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Trip Report

Elwha River

Elwha River

DATE: SEPTEMBER 28TH-29TH 2019

LOCATION: ELWHA RIVER, WA

AUTHOR: RICHARD

TRAINING STAGE: SUMMER

CLIMBING TYPE: SPORT CLIMBING

Elwha River

This was my first official trip with NSM, and my second visit to Waka Beach and The Elwhall - two lovely, but dusty, sandstone crags out near Port Angeles, WA.  While I present as male and am never offended when my identity is assumed to match, I identify as pangender and prefer they/them/their pronouns. For me, being pangender is a reflection of my feeling like a woman, a man, somewhere between, or both binary genders at the same time.  While I fully acknowledge that my presentation has certainly steered me around a lot of common female experiences - positive and negative - I can honestly say that neither my presentation nor my life’s story held back the other women on this NSM trip from welcoming and supporting me!

I never felt out of place.

Our trip started out in the, in my opinion, far too-early morning - 6:00AM.  Tiffany and I woke up and rushed ourselves through breakfast and out to our already packed ride.  We hurried several blocks south to pick up our third person, Courtney, who also agreed we were awake at a time that shouldn’t even exist.  Next, we headed over to get Claire and her can of climbing-stoke (some sort of energy drink) before making our way up to the Edmonds Ferry Terminal.

We reached the ticket booth just in time to make it into the second row of cars for our 7:55AM ferry to Kingston.  Thinking there was plenty of wait-time to grab something, I walked across the queue to the tiny Terminal Caffeine coffee stand for a gigantic cookie and a delicious latte.  Turns out several other people had the same idea, but I managed to sign my receipt just in time to dash back to the car and roll us onto the ferry.

Phew!

On the ride across the sound, we all headed up to the first deck to pass time.  I spotted a chess set on one of the tables and, knowing the rules but not being very skilled, I proceeded to teach Tiffany how to both play and apparently also beat me!  With my cookie and coffee devoured, and butt handed to me as the ship docked in Kingston, the four of us made our way back to the car to continue onward to adventure.

Over the next couple hours, we made our way towards the Elwha Dam R.V. Park.  This part of the trip involved a lot of napping, disconcerting weather, and a stop at New Day Eatery.

Once we got to camp, Tiffany got us all checked in with the friendly camp hosts before heading to the parking lot just outside the RV park to meet with the rest of the women on this trip.  Danna, Heather, and Pam, already parked, greeted us merrily for introductions, and our seven-person group of crushers was ready to approach the riverside crag - Waka Beach.

The approach was a brief, steep, downhill walk to the Elwha River.  While Tiffany immediately removed her shoes and rolled up her pant-legs to scout out the routes further up-river, the rest of us gawked over the interesting shapes in the sandstone - forms I had only previously seen while climbing in lamplight.

Then we climbed!

The day proceeded smoothly.  Those with ropes, gear, and lead-skill quickly set up routes, followed by other leaders and top-ropers.  The rock itself proved to be much dustier on this visit - complaint-worthy - but that didn’t stop us from running up several routes.  3-Toes Relay, Bigfoot Sprint, Donut Run, and Groan Up all went smoothly. We got to see fossils embedded in the stone, and Tiffany doing a bat-hang on actual rock.

After sweeping the first non-submerged section of Waka Beach, we cleaned our routes and all migrated up river to set up more climbs.  In little time, we had ropes and climbers on Haus Frau, Scare-Master, Cut The Mustard, Petunia’s Penthouse, and Hold the Mayo. All these routes were the perfect grades to get us worked up or warmed up, and I especially enjoyed the unusual movements and variety of techniques involved in Scare-Master.  While I was periodically eyeballing a 5.12a/b (Sum’bitch-Knockout), Tiffany had her sights long-set on Waka-Jawaka.

After enough people asking if I was going to stop staring at the 5.12 and actually climb it, I finally decided to give it a go.  With half the draws already hanging, and permission to use them from their setter in another group, I got myself all roped and geared up, and let my belayer, Claire, know I was ready to climb.  As Tiffany and Courtney began working up Waka/Jawaka, I prepared myself to climb a really pump-looking, overhung 12 - and then I was off the ground and climbing. The first couple moves went smoothly, but then I threw a bucket of sand into my own eyes at the third hold; the discomfort didn’t dissuade me though, and I continued on.  A few blocky “jugs” on the overhang led into a surprisingly positive pocket, and I was feeling great, like I might not only get my first clean 12, but my first 5.12 onsight! Then my fingers went numb. I couldn’t tell if it was from the cold stone (now in the canyon shade), the nervous pressure of finally achieving one of my goals, or just having my arms over my head for too long before the crux; but they were numb, and try as I did to wake them back up, I couldn’t confidently make the long reach to the next block-hold and through the crux.

After a bit of rest and shaking while hanging on Claire’s belay, and words of encouragement from the other NSM women below, I got back on the wall and made my way through to the slabby end.  While it was disappointing to miss my onsight, it was still exhilarating to have another 5.12 tick-mark, and fulfilling to know the others were excited with me.

From here, we cleaned our anchors and made the trek back to camp for dinner.  In the RV park’s rec-room a large group of retired travellers were wrapping up their dinner, and offered some very tasty stew and ice cream.  We all heated and chowed down on our meals - discussing the variety of camp-eats into the night

Bedtime led to some nighttime rain, and then to a dry, foggy, early-morning start.  With ice cream substituted for creamer in our coffees, and a new assortment of meals in our bellies, we were all set to pack up camp and head out for our second day of climbing - onto The Elwhall!

The second day’s climbing, a gorgeously-formed sandstone crag, proved to be very unpredictable.  While the moves and scenery were intriguing, we were surprised by disconcerting amounts of sand on many holds, over and under-graded routes, and a single mosquito who just couldn’t understand personal space and consent - and really knew how to dodge a slap!  Fortunately, we had plenty of incredibly strong and skilled climbers to lead routes, set up top-ropes, and give holds a bit of a dusting. Between climbs, we occupied our time with migrating to sunny spots and discussions about route-beta, life, and… ice cream.  I think Claire and I operate on the same frozen-dairy-shaped wavelength.

After a day of working the wild sandstone at The Elwhall, we cleaned anchors, packed up, and made our way up the hill along the old dam maintenance road.  We spotted a wide variety of fungi along the path, and speculated about which ones were probably valuable on the dark web.

Back at the cars we said our thanks and goodbyes, hugged, shot photos, and then headed back towards home - well, after a critical milkshake stop at Frugals, deemed critical by Claire and me.

Deep Water Soloing

Deep Water Soloing

DATE: JULY 13TH-14TH 2019

LOCATION: BANKS LAKE, WA

AUTHOR: WENDY

TRAINING STAGE: SUMMER

CLIMBING TYPE: DEEP WATER SOLOING

Banks Lake Photo

This was my second weekend trip with NSM and my first time deep water soloing and it did not disappoint! We were a group of 10, including Toni coming out all the way from the Bay Area. The group was a mix of skill levels and interests, from beginners just learning the ropes of climbing outside to a couple of sport pros to some badass boulderers. Although it was a blazingly hot 90+ degrees during the day, the waters of Banks Lake kept us cool through a weekend of sends.

We all arrived Friday night to our campsite on a peninsula on Banks Lake. Saturday, we started off with sport climbing at Roadside Rock. Although we didn’t have the official guidebook, I was able to figure out a nice slabby 5.9 to set up called Carrot Top. Meanwhile, Carlie and Toni tag teamed setting up Even Better Than the Real Thing, a fiesty 5.9 dihedral in to a satisfying hand crack. We spent the morning swapping climbs and mid-way through, I decided to go after Red Arete, a mixed 5.9 with some beautiful moves. I lost confidence at the second to last bolt and had Carlie lower me. But no worries, Maria jumped in and sent the next move, allowing me to go back and finish the climb! By that point is was too dang hot, so we finished the day off with some ice cream in Electric City and a swim in Banks Lake.

After a windy evening listening to our not-so-quiet neighbors’ party, we picked up the boat and headed out for some deep water soloing! Kayla was our trusty captain, navigating us through the high waters. We found a gorgeous boulder with lots of first ascents. Josephine kicked it off, topping out on what might have been a V0 but a V-Fun jump off the top! We searched for routes on the rock after that using some very key donut inner-tubes to rest on. Overall, we made 3 dirty, spidery, and yet satisfying first ascents. Each lady pushed the routes in different ways to link up some really creative climbing!

After that, we wandered around the lake, exploring new routes along the walls. The highlight from the afternoon was a beautiful blocky feature that Josephine, Toni, Brita, and Kayla projected. I’m pretty sure Jo is still dreaming about that route! Finally, we dropped off our boat, said our goodbyes, and headed home to Seattle. It was a great weekend full of lots of great climbing and some amazing slaydies!

Trad is Rad

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Trad is Rad

DATE: JUNE 15TH-16TH 2019

LOCATION: TIETON, WA

AUTHOR: ADRIENNE

TRAINING STAGE: SUMMER

CLIMBING TYPE: TRAD

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What another great NSM trip! A group of 9 NSM ladies met up Saturday morning in Tieton to do some trad and crack climbing. About half of the group had experience with trad climbing and the other half not so much, but were happy to follow and practice gear placements! It’s always great to have a mix of skill levels so we can learn from each other and support each other.

The first day we climbed at Royal Columns, which offered us some good beginner climbs from 5.3-5.7. Despite the scorching sun and 85-degree weather, we managed to climb from morning to late afternoon! Completely exhausted from the heat after that, we rewarded ourselves with a dip in the river below the crag. We then went to our campsite, which was next to a small river and a dreamy waterfall, then we headed to a brewery nearby for some food and refreshments.

On Sunday we went to a different crag, Bend, so that we could avoid being in the sun. Bend offered some great crack climbs and we all had a blast. It was fun to practice crack climbing and try out different crack climbing techniques. After a couple of exciting rattlesnake sightings, we managed to make it back to our cars in the afternoon to head our separate ways.

While I wasn’t one of the trad climbers this weekend, I am definitely more inspired to get into it! I had a great time practicing gear placements while mock leading and loved watching the other ladies lead the climbs. I initially wasn’t going to go on this trip because I find trad climbing pretty intimidating, but I’m definitely glad I decided to go! Big thank you to our trip leader Stephanie, who did a great job coordinating us all. I hope to go on this trip again in the fall.

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