tomorrow.

We were lost in a complex mess of granite domes and spits rising unnaturally out of the water. Banks Lake was never a lake, it was filled as part of the Grand Coulee Dam project. Looking at a map you begin to understand 'they flooded the Grand Coulee!'.

We paddled the next morning into an idyllic cove littered with spring flowers and ringed with clean granite outcrops. It did exist. The clouds were swirling around, all dark and nasty. We got one pitch in and they let loose. What more can one ask for of the first climb of the season.

After cowering under a small tarp for hours in 40 degree rain we saw a little break of to the southwest. Then the sun came out in force and we headed for the summit of what the book calls a pinninsula but I am hoping to call something else. Whatever the case it was the tallest granite outcrop sitting above a long inlet called Old Devil's Lake. From there south we had great views of the basalt outcrop call Steamboat. (That's what white people call it anyways, I'm sure this magical island has a native name).

We had found the 'sandy beach camp' and the 'tall white granite face' - no thanks to the maps found within Central Washington Climbs - and also found a wide-selection of freshly bolted granite sport routes just minutes from the lakeside. With the binocs we scoped many mixed lines up the prow of what I believe is Post Modern Wall. With further route development potential and lots of good looking multi-pitch routes we will sure be back to this nice little cove camp - whatever you call it.

Photos: 1)Yes, Michelle did load the canoe all by herself. 2-5) The scenes of Banks Lake
 below)The map photo we used throughout the trip.